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Hollywood Cinematographers Now Testing RED DRAGON, Footage Could Be Just Days Away

07.26.13 @ 3:15PM Tags : , , , , , , ,

Peter Jackson RED DRAGON FacebookWith news of Blackmagic’s slight delays, it only makes sense to visit the other company that is notorious for being late to the party. RED unveiled their new DRAGON sensor “officially” back at NAB 2012, and while the sensor is “done,” we’ve only seen one sample showing the dynamic range, and another with a decidedly stiff “dragon.” We’ve got word from the higher-ups that the gears are in motion, and some high-profile individuals are shooting with the new sensor, which may even include a shoot with Lady Gaga.

Here is Jarred Land in the forum on the Gaga shoot with Inez and Vinoodh, followed by some footage from said shoot, which may or may not have originated on DRAGON:

Originally Posted by Mike P. 

Whoa, whoa whoa; Jarred, you didn’t deny that the Gaga shot is an inez/dragon/vinoodh love-sandwich… does that mean it is?

I don’t think I am allowed to say what they shot , but I can say that Inez and Vinoodh definitely were the first photographers to shoot Dragon.

As for when we should see at least some frame grabs, Jim mentioned that they would need a few days. He also said this in the forum:

The Dragon is out of the lab and in the hands of trained professionals. So far, the feedback is everything we had hoped to hear.

One major league production was going to shoot EPIC MX for everything except the “wide vistas”… and use 6K Dragon on those. After viewing his tests… the project will go 100% Dragon. It is a 20 camera shoot.

And Jarred Land:

Darius Wolski, Inez and Vinoodh, Chris Probst, Peter Jackson + Andrew Lesnie, , Michael Bay and Amir and Peter Collister all have wielded the Dragon. Toia is up to bat next. 

Most of these guys priority with the Dragon isn’t to take “marketing” images.. they are shooting tests or footage for their current or next films.

Peter Jackson posted this on Facebook (thanks Jake), and while they aren’t going to have time to use the camera for any Hobbit footage, the camera team is testing alongside the EPIC MX:

Peter Jackson RED DRAGON Facebook

The DRAGON has also found its way out into the desert for some Kowa Anamorphic shooting. Christopher Probst was taking the new sensor for a spin, and Phil Holland snapped a few pics (the latter of which Christopher only just posted with permission from Jim):

Phil Holland - Christopher Probst - DRAGON Shoot 1

Phil Holland - Christopher Probst - DRAGON Shoot 2

Christopher also mentioned this:

Here I was trying to make it dark but the Dragon is so sensitive you really need to rethink your ideas about lighting! The governing factor on this shot was the intensity of the flashlight… At ISO 1500 and 1600, I would have had to futz with NDing the flashlight… We wanted the environment to feel like there was a power outage… As a DP, I wanted enough on my neg to have detail and options without unwanted noise…

If you look closely, it’s shooting 6K anamorphic at ISO 1280, and there is a ton of information looking at the histogram. How is DRAGON capable of such insanity while still shooting 6K? Jarred explains:

Dragon is a completely new pixel design developed internally at RED for RED and only for RED. Dragon does not use any dual readout, analogue gain offsets, binning or combining tricks… it is natively just one badass mofo with more native latitude on top and more native latitude on bottom.

But… we kept HDRX in there as an option, just in case you wanted to go ahead and get crazy.

To me, that’s the most interesting statement in all of this, especially if RED has kept this design in-house. We’ll hopefully only have to wait a bit longer to get our hands on some of the first footage and see what the sensor can really do. As of right now, the current version of REDCINE-X will not open up DRAGON .R3D files, so presumably that is one of the main things holding back RAW footage from being released to the world (as no one else would be able to do anything with them). Once that happens, we will likely see a flood of new stuff from major shooters.

Either way, we shouldn’t have too long to wait.



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Description image 97 COMMENTS

  • Blah blah blah, show me the goods already, Jim.

