Mark Toia's 'no bullshit' camera tests with the Helium 8K have become both a showreel and a teaching tool.
When the Panasonic AG-DVX100, Sony DSR-PD150 and Canon XL2 cameras came out in the early 2000s, we were talking about over-sized 1/3-inch CCDs as if they were the next big thing in filmmaking. Today, we scoff at a 4:2:2 8-bit output.
Back then, we really didn't know what was technologically possible; digital video was too new. We weren't talking about future possibilities like we do today. Now that we can see a somewhat clearer road map—not just in resolution, but in size, color gamut, compression, dynamic range, ISO, and output—the conversation has shifted to purchasing technology that's nearly "future proof."
The one thing you can't argue about RED is that they don't give us the technology of tomorrow. In a video from Mark Toia, the director shows off some exceptional footage using a Helium 8K. According to RED President Jarred Land, Toia was one of the first people to use the camera and edited the RAW footage on a laptop. Not only are the visuals stunning, but his narration provides some stellar insight to its performance.
Richer, cleaner smoother blacks
We're always looking at the blacks of an image. They're the flour to our visual cake, and with 8K giving approximately 35 million pixels (twice as many pixels as 6K) you're going to get deep, rich colors and creamier tones. In Toia's tests, he declared, "I pushed into the blacks like never before, so that's the real standout for me."
Less noise at higher ISOs
When comparing EPIC 6K at 2000 ISO versus Helium Weapon 8K at 2000 ISO at 200% and 400%, the noise is substantially different, and what ultimately sold Toia on the Helium.
To create perfect skin tones Toia shoots RAW to the very end. He doesn't transcode to any other color codes using RGB LUTs and stays in RAW R3D as much as he can. If he uses DPX or TIFF, he will color balance first before transcoding to another codec. Toia explained, "If you're leaving the flexible world of RAW and have to work in a color-baked world, it's essential to color correct first before doing so. This makes it easier for the colorist to start from the perfect base."
The lens matters as much as the sensor
The sensor on the Helium can take about anything you throw at it, but sensors are at the point now where they're starting to show the imperfections of the lens you're using. For Toia, it's never the sensor that's the problem, it's the mountain of other things between the object and the camera the cause the problems—the cheap glass, the cheap filters, the different color temperatures you fight. Toia said, "The secret being make sure everything is right before you roll."
Is the Helium 8K perfect?
According to Toia, no. But it does check off a lot of the boxes that are important to him: size, weight, dynamic range, high speed frame rates, laptop capable RAW worfklow, and ruggedness. Like many of us, Toia wants even more: 25-30 stops of dynamic range, cameras that turn on instantly, 10,000 fps, ISOs out to 1,000,000 ASA, but he knows those things are not available with today's technology. For the director, "Content will always be king, but having great tools helps you deliver great content."
What did you think of the video? And what are your ideal camera specs? Tell us in the comments below.
That was a really good commercial. I'm not even being cynical, that was good.
October 4, 2016 at 10:21AM
That overexposure shot is so dreamy.
October 4, 2016 at 2:29PM, Edited October 4, 2:29PM
I hope we're getting into the next chapter of digital cinema evolution, where overexposed sensor is starting to look pleasant, like analog film. In my life I've overexposed (intentionally or not) more film than I'm willing to admit and it always looked creamy as fuck. Even in the cases when it was clearly my mistake, it looked nothing like godawful CMOS clipping we're used to now. It's one of the things I miss from 35mm days.
I need sensitivity in highlights as much as in shadows. I want more life, fucker.
October 5, 2016 at 6:04AM
That comparison shot had to be with the 6K Dragon at ISO 2000 with the Skin-tone Filter in. I've shot my Epic Dragon at ISO 2000 before with the Standard/Low-Light OLPF's and never received something as noisey as that image.
Great video but not a great comparison.
October 4, 2016 at 4:40PM
I think someone said on the forums that both cameras had the Low-light OLPF's in.
October 4, 2016 at 6:39PM
It looks great!
October 4, 2016 at 7:44PM
This video would look the same with any modern cheaper camera as it's made of super flashy loud colors and subjects. The caucasian skin tones are still looking lifeless the few times they appear there. The colors in low light suffer a lot. The yellow tint is even more pronounced than before. I hope Panavision will make something nice with the Red sensor and push the camera into bigger fields than just CGI based movies and small projects.
