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A REDMOTE Tutorial and a RED Conversation with DP Greg St. Johns from 'Criminal Minds'

07.24.12 @ 7:00PM Tags : , , , , , , ,

Even if you don’t own a RED, there’s a good chance you will find your way onto a set with one at some point in the future. The SCARLET and EPIC cameras can be controlled via the 5″ touchscreen, but if the camera is high up on a jib or on a stabilizer, it’s very helpful being able to change settings and start/stop wirelessly using the REDMOTE. The REDMOTE was in heavy backorder for a long time, but it seems like it’s available right now from the RED store. The tutorial below is a great way to get a head-start if you’re unfamiliar with RED and their accessories.

If you’re interested, RED is also starting to do interviews with pretty significant shooters — like Greg St. Johns, the Director of Photography on the television show Criminal Minds. This one is very pro-RED (obviously), but there are some nice tidbits and information about their workflow and the way they are lighting their sets:

There are some major changes happening at the high-end in the film industry, and it’s interesting to hear working Directors of Photography talk about how much digital has allowed them to do while still maintaining the quality that they had when they were shooting on film. I think it’s safe to say that film is on its last legs (one of the reasons it wasn’t included in the Zacuto Shootout), and it won’t be too much longer before actual film disappears from Hollywood sets altogether. As someone who really loved (and still loves) the look and “magic” of film, I also am realistic and I know that the advancements in digital technology can give us greater quality for less money. It’s going to be a strange future where children will grow up without ever having seen a single frame of projected film.

Links: REDMOTE Tutorial & Greg St. Johns Interview


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  • Is it just me or does it seem like Red is now adopting a different Marketing strategy? Almost like they are turning their attention back to the Indie market. These video tutorials are aimed at beginners/non Red users. I wonder if that means a little brother to the Scarlet could surface at some point. Something to battle the Black Magic camera maybe?

  • john jeffreys on 07.24.12 @ 7:11PM

    A lot of directors still shoot on film. So its not gonna “die” anytime soon, but it will be increasingly niche. And then eventually, people will get tired of digital and start shooting film again because its “vintage”, in the same vein as the recent resurgence of vinyl records.

    • Randolph Sellars on 07.24.12 @ 8:33PM

      John, I wouldn’t be so sure about film’s staying power based on current use. I can’t possibly predict when, but I think film will disappear as a mainstream recording format much sooner than we think. Don’t get me wrong, I love film and I used it for much of my career as a DP. But there are some strong market forces occurring that are putting pressures from many sides. It may not matter that many directors would prefer film – even if they can afford it. Some of these forces are: Film manufacturers: Kodak is not a healthy company – they are hemorrhaging money. Motion picture film is a very small part of their business. They still make a good product now, but R&D is expensive. They may not be able to continue to innovate. Meanwhile digital technology continues to get better and cheaper. Film costs will continue to rise – especially as volume of sales goes down. Camera manufacturers: No new film cameras have been made in years. Of course there are still plenty of cameras to fill the current demand – but this is a strong indicator of the rapid decline in film use – like the canary in the mine. Digital theaters/digital prints: Many people don’t consider the ramifications of this. Last I heard, digital conversion of theaters is well past 50% of the theaters in this country. Some film distributors have announced they are ceasing to distribute film prints. This is a huge problem for film labs. They make a majority of their “film” income from making thousands of release prints – not from processing original negative. With significantly less film to process, the costs will continue to increase. Many smaller labs will go out of business, lowering competition. Quality may also suffer as chemicals are kept longer and processor maintenance is deferred. There is precedence for this already in the still photo world. There is also the issue of manufacturing and maintaining high cost telecine machines to convert film to digital. The last factor is film genre. Event films with heavy special effects are already under pressure to shoot digitally to make effects easier. This will continue – especially with 3D films. Films with visual effects are here to stay. It remains to be seen if 3D will stick around. At some point it will become a snow ball effect where the costs will continue to go up and the difficulty of shooting film will just not be worth it for most filmmakers. Film may hang around as a very small niche market – but only available to those who can afford the extremely high costs. I’ll be sad to see film go, but I think it is inevitable.

      • At the same time, a digital camera WILL end up getting it right by duplicating the film look. Sometimes I have trouble telling the difference between Alexa and Arriflex. We are still in the very early stages of the digital film age. It’s only a matter of time before someone perfects the film look on a digital camera. When that happens, there will be no real advantage to putting up with the headaches you just mentioned.

      • I agree with what Luke said.

        People do like the “film” look and digital cameras can mock that somewhat and as time goes on I’m sure some cameras will do even a better job. Not to mention you can mess with the footage in post to get a filmish look.

        • Randolph Sellars on 07.25.12 @ 1:10AM

          Luke and Roy, I agree with you guys. Although I love film, I have completely embraced using digital. There are differences, but they are subtle. Most of the film going audience (filmmakers excluded) can’t tell or appreciate the difference. Currently, digital does a better job in low light and with shadow detail. Some DP’s like Roger Deakins feel that the color fidelity of the Alexa is superior to film. Soon, dynamic range will be greater than film and the quality argument will be over. We can already simulate grain if that is desired.

          • Yeah, what I was talking about in post was the film like grain marks, obviously when people try to add them in to match digital to film they over do it and ruin the effect.

      • john jeffreys on 07.25.12 @ 4:33PM

        I grew up on digital, and I have never actually even seen a film camera in real life. But most larger productions and major hollywood films still shoot on arricams and the like. While digital has certainly met the visual “level
        ‘ of film, I feel that most conservative and older filmmakers are attached to film and will be shooting with it until they die. Digital is certainly taking/taken over, but film won’t die for a while.

        • That’s like the top 1% of filmmakers though. Even in that top 1% a lot of the “purists” are switching over. Look at the list of movies being shot on Epic! The other 90-95% of us shoot digital because it’s all we can afford so in that way I think film is already basically dead (explaining the problems companies like Kodak are having.)

          • In addition to Kodak having issues, Fuji is raising prices on their film-related products across the board. That’s not just a spike, prices will continue to rise as materials get more expensive (silver), and less and less people shoot film.

            If you look at the top DPs right now in Hollywood, they’ve all pretty much moved to digital – mostly Alexa, but plenty of RED in there as well.

          • I think directors and dps who can afford shooting film doing it now as much as possible, because they kinda predict, that with Kodak going tits up and Fuji raising prices there’d be less and less reason to shoot film from a practical point of view in a few years from now. Too expensive, too much trouble along the way, in the meantime some infamous digital cameras will be capturing 6K/8K+ footage with greater dynamic range and color fidelity than film, let alone ability to tweak it in post to one’s hearts content.

        • Correction, it’s on life support. With each conversion of a purist Director/DOP it gets closer and closer to being obsolete.