  • RED and Blackmagic must share the same Public Relations Group.

  • We already have enough stops.

    • What’s the cutoff?

      • Razor’s comment made me realize mine wasn’t reading as sarcastically as I intended. I’ll rephrase:

        What? We’re poo-pooing dynamic range now? At what point did we reach the cutoff, in your opinion?

      • You must have missed the part that said …

        “If we were to instead consider our eye’s instantaneous dynamic range (where our pupil opening is unchanged), then cameras fare much better. This would be similar to looking at one region within a scene, letting our eyes adjust, and not looking anywhere else. In that case, most estimate that our eyes can see anywhere from 10-14 f-stops of dynamic range, which definitely surpasses most compact cameras (5-7 stops), but is surprisingly similar to that of digital SLR cameras (8-11 stops).”

        • Instantaneous 10-14 stops, in a single pupil dilation 17 stops, and full adjustment can be as high as 30 stops of dynamic range.

        • When I look around I never have blown out windows or blown out skies when I’m looking at someone’s face with the sun behind them.

          • That’s because you squint and close your eyes before it has a chance to register as “blown out”.

          • @Kris I don’t have to squint. And again…the foreground is still visible, it isn’t completely black. The fact is human eye sight works differently than electronic sensors. It’s not just that the iris changes automatically, the way photons are detected involves some weird chemistry and a mix of monochromatic sensitive receptors as well as chroma sensitive receptors. I don’t think any study has been able to nail down the precise dynamic range, but they all seem to estimate it as pretty high.

            This one gives a number that comes out to about 26.5 stops:

            This one gives a number that comes out to about 33 stops:

          • Well, the human brain does a lot of magic tricks when interpreting the pictures you see. It’s a lot like HDRX, you don’t need to see 30 stops DR at once, but your eyes quickly switch between different areas with different “settings” and the brain combines it all to a magic 30 stops DR 3D picture!

    • “sammy on 07.26.13 @ 4:57PM

      We already have enough stops.”

      I was on a bus like that once.

      • Yeah, there’s always people saying “we don’t need better technology from now on. It’s all perfect like it is now”
        And those people have always been and will always be wrong! There will always be better technology in the future, and it will always be useful!

  • That last shot from the monitor has me tingling with anticipation. To think what we have on offer from the F5, F55 and now the 6k dragon – not to mention the ‘lower’ end products from BM…its just mind blowing!

  • And, just in time, a new (German built) 2-Axis stabilizer that claims to handle Red.

  • Fantastic news ..
    Fantastic camera ..
    I can not wait to see a few shots, if you actually post Dragon to be precise and perfect as we say we will see a camera without compromises, I would say the absolute best.

  • Well, the F65 will do 8k, 16 bit raw.. The dragon may only win on dynamic range, let’s wait for the official numbers.

    • 8K? More like 6K. Sony is full of it.

    • john jeffries on 07.26.13 @ 8:35PM

      It’s not actually 8k. Supersampling doesn’t count

    • Side by side against the Epic with Mysterium-X the F65 is just a “nicer” out of the gate. However, once working with the material and properly finishing it post it’s pretty damn close.

      And yes. The F65 is not a true 8K camera. That right there is marketing spin, and horrible spin at that.

    • Almost no one is really creaming about 6K resolution. We’re all excited about said dynamic range. The resolution debate becomes a bit moot when you realize that post houses are still locked into a 2K pipeline for visual effects, and may be that way for a while. However crazy dynamic range is a huge factor in great images. Really stoked for this.

  • 16.5 stops of DR
    6K i
    New color science
    Higher sensitivity
    No penalty for shooting low ISOs

    6K is definitely towards the bottom of most people’s lists. But being able to pull 6K stills from a 120 FPS r3d is fucking nuts.

  • 6k played on 4k projection in theaters will look better than 4k played on 4k projectors. Man, I want to see it!!

