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RED ONE and ARRI ALEXA Footage Side-by-side

08.17.10 @ 2:01PM Tags : , , , ,

When it comes to shooting a DIY feature, one of the foremost questions for DSLR owners will be, “rent a camera or shoot with what I own… and know?” I own a 5D Mark II and I’m honestly not sure if I’d rent a RED, even if the latter came in at the same cost. I happen to think that the importance of resolution is overstated; that is, similar to the megapixel war with still cameras, people tend to focus on resolution because it’s a simple metric. One number is larger than the other, so it must be better, right? But there are many characteristics more important in a moving image than just resolution, and while RED is offering greater resolution than the forthcoming ARRI ALEXA, does the latter camera offer advantages that aren’t measured in resolution? Here’s a quick side-by-side video:

Honestly, I can’t really tell the difference. Neither camera’s footage is particularly beautiful, which says more about the setup than it does about the cameras. Still, ARRI vs RED is definitely an interesting battle to keep an eye on, given we’ll be seeing a lot of features shot on both going forward — at all different budget levels. What’re your thoughts — how do you think these same scenes would look on your DSLR?

[via FreshDV]


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Description image 19 COMMENTS

  • Wow. This has to be one of the worst “tests” I’ve seen. How can you make RED footage look this bad? I wouldn’t want to use these cameras either if this was all I had seen of them. What does this accomplish? Until a real world test is done, either on a stage or actually shooting a scene, we won’t be able to really judge the comparison. (Man, this is really terrible footage, ha ha.)

    My biggest problem with the 5D is the compression. Even though H.264 is a fairly good compression, it’s compression none the less. Having experience with both 5D and RED now, I would say that the compression does impact the image. I can see a big difference between something shot in 4K and finished at 1080p (RED) and something shot at 1080p H.264 and finished at 1080p Pro-res (5D). I don’t LOVE the 5D but I do think that it works really well depending on the material you’re working with. Low (no) budget shoot at night? Go with the 5D. But if you have some money, time, etc, then I do think you’ll get more out of the RED.

    I’m prepping a short film this fall and will 100% be shooting on the RED. This is because of more resolution (HUGE difference between 4K and 1080p, I believe), more control over the image (shooting in a RAW format allows you to, in some cases, RELIGHT a scene in post, whereas you can’t push the 5D footage as much), and quite frankly, to me, the 5D looks electronic. I can’t really explain it, but i can see it and it bothers me). I know I may catch hell for this but there’s a richness and a depth that’s missing from 5D footage, as beautiful as it is.

    Now, again, for the general audience, who cares? And I’m not trying to assert a “fact” that one is better than the other, this is just my opinion, and I’m sure a lot of people disagree, but from someone who’s worked with both types of footage, and pays very close to the image I’m creating, the 5D doesn’t compare to the RED.

    I believe that the RED is intended to be a replacement for shooting on 35mm and the 5D is a replacement for all the other video cameras below the RED (HVX, XLH1, etc…).

    • Josh – your last para hit the nail on the head. I agree that the 5d looks “electronic’ — it’s oversharpened. I guess the real reason I would shoot on a 5d is simply familiarity – knowing how to get the most out of it, as opposed to dealing with an unfamiliar workflow (though I look forward to getting more hands-on with the RED!).

      • Ryan – To this day I will grab the HVX to shoot something quickly, even over the 5D. I’ve even used my XL-2 as recently as a few months ago. And as a result, I adapt the shoot to the cameras.

        The HDSLR cameras blow every other “video” camera out of the water. For the price, you can’t get anything better. However, if I had a choice (and the budget) I would shoot on the RED. It offers me the total control for everything I want as a filmmaker in the same way 35mm does. (I don’t know enough about the Alexa to pass judgement, though I’m intrigued by the Pro-Res wrapping it provides.) Yet, there are also a number of projects the RED would be wasted on and the Canon 5D would be a much better tool for accomplishing what I need.

