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RED Announces Black-and-White 'EPIC Monochrome' Camera, David Fincher Already Shooting With It

09.9.12 @ 12:35PM Tags : , , , , ,

As the large-sensor camera market gets more and more crowded, manufacturers are coming up with new ways of differentiating themselves. Here’s something unique that I don’t think many saw coming: RED has just announced a monochrome version of the RED EPIC-M. Yes, it only does black-and-white. Why would they do this? Because without the need to debayer (the process by which colors are interpolated from otherwise colorless data), the full luminance values can be utilized, giving sharper and theoretically lower-noise images. David Fincher is reportedly already shooting with the EPIC Monochrome.

Posting at REDUSER, Jarred Land writes:

I am pleased to announce the Epic-M Monochrome.
Newly Developed Mysterium-X Monochrome Sensor.
Native ASA 2000.
Increased net resolution ( Removal of the debayer process, so every single individual pixel is used for luminance / image data )
New Low Pass Filter with to accomodate the reduced pixel pitch ( 1×1 vs 2×2 Bayer )
$42,000 ( brain only ) includes upgrade to Dragon Monochrome Sensor spring 2013.
David Fincher is shooting his current project solely on Epic-M Monochrome cameras as we speak.
Pre-orders open on RED.COM Monday. Ships October 1st.

Oh, and the real camera is colored just like the other RED cameras, which is to say its buttons are, you guessed it, red:

Interestingly enough, the “native ASA 2000″ may have implications for the forthcoming RED Dragon sensor; according to this post on RED’s site, Jim Jannard’s claim that on Dragon “ISO 2000 looks better than MX at ISO 800″ wasn’t just a number picked out of a hat, but is instead indicative that Dragon will also be “Native ISO 2000.” Get your ND filters ready…

Writing later in the same thread, Jarred added:

It is significant to people that live in the B&W world. It is a request that we have had many times over the years just never had the resources to make it a reality.. until now. Having a dedicated BW camera if you are shooting BW is leaps and bounds better than shooting in color then transferring to BW later. It is why they continue to make BW film. There is no color filters on each of the pixels so you get increased light to each pixel, and there is no debayer process, so you get a much “sharper” image… a better tonal transfer in gradients as there is no interpolation.

Indeed, there is no camera like it and one can only imagine this is the best black-and-white digital cinema camera in the world… by default. (Are there others?) Unless your name is Daddy Warbucks you are not going to buy one of these, but for high-end film production where the finished product is black-and-white, this would likely be the top rental target.

More details via RED:

Frame rate will be the same.. the output resolution is the same. The difference here is that instead of reading 4 pixels ( RGBG ) to interpolate ( guess ) 4 final color pixels, you are reading 4 unique, accurate imaging pixels to create 4 accurate final pixels. That is why all Bayer Pattern CMOS sensors lose effective resolution, for example our 5K cameras measure an accurate 4K resolution after Debayer, and most 1080p cameras net only an accurate 1.2-1.6k image. Its an important distinction.. one of the reasons we have always touted resolution is so important, and also the reason you are now starting to see cameras that do oversampling like the F65.

There are no sample clips in the wild, though Jarred did mention releasing side-by-side EPIC and EPIC-M clips down the road. I’m also not sure which project they’re talking about when it comes to Fincher using the EPIC Monochrome as we speak, though I have no doubt they’re telling the truth given they famously made carbon-fiber versions of the RED ONE for Fincher’s crewing sequences on The Social Network.

Were I doing a big-budget remake of The West Side, now I know what what camera we’d be using! What about you, are there situations where you could see yourself renting a camera that only shoots black-and-white?

