How to Build a Custom RED SCARLET/EPIC Flight Case for 75% Less Than the RED Version
RED makes an excellent custom laser-cut EPIC case for $600 (pictured). However, the same wheeled case — a Pelican 1510, which is the maximum allowable size for carrying onto an airplane — is just $150. It’s certainly nice to have a custom foam insert in your case for maximum camera/accessory security, but if you don’t feel like spending $450 on a foam insert, here’s how to create your own — using RED’s own custom-cut materials, which come with the original camera and accessory packaging. It may go without saying, but this post will only be of interest to folks who have a RED DSMC or are thinking of buying one.
First of all, if you’re spending the kind of money that a RED camera costs, $450 of savings might not seem like a lot. If you’re renting out your equipment frequently, you might want to just go for the $600 official RED version, which is guaranteed to be the most snug-fitting version of this case and will take a beating. However, this DIY approach is a viable option not only for those looking to save money, but also for owner/operators who might not use exclusively RED accessories. RED’s case is made for the RED 5″ LCD, the BOMB EVF, the REDMOTE batteries, etc. What if you use your own batteries (article about powering options coming soon)? What if you don’t use RED’s EVF? You’re going to want another option. Here’s what I did.
As soon as the Pelican 1510 arrived, I noticed RED’s custom-cut packaging looked like it might fit inside quite nicely. RED ships you your camera in a sturdy box (pictured) with a custom-cut foam insert. This insert has a cutout for a DSMC Side Handle and fits the SCARLET/EPIC perfectly. If you remove the insert from the box, it just so happens to fit in the 1510 snugly as well. Then, through some trial and error I found that the similarly-snug packaging that the the 5″ TOUCH LCD comes in also fits quite snugly. I bought some economical V-mount battery solutions from GlobalMediaPro (thoughts on those soon), and I found that they, too fit perfectly.
My Side Handle just arrived (finally), but I didn’t have it when I was making this case, so you’ll see that I’m not being the most efficient with the case space — but you can always cut out more strategically-placed inserts. Here’s what the case looks like when you’re done:
Okay, so it doesn’t look like much, but what you’ll discover is that the various pieces fit amazingly well together — it’s extremely snug, and you don’t have to chop up many pieces of foam to configure it. You get rid of most of the pick-n-pluck foam of the Pelican 1510 and just use it in strategic places. And the Side Handle fits perfectly into the pre-cut space in the foam — I didn’t have my camera handy, but you can see in the smaller picture at left that it fits in perfectly.
On the outside, the flight case looks like the one pictured — minus the RED EPIC sticker, which, quite frankly, I’d rather not have (it might as well say “steal me!”). As I said in the title, this is a Flight Case — when you’re using this hard case you’re going to be bringing an extra bag with your lenses and other accessories. One of the nice things about RED cameras is their compact size, so it’s certainly possible to take a case of this size and pack in the body, batteries, lenses, and just run and gun with that. There are plenty of smaller options. However, this case is designed for safe transportation and use on a proper set — where you will likely have many more hard cases, some of which will be several times as large and heavy.
So if you happened to have bought a RED camera and you happen to still have your original packaging (this is becoming a very niche post), the following photos steps and photos should illustrate what I did. With the money you save, you could buy one of those new iPads — there are nifty slating apps and they make great screenplay readers too (although I still find I like printing out drafts and going over them with pen and paper).
First, take out the foam insert from your SCARLET/EPIC box. You’ll have to do some cutting/tearing; if you want to keep your original box intact, this case solution is not for you:
Then what you’re going to do is tear out all of the pick-n-pluck foam from half of the Pelican case so that the RED box foam fits in. Note that I later decided to switch the insert to the other side of the case, because the wheels interfered with placing batteries on the right side:
If you’re using your own screen, you can fit it in how you choose. If you got RED’s 5″ touch monitor, go to the original packaging and remove the foam:
It has an extra pocket on the side that we’ll need to remove:
Cut it off like this:
Now fit the LCD monitor foam to the top of a section of pick-n-pluck:
You’ll fit it into the case with the border of the pick-n-pluck surrounding it (you will use this border all around, in fact:
Now you can see why I switched sides — the wheels of the case are on the left, and interfere with any object you want to go all the way to the bottom:
Here’s how the LCD monitor foam from RED fits in perfectly:
As you can see, I’m using the gap above the LCD monitor for battery storage. These 160 W/h bricks last about 3 hours each — that’s 12 hours of RED power right there (which would take 24 REDVOLTs and would cost a heck of a lot more). Again, I’ll have a roundup of powering options here on the site soon:
The wheels of the case protrude into the interior, but the RED-supplied foam from the SCARLET/EPIC box has plenty of extra padding on it. Therefore all we need to do is cut out two corners from the foam, where they would align with the wheel protrusions. Note that I do NOT recommend doing what I did, which is use a serrated knife: it leaves a lot more flecks of foam lying around which is not optimal for sensitive electronics. A regular, non-serrated knife cuts the foam fine and gives you a smoother cut not only for these wheel wells, but also for anywhere else you want to cut holes for gear:
One wheel chunk removed:
And there it is, the RED-supplied custom-fit foam fit into the Pelican 1510:
Finally, below is a picture of the result (again), with the caveat that you can cut out more sections for custom gear; if you really want to fit in a lot more accessories, you can definitely do so. If you want space for cables, manuals, and other smaller items, you can also replace the lid foam with the Pelican 1519 Lid Organizer (pictured), which I just did. However I should note that the typical high quality of Pelican gear does not extend to this lid accessory; it is a pain in the ass to install (you’ll need a drill), but works fine once you’ve jumped through a few hoops (use a small bit to drill pilot holes in the lid, and then screw in the cover using a drill — a screwdriver, in my experience, does not suffice thanks to a lack of pre-drilled holes).
I hope this was helpful for any other RED shooters who might be in search of a hard case for transportation on airplanes (again, this is the maximum allowable carry-on size). What bags and cases have others found useful for RED cameras and gear?