    These professional guys being excited about this sensor tells me it must look clearly better than 4k. And 4k has already been kicking every other resolutions ass—in a nice way. :-)

  • Recently, I watched a low-budget Australian feature. From the opening scene, I assumed it was shot on a cheap video camera. I was quite shocked to learn they used Red Epic and that the cinematographer has been nominated for BAFTAs and the like.

    Then I watched a Hollywood thriller, budget of around $35 million, starring two well known stars. At first, thought it was shot on film. After a few minutes, began to think the cinematography was really poor. After a while, realised they had used a video camera. In the nighttime scenes, the image really fell apart. Again, shot on Red Epic.

    Can anyone recommend a feature shot on Red that they think looks good? This is a genuine question, as I haven’t seen one yet.

    • (Btw, I watched both of these on Blu-ray.)

      • I think you have to consider that not all video is lit correctly and edited well in post. When I saw the Red footage in the documentary ‘Zacuto, Revenge of the Great Camera Shootout’ I thought the Red didn’t look any better than lesser cameras. Then, when I watch Red Epic 4K footage shot and edited by Jacob Schwarz (and his wife) I feel like I’m watching the most glorious footage I’ve ever seen. Just using a Red, or any other expensive camera, doesn’t guarantee great looking video, even from people making movies that end up in theaters or on DVD.

        Even inexpensive cameras can look good. Here’s footage from the $560.00 Sony RX100, a camera that doesn’t even have microphone or headphone jacks:

        • Mark Toia on RedUser gets some impressive footage with his Red cameras.

          But I’m mainly talking about features. Where are the movies that are so awesome, with images that are so mind blowing, that justify all of the hype since 2006?

          In fact, where are all the movies which even look as good as plain old 35mm?

          • I don’t think RED is that concerned with it looking like 35mm. Having said that, some features shot on RED that personally impressed me are Pacific Rim, Prometheus (strictly talking about visuals on that one, lol), and Dredd (I know some people didn’t like how it was graded but I personally thought it was gorgeous). Being honest I think way too many people are putting stock into the arguments for or against RED.

    • john jeffries on 07.27.13 @ 2:01AM


      the hobbit

      the social network

      • Haven’t seen “The Hobbit” but didn’t like what footage I’ve seen. It doesn’t look better than film in my opinion. They had to go through a lot on set to get reasonable footage, including painting some of the sets in bright colours.

        I thought “The Social Network” looked very unimpressive. It begins with a scene set in a bar at night. It fades up from black. The first time I watched it, as it was fading up from black, my exact thoughts “keep going, keep going… You’ve got to be kidding me.”. I actually bought “Girl With the Dragon Tattoo” on Blu-ray to see if there was something I was missing (despite not liking Fincher’s version of the film) but again, I just don’t see it. I prefer the look of the original, which had a budget almost a tenth of Fincher’s version and was shot on plain old film.

        • Gatsby

          The movie blows but if you don’t like the final red epic output your blind.

          • It looks okay but not better than film (or even as good as). Like a lot of Red footage, It has an artificial look. The wide shots look to have a ton of CGI, so it’s hard to judge them (like ‘Prometheus’).

        • A lot of these directors and DPs who switched to digital did it because they prefer the look of digital over film, so this really comes down to aesthetic preference. You don’t have to like the look over film, but by the same token just because you think it looks worse doesn’t actually make it worse.

          • Ridley Scott, Peter Jackson and others may have used Red because it’s the most convenient for 3D. The trailer for Ridley Scott’s new movie has that same flat, bland look I’m complaining about. No doubt they’ll grade it within a inch of its life to try and get something decent out of the image.

            From what I’ve read, Fincher likes the flexibility and small size of the Red.

            The same probably goes for Soderberg, too, as he doesn’t like to use lighting. You don’t really think Soderberg’s recent movies look good, do you?

          • Preferring digital over film (which could be anything-Alexa, etc.) does not mean preferring RED over film.

