Has RED's 6K DRAGON Camera Surpassed Film? Comparing Kodak 35MM, DRAGON, & 5D3 RAW
Camera technology has come a long way in the last 5 years. Dale McCready, the DP on the TV show Atlantis, normally shoots on 35mm for the show, but wanted to see how newer solutions stack up and could be intercut with the film material for Season 2. Since he already knows the ALEXA well, he took the 6K DRAGON from RED and his Canon 5D Mark III shooting Magic Lantern RAW and tested all sorts of different combinations of filters on the cameras.
Here are the technical details on what was used. This isn't really a performance sort of test, especially since the 5D was using a different lens on both the close-up and wide, just a test to see how well these could be intercut:
Lenses used were Cooke S4s and Cooke S4minis on the PL mount cameras.
Canon 40mm Pancake and Lomography/Zenit Petzval 85mm lenses were EF mounted lenses for use on the 5D.
Due to the differing sensor sizes the lenses weren't perfect matches in field of view.
Filters tested were Schneider Classic Softs, Tiffen Black Diffusion FX, SoftFX and Black ProMists.
In testing the filters I was looking at skin detail, halo (candle glow) and filter patterning showing up in the bokeh.
Here's a clip from the first season of the show:
Some words about the test from Dale McCready:
Sitting in is Actress Katherine Beresford. 2nd AC Alex Parish.
This isn't a precise test of latitude or fidelity, but a real world test of matching cameras to each other. The 35mm Kodak Vision3 200T film was shot on an Arri ST camera, processed and then scanned on a spirit before being imported into the Baselight system at Prime Focus in Soho, London. There Kevin Horsewood and I looked at getting a standard grade on the film. The Red R3Ds and CinemaDNG files from the 5Dmk3 were loaded straight into the Baselight and debayered from raw files as we graded. The .R3Ds were 6K and debayered using RedLogFilm.
There is still plenty of magic in the 35mm look. What's interesting comparing these together, especially in the close-ups, is how far digital has come in the last few years. So many big shows go through lots of noise reduction to remove the grain on 35mm, but it definitely gives it some character (and 500T would likely have been grainier). Film also reacts to colors completely differently than the digital sensors, especially Kodak stocks, and that all plays into how the look is achieved.
This test was done with older color science and the old OLPF on the DRAGON, but Dale mentions that he might try the comparison using the new DRAGON color science. The best part of this test for me is the filter section. While you can get a great look with almost any camera out there, the combination of filters used can do even more for your image. Dale provided an update on the filter test after shooting for the show began:
Started using the different filters on the show. The SOFTFX is great but reacts with the Cooke S4 front element to create big inverted flame halos so we don't use them anytime there's flame anywhere near centre of frame. The Classic Softs look really good in this test but again put a fire nearby and they make a distinct edge around the fire. It doesn't look great. Both best used for faces where no larger flames are present.
Didn't have these filter reflection issues with the Master Primes last year. Convex front element is probably the cause.
Check out more of Dale's work over on the links below.