A Guide to Building a RED Camera Package: An Accessory List for Every Budget Level
Despite the recently reduced price of RED cameras, each model still requires a lot of (pricey) accessories. We’ve pointed this out from the very beginning, but now we’ve gone further and compiled some realistic shooting packages at three different levels: a “cheapest possible ONE MX” list by Aaron Rich, an “owner/operator SCARLET” package by myself, and a “full professional EPIC” package by Timur Civan. Our overall goal with this post is not just to introduce (potential) RED shooters to some accessory options and needs for the RED ONE MX, SCARLET, and EPIC, but to hopefully create a post wherein users can share what has worked best for them. Let’s get started, this is going to be a long one!
First of all, full disclosure: we were supposed to have this post up a month ago, back when RED ONEs were available (refurbished) for the low, low price of $4K (that’s over). However, it required contributions from a few different groups — and, as you’ll see, it’s a beast of a post — so it’s taken a bit longer than we wanted. I’ve even left some entries blank for the sake of pushing this story live — please suggest your own options where our lists are lacking. I park my camera at a rental house, so I don’t own a number of appropriate accessories, instead renting them when needed (for example, I own an old Bogen tripod but would not suggest it for the owner/operator level, so I left that particular entry blank). None of these lists are definitive but should be seen simply as a starting/reference point. And when we say “every budget level,” what that means is we have tried to cover multiple RED budget levels — you are not going to be shooting on a RED camera for $50, and conversely you can spend as much as you want.
Please use the comments to add your own insights, experiences, and suggested gear!
We’re actually going to start with the middle package, as I go into a bit more depth in an attempt to explain my choices than do the others.
At its current price of $8k (brain only), the SCARLET is aimed at owner/operators who don’t have the need or ability to buy an EPIC (though EPICs are within range of more budgets with the recent price reduction — especially relative to the SCARLET, which has stayed at basically the same price point).
One of the reasons I bought a SCARLET was because it is the exact same camera as the EPIC, with less frame rate/resolution/compression options. That means that (almost) any accessories you buy for the SCARLET will work with the EPIC, and everything you learn by shooting with the SCARLET will apply to EPIC shoots. To me this is a nice advantage, as your knowledge and gear applies if, for example, you want to go rent an EPIC for a high-speed or high-budget shoot. Also, if you’re an owner/operator with a $10k camera, you are probably not spending $40k on lenses, but the nice thing about the DSMC system is the multitude of interchangeable lens mounts — so if you get a Canon lens mount and use that for your own shoots, you can slap on a PL mount and rent better glass for bigger shoots (a feature, for example).
This was the photo I had handy, so forgive the awkward setup (I’m using a Lite Panels Ringlite Mini mounted in front, in conjunction with the RED BOMB EVF and a Canon L prime). Some of the other gear is listed below. I’m also going to intersperse some great videos I found from Redefine Rentals, who have outfitted their RED with some of the same gear:
Below is a reasonable SCARLET owner/operator package. I’ll have more thoughts on some of these accessories soon, as I’ve not yet done proper reviews of much of it. Specifically I’ll talk more about the gear listed here from Wooden Camera, as I think their gear is a great match for a RED owner/operator setup. They’ve also recently released some RED packages, which bundle together commonly-paired parts to get you started instead of having to do it piecemeal.
