March 11, 2015

'House of Cards' Season 3 Was Shot on RED EPIC DRAGON & Actually Finished in 6K

RED EPIC DRAGON PL Mount Black Background

Netflix's House of Cards, which just aired its third season, has been shooting on RED since the beginning. While the show is just starting to experiment with streaming in Ultra HD (3840 x 2160), since they shot on the RED EPIC DRAGON in 6K, they were able to create 6K masters of the show (in addition to 4K masters). 

Encore in Hollywood handled the post-production for Season 3:

“We mixed the native camera files and uncompressed 6K files … and conformed in [Autodesk’s] Flame, staying as native as possible," says Strauss. Colorist Laura Jans-Fazio graded the series using FilmLight's Baselight system.

Encore claimed it created 6K archive masters that were roughly 5.5TB for each one-hour episode, as well as a 4K version, roughly 2.5TB per one-hour episode, which was delivered to Netflix. Since 4K is four times as much picture information as HD and 6K is even greater, post houses generally say the cost increases for 4K primarily surround data storage.

The representatives from Encore evaded specific questions about the House of Cards budget, only offering that it didn’t charge a premium compared with last season, which was already being finished in 5K to create a 4K Netflix master.

Those are some gigantic file sizes. One of the benefits to shooting on RED is that the compressed RAW format saves a ton of space, but for the masters they are going back to uncompressed DPX, which means your master file sizes are much higher than they would be for camera original files.

Here's the trailer for Season 3, which if you haven't seen the previous two seasons, might spoil things a tiny bit:

Considering Netflix is already spending millions per episode and they've got pretty deep pockets, it makes sense to have a full 6K version that they can do whatever they want with later on. We'll see in the future if they need those 6K masters for any reason, but if you're wondering why you'd want to shoot in 6K in the first place, when you've got cameras that have just one sensor, each pixel can only represent one color. Thus, when you Debayer, or interpolate the image to get back the missing information, you're losing resolved detail. If all things are equal, a 6K image downsampled to 4K should look sharper than a 4K image finished at 4K. 

It's also possible that some of those 6K shots were reframed/stabilized and upscaled back to 6K for the masters, but by shooting in 6K, it means that they've got the ability to do those sorts of things to shots that need it, and they don't need to upscale for the 4K masters that are actually streaming on Netflix.      

Your Comment

20 Comments

Woof! Can't imagine how many TBs of raw footage goes into every episode. Insanity storage!

March 11, 2015 at 9:16PM, Edited March 11, 9:16PM

1
Reply
avatar
Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
647

I did some math.

Assuming a 6:1 shooting ratio (six minutes of footage for every minute that makes it into the show) - not uncommon for such a big-budgeted TV show and assuming they were shooting REDRAW at 8:1 compression...

that is 88MB/second (not Mb). 5.23GB/minute.

each episode of season 3 is about 45 minutes. Some are longer, some are shorter. But lets use that as the average.

45*5.23 is 235.35GB

HOWEVER - we are assuming a 6:1 shooting ratio so

235.35*6 = 1.41TB/episode

There are 13 episodes.

1.41 * 13 = 18.33TB

and then calculate backups (Minimum 3)

18.33*3 = 54.99TB!!!

This seems about right for such a large drama.

March 13, 2015 at 8:36AM

6
Reply
avatar
David J. Fulde
Colorist
115

David, good math exercise! I agree with your general logic, but I think the real storage numbers are probably significantly higher. I believe that a 6:1 shooting ratio is way too low for any big budget TV show especially in the digital age where directors often reset takes without cutting the camera. House of Cards uses longer master takes as a stylistic choice - that means less repeat angles than traditional coverage. However, their shooting ratio is bound to increase with multiple long takes for actor and technical performance. And when Fincher is directing, he is known for a huge number of takes. I suspect that some scenes are also shot with multiple cameras. I also suspect that they back up their footage even more than three times. The data storage numbers can balloon quickly.

March 22, 2015 at 3:27PM, Edited March 22, 3:27PM

5
Reply
avatar
Randolph Sellars
Director of Photography
279

Not to start a war, but this still can't beat Alexa quality. Better pixels > more pixels. Alexa 65 is having the best of both worlds, so I'm interested in seeing that. But that's jmo.

March 12, 2015 at 12:11AM

7
Reply
avatar
Henry Barnill
Director of Photography
555

Word.

Also, finishing in 6K just doesn't make sense to me. I mean hell, over 90% of viewers can't tell the difference between 2.5K and 4K; even I went to see a film at the cinema unsure if it was a 2K or 4K screening and came out not being sure which one it was (it was 2K but I didn't care in the slightest)..... but I guess if you've got millions lying around and don't want to throw them at starving children or the homeless, might as well finish in 12K. :D

March 12, 2015 at 2:13AM

9
Reply
avatar
Samu Amunét
Director
318

It's because Netflix mandated a true 4k master. I heard that the DP had looked into using the Alexa but that idea was nixed. IMHO, you can argue about pixels all you want, but it's a smart move. In 10 years when everyone has 4k TV's that show will still look new.

