March 26, 2013

RED Solves EPIC and SCARLET Fan Noise Issues, Also Introducing New Fans at NAB

The RED EPIC and SCARLET cameras are impressive feats of engineering when you consider what's been squeezed into such a tiny package, but the downside to the small size is that internal heat can become an issue. When the camera is in danger of overheating, the fans ramp up to a much higher speed, which some have referred to as sounding like a "hair dryer" or "vacuum cleaner." It doesn't take an audio engineer to understand that this could be a problem on set, and it's quite easy for a take to be ruined by the fans. Well, all of these issues are about to be history as it looks like RED has solved the problem.

Jarred Land recently posted that the RED engineers have developed a new smart algorithm for controlling fan speed (and therefore fan noise):

The new algorithm constantly monitors temperature and fan speed and starts quieter than the existing quiet setting for the first few minutes and then slowly steps up fan speed up as temperature increases the longer the take goes.. and maintains the camera temperature in doing so indefinitely while still keeping well under 30db. You can tweak that target point as needed in case your sound guy prefers a more consistent speed for a certain duration etc.

Expect this in the next big dot release firmware, and the algorithms will also include control of the new quieter top grill fan and the new front fan we will be showing at NAB.

So while the lowest setting is 25% for both cameras, once they are about to overheat the fans kick in to save the bodies from overheating. This will no longer happen once the next major firmware version is released, as they have been able to work out a new smart setting that will allow the fans to remain at a relatively quiet level for very long recording times. This will be particularly good for those who shoot documentaries on RED, as they won't have to worry about fan noise ruining an interview. It's not quite clear what speed the fan will need to run at between takes, but based on the graph above, it looks like the camera should be able to run for hours at a relatively quiet speed -- so you likely won't have to revert to the vacuum cleaner speed in order to cool the camera when you're not shooting.

Jarred also mentioned that RED is working on brand new top and front fans, which they will be showing off at NAB. While the firmware will be free, the new fans will be an optional paid upgrade. I'm sure these are designed to be even quieter than the current versions, so RED has certainly been listening to users who have been looking for a solution to the noise issues.

Link: Epic Fan Speed / Sound Algorithms -- REDUser

Your Comment

34 Comments

If they're user serviceable upgrades, then it'll be well worth the upgrade.

March 26, 2013

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Isaac

It looks like the algorithm will be in the FW update, but I'm not counting on user-serviceable fan replacement. I doubt the problem lies in the construction of the blades themselves, but the whole fan assembly, down to the gearing etc. That's just my guess from my experience with their hardware fixes.

March 26, 2013

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Stephen

They've also done user upgrades such as the internal antenna. Maybe this can be done when the dragon sensor gets installed.

March 26, 2013

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Isaac

About time. I'm hopeful... the pictures those cameras make are gorgeous. But the fan noise is a big part of why we returned our Scarlet- it's death on many jobs with that hairdryer noise.

March 26, 2013

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I wonder if they'll put the logo in the center of the grill for the fan again? That was a really great idea. The logo being in the place it's at now doesn't contribute to added noise or anything like that, nope.

March 26, 2013

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Booboobeautyqueen

By that definition, the headline of this article is pretty funny :)

March 26, 2013

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Robert Hardy

Anyone ever consider liquid cooling like in computers? Or would that take up too much space?

March 26, 2013

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Ben Corwin

if i went into massive amounts of loan debt to have a fancy camera i would certainly not want water flowing inside of it, no matter how secure the the tubes are. A computer is one thing, a camera is another.

March 26, 2013

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john jeffreys

Haha fair enough.

March 26, 2013

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Ben Corwin

Wait, I'm really missing the relevance here. As far back as I can remember the noise has never interfered with any shoot we’ve used them on. I’m never comfortable using REDs for some of their earlier shortcomings especially if other options are available but this is a pure stand around coffee topic and one extra reason for people to pick at the company.

I have no intention on starting the usual brand tennis match but for those who are actually working with these tools know buttoning on will quieten it down instantly.

On a few occasions in hotter situations the fans have picked up but never interfered with performance or sound on the day. I find idle hands; inactive people and pure techies are the ones who bring this up as a major concern because they’re never buttoning on or more to the point not shooting. No insult directed at Joe either, I know you’re just relaying an announcement.

Please understand, I’m not picking on anyone, nor am I defending RED but I would love someone to prove me wrong. I’ll retract my comment. I would love to know when and how the noise of the fan has been an issue on set for any production great or small. It’s the reason I clicked on this topic because I wanted to see if anyone really has run into this issue…

March 26, 2013

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Wallflower

March 26, 2013

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john jeffreys

Cool, an actual instance but really poor example. Can you tell me why the audio levels are so off and I had to turn my speakers way up to hear this. The fan was louder than the speakers, I’m guessing the condenser microphones are just props. Not excusing the camera here but that’s the sound recorders fault.