- Camera: RED SCARLET w/ Side SSD and Lens Mount $10,150 – $11,450
- RED Accessories: You’re going to need a lot more than just these accessories, but the rest of them fit into other categories, so for now let’s just add the DSMC Side Handle ($950), RED STATION 1.8″ (Mini) ($150) $1100
- Lenses: This is your first decision and it will have the largest impact on your overall package price. Because the RED can take all sorts of lenses thanks to its interchangeable mounts, you can spend anywhere from a couple hundred bucks to a couple hundred thousand bucks. On the new (as in non-used) market, there are the Samyang/Rokinon low-cost primes ($500/lens), there are the Zeiss CP.2 lenses (roughly $4,000/lens), but there’s a decided lack of PL lenses at the, say, $2,000/lens price point, which would be a more reasonable benchmark for a $10k camera. To break down some prominent options, at the cheaper end there are the aforementioned Samyang/Rokinon primes; then you have the Duclos Lenses Cine-Mod packages, which come in a three-lens set ($4,500) and a five lens set ($9,200). The new Zeiss CP.2 Super Speeds can be had (soon) for $4,500 each (a three lens set will run $14,000), or you can put together a larger set (note that B&H has stopped selling their five and seven-lens sets, presumably because Zeiss is releasing these new Super Speeds). Sony and Canon have their own cinema primes as well for $4k-$5k/lens (here’s the Canon set for $14k)– and then, if you’re interested in zoom lenses, that’s a whole ‘nother world that quite frankly I don’t know much about. Once you start talking about used options — which often make sense — that’s an entire article in and of itself, and we did a roundup of a lot more lenses at this level (also see our lenses archives). Personally I bought some rare Canon primes rather than buy anything new. If you’ve put together your own owner/operator kit, please chime in below and let others know what glass worked for you. $2,000 – $14,000
- Support: I’m going to list a bunch of Wooden Camera stuff as that’s what I have experience with and I think they’re a great match for RED DSMCs, but we’re just using this as a base reference (more in-depth review of these items and more to come). Dovetail Clamp ($250) (substitute the 15mm Bridgeplate or 19mm Bridgeplate if you want studio rod setups), Easy Top X ($300), Top Handle ($140), Easy Riser ($180), LW 15mm Bracket ($160), 15mm rods ($60 or so), 1/4-20 Hot Shoe ($25), UVF Mount v2 ($450). For handheld shooting, I like the Wooden Shoulder Rig ($1,000), and there are plenty of other options from the likes of Zacuto and Redrock – I have heard folks like the Recoil rig from the former. For a tripod, take a look at, well, anything other than what I have (add your own suggestions in the comments, please!). $3,000 – $5,000
- Power: Regular V-mount or Anton Bauer batteries will work with RED cameras if you get something like the Switronix Plate (V-mount, $320) or Anton Bauer version ($400) combined with the Quick Back ($200) which attaches directly to the rear of the DSMC. With the A-lock ($100) or Battery Slide ($200) you can attach the plate elsewhere as well. However, if you’re buying new batteries you’ll want to buy RED-compatible batteries that display percentage in the display, and two good options are those from Switronix — note that Switronix also makes a Jetpack (V-mount, AB version) that also attaches to the Quick Back and offers additional power outputs). Switronix’s RED batteries (95 W/h, 190 W/h) are of higher build quality than those from Global Media Pro, which are what I have. I’ve had no problems with the GMP batteries other than the P-tap plugs falling out and some of the LED indicators burning out, but one thing to be aware of with the GMP batteries is you have to pay via wire transfer (instead of credit card) and there are additional customs charges (I got an extra bill from DHL a week later). So the batteries themselves, while offered at very attractive prices compared to the competition, carry with them some additional charges. However, once you get into V-mount and Anton Bauer batteries, the thing to be aware of with cost is the price of the chargers. And that’s where GMP is hard to beat — their chargers, while made of lightweight plastic, are much less expensive than other chargers that cost thousands. Rental houses will certainly want more robust charging stations, but GMP’s 2-channel charger is $165, the 4-channel is $358, and that is hard to beat for an owner/operator charging their own batteries. In figuring out how many batteries you need, the RED DSMCs run roughly 1 minute per W/h on these batteries, which makes for a simple rule of thumb — the 30W/h REDVOLTS run for about 30 minutes, the 95 W/h batteries run for roughly an hour and a half. I bought four 160 W/h batteries (10-12 hours total of runtime) and actually found myself wishing I’d bought smaller batteries as the 95 W/h batteries give plenty of runtime and weigh slightly less. Oh, and if you’re going to be shooting in a handheld, smallest-possible configuration, you’ll want some REDVOLTS for occasional use (they are also handy in that they can power the camera while you change batteries). Let’s say you go minimalist and just get the DSMC Power Pack ($515) — you might want four or eight but I don’t see REDVOLTS as a real-world powering solution for film shoots (they’re more applicable for specialty shots with a ultra compact/mobile camera or for shooting stills). $2,000 – $5,000
