February 7, 2014

New Optical Low Pass Filter Makes the RED DRAGON Sensor Even More of a Beast

There is little doubt that RED's DRAGON sensor is a major step forward for digital cinema, at least in the resolution and dynamic range departments. However, like all new digital sensors, there are some kinks that need to be worked out before the cameras are 100% ready for action. In the case of DRAGON, the optical low pass filter originally designed for the sensor was causing some issues, chiefly some strange magenta flaring when the camera was pointed at bright sources. A brand new OLPF, and a bit of sensor calibration, has not only fixed this issue, but it has improved upon the sensor's colorimetry and dynamic range even more. Check out the details below:

In a recent post over on REDUSER, Phil Holland revealed the new OLPF and some of the tests that he conducted. Here are some stills from the before and after tests for the new OLPF. Click the images for full size:

Completely swapping out the optical low pass filter at this stage is a large undertaking, especially considering that the original OLPF for the DRAGON sensor was wildly efficient in some areas, especially reducing IR pollution and color shifting when using heavy ND's. Luckily, with some custom sensor calibration for the new OLPF, DRAGON is even more efficient in that regard. Here's what it looks like:

Here's what Phil had to say in regards to the results:

If you look extremely closely you will notice color has slightly improved overall. Additionally in shadows and highlights IR contamination has been eliminated with the New OLPF. Those blue shadows are extremely pure (check out the sky in the Sun Flare image too). White highlights are white. Dark shadow areas are clean. You may noticed that chroma is richer in the 2800K WB/ISO 2000 Match test image as well. Good stuff.

The new OLPF also has benefits in another important area, an area where the DRAGON already excelled: highlight retention and roll-off.

That's approximately 1.3+ stops improvements in the highlights. Also to note, the New OLPF wrangles light fall-off and bloom a bit nicer. So you get richer shadow detail, where the previous OLPF with its IR contamination flattened out those areas a bit. Subtle, but visibly noticeable in captured material.

I am not an expert in digital imaging technology, but these results are absolutely fantastic and further proof that optical low pass filters play a crucial role in the digital imaging pipeline. It's also great to see the RED engineers responding so quickly to the OLPF flaring problem on the early DRAGON cameras.

In terms of getting this upgrade for yourself, all new DRAGON cameras will ship with the new OLPF and sensor calibration, but if you're one of the few current DRAGON owners who have received a camera, you will need to ship the camera back to RED in order to perform the upgrade and calibration.

What do you guys think of the new DRAGON OLPF? Are you impressed with the myriad other improvements that the upgrade offers? Let's hear your thoughts down in the comments!

Link: Dragon Flare Thread -- REDUSER Forum

Your Comment

60 Comments

Dragon is amazing, and for the price its a no brainer... In general upgradable camera trump depreciating obsolete cameras. I went from Scarlet to Epic and soon Dragon for less then 20k, thats nuts

February 7, 2014 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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brian merlen

amazing... but I dont know why I dont like RED, instead I prefer arri, bmcc, even mark III.

February 7, 2014 at 2:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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peter

In my opinion, I think one reason that some people may not like RED is not necessarily a hardware issue. It's a personality issue. Ted has always been the face and personality connected to RED. In the past, Ted has ever so subtly shit on the dslr community's use of dslrs to create their films. He often made references to how much superior REDs are in comparison. The thought from the dslr community is "If all I can afford is this, please don't keep telling me how much my camera sucks compared to your camera you dick." A kind face and a friendly personality can help shape the opinions of your companies products. Steve Jobs did a great job at this for Apple.

February 7, 2014 at 4:47PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Nope, I just think the cameras are inferior to Arri, and I have gotten this opinion over the last week, not reading any form of press release they make. I used to like RED cameras, but after what I'm starting to see with a more critical eye it's actually not that good.

February 7, 2014 at 5:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tyler

You say you used to like RED cameras. Are you saying you prefer previous imagery from RED cameras over what Dragon produces now or are you saying you're looking at older imagery from previous cameras more critically and not liking what you're seeing? Whether it suits your tastes is a different matter but I'd think most people would agree there's an improvement in Dragon imagery over MX.

February 7, 2014 at 6:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

I know it's your opinion and everything, but it's hard to take you seriously when you write "[RED is] ... actually not that good."