          • John

            Do you also think the Canon 5Diii is over-hyped?

          • @John

            The Counselor isn’t a 3d film, so clearly that isn’t why Ridley Scott chose Epic. And Peter Jackson has been raving about Red before he started shooting in 3d, so again…not because of 3d.

            Although if we’re going to talk about 3d…3d was the reason for the over saturated on set colors for the Hobbit. Beam splitters introduce opposite color casts in the image, and they wanted as much chroma information as possible to correct it in post.

            And speaking of post…The Counselor is a heavily color graded movie…what about its look do you attribute to Red that’s different from a similarly heavily graded movie shot on film?

          • 7 minute video of Peter Jackson talking about his interest in Red cameras. He used two of the first prototype cameras, “Boris” and “Natasha”, to make a short film, “Crossing the Line”. The film was shot on March 30 and 31, 2007. That was before Peter Jackson did anything in 3-D. He used Red next to shoot “District 9″, a movie he produced. It also was not 3-D.

            7 minute YouTube vid:

            [ ]

            He did buy forty eight Red Epics fitted with 3-D to make “The Hobbit” series.

        • Skin tones were unnatural and orange looking. And yes, the movie sucks balls.

    • ‘Elysium’ or ‘Rust and Bone’ are two very good examples.

  • I think people are putting way too much stock into the arguments for or against RED.

    • I’m interested simply because of they hype surrounding the Dragon update. Red are promising more k’s, up to 6k now. Whereas Alexa and Blackmagic seem to be doing fine with around 2k each.

      • Can’t wait for 8K! 16K is also possible down the road.

        • The US government as a gigapixel sensor (several hundred phone sensors arranged in an array) for drone surveillance.

          When Jim Jannard saw the breadth of his sensor, he wept for there were no more k’s to conquer.

          • I was told about 15 years ago I’d never need more than 96mb of RAM. In retrospect it looks so silly that anyone would assert that.

            Technology will continue to advance.

            There’s lots more K’s to come. Jim Jannard can throw a party. There’s already an 8K camera in Japan. If graphene can be used to make pixels—and it likely can—then 16K+ is possible. A sheet of graphene is one atom thick. It takes a stack of 3,000,000 sheets of graphene to make a stack 1mm thick. It is stronger than any material currently known to man. It conducts electricity better than any material currently known to man. And, it’s clearer than glass. Developments over the next 10 to 15 years will be fascinating to follow! :-)

      • Alexa is doing fine. Red is doing much better. If you’ll look at the list of movies made with the ARRI you’ll see most are movies that people have never heard of. Most of the big name titles are being done with Red. A 6K sensor will ensure the list of movies done with Red will grow. 8K is on the way.

        I think some people are used to seeing movies made on film. Digital won’t satisfy them. They were reared on film. Digital looks better. Not to some who cut their movie watching teeth on film. But it does look better.

        • I meant doing fine in terms of picture quality. They seem to be to produce a superior, more organic image with an approx. 2k sensor as opposed to 5k and beyond.

          But regarding Alexa, ‘Avengers’ and ‘Skyfall’ were two of the biggest movies last year. And ‘Amazing Spider-man 2′ has abandoned Red for a new, cutting edge technology called… film.

          Alexa also seem to have tied up much of the US television market.

        • Dominik Belancic on 07.27.13 @ 2:55PM

          Skyfall was shot with an Alexa.

        • I took a look at shotonwhat and found a wide range of film and tv projects shot on alexa, film and red. I fact, it looked to me that more were shot on the alexa, at least for 2013 productions. What list of films are you referencing where you haven’t heard of most of the alexa titles?

          • Sure there’s lots of movies being made with ARRI. Outside of this blog who’s heard of most of them? Most big name movies are made with Red. But I didn’t say all.


          • According to the list Gene posted:
            32 films were shot on Epic
            69 on Alexa, including “Drive”, “Zero Dark Thirty”, “World War Z” and “Hugo”.