- Media: This section will be mercifully short as there aren’t any alternatives to RED’s own REDMAGs (unless you go to an external recorder… but that defeats much of the purpose of shooting on RED’s REDCODE RAW format). I shared some thoughts on RED’s new cheaper 48GB SSDs and feel like their slower speeds make them less future-proof, so instead of buying a 4-pack of 48GB SSDs for $1,840, I might be inclined to buy 3 64GB SSDs for $2,175 which is slightly more expensive per GB but will work better on EPIC shoots (not to mention the increased data needs of the forthcoming Dragon sensor), or one 128GB card and one 64GB card for $2,000. Personally I bought two 128GB SSDs (currently $2,500 total). $1,000 – $3,000
- Monitoring: The RED 5″ Touch LCD ($1600) is kind of the default monitoring solution for RED cameras, and for good reason — the touchscreen interface allows you to access every function and it’s a nice size for the compact DSMCs. Because the RED DSMC is so small, there are not a lot of buttons on the body, and because the camera can be reliant on touchscreen input, you’re probably going to want this monitor (for other monitoring needs everyone loves SmallHD, who now has some even lower-cost options, although ikan has a bunch of appealing new models as well). The key thing to consider for RED monitoring is there is only one RED monitor output on the DSMC body — but there are also HDMI and HD-SDI outputs as well (all of which work simultaneously), which means the main consideration is: what do you want to use the RED port for? The RED BOMB EVF is a nice viewfinder ($2,000 BT – $3,900 new OLED), but it’s priced more for an EPIC than the SCARLET; worth looking at as an EVF to use alongside the RED touch monitor is the Zacuto EVF (~$1,000) and Alphatron EVF ($1,400). $1,600 – $6,000
- Other: Wooden Camera A-box A must for audio. With the DSMC audio jacks, standard 3.5mm mini cables won’t work, because they are tip-ring-sleeve balanced inputs. I highly recommend the A-box, but you can also use this cable (note not all XLR-1/8″ adapters are compatible, I’ve tried a few others that didn’t work at all). However at $80 for two, I recommend getting the more robust and attachable A-box. $200
Total Cost: $21,000 – $45,000
At this point you’re still missing a follow focus, matte box, filters, and plenty of other stuff, but… you don’t always need those things and I’m still doing some testing myself in those areas. You also might need a steadicam, wireless follow focus, wireless monitor, etc. etc. but only you know what you need as an owner/operator for the kind of work you do. You’re probably tacking on another few thousand depending on your needs — but I hope this list was useful.
EPIC: Full Professional
We didn’t know what to title this section, because who is to say what is or isn’t “professional?” And the truth is that there are no limits to how high you can go, given the best lens sets run well into six figures themselves. But at this level we’re talking about equipment that’s robust enough to rent out regularly — the kind of gear made to take the wear and tear of constant shooting in all sorts of conditions, by yourself and by others. When strangers are using your gear, there’s not a lot of room for quirks and workarounds; if you’re spending this kind of money you’re putting it to work to the point where it should not cost you, but rather make you money in the long-term. Then again that goes for all of these packages.
Since here at NFS we are not full-time DPs but rather multi-hyphenates, we’re not going to try to tackle this section ourselves. Instead, we’re going to turn it over to talented Brooklyn-based DP Timur Civan, who shot this RED SCARLET test but has since moved up to an EPIC package himself (with which he’s been shooting a lot of other stuff). Enter Timur:
The RED DSMC system was derived as an alternate, yet fully capable camera imaging system to replace 35mm film as an acquisition format. With replacing film as a goal, this says to me that the RED camera, despite its flexibility and ease of use, was designed to be used by top tier professionals and function to the standards they expect. I am going to talk about what that actually means.
