January 8, 2016

Why 'Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2' is Shooting on RED's 8K WEAPON Camera

RED WEAPON 8K Forged Carbon Fiber Profile
In case you missed it, the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel is going to be the first feature to utilize RED's new 8K Vista Vision/Full-frame 35mm camera. 

After this announcement, there were quite a few folks who took to social media to question why the movie wouldn't be shooting on film or on a high-end camera like the ALEXA 65 (or even on ALEXA XT like the previous film). In response, director James Gunn decided to explain his reasoning for choosing the camera, and how it would fit into their workflow. 

As a refresher, he's what the first film looked like, shot by Ben Davis, BSC, in 2.8K 4:3 ARRIRAW on ALEXA XT. The opening of the film was shot anamorphically on Cooke Xtal Express lenses, while they went spherical for the rest of the film with Panavision Primo and Angenieux Optimo Lenses, partly as a way to give more room for reframing with VFX:

Here's the text from Gunn's post on Facebook (emphasis mine):

With the announcement that Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be the first film to shoot on the RED Weapon 8K, I've received a lot of excitement from a lot of people. THANKS! However, I also get a lot of folks asking why we chose not to shoot on film, and it's assumed we aren't doing so because of the expense.

So, if you're interested, here's the deal.

When you're shooting a film at the level of Guardians of the Galaxy, the cost of film vs. digital is negligible - for me it's an aesthetic and creative choice.

Firstly, I believe when shooting on a format like the Red Weapon 8K or the Alexa 65, the amount of data is so massive - certainly more so than on a strip of film - that it gives you more freedom in production and post production to create exactly the film you want to create than actual film does. As anyone who has ever worked with me knows, I am a control freak. Such high resolution gives me the ability to control ever single bit of data (to do so would take a long time, but at least the knowledge comforts me). Many filmmakers look to essentially replicate the look of film, but I don't share that interest. I believe that innovations in camera and shooting technologies as well as visual and practical effects gives us the ability to create a new aesthetic of film, one different from what the past has offered but equally beautiful - perhaps even more so. I respect many of the filmmakers who continue to shoot on film - and some of the most gorgeous movies of 2015 have been in that format. But I think sometimes that the love of actual film is based in nostalgia more than it is in objective beauty. Many filmmakers remember the films of their youth and want to replicate that magic. For me, I'm interested in being one of the many who help to create a new kind of magic that will usher the cinematic experience into the future. What will the children of today think of fondly with nostalgia?

And, yes, most filmmakers who have shot digital have underutilized the format. But with these new cameras their advantages are easier to see for everyone.

And there are three other reasons I chose this format:

1) It is easier to seamlessly incorporate massive amounts of visual, digital effects - including a digital tree and raccoon - into a digital base.
2) One of the ways I capture my actor's performances is by doing massively long takes, over and over - sometimes up to an hour - much longer than your typical 11-minute reel of film. I find this a better way to capture the energy and rawness in a performance (and we get better outtakes of me yelling at Michael Rooker off-screen).
3) Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 will be utilizing another new technologies I'm very excited about but can't quite go into yet. But, for this technology, you need a camera the small size of the RED Weapon - a film camera is too big, as is the Alexa 65 (which is also an amazing camera).

Have a wonderful day.

Here are some of the major sensor sizes, giving you a sense of how much real estate WEAPON 8K is using:

Certainly being familiar with RED's system already is a huge help, since Gunn's film Super was shot on the RED ONE, and his DP Henry Braham, BSC shot on the 6K EPIC DRAGON for his last film The Legend of Tarzan, which utilized Panavision 70mm and Canon lenses (and we may see some of this combination on the new film since they can cover the full 8K frame):

It's also important to note that we have a good idea of what to expect from RED's 8K format as they've just taken a larger sensor cut of their DRAGON technology. That means dynamic range and color will be similar to the 6K WEAPON & 6K EPIC DRAGON cameras, but detail and depth of field will certainly change when the entire 8K frame is used. This 8K camera is also capable of shooting at a number of frame sizes under 8K, so if they don't want/need 8K for the whole film they can still use the same camera bodies.

Back to his post on Facebook, as there are two important points in his answer. The first is that he's "interested in being one of the many who help to create a new kind of magic that will usher the cinematic experience into the future.He's not interested in the nostalgia aspect of shooting on film, which is why film likely wasn't even a consideration for him on the sequel (and they'd already shot digitally for the first Guardians movie).

The other important part of why this camera was chosen is that they are utilizing some kind of new technology that he can't explain just yet, and a bigger camera simply would not have worked. I'm assuming they aren't shooting 3D as the first film was post-converted, and you actually have much more control with a post conversion (as Gunn himself has said). While there will likely be a 3D version, it's possible that they might do some sort of 360 VR rig for certain shots. There are plenty of different 360 VR rigs out there, but here's a look at one rig used on Justin Lin's 360 degree short film:

The Mill 360 Degree Camera Rig RED EPIC DRAGON

You really can't have large cameras for VR/360 rigs, which is why that's the theory I'm leaning towards right now. Then again that could totally be off the mark, but there are a limited number of technologies that need small and powerful cameras besides 3D and VR.

