I shared my first impressions of SCARLET-X #00072 but hadn't yet had a chance to put the camera through its paces properly. I wanted to do a real-world shoot instead of a simple test, so I sketched out a one-page scenario and got together with DP Timur Civan, co-director Raafi Rivero, and actor Harlan Short to put together a rooftop short. Because of holiday commitments it might take us a bit of time to put together, so in the meantime here are some brief thoughts and images from the shoot:
First of all, DP Timur Civan shared some thoughts -- as a Sony F3 owner, he wasn't 100% sure as to why he was buying a RED SCARLET as well, but for him the test shoot was enough to confirm his order (his SCARLET hadn't shipped yet). His initial reaction:
This sub 11lbs package gave us top tier optics, 16bit 4k RAW, and it fits in the palm of your hand. I seriously was impressed. Simply being able to handle a camera so small that gives you EVEN in its smallest form, the best image it can, makes you want to work harder for the shot and find the best angle, composition and locations...
We had a tiny lighting package and a great location, a good combo. This basically gave me a chance to see if i like the damn thing i already paid for... the Verdict? I LOVE it. Its liberatingly small. DSLR small... but with no compromises.
Uh-oh. Fire up the "why are you hating on DSLRs?" comments section! Listen, I'm not hating on DSLRs. I wrote the DSLR Cinematography Guide because I love their image quality, sensitivity, size, and price. So can we please take the rest of this post as an honest ongoing evaluation of a camera, regardless of whether it's more expensive than a DSLR? It's a storytelling tool, and I'm interested in the ways it can help or hinder a production.
When we first met, I tweeted a pic of us setting up the camera, shortly after we discovered that the SCARLET's non-standard bottom threads did not match up with Timur's Zacuto baseplate:
So that little package was our handheld "rig." My side handle isn't here yet and I haven't yet purchased a top handle or other rig components, so Timur was forced to hold this unergonomic chunk of metal in front of his chest. And you know what? It wasn't ideal, but it worked. The small size really helps with speed -- you can reposition the camera very quickly, just as you can with a DSLR. I'll be getting a fair amount of tester gear going forward and will come up with some SCARLET/EPIC recommendations for shoulder rigs, powering options, viewfinder and monitors, etc. but for now this shoot was about image quality. And Timur's Cooke Panchro primes have that in spades.
When he first set up the camera on a tripod and pointed it out the window at the surrounding environs in Brooklyn, he showed me the monitor and I thought he had placed an extremely long lens on the SCARLET. But then he hit the 1:1 focus aide button, and the image pulled back. I realized I'd been looking at a zoomed-in crop of the sensor, which at 4K zooms in a lot. We were looking at smokestacks being hit by afternoon sunlight, and even at 1:1 there wasn't a hint of chromatic aberration.
But since plenty of people don't need 4K resolution, and since we'll be releasing the short in 1080p through Vimeo, I thought I'd share a frame downscaled (in Photoshop) to 1920 width. Here's the frame. Click on it for a full size JPG and note the sharpness on the netting on the right. There isn't a hint of aliasing or moire (thanks to RED's sensor) or chromatic aberration (thanks to the Cooke's optics):
Note: I did this very cold grade in REDCINE-X Pro, but will not be grading the piece myself. So if it looks too blueish to you, that's fine -- you can push the .R3D files in any direction, and I was just getting my feet wet in the program. We'll share some 4K .R3D files at a later date.
As for any RED stability problems, it's far too early to report on that. We shot from noon to 5PM in temperatures of roughly 35 degrees with no problems. I'm planning on doing some more in-depth tests of the SCARLET in conjunction with Hello World Communications, but for now, my SCARLET's runtime meter is at 17 hours and it has yet to hiccup. I hope I can say the same with a zero at the end of that number!
The micro-short (we're calling it that, given I wrote the one-page, dialogue-free script on my phone) and more production thoughts should be coming soon. We wanted to do more than a "test" but didn't have the time or resources to put together a proper film (given I'm working on my first feature as it is), so hopefully this will be a nice compromise. Stay tuned!