On any high end set (union or non), whether it be commerical, narrative, music video or industrial, the atmosphere is a bit different than the independent film set. Often, each job has a dedicated crew member. Double dipping jobs is not allowed, simply for the fact that, when a production is spending upwards of $10,000 – $20,000 per hour to operate, every second counts and you cannot wait for anyone to finish one job, to do the next. Overtime is not an option. This standard of efficiency is expected of the camera as well. Simple operation, quick offloads, quick transcodes, and fast build time is expected. The RED DSMC system rises to the challenge well. Let’s create a scenario, and I will walk through what you might need.
Lets take for example a $300,000, two day pharmaceutical commercial. This means a Location day, Studio day, and Sync Sound. Half of the time there will be high speed and 5K HD. Chances are two cameras as well.
UDPDATE: we’ve added a spot Timur shot on EPIC recently — it is not the example shoot he’s talking about, but helps for reference:
For the Location day its critical to have compact and mobile cameras. The Epic actually has an advantage and disadvantage here… It is already small and light, however it’s SO small and light that often you run out of real estate to attach the necessary components. At this level, top PL cine glass is a must: Master Primes, Cooke S4s, Cooke i5s, Angenieux Optimo Zooms or Leica Summilux C. In the commercial world, these are the only lenses that exist. These lenses need full support and space to breathe, as lots of accessories will come into play. They are large and heavy. Seeing as it’s a pharmaceutical commercial, smooth dolly work is usually the game of the day. So lets break down a professional EPIC build. I will leave out plenty of things that might be a rental item, even if you’re a DP who owns a ton of gear. Some of these items not included below, for example, are: Cine tape, a ultra sonic range finder that displays the distance to the closest object in front of the sensor; iris controller for DIT/DP; lockit Box for timecode and genlock/Comtex for scratch track; and a simply terrifying amount of short BNC and Power cables.
- RED Digital Cinema EPIC-X w/ SSD, PL mount $22,500
- Lenses. Oh boy… There are a lot of options in addition to the aforementioned high-end glass, but let’s go with, just to keep things reasonable, a “cheap” 6-lens set of Cooke miniS4/is. $46,000
- RED Side Handle $950
- RED REDMAG SSD Magazines 4X128GB $4,650
- RED BOMB EVF $3900
- RED 5” Touch LCD $1600
- Various RED Accesories (cables, Media Reader, Adapter plates etc.) $2750
- RED REDROCKET Video Card W/ Adapter $4200
- RED REDMOTE $650
- ARRI FF4 Follow Focus $3,385
- Element Technica Hybrid Bridgeplate/Dovetail $1,356
- VFGadgets 19mm Rail Adapter $225
- ARRI MB-28 Matte Box $5,960
- ARRI LBS Handgrip Set and ARRI 19mm bridge plate $2,700
- RED Carbon Fiber 19mm Rods 18” $300
- SmallHD DP7 Monitor $1600-$2700
- Flanders Scientific 1760w 17” Monitor $2000
- Camera Top Plate, Side Cheese. Absolutely a must. You need places to attach all the components $1100
- RED Pro I/O module; on big jobs the Wooden Camera A box is not quite enough simply because its less about the audio in camera, but more about having the extra SDI out ports to spread the signal to the necessary parties (1st AC, DIT, and Director) $3750
- High capacity high power batteries to power not only the camera and its accesories, but the Cinetape, Lockitbox, comtex,Focus monitor, wireless Iris control and receiver. With chargers, say $5,000
- Support: a Sachtler Cine 30HD 3006 Fluid Head $8,031, Sachtler 6250 Cine 150 (Medium) Aluminum Tripod $1,853, Sachtler 6290 Cine 150 (Long) Aluminum Tripod $2,350, Sachtler 7023 Tripod Spreader, Aluminum $745
Total Cost: $128,655
The camera winds up looking something like this (image from The Social Network via The Black and Blue):
It’s an insane amount of gear to fit on an Epic (underneath it all in this photo is a ONE — somewhere). However, these are basics to get you though a day, at a speed which will help you make your day in 10 hours.
