June 16, 2011

A Perfect Video Demo of Why RED's HDRx is a Game-Changer

I just got through watching Doug Liman's Fair Game, and was impressed with how the film dealt with the Valerie Plame affair without dumbing it down -- it was a refreshingly "adult" Hollywood feature. However, what I wasn't impressed with was the RED cinematography, with Liman himself serving as DP. It looked fine, but it didn't look great, to my eye. In camera tests to date we've seen that the RED has plenty of shadow detail but lacks the highlight details of film, and it's the slightly blown-out look of skin tones and other highlights that has has me "meh"-ing some RED cinematography. Enter RED's game-changing exposure hack, HDRx. The following video was posted to the Cinematography Mailing List a while ago, but it's a great explanation of HDRx in action on the RED EPIC, and also offers a glimpse of Assimilate's post-production software SCRATCH at work:

At 4:25 you can see exactly the kind of blown highlights that have irked me in previous RED footage. Will HDRx fix this complaint? It certainly seems so (the alternative with non-HDRx cameras is to underexpose, but then you risk losing shadow detail). For indies who don't have a raft of lights, the above shot is a good example of HDRx's utility -- to properly expose the subject and the beach, with most cameras you'd need some powerful daylight-balanced lights on the subject. And a grip truck. And a generator. But with HDRx you can get the shot with just the camera, saving indies time and money. This is not to say that you no longer need lights, but for specific situations like this one, you might be able to get the setup in a fraction of non-HDRx time.

HDRx adds up to three stops of dynamic range to the RED EPIC (and forthcoming EPIC-S), which takes the 13-stops of the EPIC all the way up to a world's-best (better than film, and better than digital leader ARRI ALEXA) 17+ stops.

Thanks go out to Blair Paulsen for a great demo. You can find some uncompressed TIFF files and more explanations over at Local Hero Post.

[thanks, Simon]

Your Comment


Can't stand Doug Liman as a director and now as a DP. The cinematography in that movie was utter shit, not only from a "look" perspective but also from a shot perspective. Some of the shots were so random and unneccessary. I just didn't get it.

June 16, 2011


You do realize Doug Liman is half blind.
Seriously..he has vision problems..that's
why half of Swingers is out of focus.
He also suffers from the Soderbergh
delusion/complex: the belief that
they are DP/operators who improve
their film looks. Truth is they ruin them.

June 16, 2011


Yeah, hdrx is really the biggest feature coming on epic and scarlet in my opinion. Although, i heard 18 stops quoted several times (i saw your 17 +, i'm just saying, to clear up somethings, either on my end or someone else's),. Even though I've defended epic several times, i'm the first to admit that i don't care much for straight up RED footage without at lest mx, much preferring the arri d21 even to it, but i think they truly have changed the game with epic and will even moreso with scarlet.

There's an amazing couple of youtube videos that are a bit less "pro" in their examples of hdrx but truly show just how "showy" it can be.




Just absolutely stunning to me.

Not to mention, i've heard several gushings now of how the spiderman footage looks

June 16, 2011


Just so I'm not going insane here. If you can capture RAW information from a sensor, wouldn't you have "built-in" HDR? If you grade a RAW file, would all the information just "be there" already?

Also, while I do love HDR, is it really that amazing or an excuse for holding up the camera delivery dates? The IPHONE has HDR, and I use it all the time. It's great, but it's also already here in the most consumerist form possible.

Sanity check anyone?

June 16, 2011