RED SCARLET Torture Test: High Speed Handheld Shooting in Subzero Temperatures with 35 Year-Old Lenses
Subzero temperatures. Sunlight filtering through an afternoon forest onto bright white snow. Actors wearing shiny silver outfits, running from direct sunlight to shadows. No neutral density filters and no polarizing filters. No bounce cards and no lights. No tripod. Collectively, all of this makes for some of the worst conditions you could use a camera in. On top of this, it wasn’t even my project, so I was essentially filming a behind-the-scenes featurette with no ability to direct the actors. This was not a project from which to produce a great reel; it was simply a way to put a camera and a new set of lenses to a (freezing) test. With all of those disclaimers, if you care to see the footage, here it is.
First of all, here’s the background behind this “production” — my co-everything on The West Side, Zack Lieberman, was shooting a no-budget test short in 3D on a little prosumer Sony camcorder. I had just purchased some BNCR-mount Canon K35 prime lenses (used — they’re 35 years old) and so Zack’s test shoot was a perfect chance to get some face time not only with the SCARLET, but also the new (to me) lenses. Essentially, we reversed the usual production/behind-the-scenes lineup, so the actual test short (which will have some day-for-night and 3D After Effects work) was shot on an inexpensive prosumer camera and the behind-the-scenes was shot on a higher-end RED camera. And it’s not really even a behind-the-scenes — just me grabbing shots throughout the day at various frame rates and focal lengths. This is not a short. It is not even a test short — it’s a behind-the-scenes of a test short.
Featuring Zuzanna Buchwald, Kalen Norton, Bryan Tuckman, Emily Mode, and Rahil Patel.
I shot it at 12, 24, 48, and 60 FPS, at 5K, 4K, 3K, and 2K respectively. My impressions are that 2K/60P can get pretty noisy and soft, whereas 3K/48P looks great. Remember the RED SCARLET, unlike the EPIC or other similar cameras, crops at high speeds and so you’re also testing the center resolution of your lenses. The K35s definitely exhibit some purple fringing issues when wide-open, but I got a great deal on them; I’ll have more thoughts about these vintage lenses in the future. Suffice to say they’re very small, light, and fast, and I thought their quirks would be worth it at the price I found them for. If they were good enough for James Cameron to shoot Aliens with, my thinking goes, they’ll be good enough for little old me.
As for the SCARLET itself, did it crash? Yes. Once, maybe twice. But I did not acclimate the camera (or lenses) properly to the subzero temperatures and I did not blackshade the camera after we were outside, so considering the non-ideal conditions I thought it performed admirably. Plus this was shot in January on the original SCARLET firmware version 2.0, which is now up to 3.0. And it never froze mid-take or anything, just once when switching to playback mode (which at the time was still a beta feature, at least on EPICs).
We shot this sometime in January in upstate New York. When I say “subzero temperatures,” I mean it — we were all wearing long underwear, we all had hand and foot warmers, and as you can see we were still doing jumping jacks to stay warm. The temperature was legitimately in the negatives.
I’ve been busy revising the Man-child script and have been taking meetings about the project to try to get it into motion, so I didn’t have a chance to slap this footage together until now. After RED released a new color science, I figured it would be a good time to dig up the footage and cut something together quickly. Little did I know Premiere Pro CS5.5 does not support the new REDcolor3 and REDgamma3:
CS6 will hopefully add support for the latest color science and gamma curves, as the quick color correction pass I did in the free REDCINE-X Pro looked different in grading than it did once I reloaded the RMDs in Premiere Pro. So even though I color-corrected using the latest settings in REDCINE-X Pro, the output file you’re seeing is the old color science (REDcolor3 and REDgamma3 yield more saturated, contrasty images). Ah, well.
What’d you think?