Yet this is only the beginning of the production chain. From here the camera system feeds the signal to the DIT, who paints an approved look from the DP in a program like Live Grade, then is run by the director and once approved, is distributed to the rest of set. Lately I’ve been keeping the camera in REDLOGFILM, and using an Alexa-like workflow. This enables me to get the lighting very precise, and see exactly where and how the noise and clipping are affecting the image. For more information about the onset Looks process I use please read this article, A Video Workflow for RED (a detailed account from my DIT Thomas Wong on our new onset workflow with RED).
ONE MX: Cheapest Possible
And now for the flip side! None of us at NFS have a RED ONE, so we turned to Twitter to seek out suggested “cheap” packages. Aaron Rich sent the following list in. Note the lack of tripod — BYOT!
- Battle-Tested RED ONE MX: $4,000
- I wanted a light weight handheld kit so I opted for the Element Technica LW 15mm adapter – $240
- I previously owned 15mm zacuto rods from a 5D rig, RedRock front grips, and a Petroff follow focus.
- I bought a 19mm Universal Mount off of a fellow Reduser for $100, (normal going rate, no longer available). Upon arrival, I realized he sent me 4 universal mounts for $100. He had it listed as (4) x Mounts – $100. He assured me it was $100 for all 4. Caught a break, so I kept one, and sold 3 for $260. $160 profit!! He sent the 4 mounts on some chincy little 4″ 19mm rods. Those are the rods you see holding the battery plate. (+1 resourcefulness) : ) $100
- I bought a used RED cradle for $160. I took the battery plate off the cradle, drilled holes in the top part of the plate and attached it to the bracket to create a light weight battery option! At any time, I can attach the plate back to the cradle if I decide to buy a RED drive. $160
- I have (4) Switronix RED batteries (2) New and (2) off eBay. New = $377.95 each (B&H) and two almost brand new off eBay = $280 each. TOTAL – $1,315, which works out to around $328 each, not bad!
- BONUS!! Switronix batteries have a d-tap option. I bought a switronix “power base” d-tap charger off B&H, $45 each, does the trick! Not sure on the efficiency, I don’t have a red charger to compare the two. But, $550 (red dual charger) vs 2 Switronix D-tap chargers ($90) It works efficiently enough and I keep over $400 in my pocket.
- I bought a 5.6 inch RED monitor off a fellow reduser for $410 (I thought I was catching a break here. I was just going to use my SmallHD DP6 via HDMI. However, I learned you don’t get any of your read outs through the hdmi like you do when you plug into the RED specific monitor port. Minor setback…
- I bought a Birger Canon Mount + Impero off a fellow Reduser for $811 (I think this was my best deal of all)
- Remember the point about accessories not being in high demand…I took advantage of that and bought (4) 16GB RED CF Cards off a fellow Reduser for $208. Now, after the “Battle Tested” phenomenon, people want $75 – $100 per card. I’ll just wait to buy more when the demand dies out.
- I previously owned the lens, a Canon 24-105 4.0 IS. Lens selection varies, based on personal preference and what an individual has access to. Canon, PL Mount RED Lenses, Sigma, Rokinon, Leica R, the possibilities are endless, you’re on your own on this one.
- I take pride in being patient, and finding good deals. Had I been able to predict the weather about RED offering an MX body for $4,000, I would have really outdone myself!
This great little handheld shooting kit cost me a total of $11,075, and if you bought a ONE for $4,000 (I bought mine used for $8K) that would translate into a total of $7,075. However that is assuming you have a barebones accessory kit (follow focus, lens, rods) already, not to mention a tripod. It it not unrealistic for shooters to already have some items in their kit, but obviously your own particular situation and existing gear will affect this number!
Total Cost: $7,000 – $15,000
So there you have it — three different production levels, ranging from $7,000 to $128,000 worth of investment. And now for the more valuable part of this post — your own contributions! Finding out what gear you need to shoot can be a pretty complicated process — thus the DSLR Cinematography Guide — so by all means, please share your own experiences, accessory choices, and feedback below.
[RED ONE photo by Wheelson]