I apologize for the lack of content lately. Been juggling multiple projects and haven't had time to catch my breath. Also, technology is changing so rapidly that I feel like anything I write here will be obsolete by the time I hit "post to blog" ;)
I recorded a bunch of test images and waveform captures from RED Build 21 the other day with the intention of further exploring my "video-esque" workflow and then I read the Operations Manual for Build 30.
The way I've been working with the camera. The way everyone has been working with the camera will change instantly with this new build and if I take the time to outline a workflow, it will be totally irrelevant by the time Build 30 is on-set.
This is the new LCD GUI:
Looks pretty much the same but I'll draw your attention to the bottom:
The 3 meters - Histogram, Levels, and Stop Lights can now be set to look at RAW exclusively which makes far more sense than the current build where it meters whatever colorspace/LUT the video monitor path is set to. RAW is your exposure so they've finally come around to making it very easy to properly and without question assess the RAW image.
Also note the "Goal Posts" on the Histogram. The one on the left is the noise floor and the one on the right is sensor clip. Theoretically, if you keep your exposures in between those two lines, you are capturing the maximum amount of information the sensor can deliver which will give you the most robust "fat neg" to work with in post production. I think the goal posts are the most useful new feature yet and I see myself using them along with the RAW Histogram as the exclusive way to meter my scene. With Zebras, False Color, Goal Posts, Histograms, Waveforms, Viewing Modes, RGB, this, that, the other thing. Has exposure evaluation gotten overly complicated? I would say so. I would like one set of tools for evaluating RAW and one set of tools for evaluating RGB. I think if you know what you're doing you can stay out of trouble but for the uninitiated, I it's incredibly overwhelming.
There are now two False Color viewing modes - one for RAW and one for RGB. By my understanding, the False Color mode we're using now will continue to be a meter for the RGB video. This is a little confusing but I like that RED just puts stuff out there and let's their users figure it out. They listen to the feedback and then implement the changes. It's a constant work in progress and is a fantastic new business model. Anyone producing film and video equipment should take a play from RED's book. This is economic darwinism!
From Page 53:
You can see where this could cause confusion right? Anytime there are exceptions to rules, the flood gates are opened.
In my experience, the problem with RAW and on-set image evaluation though is that if you're constantly making adjustments to your lighting or iris to keep the image in the key exposure zone, you can lose track of your contrast ratios very easily. Or if you're trying to keep the subject to background ratio the same for an entire sequence, but find that you have to make big adjustments on certain angles to hit the exposure, you may create some big continuity issues. Traditionally, I'd use a waveform to keep an eye on continuity. I've been using a waveform monitor this way on the RED lately with REDspace at ISO 250 and have been thrilled with the results. Will this workflow have to evolve with Build 30? Definitely. I think this REDspace / Waveform combo is very useful though and I'd like to write about it but wait they've done away with REDspace and REC709! What is going on here?
Where there used to be VIEW > RAW, REDSpace, and REC709, there is now VIEW > RAW and REDcolor. This is a major, major change. What is REDcolor? Is it reproducible in SMPTE video? Are there gamut and color shift issues? What is it? Can I use my scopes with it? We'll have to find out.
There are also a ton of new ways to adjust the RGB video which makes the camera a lot more paintable in the field which I really like. Floating Look Up Tables (FLUT)? ;) I love the idea of being able to arrive closer to the final look on-set than in post but if it isn't easy for post production to access those video looks and bake them into your ProRes files, then it's really for naught. Keeping up with this camera is a full time job. Just when you find something that works you've got to relearn everything ;)
That's just how it goes. If any of us hope to stay in this business, you've got to stay on top of it. And yet, large sectors of the industry are really having a hard time catching up. I know editorial houses in Manhattan that still aren't even fully HD as lots of TV is still being done in standard definition. VH1 still shoots on Beta SP! I got a call for shoot a few weeks ago and couldn't even find a camera. The only SD cameras rental companys still carry are DigiBeta. I had a hard time even selling clients on Sony SxS when it came out because they were so deep in DVCPro HD world. I used to have to rent a DVCPro HD tape deck and make tapes from the SxS media because they didn't believe me it was easy as installing a plug in. Oh well ;)
Here's some other stuff floating around in my brain right now:
Canon 7D has big problems. I haven't found a practical use for it other than for my own independent image making. I'll be posting some shots soon that really disappointed me. The camera is soft and it's noisy. Soft and noisy and wobbly. You can get good stuff with it but you've got to fight with it. I'd rather just shoot the Mark II.
Also, don't waste your time with SuperFlat. It sucks! Picture Profile NEUTRAL with the saturation down a point and the contrast all the way down. The sharpness is subjective. On the 7D if you turn it down all the way, it looks so soft I can't stand it.
The 5D Mark II despite its shortcomings and thin codec is actually pretty solid camera. I used it on a commercial recently and was very happy with what we got. Just when I thought I was done buying gear for awhile...
Canon needs to hurry up and put out the 24-70 2.8L with IS. I don't like having to operate so carefully like you do with the non-IS lenses. Having the IS really makes a massive difference. They have IS in the 70-200 which is great but for a normal zoom range all we have for now is the 24-105 4L. This lens is a massive bummer!!! It's soft wide open at f/ 4. On the 5D it vignettes at 24mm. For the 7D you really need to keep any lens at 2.8 for maximum sexiness and you can't get there with the 24-105. Also, the camera isn't so great in low light and having that extra stop often makes all the difference in the world. So you can have your cake but you can't eat it too. What we need is that 24-70 2.8 with IS! I seem to be in my own little corner on this but to me, the jello shutter on these cameras is beyond horrendous. Having an IS lens really helps take the curse off and makes for an easier operating experience.
Also, thinking about going to NAB this year. There's no point in doing event coverage because the guys at Fresh DV do it way better than anyone else. Even if I was there, I would still watch their coverage to see what I was missing ;) It would be fun though to do some live blogging and first hand impressions of what's there and what's in store for us.