That begs the question, "in what way is it 'actually not that good'?" Are we talking colour science? Or dynamic range? Or we talking low light performance? All these aren't cut and dry answers which suggest that your 'opinion' is rather uninformed and simplistic. Or just biased in favour of what you like.

But, then that has nothing to do with the question what is "good"?

February 7, 2014 at 6:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jerome

I don't like the image they give. It's actually pretty cold and heartless in my opinion.

February 10, 2014 at 4:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Tyler

Many fall on the sword when they said RED sucks. I'll never get the idea when they say it's cold. Last I checked that camera gives a look just like any camera except the RED is one of few DIGITAL cameras that has out gone what film does if not so already.

February 13, 2014 at 4:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Me

Love the shot with the match. I barely notice the second shot has different lighting:)

February 7, 2014 at 5:43PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Little Mermaido

Wish these were in the MX. Have had a few shoots more or less ruined due to internal reflections of flames.

February 7, 2014 at 2:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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agreed

February 7, 2014 at 5:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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If people would get passed the Arri vs. RED polarization and just look at the images produced, I think Dragon will finally overtake some of the Alexa diehards. RED has come a long way from their very digital-looking "Shot On RED" films to where they're at now.

Though Ché was still magnificent.

February 7, 2014 at 4:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Rob

I'm not a fan of Red, but I have to admit that Drinking Buddies looked great! I was surprised to learn it was shot on the Scarlett.

February 8, 2014 at 10:43AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kenneth Merrill

Also impressive this forum reduser, full of people who share and help each other, I consider it fantastic.
They have always been skeptical about Epic and colors, I've always preferred Alexa, but now there are no more doubts Dragon is really a beast, the best digital camera on the market now, Red has improved greatly and surely will surprise us with something new at NAB .
I'm almost tempted to buy this Dragon.
This guy Phil, is stunning. His post, precise and intelligent.

February 7, 2014 at 4:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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GIGI

Alexa isn't far behind Dragon, pretty good for 4 y.o. sensor, good job Arri. Today if you want HD/2K camera with creamy rolloff and filmic latitude - use Alexa. If you're well into 4K and (or) "future-proof" with the sensor producing same incredibly filmic latitude and colors (digital film alternative with little to no compromises) - there's Dragon now. Shoot 6K, deliver in 4K and lower. Some guys will stay with Arri no matter what and that's fine.

February 9, 2014 at 6:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Natt

It's important to note the approximately 1.3 stop increase in highlight retention with the new OLPF and tweaks to sensor calibration and color science is compared to the old OLPF, not the MX sensor. The old OLPF and calibrations already had a roughly 1 stop improvement in the highlights over MX, which means this latest improvement puts highlight performance somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 2 stops more info in the highlights over the MX sensor, with much better color accuracy and fidelity.

I didn't care very much for the first moving images we saw from the Dragon prototype but these latest improvements are like looking at a completely different camera. If the forthcoming Dragoncolor and Dragongamma improve upon things even more, there'll be little else left to dislike about RED imagery.

February 7, 2014 at 5:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

The difference in dynamic range should be zero. This is just a fix for a problem the competition does not have. Not everything has to be presented as a feature!

February 8, 2014 at 3:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Little Mermaido

It's been over 2 years and this thing still is in Beta and unreleased to the public. It'll be interesting to see if they get everyone upgraded by NAB in 2014.

February 7, 2014 at 5:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Phil McTaggins

No, it's out there in the wild. The problem is, you have to be a sort of "Tattoo" program member to even get one.

February 7, 2014 at 7:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anon

I'm only an observer, nothing more, but is the Dragon too late ? Electrifying two years ago perhaps, but its so delayed now and the colour science isn't finished, and the OLPF is a correction if anything, so a chunk of people who were thinking Red are now seeing red instead. Other cameras have narrowed the technology gap and dropped prices, so to me the Dragon looks more like diehard high-end stuff now - is that enough to sustain it ?

February 8, 2014 at 6:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Saied

have you ever actually shot ( or edited ) with a RED ? then I think you get an opinion as to how good it is. the MX is crap. 90 secs to start up is unacceptable, as is its other problems, never mind its basically a big aluminum brick with a lens port. very heavy camera. as its been said, the worst of the good cameras.... as for epic / dragon, haven;t touched it yet, and really don't care. there is no money to be made with the camera in my world so why would I buy or rent one ?