What do you think this new technology is that makes the small size of the 8K WEAPON necessary?

Your Comment

31 Comments

Kind of a fresh take, if you ask me. I like the idea of using digital to push the format forward and see if you can create something new, instead of always trying to replicate film.

January 8, 2016 at 4:34AM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
1519

Is there a way I can vote up several times to this comment?

January 8, 2016 at 8:20AM

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Hmm if it IS VR, I wonder if they are possibly looking to do something with the Oculus Rift or the Vive on home release where you can watch the film with the set, but some sequences are VR and you are placed in the literal middle of the action?

January 8, 2016 at 5:18AM

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Jer
1

I rather expect drones to be used in this film.

January 8, 2016 at 6:49AM

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Lowtec
1

Why would they need drones in space?

January 10, 2016 at 4:22PM

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Tim Brennan
Big Boss
89

There is no question it will be in 3D.

Funny he had to issue a statement why he is using digital. Hopefully soon those who have issue can accept change so which camera chosen won't raise ire. It's been an ugly few years (well, decade for some) watching this transition. Why is it those who have affection for film require people to explain themselves? Can you let it go? Anyway.....

My issue with Tarzan is not the camera chosen but that they chose a romance novel looking Tarzan.

January 8, 2016 at 8:18AM, Edited January 8, 8:33AM

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People who use film have to explain themselves, too. Especially to production managers. And film news sites. Why can't people just be happy there are so many formats to express one's self with instead of acting like one needs to replace the other?

January 8, 2016 at 12:55PM

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There is no rabid response when film is chosen like there is when digital is.

No where do I state one should replace the other.

Digital is dominating and will some day in the not too distant future be the only "format" used, except for a very few rare exceptions. No one made anyone, or told anyone to use digital until it comes to dominates what is used. It just happened naturally. No one anywhere has ever said film should not be used. If anyone wants to use film they can do it. They are not hampered by anyone to do it. But there is no turning back from digital taking completely over. And it will happen for good reasons, not because I, or a marketing strategist, or anyone else, tells people to do it. Cars took over all transportation from horses. No one forced anyone to use a car instead of a horse. It happened naturally. Change happens. Planes took away some transportation of cars. But if you still want to drive instead of use a plane, no one will stop you. If you want to use a horse instead of a car, go for it! If you still want to use film instead of digital, no one will stop you. No one will take your choice away.

January 9, 2016 at 2:05AM, Edited January 9, 2:26AM

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I felt disappointing at the end of the trailer when Samuel Jackson appeared. So tired of seeing this man. Why is that? Why do I feel so depressed?

January 8, 2016 at 8:23AM

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Tommy Boy
Photographer
74

Because he can be a great actor, but instead we get the same damn "mug for the camera while yelling" version of Sam Jackson in an avalanche of mediocre movies.

January 8, 2016 at 8:57AM

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Joseph Moore
Director
233

It's those damn capital one venture card commercials. I also think that he just doesn't say no to anything and so we see him too much. He was good in kingsmen though.

January 8, 2016 at 10:08AM

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Julian Faras
Editor, Cinematographer, Director
279

The way Tom A feels about Samuel Jackson I feel about RED cameras. So tired of seeing these cameras. Everyone always blowing their load about how many "Ks" the newest one has and how many the next one will have.

Then these dildos buy the damn thing and go shoot flowers and put up "NEW RED 8K FOOTAGE CINEMATOGRAPHY" videos on YouTube. Or they MUST HAVE it to shoot their next shitty short film that will also be on YouTube.

It makes total sense for Guardian of the Galaxy to use this camera. It does not makes sense to shoot your half-assed short film in full 8K.

January 8, 2016 at 11:57AM, Edited January 8, 12:13PM

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Nick Rowland
Street Bum
436

You mad bro?

January 8, 2016 at 4:15PM

1
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Nah bro - just tired of looking at shitty footage/"cinematography" from cameras with so much potential. The standards for most "independent" projects are total shit.

January 8, 2016 at 4:35PM

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Nick Rowland
Street Bum
436

This is exciting news for red. This is a big year for the new dsmc system.

January 8, 2016 at 10:41AM

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It is. They did many things right

January 8, 2016 at 11:01AM

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I love the size of the Red cameras, and what they can do now. I just want them to give us 19 usable stops of dynamic range and a global shutter. Hopefully this will happen very soon.

January 8, 2016 at 10:57AM, Edited January 8, 10:57AM

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People that criticized the choice saying that nobody will ever see the film in 8K or that that are not lenses that actually resolve 8K, are missing the point. Shooting 8K for a 4K finish will yeald better results then shooting at 4K. And even if the lenses don't really resolve 8K (wich they do). You have more color density and less noise the more resolution you shoot.

January 8, 2016 at 10:58AM

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Rodrigo Prata
Director of Photography
86

I doubt they're going to finish at 4k. Especially if they're going with 3D, which is likely. The DCI standard only allows for 3D at 2k. Plus 4k and 2k are both compressed at the same bitrate which makes the extra resolution a lot less apparent than it should, so a lot of cinematographers don't bother with it. I'm sure that the frame size and image quality are a lot more important in this case than the much-touted resolution.