            A lot of Epic films are 3D, which makes sense because of its small form factor.

          • Again, and for the last time, I never said “all”, I said “most”.

          • Most of those ARRI movies are unknown to the general public. That was my point. and it is true. In fact, they’re probably unknown to many readers of this blog. My point was also, that many of the Red titles are known by the general public. And that is true.

            I’ll be moving on. I do have other things to do.

          • John…
            if you want to be precise:
            RED does not mean ONLY EPIC. But SCARLET and ONE .
            The films are always RED 83 and 68 to ARRI , if you want add 4 for ARRI D-21.

          • Interesting how you have better things to do once your data is questioned. Do you work for red or just a fanboy? It’s ok to be both, but the former should be noted.

          • Really Mitch?

            I have better things to do because the discussion was at a dead end.

  • Gene, regarding your comment about the Canon 5D Mk3 (can’t answer in line). I don’t know if it’s over-hyped — some people certainly got carried away with the new Magic Lantern RAW hack, exciting as it was.

    I do like the image quality of the Canon DSLRs and have thought for several years that if they could just translate the still image quality to 24fps, they could clean up in a lot of the lower end market (the sensor is just over 5k after all). Magic Lantern seem to be in the process of achieving that on Canon’ s behalf.

    In the meantime, Blackmagic have entered the scene with a camera that also produces an image comparable to 5D Mk3. Great times for low budget filmmakers (a segment Red seems to have more or less abandoned in my opinion).

  • I must admit it’s the colour palette of Red that gives me problems. I would shoot with it, no problem, but sometimes even with the big name films I see something that is lacking in the colour palette. That might just be me though as, yes indeed I did grow up with film.

    • The problem with lack of colour palette is, in my opinion, strictly coincidental. If you look at 99% of the youtube videos out there where people have color graded their work they will desaturate it as much as possible to make it look “gritty”. There are a lot of very vibrant, beautifully shot films done with RED, but the “gritty” look is the flavor of the year right now.

      • I hope those people lose that taste quickly. Sometimes a style sucks. That one sucks. It’s a waste of fantastic potential. Understatement has it’s place. But come on!

        Here’s a pretty video made with Red in 4K. It’s closer to what a Red is capable of at its best. Make sure to select “Original” in watch quality:

        [ ]

      • There’s also glorious footage in TimeScapes from the Red. That video was made with a Red and a Canon 5D. The difference in video between the two shows up. The 5D3 video segments do look good. But the Red is glorious. The Red camera scenes of waves breaking on to rocks, and of the waterfall, are glorious. :-) The time lapse (not video) made with the 5D3 look fantastic though!

        A segment from TimeScapes:

      • Red films that go for vibrant colours look decent (‘Drive Angry’, ‘Resident Evil: Retribution’). But I have a theory that when they try to get creative, it kind of falls apart.

        For example, take a look at the recent movie ‘Parker’. Other films shot in Florida have great colour (‘True Lies’, ‘Transporter 2′), but the Florida scenes in ‘Parker’ looked dull and washed out (to be fair, some were shot in Louisiana, but they did shoot in Palm Beach as well). It’s kind of unusual for mainstream movies to look so technically poor.

  • I have a Red One MX and a Epic, those cameras are great, great images. But when I see a footage from Alexa, just starts be jealous. Alexa’s images are gorgeous, skintones and colours are the best. I dont care about numbers, 6k 7k 16bits 12bits whatever. I just care with the final results and I agree with John word’s. Now I just want dragon to be good as Alexa is.

    • I agree with you only if you take Alexa out of the box is better in skintones but if we go from a good colorist everything becomes the same.
      DRagon has already ‘a plus, only the factor iso 2000, and 16 stops (from ISO 50 to 2000) of the Epic give a huge margin compared to Alexa.
      Definitely will be ‘even better Out of the box now.
      Arri definitely will come ‘with something similar but Epic be modular and this factor and’ decided for many occasions.

