Sunday, 30 September, 2007

But does it look like film

After I described by IBC Red experience to friends and colleagues here, and after I posted a small note on it. One of the commonest questions I get are "But does it look like film?" meaning the Red camera's images.

People ask this of not just the Red camera, but also the Viper, Arri D-20, Dalsa, Si2k, CineAlta even HDV camcorders. I think we're getting close to the point where this will not really matter. I've seen images from all these cameras, not all off film. And I can say that they all have a 'certain look' about them. It is not consistently 'not film' nor consistently 'exactly like film'. But distinctive.

So also the Red camera. It has a 'certain look' about it.

To make this a bit clearer, lets draw a parallel from still photography. For still photography not too many people are using film cameras any more. Even in India. Some years ago, as digital still cameras got better and better, one often heard this question "But does it look like film?" Asked of non-film still cameras.

When was the last time you heard someone ask this of a digital still camera? For holiday pictures, weddings, events, sports, news, even fashion photography. Does a digital still camera's 'looking like film' or not come in the way of its use. For that matter, who remembers exactly what film looked like? For stills, I mean.

So also digital movie making. We will get to the point when people will stop asking "But does it look like film?", simply because not too many will remember. And you will select the Red or any other digital camera because...
it helps you tell your story
it is possible to shoot digital
is convenient to shoot digital
it saves some money to shoot digital against film
the post production is convenient and predictable especially grading
your film will be shown digitally in a digital theatre
your film will be sold as DVD maybe HD-DVD and/or purchased as a download

Some of these reasons are valid today some aren't. especially cost, not yet. Eventually they all will. And then we will make an occasion of watching a weaving and bobbing, centre-hot, scratched and dirty print in a 'period theatre' and probably ask "How did people see this stuff for eighty years?"

As an aside, after my post on the Red, one company in California kindly offered a Red on rent. Link here...

I'm not sure if they will come over to India. But if you are shooting in the US this is a thing to try. Shoot on their Red, bring back the files, and I'll manage the post here in Mumbai.

Sunday, 23 September, 2007

The Red camera is real

Just back from IBC 2007 at Amsterdam. I saw the Red camera up close.

First, I saw a large screen presentation of 'Crossing the line' a film shot on the Red camera. Directed by Peter Jackson, its a war story. The film was shown in a large theatre - as large as Metro in Mumbai. Really huge screen.

But the 'Red film' was not on film 35 mm. It was a digital 4k screening off the new Sony 4k digital projector. Presumably playing 4k files from a Clipster. It looked great, really good. No grain, no scratches or spots of dust, clean sharp picture, great contrast and saturation. But did it look like film? More on that later in a separate post.

I also went up to the Red stall and saw their presentation on work flow. As well as a small presentation at Apple's stand and Assimilate Scratch.

Here are some work flows...

For now, the camera shoots 4k RAW files to a memory card. later it will shoot to a removable hard disk. So it will shoot to 8 Gb CompactFlash cards. It shoots as RAW images just like Digital SLRs do for still photography. An 8 Gb card is good for 4 mins. I need to re-check at what res its 4 mins.

After the shoot you connect the card via a card reader to FCP and you can 'transfer' not capture these files via a new 'Log and transfer' window. Here you see all your shots as clips. You choose shots even mark in and out, and transfer them to your hard disk. The raw files are transferred and there's a reference Quicktime that opens in FCP as a 2k Quicktime clip.

Then edit away at 2k or even downres to Pro-res, Apple's new nearly lossless codec. After you are done, you can make an EDL and send it to Assimilate Scratch. Scratch, is a grading system running on Windows. Scratch connects your EDL to the original 4k files. And you can then grade 4k.

Once done grading, you can export to dpx, 4k or 2k depending on your film recorder. Then record out to film.

All this is work flow that's here and now and demoed. No one has actually done all this for an entire feature length film, so one doesn't know how it will all hold up to the rigours of a real schedule.

And other manufacturers - DaVinci Resolve, Nucoda Film Master - told me they were in talks with Red to use the Red codec in their app so they too can work with Red RAW files. The months to come will show interesting work flows. Maybe even FCP-Color will show up a complete Red work flow.

Examples of Red images