January 8, 2016 at 1:06PM

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All of that would be true if you could only create one deliverable. Meanwhile the 2D DCI and the 3D DCI will be different as will the IMAX copy which can be 4k Stereo.

January 9, 2016 at 7:23PM

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IMAX 2D and 3D DCP are 2K only. 4K is NOT supported in any way by IMAX players. And Yes, I know they use a couple of 4K Christie DLP: Another reason to avoid imax theaters :)

January 13, 2016 at 10:59AM, Edited January 13, 11:08AM

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You're mostly right, however this is not a "rule":
"The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2" had both a 4K 2D DCP and 3D 2K DCP.

January 13, 2016 at 11:04AM

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Exciting stuff. I have the new Scarlet-Weapon on order and one of the main reason is the size as James Gunn mentions (and it's relatively affordable). I considered an Amira for a bit (I love the Arri image so much), but it was a bit pricey and frankly, it's just too big. At 10lbs for the body alone, I would have had to buy new tripods, new jib, figure out how to rig it to gimbals, etc... Basically, I would have to re-buy all my camera support to accommodate the weight which is additional $$$$. I'm loving all these smaller cameras like the new Reds and all the places you can put them and all the different rig configurations that are possible.

January 8, 2016 at 11:50AM, Edited January 8, 11:52AM

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Gene Sung
DP / Director
108

I'm not a Red fan
So don't forget it
It's just a silly phase I'm going through
(*uh uh uh uh uh uh*)

To me the "film look" is more about true vivid colors, correct color separation, great overexposure latitude, pleasing texture and couple other things. Digital looks better and better with every generation of sensors, at this point you can tweak it just a little bit to get mighty fine cinematic images that can be seamlessly intercut with 35mm or 65mm celluloid. It has been proved countless times already on big and small productions. Default in-camera looks rarely show all the goods the RAW footage contains (Arri is clearly better at this). Another reason Red allowed uploading custom LUTs in Weapon. If you're not a person, that enjoy modularity and almost endless customizability, then all-in-one cameras like Alexa may be better fit for you.

With digital, especially RAW there's yuuuuuuuuuge number of ways you can skin that poor bastard of a cat.

January 8, 2016 at 5:13PM, Edited January 8, 5:13PM

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Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
519

I agree. Digital cameras can already replicate the look of film and we can get that desired look IF we have the right people behind us. But to put something unique, something larger, with more detail, color, etc on a huge screen for people to say "wow" is pretty exciting. I agree about the whole nostalgia and "feel" of film taking over instead of utilizing the correct tool for the job. I see why Tarantino does it though and as he stated, he didn't wanna just have the look of film but he wanted to recreate the whole film experience. I went to the roadshow and it was quite unique since I never got to experience no trailers, an intermission and a booklet with awesome BTS and a poster. Also watching the loader, load the 70mm film by hand was awesome. But nonetheless I still get excited to go see a big digital blockbuster in almost the same respect.

January 9, 2016 at 1:10AM

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Brad Watts
Writer/Director/DP
183

RED is all about resolution. That's it. Alexa works because they use better, uncompressed pixels, better (usable) dynamic range, and better colors.. I can understand not using the 65, but the Alexa SXT would've been a better choice.

January 9, 2016 at 9:10PM

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Henry Barnill
Director of Photography
422

I don't see that Red is only about resolution. I see they are about making the best camera in the world. I've read that is their goal. They forced Arri to go digital. And they forced them next to go 65mm 6K. But it's not enough. Red is at 8K now. Arri is forced to go higher. Obviously Arri sees Red as more than just resolution.

Here is a beautiful video from a Red 4K. It's far more than just resolution:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ky-e2bkTm78

January 10, 2016 at 1:30AM

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Well said.

January 12, 2016 at 5:48PM

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Clark McCauley
Cinematographer
698

I'm not a fan of this type of VR. I've watched it several times and without someone controlling my view for me, I end up missing something important by looking the other direction. I was always looking all over the place to make sure I was keeping up with the story. I like having the movie delivered to me, not me being the DP. At least in a movie I'm not making ;)

January 12, 2016 at 5:41PM, Edited January 12, 5:41PM

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Clark McCauley
Cinematographer
698

Never really was a fan of RED, could always tell the difference between a RED and Alexa shoot. Would rather prefer he shot on the Alexa 65 instead but I guess the RED was necessary because of it's size (according to Gunn's Facebook).

January 13, 2016 at 10:15AM

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Matt Nunn
Amateur
196

I think the "film look" is the wrong phrase. It should be replaced with "cinematic look." We want the look of a well crafted, beautifully shot story. High end film may have the capability of a nice picture, but in the wrong hands it can look just as lousy as any other format. It's more about the detail and creativity that goes into the scene than anything else. That's what we really care about.

January 16, 2016 at 3:08AM, Edited January 16, 3:08AM

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Ryan Gudmunson
Recreational Filmmaker
359