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Cautionary Thoughts on the RED SCARLET-X from Philip Bloom

11.21.11 @ 8:58AM Tags : , ,

I’ve mentioned a dozen reasons I ordered a SCARLET-X in the past, but not all of those reasons apply to everyone. Far from it. For documentary filmmakers and low-budget or reality TV, in fact, I think the RED would present a lot more workflow obstacles than other (non 4K, non RAW) cameras. Beyond this, RED has a reputation for shipping “beta” cameras, and EPIC owner Philip Bloom has posted about just this:

So all in all. Is this the camera for you? Possibly. Weigh up the pros and cons and the costs especially. Working with the Epic is a dream and a massive pain in the butt that almost always pays off in the end. Despite having 3 shoots which have had huge issues with my Epic. Total lockdown on my first commercial, had to be sent back. BAD skipped frames on “Host” making sync a nightmare and on my last piece, done for fun…The Redneck Hippie buzzing all over the audio. I still love the camera and will continue to shoot with it a lot. But this is the first time in 23 years of shooting that I have gone on a job with a camera that I don’t trust. I worry about how reliable the Scarlet will be. I really hope the all the issues will be ironed out so nobody goes through what I have gone through. My Sony F3… how many times has it gone wrong? Never. How many issues have I had? None.

Read his whole piece, as it’s a must-read for anyone considering a RED. Nothing he says there changes my mind — one, I was already aware of the camera’s issues, and two, we won’t be shooting Man-child until this coming summer. So there’s a lot of time for me to shoot tests and shorts to iron out the kinks before needing a camera that’s rock-solid six months from now. This is not a situation everyone is in, however, so definitely read Philip’s thoughts before pulling the trigger. However, I have one correction to his post:

The Scarlet is not killer in low light. When it gets the (paid for) upgrade to the Dragon chip maybe next year it will be, until then the chip is 3 and a half years old.

This didn’t seem to be correct (the age part) so I checked with RED and they confirmed that the sensor was designed for EPIC, which only recently started shipping, though there’s no “born on dating.”

For reference, here’s Philip’s EPIC piece on “The Redneck Hippie.” You won’t get this kind of slow motion from most any other camera even the EPIC, as they were shot on a Phantom Flex, but then again, how frequently do you need super slow-motion?

Link: To buy a Scarlet or not to buy, that is the question… – Philip Bloom


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  • That Video looks really nice Philip. What was the fps of the slow motion?

    • The slow motion was shot with a Phantom Flex at 720p at I think 2560 fps. I was at his workshop yesterday in Boston and he spoke about needing to basically shoot into the sun to light that those scenes.

  • Note that the extreme slow motion (the shells flying out of the gun, etc) were done with the Phantom Flex.

  • I think it’s pretty interesting.

  • RevBenjamin on 11.21.11 @ 10:07AM

    Yeah supershredder, why don’t you lay off the ooze! BAZINGA

  • Lliam Worthington on 11.21.11 @ 10:42AM

    Obviously an important post by a very influential industry figure on a major industry offering.
    So I think it only makes good sense that Koo makes sure his readership does not miss it.

    But hey, any chance for a dig right.

  • Supershredder, thank you for stopping by and sharing your knowledge. /scarcasmoff

    • What, you’ve never heard of “scarcasm?” :)

      • What I don’t get is why it’s /sarcasmoff instead of just /sarcasm. Using both a slash and “off” is sort of like a double negative, isn’t it? Although maybe I’m missing the point and Sarcasmoff is actually the name of a relatively unknown Russian novelist known for his use of scarcasm.

      • Cows,

        Hilarious. And good point. That IS a double negative, which would mean that it’s sarcasm (or scarcasm) ON…

        Sarcasmoff is a master. He wrote some epics about love in Eastern Europe during WWI.

  • Philip Bloom on 11.21.11 @ 12:24PM

    Cheers Koo,

    Yes I corrected the chip part. Thing is although chip is for the EPIC it was designed for the MX hence the age. The basic tech is still not new, just not 3.5 years old.

    A lot of the slow motion in Redneck Hippie was actually done at 300 FPS on the epic including the first rile firing, cocking, unloading


  • I like the motion feel in the epic much better then the red one. As the red one really had a video’ish vibe to it. These shots don’t seem to suffer from that.

  • When does Man-Child start shooting. Just wondering. Or is it still working towards that.

  • Given the choice, I would order a Scarlet (or an Epic if I had unlimited funds). Abiliity to crop in post is great, especially if you have limited time for a shoot. I am disappointed at the C300 to only shoot 50fps in 720p – that’s just soooo 2009 ( when I bought my 7D). From what I understand it’s killer in low light. However, I just saw a video from a hacked GH2 with a voigtlander 0.95 25mm that changes my perspective as well. In the end, I think I may settle for an FS100, because I need the XLR inputs more than any other (nice to have) feature – syncing up audio is just too time-consuming on many of my bread-n-butter jobs. All I need is to get an EF-mount for the FS-100. Why Sony doesn’t make them is still beyond me. Their lenses are too slow and if you want to sell more cameras, you need make sure DSLR shooters can work with them.

  • Have you done any planning for a long term storage solution for your Red footage? I’ve been working on this for a while… But not ready to spend 15-20k on a fibre raid just for this camera. Maybe I. A year or two, but man this camera would speed that timeframe up.

    Currently, I’m around 700-ish in line for Scarlet X, but still considering the c300 instead (if it comes way down in price).

    • I’m hoping that by the time I need a lot of it, that Thunderbolt will be more common and external RAIDs will be a good solution…

      • Koo,

        I really hope for you (and others) that the Scarlet-X will be production-proof in six months. My main concern with this camera is the speed with which RED is able to service the camera, should it break down in the middle of a production. Do you have a plan-b for that?

        Since you’re US based, I guess it’s easier to get service. In Europe, you need to send the camera to the UK, or back to the USA for service, which could easily mean you’ll run a few weeks without. Not a nice thought if you depend on it as your A-camera. I checked with RED, but they have no immediate plans for expanding service centers. Canon has committed themselves to Hollywood by opening a service centre in the epicentrum. With DSLRs you get speedy service as well (the CPS programme in Amsterdam is awesome) although I’ve been told that buying a C300 means you can’t rely on the same service levels (a video vs stills thing). I think RED should consider setting up a network of service cameras that can be used if the owner’s camera breaks down for whatever reason. The show must go on and the price tag of these cameras command a level of service that should go beyond a stills camera, IMHO…