March 26, 2013

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Wallflower

I dont know, I just posted this vid to spite you

March 26, 2013

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john jeffreys

:)

March 26, 2013

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Wallflower

I think you can tell from their reactions how loud it is, but I dunno

March 26, 2013

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Aaron G

Of course the sound techs got clean audio with hand held condensers so close to the talent. What the sound tech can't edit out is the surprised reaction of the talent to the jet plane taking off. That's a blown take, and if it ends up being the best take of the day then the end product suffers. I'm not a RED user or hater, but it's plain to see that this example shows why the fan noise is a problem worth fixing (and discussing).

March 27, 2013

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keith

either way if it's loud enough for the talent too freak out and distract them taking them out of a moment. Or interrupting an emotional interview in a docu to go "is that ok?" then it is a pretty big problem

March 27, 2013

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Chris Lambert

I have actually seen this happen when a team used to using Alexa, used Reds for high-end docustyle commercials. It also happened to me the first time I used mine for docu. Its ruined takes, brought talent out of the moment, thrown the director, etc... It's not as bad as people make it out to be, but it occasionally happens.

March 26, 2013

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MD

What is this "buttoning on" you speak of?

March 27, 2013

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Christian Anderson

Hmm. Well, I'm a working pro on national, regional, and yes local tv commercials- and a ton of corporate projects, too, plus the occasional indie film. Not starting anything, and like everyone else I am always learning- just explaining where I come from.

I love the image RED makes. I have owned one of the first RED Ones, and upgraded it to MX, and then we got a Scarlet-X. I'm thrilled they are fixing that hairdryer fan.

And it IS a hairdryer fan. If you'd like an example of a situation where it messed things up on a grand scale, google the Epic-X Olympics interview with, I think, NBC. Or google RED Epic fan noise on some of the pro audio forums. The fan is a serious issue, and now that RED has solved it- yippee!!!

Just don't be a RED apologist/cult member and brush the reality of their fan noise being a real issue under the carpet, claiming that anyone who's had issues isn't a real pro, or knows what they're doing. That's a bullshit response to a legit gripe about these cameras. Which, AGAIN, I'm thrilled RED is addressing. This is a happy day for anyone using RED products.

March 27, 2013

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Ha! That vid clip is great! Wanna hear what fan should sound like.... put the Penelope Delta to one ear and the Epic to the other... night and day.

March 26, 2013

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Winchester

First you need to find a working model of the god damned thing. Also Delta is way bigger than the Epic, just like Alexa and F65. Your argument is invalid.

March 26, 2013

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Natt

Funny, I've seen and tested a working model. I wasn't talking out of my ass. The fan on it is near silent. How does size figure into the argument for the fan? The Sony F65's fan sounded like a jet engine in the beginning, especially on start up, but it's a lot better now. I've also seen/used the new Alexa fan upgrade,so... yea, totally invalid. Comment when you've used the Delta and the Alexa w/ the new fan upgrade. Until then your comment isn't valid.

March 26, 2013

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Winchester

Larger fans can move more air without increasing speed compared to a smaller fan. Also, larger body means they can use more space for cooling-radiators inside the camera. And transferring the heat to a larger surface also makes it easier to cool down without increasing fan speed. Those are the main reasons a larger camera body makes for a quieter camera usually.

Or you could do like many have done and just cover the camera with packets of ice ;)

I have only shot on red once and while the fan noise wasn't that much of a problem, the blazing heat made it very uncomfortable to have on my sholder. Though that was the Red One without even the MX-chip. so things could be much better nowadays.

March 27, 2013

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To be fair, this has really never been an issue for any intelligent camera team using the Red. It's more something that happens to people inexperienced with Red doing something stupid; and much as it shouldn't. I've seen it happen on some huge shoots. When shooting docustyle if you just set the shooting fan speed higher (37-40%), you can basically record indefinitely, but if a team is used to Alexa and suddenly is shooting docustyle on the Red, this can get overlooked and totally blow the talent out of what they're saying.

To me this will be a slight improvement for environments where you want to be really quiet; really, I would only think in like a church, or something similar, and will also represent an improvement for commercials/films where you'e shooting short takes by letting mics be closer to the camera, and it will just save some accidents from happening.

What's not clear is whether this mode will also set the stand-by fan lower; I know some audio guys hate the constant background hum of the camera, and talent sometimes doesn't like rehearsing with something there that won't be.

March 26, 2013

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MD

I love this site and support it 100% but feel that too much energy is being waisted on this topic considering how man blockbuster movies and documentaries have filmed with the Epic and Scarlet . I own an Epic and yes when your not recording the fan is loud however when recording its not and if your using a good sound person with equally good equipment this shouldn't be a problem and know Red is making it all better so lets move on people.......

March 27, 2013

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eddy marrero

but it's FUN to treat cameras like sports teams!

March 27, 2013

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john jeffreys

Of course the perfect camera would be as small, robust and modular as the Red Epic, but also 100% quiet. Sadly current electronics, sensors and processors are getting hot fast, so it needs cooling. If a bigger, heavier (but also quieter) camera is not a problem, one could always use Sony, Arri or Aaton products, they're all great.

