Sequential Pictures recently acquired the bare bones package, Canon Aluminum mount version of the Scarlet-X camera from RED Cameras in California. We’ve been waiting for this camera for years and now we finally have it in our hands. We ordered in early November and just got it in Monday of this week. The first day was a massive learning experience as this was different from the RED One camera we had for an outing one day last year. We’re still lacking a Side Handle for the brain of the camera, but that should be here soon. Since not having the Side Handle enclosure means we can’t use our two batteries, we had to use my Black & Decker Electromate 400 just to get ‘er outside without running an extension cord. The Decker lasted a little over an hour actually. Seeing as how we only have two batteries currently, which I’ve heard will run the cam for about 30 minutes a piece, it’s nice to know we could lug the heavy Decker if we needed; that is until we are able to get a better battery situation.

We had fun commemorating [aka "nerding out"] the arrival of MARLA
by creating this photo:

Did we take it too far? Oh well. Everybody on reduser.net names their little darling.

FROM THE GROUND UP

It’s like starting over in a way. The other cameras we have owned have all been prosumer level. This is not only a professional camera, but a different breed of pro camera because it shoots RAW footage. The R3D format these cameras shoot in give you more control over your image than other cameras, especially the codec-crippled HDSLRS. It doesn’t even sharpen or denoise your image like other cams. You just have a lot of control in post to try and get the most out of a properly exposed image. The workflow difference between the HVX200a and Scarlet are very different indeed, even though they both shoot to high-speed hard drives.

The whole first day was figuring out basics, pushing the camera into bad lighting situations, compression tests [below 8:1 is preferred], and answering about a million small “what if…?” and “how do you…?” questions – all day long. I’m writing this on the second day after some testing and I’d say we’ve crammed quite a bit. It’s a lot of double checking the manual and the internet when we run into something. The sometimes frustrating, but nonetheless interesting and ultimately beneficial, aspect of the camera is that the firmware is a work in progress; meaning there are features and limitations built into the software that will be enabled at a later date. So, some things we wondered about will come down the pipeline soon enough.

click images for full resolution picture

We pushed the camera to try and see when and how it falls apart at certain light levels; what can we get away with, you know? We don’t like to push our ISO setting above 640-800 tops for normal shooting, but since it’s shooting RAW you can change your ISO later; it’s a non-destructive setting. I just don’t think the noise you inherit by going to those high ISOs really gets us excited, so we wanted to see what we could do with a light or two. The above picture hasn’t been fooled with too much from how we shot it other than color temperature, but this could easily be pushed quite a bit brighter because we didn’t let the shadows fall into noise. We love the “goal posts” feature that sits on either side of your on-screen histrogram and warns you when the camera can’t see into the darkest and lightest areas of your image. We also love the exposure tool that lets you toggle a video overlay, showing highlights that are lost in the color red and information lost in the shadows in purple. It’s a great feature that is quickly supplanting zebra bars as my first go-to check of the overall image.

Here’s a low-light test where we only had one 650w with a soft box bouncing off the ceiling. It looks really nice and dark and natural in motion. We were pleased at how natural we could make something extremely low lit look. But, here again this is coming from a prosumer market where low lux capabilities definitely leave you wanting. Other professional cameras have better low light performance than Scarlet, but we’re very pleased with it.

 

We’ve got a Canon 50 mil 1.4 and a Tokina 11-16 2.8. I also “ebayed” a couple of old lenses from the Ukraine for cheap [Helios, eventually became Zeiss glass]. They are both awesome for specialty shots. Past that we’ve got a cheap zoom lens that came standard with a T2i. We don’t have cinema glass but we’re very impressed with what we played around with from our arsenal. I also ordered a SUPER cheap 10x magnifier that screws on the end of the 50 mil. That’s what you see above. The depth of field goes crazy shallow and makes for interesting results. The pic above also doesn’t have any direct light, but all the info is there.

 

Now talk about super dark! I didn’t take this into Photoshop or anything, just off the timeline. You’ll probably have to click to see the full picture here to see my face decently. We just wanted to see what a small lighter would do in the dark outside with the lowest ISO setting and our 50 mil 1.4. The image was dark but predominantly clean. Just pushing it to see…

Click to view the original 4k resolution

This is a snag from the larger format 4k HD format. Without going back and checking, I think a lot of the previous footage was shot at 3k. This was shot with the cheap zoom lens. It doesn’t have the best bokeh, but it’s the only zoom we have currently. I did play around with this clip in Redcine-X before taking a frame grab. Being able to shoot at these high resolutions is going to give us some breathing room when we need it. Right now we don’t have the computational backbone to really deal with a full 4k workflow of any substantial size, but 4k will be nice for specialty shots, graphical elements, green screen, etc.

We just got done a little bit ago shooting some lens flares, dust particles, and smoke in slow motion. That was fun. Those things are always fun to play around with to see what you get. We got some good footy there for backgrounds and overlays.

 

Quick iphone pic of the basic brain with 5" touchscreen. A cheap iPad stylus keeps the screen clean and makes for easier navigation.

We’re still lacking rails, matte box, top handle, extra batteries and mags, follow focus, and more lens choices, but we can start working the camera into some professional client situations and for personal projects on Sequential Pictures. Gotta get some sleep but video will be up sometime soon.

 

UPDATE: If you have the free software Redcine-X installed you can download and play with this R3D frame grab from a 5k timelapse shot.

ICONS: I’m dedicating some hard drives to handle RED footage only, so I wanted to change the icon of the disk on my Mac to have the RED logo. Since this wasn’t readily findable on the net I made some myself. To fill a niche internet gap… you can download the ICNS files here:  RED logo, Scarlet logo

 

UPDATE: Here’s the first commercial we’ve shot with the new camera..