Link: EPIC-M Monochrome – REDUSER


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Description image 50 COMMENTS

  • idiotic ikonoskop ripoff

  • This is for-real awesome actually. I have a monochrome-only digital medium format camera, based on a Bronica ETRS with a back that was custom built for me by Megavision. It has a 4kx4k square format monochrome sensor, 36mm square (as wide as full frame 35mm, but just as high), with no Bayer filters. This thing is capable of incredibly sharp images — the amount of extra detail that the theory says you should have (up to 4 times as much information, particularly if you’re doing the classic B&W heavy filtering tricks to make the image look interesting) is really staggering, comparable with much newer 645 format color medium format sensors. The awesome glass doesn’t do any harm, of course, but we’re basically talking about the Epic monochrome matching the Bronica/Megavision’s image quality on moving images. Can’t wait to see it projected with a projector that can do it justice. Go Fincher. :-)

    Actually it’s generally not too hard for a camera manufacturer to do this, because a lot of sensors are available with or without bayer filters, it’s just that the volume tends to be tiny. I’m not sure I’d buy an Epic-M monochrome, but I’d certainly rent one without much of a second thought if I was going to be shooting B&W. I have a project in mind that would be awesome for it, though it’s a tough choice…

    • Wow, that’s fascinating! It’s clearly OT, but I wonder what you were doing that required such a unique (and I imagine exorbitantly expensive) solution. Landscapes? Portraits? Even the price of regular MF digital backs make my eyes water,

      • Fine art landscapes, and a moderate amount of portraiture. Seriously, the results had the kind of sharpness you’d get from 4×5 B&W film, maybe not quite a really slow pan film, but I always thought it looked a lot like Ilford FP4. It’s a different technique — you have to go back to using for-real B&W filters, just the way you do with B&W film. I’m a big fan of deep orange and deep red filters for landscape work, I really like that super dark sky against white clouds. I’ve done a fair bit of IR too (not with that camera, that was on a Better Light digital large format scan back, 150 megapixels of awesome — when RED can match *that*, I’ll be impressed! (8000×6000 with no Bayer filtering, so it’s full res in all channels)).

        • Manprit Shergill on 08.11.14 @ 1:08AM

          Can I see any of your digital backs result..?? Plz Put a link if so. and about Red-M it’s rare market in India.

  • David Fincher is one of my favorite directors, but it just seems like he’s a marketing machine for RED. Just like Howard with Canon etc.

    This is cool though.

  • Leica has a B/W version of its M9 and yes, it is incredible sharp

  • Here’s my question- will you be able to tell the difference when you go see what’s been shot on this in theaters? I’m not going to even pretend to be extensively knowledgeable about resolutions as high as what this camera captures, but if I remember after asking the projectionist at my local digital IMAX, they can only display up to 2k imagery. Is this true?

    I guess what I’m getting to is- yes this technology is great, but are current theaters ready?

    • In 2K theaters it won’t make a big difference — and don’t get me started on a 2K screen calling itself IMAX — but there are other differences as well (the normal EPIC’s ISO is 800, this one is 2,000, so clearly it’s not just a matter of the difference in debayering). Additionally converting from color to black and white is not optimal, and as a native B&W camera it should offer advantages there as well. Take a color shot of your own and then desaturate it. Then use just one color channel’s info. Then use Photoshop’s black and white filter. They all look different — all B&W is not created equal… regardless of resolution.

      • ” . . . all B&W is not created equal . . .”

        That is why there are extra options, when converting color to B&W. You can manipulate colors to accomodate your intentions, your needs. On the other hand, the pictures I have seen made with the Leica M9 B&W are staggering. Straight forward brutal power. It’s Sin City time, but more subtle.
        With these new monochrome camera’s, we’ll be looking for the return of Humphrey Bogard : ) and pictures filmed like Casablanca.

        • When you get B&W at that kind of resolution, if you have noise/grain at a level that’s not visible, images take on a weird kind of smoothness that’s hard to describe. It’s obvious when you’re looking at a print, but not so easy to put into words. It’s only when you go back to looking at images made more conventionally that it really hits you. I’m sorry if I’m not being clear here, but there isn’t a word for it.

  • john jeffreys on 09.9.12 @ 4:41PM

    Brb gonna go rent this and make a space-noir

    • If you were doing a black-and-white space noir, I supposed you would have to use a color camera for any green screen scenes?

      • john jeffreys on 09.9.12 @ 5:36PM


        Yeah, i guess id use a normal epic for the scenes that require cgi and stuff.

        Thanks for crushing my dreams, koo

        • Haha well you could always try a luminance key… The drawbacks would likely outweigh the B&W-only gains though.

          • roto-brush…

          • You could make it work, but it takes thought. You’d need to design the shot so that the actors (or whatever the subject happens to be) not to need keying wherever possible and fall back on roto if necessary. 3D tracking will probably work *better*, because the base image is much sharper. This should make it pretty straightforward to do set extensions, etc.