February 7, 2014 at 8:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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You win the NFS Award for Most Outdated Complaint of the Week. You're talking about the RED ONE. You do realize RED released three cameras since then, two of which are 5 lb. and the third weighing in at 4lb., right?

February 7, 2014 at 8:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

Hahahaha, it took Brian's interpretation to fully understand Steve's post.

Complaining about Red but talking only about the Red One is like saying the 5D is the worst because it can't film video at all... but be talking about the Mark 1.

February 7, 2014 at 10:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brooks Reynolds

But seriously. The 5D Mark I is the worst.

February 8, 2014 at 10:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kenneth Merrill

I do not understand how optical low pass filter can add more dynamic range to a cmos sensor.

February 7, 2014 at 10:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Juhan-i

I think it probably just allows u to get maximum dynamic range out of that sensor compared to the old one which degraded the image quality probably more than just one way, making the dynamic range also less than what was possible with the sensor. I've run into this internal reflections of red circle pattern on epic with UPs and i was thinking if those lenses really are that bad but now i know the problem wasn't there.

February 7, 2014 at 10:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Ts

The OLPF also has an IR cut filter built into it.

The old one was a piece of shit. This is how it should have performed from the very beginning.

February 7, 2014 at 11:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anon

But we were told that last one was the shiznit ... until being told it was plain shit.

February 8, 2014 at 2:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

Anon, the old OLPF wasn't perfect but I wouldn't call it a piece of shit, either. One could argue it shouldn't have gone out like that in the first place but that doesn't make it unusable, as numerous projects already shot with with it can attest to. The flare issue didn't show up in every instance and, on some occasions, was actually desirable. On the other hand, the IR contamination the old OLPF eliminated was much more of a problem, which is why it was seen as a very welcome improvement.

February 8, 2014 at 9:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

Welcome to marketing. Their product is the best! Until they have a new one to sell, and suddenly it's unacceptably crappy and he NEW one is the best!

February 8, 2014 at 10:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kenneth Merrill

Yea except the upgrade to the new awesome one is free.....

February 8, 2014 at 1:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Except the new one is for Dragons only. How many Epic/Scarlet users are out there? What are they to do?

February 9, 2014 at 2:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anon

Cutting out the IR which is a little over 30% of the light spectrum easily frees up more dynamic range allowing the sensor to absorb more visible light something some of the people you're answering may not be snapping to.

February 13, 2014 at 5:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Gary

Wmade I don't get is why Red owners are falling over themselves to congratulate Red on this OLPF, when in reality all they did was release a substandard product and fix it when people noticed.
I love the Red look and shoot on both Scarlet and Epic frequently, but the cult of worship that leads to congratulations when they fix something that should never have made in the first place

February 8, 2014 at 3:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jim

The fanbase and it's following do promote somewhat of an annoying.ridiculous agenda...

February 8, 2014 at 3:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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I totally agree that the fanbase following can get too anal at times (most often the first posts on the threads), but in all fairness there is a somehow similar fanbase when it comes to Arri. People who blindly follow Arri because of their name and reputation. Maybe Arri makes the best 'all around' film camera at the moment, but there's also some kind of a blind faith that won't acknowledge any other camera, which if you ask me if killing the very thought of creativity - to explore and try to do things differently.

February 8, 2014 at 5:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jesper

This is very intriguing and if anyone understands the technical side of this better than me, I'd love to hear more about it.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but as far as I know, OLPF's are basically precision-made pieces of birefringent crystals which are placed in front of sensors to protect them from dust and IR pollution, but primarily to soften the image by essentially smearing each point of incoming light into two slightly offset but overlapping points... this minimizes aliasing and is necessary due to the fact that sensors are not continuous surfaces like a piece of film but instead microscopically-discontinuous surfaces of discrete photosites with spaces between them.

So obviously the OLPF is a fundamental component to the quality of a camera's image, but I had no idea that it could have any effect beyond simply effecting sharpness. How can it have such an effect on color and dynamic range? And that strange flare artifact in the first image for example is something I've seen often in inferior cameras (especially iPhone shots) and I think it's terrible. What the heck is going on to create that strange patterned flare effect?

February 8, 2014 at 4:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Darren

I think the improvement with colorimetry comes from the new calibration and not necessarily from the new OLPF alone. It is possible that the new low pass filter allows the sensor to be differently calibrated thus the extra gain in latitude and improved color saturation.