March 12, 2015 at 10:38AM

4
Reply

Something seems fishy about a Fincher project even considering something other than RED. He loves those things.

March 13, 2015 at 9:03AM

0
Reply
avatar
Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
647

I'm an Alexa fan but, fuck the Red can get one hell of an image. Thank you Fincher!

March 12, 2015 at 1:53AM, Edited March 12, 1:53AM

14
Reply
avatar
Max Ciesynski
Gaffer
618

Yes it is a nice image, however the rolling shutter sucks compared to the alexa. To me a big part of film making is perfect rolling shutter. Alexa clearly wins in that category... Red does have a sick DR though..

March 12, 2015 at 12:15PM

1
Reply
avatar
Kyle Lamar
Director Producer DP
1157

There's a thing called Motion Mount out there.

March 13, 2015 at 2:12PM

0
Reply
avatar
Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1398

RED can look great in the right hands and the dragon sensor can definitely compete with Alexa. Yes, even in Dynamic Range and highlights. Now the resolved detail is a bit more tricky as the Alexa at 2.8k + can look just as sharp as the 6k Epic, or maybe that's just our eyes not able to tell the difference, also considering we don't have 4k+ monitors unless you own a new IMac. The colors and skin tones are also very accurate on both cameras and i'd say you can't go wrong with either. I really like this image compared to "Gone Girls" as i felt it lacked that organic look and was too clean and plastic looking to me.

March 12, 2015 at 4:36AM, Edited March 12, 4:36AM

2
Reply
avatar
Brad Watts
Filmmaker/Creative Director - Redd Pen Media
467

yet the way the Alexa rolls off highlights.....cannot be matched by Sony or RED, even when it took them some years to match Arri's dynamic range...

March 12, 2015 at 9:06AM

8
Reply
avatar
Rob Wilton
DoP
308

If you consider how good the DOP does in House of Cards you probably could have shot this on a a7s in 4K and it would have looked astonishing!

March 12, 2015 at 9:03AM

10
Reply
avatar
Viktor Ragnemar
Director/Cinematographer
1008

I agree the DOP have mad skills, however Sony a7s would get crushed in any situation next to the big boys. I feel you on homeboy having skills though. Having the correct gear def plays a role in my line of work.

March 12, 2015 at 12:18PM

0
Reply
avatar
Kyle Lamar
Director Producer DP
1157

He was making a point. Not being literal.

March 13, 2015 at 9:04AM

2
Reply
avatar
Taylor Russ
Director of Photography
647

Im dealing with a lot of the same issues with storage space in a very similar workflow.
Red Dragon to Premiere to Baselight to Flame
A lot of our bigger commercial jobs final conforms are turning into 2.5 TB 6k dpx files.
The past year our local working drives have become 21tb sas drives.
it gets to a point a one minute spot uncompressed animation quicktime starts to become 20GB, and even 422 HQ's at 9GB.
sooner or later we'll probably be talking petabyte drives.

March 12, 2015 at 10:26AM

0
Reply
Kazu Okuda
Filmmaker
1198

I got way to excited seeing the red dragon as the screen shot for this post. Please don't play with my emotions... Should have been a screen shoot of house of cards.. Just saying.. This was a dope post however! Thanks for sharing

March 12, 2015 at 12:22PM

0
Reply
avatar
Kyle Lamar
Director Producer DP
1157

Hi Alexa fans,
It would be nice to read a comment thread about Red where you guys don't reflexively say, "Alexa is better", in an empirical-truth tone. Just talk about Red in these threads. When there is an Alexa comment thread then just say there, "Alexa is better than Red". It's closer to being appropriate then. :-)

March 13, 2015 at 1:03AM

0
Reply
Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1102

Funny to read that "red fans are insecure boys" with all that "alexa is better, alexa is better fo sho" again and again. Lol'd.

March 13, 2015 at 2:17PM

0
Reply
avatar
Terma Louis
Photographer / Cinematographer / Editor
1398

Yes, it would seem interesting to find conversation about 6K file size, and what could be done so it could possibly be handled faster, or to see comments about why Netflix is going to 6K when most of the video world is still catching up to 1080p. Or, it would have been good to see a few about 8K and what those file sizes will be like (omg, enormous), and how soon 8K tvs will be affordable---and is this move to 6K by Netflix something done looking forward to 8K. All of those are interesting and could be talked about for days. Those would have been more profitable conversation than the people's opinions of which camera they think is best.

You know, even though this is a Red 6K post, it would even have been interesting to see some talk about the 6K 65mm Alexa that will be in use soon. Even though it's a camera I wouldn't even be able to afford to rent right now, it still would be a productive conversation, and interesting. I think we all need the networking of knowledge we all could provide. Anyway, just sayin.

March 14, 2015 at 6:06PM

0
Reply
Gene Nemetz
live streaming
1102