        It all depends on what your needs are as a storyteller and what you’re willing to compromise on to get it.>

    • >

      Yeah, you guys are dead on. The Canons have that digital feel to them. Throwing things shallow mitigates it some.

  • Their original file for download on Vimeo is a 12MB mp4 that is over 1 minute long.

    A D90 would fit right in…

  • I definitely think the Red wins when the clip is CC’ed. That Arri footage is almost too flat to work with (or their colorist didn’t know how to match them properly).

    But, you’re absolutely right. I can’t see it being that difficult to recreate this on my T2i (much less a 5D MkII). There may be a slight bit of moire when aiming at the couch, but is that enough to justify the wild price gap between the cams?

    If you’re set with a hefty budget, Red makes sense. DIY and indies should stick to DSLRs. Both options offer you a great degree of portability.

  • Another important factor to consider on a “DIY feature” is the post-processing requirements of RED or Alexa footage. Not only do you need massive drives to store and backup all your footage, but you need a lot more horsepower to play back/edit 4k footage. For a project with a proper budget, it’s not an issue, but when every penny counts, sinking another $10K – $15K into post hardware can be a deal-breaker.

    • >

      One solution to playing/editing 4K footage is to offline the project until you’re finished. You can convert everything to Pro-Res proxy, edit that and when you’re ready to color re-link the footage to the original RAW file. I’ve used this post workflow many times with success.

      But yes, you still need to have the drive space for storage but with how cheap a gigabyte is these days, you can get a lot for a little.

      At some point, you will need to On-line, at which point you will want a powerful computer handling your rendering, so it’s a valid argument. However, a clip from the 5D, fully unwrapped to Pro-Pres, is not a small file either…

    • I’ve edited Red projects for years, on old systems, and never had a big problem.

      Convert to Pro Res and off you go. Any drive rated at 7200 RPM can handle it. It saves time and stay native in one format from start to finish. In most operations, Pro Res is more than enough for finishing unless it’s a feature.

  • I need to do something about these “>”s that my site automatically inserts into replies. On another note, I think something else demonstrated by the RED and ALEXA footage here is this: “real” cameras require “real” lighting. Light it with care, as you would a film shoot, and you’ll get great results. But you need to treat it like a real film shoot. The above footage is just a natural scene without much staging or lighting.

    One of the reason DSLRs are so popular, I think, is because they can make an unlit scene look amazing, especially compared to regular small-chip camcorders. Without much care, other than properly exposing and white balancing, the image comes out of the camera looking pretty pleasing. That’s why I asked “how do you think these same scenes would look on your DSLR?”, because I think they might look even better once compressed to the web. But of course the DSLR could not, and should not, hold a candle to a RED or ALEXA in the hands of a skilled DP with resources at his or her disposal.

  • Interesting reading these posts about the RED. I’ve shot extensively on the all sorts of different formats now, from 35mm, 16mm, RED, varicam, Digibeta, HDcam, and everything in between and the last thing I would call the 5D is electronic. And of course, it completely depends on the lenses you’re using and the picture profile settings as to how sharp it looks. If you use the out of the box stills settings then it will appear ridiculously sharp. Best not to. The RED is fantastic and always has been, the quality you get, the control you get, and of course the resolution are ace. But for me, the RED has its own aesthetic, a kind of dreamy, slightly milky quality that sets it apart completely from all the other cameras: HDcam is really sharp, too sharp for me, 5D has a kind of rubbery quality to it but I still think the RED has a massive part to play. You can shoot 100fps on the RED as well, which is not to be sniffed at, and at 2K as well. Post is a pain in the gangulies but I’m still a fan. People talk about the 5D and the RED in the same breath. No chance. Use the 5D to gain experience, experiment and learn, use the RED when you’re looking for a solid production ally. it won’t let you down (at least not most of the time anyway). PS, what a shocking shocking test, still it’s something anyway. I think the Alexa will kick ass to be honest, but thats just me being biased because I love Arri products.