February 8, 2014 at 5:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Anh Dang

to the complaint department after waiting months for the upgrade now have to send it back in for servicing(new olpf) ..so losing $..never had to do this with my Alexa..or arri lt..or .....shouldn't they have a loaner like a car place..

February 8, 2014 at 12:23PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DIO

Enjoy paying for software updates to Alexa then. 2K is enough, right?

February 9, 2014 at 7:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Natt

Juhan-i and Darren, as Anh Dang pointed out, the new sensor calibration, in conjunction with the new OLPF, is responsible for the increase in dynamic range and slightly smoother rolloff on the top end. This is explained further down in the thread from Phil Holland's original post. To help clear things up, I've included some of the pertinent links below.

Once agin, Phil's original post:
http://bit.ly/1o4cQZZ

On the new calibration:
http://bit.ly/LZfsd6

On extreme overexposure and differences in OLPFs:
http://bit.ly/1bz2uJp

A question on what is meant by 1.3 stops more of highlight information:
http://bit.ly/1njbkQz

The answer to the above question:
http://bit.ly/1f3ZFRd

February 8, 2014 at 9:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

Damnit, I meant once again.

February 8, 2014 at 1:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

I like how this is pitched as an upgrade in actuality they are just fixing a problem

February 8, 2014 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Jon Apple

The fix, while addressing a flaw, actually improves the image above and beyond fixing the flaw. In addition, you get more DR in the high end and better color fidelity from new calibrations and color science tweaks, all of which constitute an upgrade to me. Has the definition of upgrade changed? The vast majority of Dragon owners will get the enhancements when their cameras ship and will not have been affected by the old OLPF at all.

February 8, 2014 at 3:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

Red scarlet vs BMCC vs digital bolex?
Best camera for a low budget indie feature?

February 8, 2014 at 5:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Aaron

Look up Shane Hurlbut's blog, he did a a couple of test's on the BMCC and the red Epic, which might influence your opinion on them. I know you asked for the red scarlet, but from what I've heard, it produces the same image just without all the extra features of the epic, although that may be incorrect. The Digital Bolex has yet to await any reviews, but Philip Bloom was playing with it, check out his channel on Youtube. I hope this helps.

February 8, 2014 at 6:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Edward Ornelas

red scarlet, there is no contest.

February 9, 2014 at 11:09AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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ryan

Unless the budget concerns arise. In which case, BMCC for $2K is a deal that's hard to beat.

February 9, 2014 at 2:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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DLD

he didn't say student film he said low budget feature film. Scarlet has more features, can take a beating, zero moire, very usable 48p, and less rolling shutter. I'd much rather shoot everyday for 1-3 months on scarlet. If you have the dough, which you should if your trying to shoot a feature, Scarlets a way better option.

February 9, 2014 at 3:26PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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ryan

Depends. Scarlet is an admirable camera, but it's usually a love or hate situation. Some people don't like the image because of the colors and how it tends to give off a videoish look. Spec-wise, it's definitely above the BMCC though in most ways except for Dynamic Range, which the BMCC has about a 1 1/2 stop more of.

If you want a cinematic / filmic look, like many movies shot on the Arri Alexa have, then the BMCC might be a good choice for that. If you want a super high res, colorful look, then the 4k scarlet is the better choice.

If I were you, I'd wait a couple weeks. The BMCC 4k is shipping which will be better than the original BMCC and arguably the Scarlet.

February 10, 2014 at 10:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Kaleb

"Completely swapping out the optical low pass filter at this stage is a large undertaking, especially considering that the original OLPF for the DRAGON sensor was wildly efficient in some areas, especially reducing IR pollution and color shifting when using heavy ND’s."

could also be read like: swapping out a not properly working part of a digital camera at this stage (of production) is a large undertaking, especially considering that it (the olpf) performed some other features ("reducing IR pollution and color shifting when using heavy ND’s") it was build to perform ... wow.

its their policy of selling unfinished products which never work without some trouble thats giving them a bad rep. it has nothing to do with other competitors or an overhyped arri vs. red - battle (which almost only takes place in the comment sections of some weblogs and sites), nor is there an excuse for this embarrassing combination of not properly working products and an aggressive style of marketing, which does not work well in the more conservative world of real (as defined by professional, within the meaning of getting paid for the making of a product which gets sold afterwards) film production.