March 28, 2013

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Natt

Too little, too late for me. As a sound mixer in last week of a 5 week feature with 2 red epics, fan noise was unbearable, you can never hear what's going on on set until the camera's roll. Worst experience.

March 28, 2013

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Ivan

@MD and Eddi Morrero
To me as a sound mixer it is always strange, when camera guys speak about acceptable sound levels of their gear. I heard it a hundred times that assistant camera people state that their camera is REALLY silent.
Most of the time it is not. A microphone picks up sound a different way than our ears, and the only one who can really judge the sound level of a camera during a mostly whispered actors dialogue in a room is the sound mixer.
Trust his word. We don´t put a boom or a shadow in your picture and you don´t ruin the actors dialogue by your camera noise. I would never discuss with the DOP how MUCH boom shadow is acceptable in his picture. Likewise you shouldn´t discuss with us, how much camera noise is acceptable on our soundtrack.

Yes, EPIC and SCARLETT may have been used on several film set - but: Do you know the results?!!
Do you know how much actors performance had been lost by your camera noise and how much ADR-sweat had been necessary to hear them speak again?! Do you know of how much time was spent in post production by trying to clean the sound off the camera noise? Time that could have been used for much more creative quality work?!
Camera dept. mostly doesn´t know about the consequences in post production, so don´t think you can tell by your last films.

I shot a motion picture with the EPIC last year. Inside a room its noise is unbearable during a take.
Not to mention its noise during rehearsals. Who would ever expect from a camera department to rehearse without their lighting? But you expect the sound mixer to rehearse in a non-quiet condition. It is stupid.
In consequence I tell all producers: If you want to use RED, shoot a silent movie. If you want me, don´t use a RED.

And: This all doesn´t have anything to do with the quality of a sound dept. You can´t beat the physics. A noisy dialgue is a noisy dialogue. Shit in - shit out.

Regarding the fan update: All that this graphic tells me, is that the fan noise has been lowered by only 2 dB, when regarding the first 3 minutes relevant for feature films. This is far from enough, when regarding the pre-update noise.
Moreover it states the camera to have an absolute noise level of 20 dB(A). Current EPICs have definetly more than this! I doubt those numbers.

Better rely on other silent digital cameras. Models have been already mentioned here.

Best regards,

Andreas

March 30, 2013

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AT

Wow...can you be any more melodramatic?

Any good audio guy has that nitpicky attention to detail (I get it, I have that same mentality/aptitude/infliction that makes me just as precise to my lighting and camera work)...but don't you think that's kind of over the top?

Digital cameras are all so much quieter than film cameras! There was always a huge range of camera noise with film cameras, but I'm really happy to not have to shoot handheld with a blanket over my head (I used to live in Austin, so guess how often that was in 90º-100º weather)...just for the sound guys' sake.

Now you're complaining about a Red Epic ruining your feature or whatever? Whatever. I get that it's annoying sometimes...It's all relative and there is always a trade off between lighting and ideal mic placement, but I think you're probably taking it a little too far. There is no perfect world and we all have to compromise here and there. I've never found RED fan noises to be that much of a compromise even though they are not ideal.

April 3, 2013

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Daniel Mimura

Just to be on top of the RED fame,
wasn't there suppose to be Scarlet update (Beta is not considered a update) last Christmas and a iPad app to control the camera?

April 2, 2013

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Thomas

The reason this is even a topic of discussion is that over a year ago when I received dailies of a Stereo 3D (HUGE $’s) Feature being shot on Red Epic I was amazed on how damn loud the fans are. Now before the Video guys go crazy I am a 33 year veteran Re-Recording Mixer and have heard lots of noisy tracks in my career, but these tracks were unacceptable. I personally traveled to Red in Hollywood and told them of my findings. A few of the Technical staff said, “we have never had any complaints”. My response, come to my Dub Stage and let me play you the tracks. Well one of the guys took me up on my offer. I sat him down and in a Theatrical Dub Stage I played him the tracks, flat, no eq, noise reduction etc. He became an immediate believer that they (Red) had a problem.
If you look at the Epic it has a fan the size of a Silver Dollar on the front point out of all places to the face of the Actor who we are recording (both visually and sonically).After an hour and half discussion and playing back tracks with noise reduction tools he agreed that they (Red) must do something. We called it a night and we left. Before I pulled into my driveway at home there was a direct phone call from Red saying they were going to change the fans and update the software. Since a long time has gone by since that meeting I would hope they have made major advances and not just a 2-db drop. And for all you guys who say, “I’ve never had a problem” all I can say is that most of you have never been on a Dub Stage in your life and have no idea of what is acceptable and what isn’t when talking about sound. I love the look of Red’s but sonically the noise footprint they leave is unacceptable.
.

April 20, 2013

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dr.sound

You do realize the Red Epic is mainly a computer with a lens right?

July 18, 2014

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Jack Marchetti