            Argh, you’ve set me going now… I’ll be trying to figure out how to do this for weeks now!

            (I have done compositing on stills shot with my Megavision back, it’s actually quite doable, but you end up doing more mask painting because it’s harder to cheat)

        • Austin Macr on 09.10.12 @ 8:07AM

          Nah dude, do it with no green screen and build awesome giant space sets and models!

        • Only rear-projection, only hardcore!!!

  • Richie Vale on 09.9.12 @ 5:15PM

    JJ + I are shooting in space – reality is the new unreality.

  • I, for one, never really enjoyed digital black and white – it seems strange to me. Unsure why. For this kind of big budget, I would opt to shoot film – were money no issue.

  • Now if we can get someone over at the Ted Turner corporation to color it, like they did some of our old beloved black and white movies (weren’t those just beautiful!), this thing will be a hit.

  • I know this is off topic I just feel so bad for not makin a donation on Koo’s kick starter project and being a tight ass..but glad he made it though. had to get this outta my chest

  • I understand the reasoning behind a product like that, but then again… I don’t. Really. Would the slim theoretical advantages justify investing in a product like that ?

    • I don’t know why you’d buy this camera unless you were shooting a huge project in B&W (multiple millions of dollars), you’d rent it for projects that needed it. They are not slim theoretical advantages, they are actual, real advantages dictated by science.

  • This is SO exciting…. I don’t even know why I find this so intriguing, but I LOVE black&white and look forward to shooting with this beast!

  • I used a special RED “Infra” Epic to shoot the International Space Station using an 18″ tracking telescope. The Epic had the IR filter removed. The image was outstanding, but I think the Monochrome would yield even better results.

  • surely colour grading and doing post-work on a regular colour image is just fine though?

  • “theoretically lower-noise images” . . well is that an actuality or a theory? surely some tests have been done?

    IMO they should have made the casing B&W…..

    would love to shoot with this cam . ..

  • . . . SLIGHTLY OT but does anyone know if the problems Bloom had when initially shooting with the epic have all been addressed and cured/sorted?

  • Daniel Mimura on 09.26.12 @ 7:02PM

    Meh. I’m all about shooting color to shoot black and white.

    I haven’t even seen a full set of black and white filters since film school 20 years ago (and they were, you know, like 30 years old already at that point or something.)

    Yes, you can have sharper resolution without having to worry about debayering, but I’d rather have that near total control of colors (for contrast’s sake), it can make the apparent sharpness even more.

    I shot plenty of plus-x, double-x, tri-x, and 4x in 16mm negative and reversal…and I’ve gotten much better control over the image by manipulating a (color) digital image in post than filtering what I shot on black and white film.

    Even if you do have that full range of filters (old black and white filter kits would have yellow filters and green and red and just about every color in it)… You’d use a red or green filter, so that an apple tree, for example, would have 2 different values, one for the green leaves, and one for the red apples so it’s not two exact same middle grays… The problem with doing that though is that it affects everything else in the frame, like a red filter will affect your actor’s faces…

    To do this digitally in post more or less gives you secondary color correction, which for black and white means the ability to isolate contrasts of individual things in frame…things you could never do with actual black and white film. You throw all those possibilities out in order to get more resolution, which, considering what regular old color Red Epic footage looks like in 4k, sounds like drastic overkill (even for Red who say time and again that “resolution matters”). I know I’d rather have the control over contrast in post more than 5k of resolution, which is already beyond the projectors anyway (when you switch to black and white b/c there is no debayering).

    Of course on a big studio film, they can easily individually paint the apples (in the example above) blue so that a green or red filter wouldn’t affect it too much…etc…or give actors green or red makeup to isolate them/separate them from the backgrounds and foliage… (I guess that’s a more and more used big film technique, judging from the weird colors seen on the Hobbit sets.)

  • Manprit Shergill on 08.11.14 @ 1:11AM

    what if someone shoot a color and B&W in same movie with Red & Red-M will Red-M be much sharper..??

  • The Girl On The Bridge is a modern B/W movie that comes to my mind. Great challenge in choosing textures that tell the story. A totally different production design and cinematography. Love It.