I just got through watching Doug Liman's Fair Game, and was impressed with how the film dealt with the Valerie Plame affair without dumbing it down -- it was a refreshingly "adult" Hollywood feature. However, what I wasn't impressed with was the RED cinematography, with Liman himself serving as DP. It looked fine, but it didn't look great, to my eye. In camera tests to date we've seen that the RED has plenty of shadow detail but lacks the highlight details of film, and it's the slightly blown-out look of skin tones and other highlights that has has me "meh"-ing some RED cinematography. Enter RED's game-changing exposure hack, HDRx. The following video was posted to the Cinematography Mailing List a while ago, but it's a great explanation of HDRx in action on the RED EPIC, and also offers a glimpse of Assimilate's post-production software SCRATCH at work:
At 4:25 you can see exactly the kind of blown highlights that have irked me in previous RED footage. Will HDRx fix this complaint? It certainly seems so (the alternative with non-HDRx cameras is to underexpose, but then you risk losing shadow detail). For indies who don't have a raft of lights, the above shot is a good example of HDRx's utility -- to properly expose the subject and the beach, with most cameras you'd need some powerful daylight-balanced lights on the subject. And a grip truck. And a generator. But with HDRx you can get the shot with just the camera, saving indies time and money. This is not to say that you no longer need lights, but for specific situations like this one, you might be able to get the setup in a fraction of non-HDRx time.
HDRx adds up to three stops of dynamic range to the RED EPIC (and forthcoming EPIC-S), which takes the 13-stops of the EPIC all the way up to a world's-best (better than film, and better than digital leader ARRI ALEXA) 17+ stops.
Thanks go out to Blair Paulsen for a great demo. You can find some uncompressed TIFF files and more explanations over at Local Hero Post.