i work as a 2nd AC at feature film productions, music videos and commercials and handle cameras like an arri alexa or a red epic on a daily basis. i get paid (of course not only) for maintaining the proper working and rigging of these cameras (together with the 1st AC of course) and i can guarantee you that if you are in the middle of a night shoot and your camera stops working how it should without any logical reason and you call the rental the next day and they tell you its a common problem of this camera because of some software bugs and you already spend the half of your prep time to make this little cube look and work like a real camera - instead of using a machine already designed as a camera - the name on the side of that thing causing so much trouble will not be orange or blue digital cinema.

it cant be overstated, that the men and woman who have to keep these cameras working have to deal with all their little "kinks that need to be worked out" and that there are malfunctions which can cause big delays in the production of feature films, which have nothing to do with dynamic range oder resolution or how a dop likes the "look" of a camera.

at the end i want to point out, that the purpose of an article about highly specialised optical details of a digital sensor written by somebody who describes himself as "not an expert in digital imaging technology" remains questionable.

February 9, 2014 at 1:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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peter

http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?112597-CF-Dragon-bricked

2 cameras * 50 000 $ a piece = 100 000 $ worth of equipment in camera main units alone.

Both broke down after one week of ownership.

February 12, 2014 at 10:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Juhan-i

Reading about problems with RED cameras on Reduser is like porn for you. It's your equivalent of Penthouse Forum. You can't seem to get enough of the thing you can't stand. There's a weird pathology to that type of behavior. Ant any rate, given the frequency you read, I hope you're being careful to avoid chafing.

February 12, 2014 at 10:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

Are the facts so painful to you Brian, that you have to resort to insults ?

Are comments from Peter above porn too Brian ?

Of course I am just single Internet troll and a easy target. Unlike, say Geoff Boyle who is too scary character to you Red boys to insult.

After all he might say something bad about the camera made by God's chosen one.

February 12, 2014 at 1:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Juhan-i

I don't deny any problems or issues RED cameras have and I've been fairly critical of them here and on Reduser. If you notice, I didn't dispute Peter's claim or the claim from the link you posted. My point is YOU can't pass up an opportunity to mention how RED is failing in some capacity or another. It cheapens your comments because it makes you look like you have an axe to grind. Not only that, you can't resist bringing up Jim Jannard, even when he's not relevant to the conversation, like you just did. It's tiresome. And what you said about Geoff Boyle is utter nonsense.

Sometimes, you're right about RED but you can't seem to separate valid complaints from your dislike for the company and the man that started it. It's clearly personal for you to the point of an obsession for seemingly no good reason and THAT"S what I was mocking. I don't give a shit if someone says something about RED that's true, no matter how unflattering it may be. If RED listens and fixes the problem, everybody wins. Why would I be against that? But, that's not what you do. Your comments are made out of spite (some might say troll-like). You're not here to help the community. You're here to feed your need and that, to me, makes you a fair target.

February 12, 2014 at 8:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Brian

Who cares! It seems that no matter how many K’s RED adds to these sensors/Cameras – they still look like RED. And by that, not particularly great. Its like a shitty guitar tone with a bigger amp. Its just a shitty tone, but louder! RED needs to get their colour science figured out. Get that gross orange out. If BMD and ARRI can do that, so should RED!

February 17, 2014 at 12:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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tunabreath

Who cares! It seems that no matter how many K's RED adds to these sensors/Cameras - they still look like RED. And by that, not particularly great. Its like a shitty guitar tone with a bigger amp. Its just a shitty tone, but louder! RED needs to get their colour science figured out. Get that gross orange out. If BMD and ARRI can do that, so should RED!

February 17, 2014 at 11:35AM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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TunaBreath

I do not even know how I ended up here, but I thought
this post was good. I do not know who you are but definitely you're going to
a famous blogger if you are not already ;) Cheers!

April 3, 2014 at 11:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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OK whats up with the noise problem? How come the beta testers never found this issue out?

July 8, 2014 at 8:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bibi

Kaleb, what you say about BM cameras having more dynamic range than any Red Mx products - let alone Dragon products - is simply false. BM cameras have much less, far less sensitivity, and many other problems. if you think that, or have observed that, you do not know how to do post production with Red files. Period.

July 21, 2014 at 7:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Robert Ruffo