  • If you need to make a huge commercial impact with your film then you are going to need the best kit available – plus an A list star, a distribution deal and a hefty marketing budget. At this point what camera is use seems kind of irrelevant – it is always going to be the best available – why wouldn’t it be? If however you don’t need to make a massive return on your film but just want to get something made that looks pretty damn good but won’t understandably compete directly with a top end productions then the small cameras ( Sony Ex3, Panasonic AG 101, with Ki Pro or Nanoflash on the back) or the Digital SLR’s seems the simplest way to go in terms of being able to shoot quickly and with a manageable work flow. I always ask myself what would Godard have done on the eve of making Breathless ? He wanted to work quickly, in natural light, with an affordable workflow – the rest was down to the actors and the story. He would have used lightweight, cheap and small – DSLR or the equivalent. But more importantly – he would have made sure he had the right actors and the best script – plus he broke the rules and was rewarded for it. I know we’ve heard this a million times – but if people spent a bit longer on their scripts and less time in a permanent state of anxiety over which camera to use then the outcome would always be a better one. If you only have £500 to make a film – it can be done, and very well as long as everyone is on board, there is a great script and you can get the best out of the equipment available to you. The sad fact is that everyone assumes it is an open market now because of DSLR’s – that somehow everyone can compete on the same level, that the internet will allow mass distribution of endless low budget feature films with no reason for anyone to choose to watch them over the huge selection of top quality films coming out in all genres, from all corners of the world. At some point the filter of quality will kick in -most people don’t spend hours trawling the net to watch films by unknown directors, with no known actors, just as they don’t trawl itunes to download millions of unsigned bands. Why not enter film making with the idea of keeping costs down, hiring a cinema and screening your film – a bit like staging a play. Make it an event and build it from there. For some reason everyone is chasing fame and fortune – being it making an action movie or an art house drama. I say relax, enjoy the process, make a film, screen it, try and find other places to screen it, make another film, let things build and see what happens because when it does the choice of a cheap camera over an expensive camera will at that point become irrelevant . If you want to shoot Red then it can be done. A red costs £225 a day to hire the basic kit – with a crew and cast of 20 all chipping in £100 each – you could rent one for a week – enough time to make a good short film. If you decide to spend that money in front of the camera instead and shoot it on your DSLR then go for it, you could even make a feature – but remember you need stars, distribution and a marketing budget if you expect huge audiences and a cinema release. Sadly most low buget film makers will never have enough budget available to compete with Hollywood, Bollywood, Nollywood, Cannes Palme D’Or winners, Golden Lion winners etc. so stop worrying about it. Get a decent script – the rest will take care of itself.

  • Well said.

    Unlike many other similar sites out there, however, I cover screenwriting as well. Maybe not as much as I should. But it’s not as if reading this site comes at the exclusion of working on your screenplay. If someone spends 10 minutes a day reading NoFilmSchool, they still have 23 hours and 50 minutes left to work on their script (minus sleeping time). If I don’t talk about writing as much as I talk about cameras, it’s because I find it to be a solitary, personal experience that doesn’t translate well into frequent blog posts.

    Thanks again for your comment.

  • The imaginary richness of the RED footage is more smoke and mirrors than technical. The smoke and mirrors is created by putting a bunch of under appreciated DPs on the same message board to stroke their egos nightly by getting attention from a billionaire sunglass mogul. Then combine some behind the scenes financial incentives to hollywood directors and promise them lavish fun and personal brand building for “directing” their budgets toward temperamental cameras with all the quality control of a pair of sunglasses.

    The fun part is watching so many unknown DPs gush over pathetic 300 DPI screen shots as if they see gold threaded mysticism in every pixel. I love when an entire industry puts dark sunglasses on and can’t see whether the emperor really has any clothes. Long live the illusion!!!

    Ask Jim Jannard, he will tell you exactly what you want to hear. He knows how to enrich your vision.

  • Yawn…now back to work with my lovely hacked GH2…

  • I don´t think this test is very useful or reliable to compare these cameras. This is not the way to do it. Try this website to find good tests with both cameras.