  • I think “John” above has a real point, but this is only good news for RED.
    I hope its a roaring success. Its definitely going to change lighting! You could backlight a night street with a lone 2K on that thing.

    Will it shake the Arri dominance? I would guess not, unless the color science has fixed the skintone issues mentioned above. But still, awesome.

  • When you see Zift in 35 mm Anamorphic, as I did at a Festival in 2008, that was shot in Super 35, Super 16 and even Super 8 and combined via DI in glorious Black and White, all colour considerations are forgotten and you just wish to find the door to the dimension where the movie was shot.

  • to follow this man’s name MArk.

    Hi Guys…

    Both Jarred and Jim know that I don’t pull many punches. So for them to send me their camera, must mean that they are extremely confident in the new sensors capabilities.
    But lets be serious for a second, I’m not expecting miracles, like having noise free images at 10,000ASA or 20+ stops of DR, thats just plain silly.
    But that said, my expectations are high and I’m going into this test with an open mind.

    And to be clear… Jarred and Jim have not in anyway way asked me or pressured me or made me sign any crazy letters saying that I have to only say good things.
    Jarred is not sending the camera with a team of techs, lawyers (and hit men) to make sure I shoot and say exactly the way they want
    Jarred has pretty much sent it to me to test with no strings attached knowing that I will probably share my no BS testing with you all.
    That said… I’m not going to be a dick !. I will share my views and the real world advantages that I require for my shooting style. I’m not going to crap on about pixels and colour sciences as that’s best left for the pixel peeping nerds to fight over.

    I’m going to push the camera to its extreme limits in 3 areas that I’d personally like to see a real difference in.

    1. Hi ISO low light noise, just how useable is 2000iso, 4000iso and upwards, 6k will obviously yield the best results, especially when down-converted to HD… but what about 5k & 4k… Say if I want to shoot 150 to 200FPS slo-motion at night in low light, can I do that with less noise ? How much cleaner is this sensor compared to the last.

    2. I’ll be shooting a lot of hi contrast scenes, I really want to know exactly how much useable information can i retrieve out of a shot that maybe up to 10 – 12 stops between bright sunlight and dark shadows. Will I be able to see the difference straight up or do I have to window out what I need and pull up in the grade. Either which way, I’ll be putting a lot of time into this part of the test.

    3. We all know that all Digital cameras (yes Arri included) loose information in the very bright highlights. I’m just wondering how much information is actually hiding within these blown out highlights and can I retrieve any of it. Or better yet, If I expose only for those highlights, how much info can I dig out of the rest of the shot that maybe now in darkness. Shooting silver cars in the middle of the day in bright sunlight is not easy on any sensor. Lets see what we can get.
    The monochrome was amazing in this test, I’m hoping the Dragon will equal it.

    The Skin color argument over the years was absolute bullshit. I’ve never had the issue, never seen the issue. I’ve shot more shades and tones of skin than most people due to my global travels… and still yet to see the problem. I will be shooting some faces, but not for this reason.

    I’ll be very happy if the technology leap is as high as what it was between the first REDONE M 4k sensor and the current EPIC – MX 5k, that was quite a leap…

    That all said, I applaud Jarred & Jim’s confidence in loaning their baby to someone like me as I’m not a technical tester, or an academy award winner, I’m more the real world guy that travels the planet smashing out project after project. My needs are heavy and diverse and I’m spoilt for choice, I don’t have budget problems so I can afford any camera I want and so far the RED EPIC has ticked more boxes for me than any other camera on the market today. The Dragon sensor upgrade should take it to the next level, and thats what I’m excited about seeing over the next week.

    But at the end of the day I’m just like one of you, out there pushing the camera to the limits each day wanting to know that for $9500 dollars, will I then be armed with the best tool technology can offer me for the best price, heading well into the future.

    I’ll get back to you soon.

    Cheers Guys.