October 4, 2016 at 11:48PM, Edited October 5, 12:01AM
Haters Gonna Hate. This camera is the future, just accept
and for those who are nit picking. the guy went out with his son for 6 hours and filmed what he saw got on an airplane and edited this beautiful piece. no crew, no fancy post, just a guy with a camera and a lap top.
October 5, 2016 at 5:16AM, Edited October 5, 5:17AM
Yes, it's the future, right. In 15 years we'll all have 8k TVs. For the moment the majority still has HD TVs. And until then I guess you will upgrade 7 times your Red camera giving each time 10-20k to Red for a difference that no audience will notice. It's a bit sad to see how many guys, upgrading over and over, just posted 4 videos online, basically gear tests and backyard family footage. I mean there's not a chance they paid back their investment, and they're still taking extra loans to get the newer model. People should just use what they already have, it's way more than enough. And yeah the guy bragged about the 6 hours job editing in the plane, but basically he just edited all his last jobs in a video. You tell me that in 6 hours he took a helicopter, went to a theme park, went to a studio to shoot some girls, went to a horse race, recorded the voice over in the plane etc etc? This video can impress newbies, but any professional watching it closely, forgetting about the voice, isolating each shot, will just see a ton of problems, burnt highlights with terrible rolloff, bad skin tones, dull lowlight colors and so on.
October 7, 2016 at 2:25AM, Edited October 7, 2:48AM
October 7, 2016 at 4:24PM
"IBM introduced the first UHDTV production monitor, the IBM T220, in June 2001 with a 3840x2400 native format".
"NHK researchers built their own UHDTV prototype which they demonstrated in 2003". 15 years later we're still far from every home owning 4k TVs.
October 8, 2016 at 1:41AM, Edited October 8, 1:57AM
We don't have 4K tv in every home yet because up to a size of around 60 inch, it doesn't make a difference!
The only reason that will maybe push 4K tvs in people's homes is HDR because it really makes a difference. But I am still not sure that most people will care enough to buy a new tv because of HDR.
Then there is also the problem of distribution: even with streaming being the new television, it takes a very high bit rate to deliver 4K let alone 8K in a decent quality. I'd rather see a good 1080 stream with a high enough bit rate, than some pseudo-4K stream with artefacts.
October 9, 2016 at 9:32AM
I don't think the people, who pay to stay on the bleeding edge of tech, care when it will hit for consumers. It's more about content providers, distributors, stock video, and even camera rentals. Lots of money to be made and none of it is dependent on how many people have 8K displays.
October 8, 2016 at 8:29AM
To think that Toia, of all people, would produce the best RED promo video since the early days. But here it is.
October 5, 2016 at 5:54AM, Edited October 5, 5:56AM
To me this looks pretty great and I'm excited for Epic-W. Jarred Land is giving existing Scarlet-W owners like myself and those in the S-W cue before a certain date, a $10,000 discount on the Epic-W upgrade. I've never even heard of any company giving their customers a $10,000 discount on a camera. Now that's beyond generous in my book.
October 5, 2016 at 7:35AM
Please tell me what laptop did he use to edit RAW 8k footage ?!?!
October 5, 2016 at 5:41PM
Macbook Air! ;)
October 9, 2016 at 9:33AM
Once again a camera test where beautiful girls dance and nothing worthwhile is given to us. Wow a 8k sensor, so now all we have to do is point and shoot and we are cinematographers!!!
October 5, 2016 at 7:00PM
Wait, what video did you just watch? "Point and shoot"? "Nothing worthwhile"?
Skin tones - Check
Low light - Check
Color Science - Check
Dynamic Range - Check
Highlight Rolloff - Check
What else would you want to see in a camera test? I'm honestly asking.
October 5, 2016 at 7:43PM
Hater's gonna hate. I agree with Luke. This is an excellent camera test and an overall nice piece.
October 7, 2016 at 8:23AM, Edited October 7, 8:23AM
I just saw where more resolution only gave more shadows... not sure how i'm suppose to feel about that
October 5, 2016 at 7:19PM
Beautiful imagery. It's like he said, when watching, say, a movie. You won't even notice it's either the Helium or the Weapon. It's just the incredible flexibility and reliability that it gives you and when comparing the 2 side by side that you know the power of the Helium.
October 5, 2016 at 9:11PM, Edited October 5, 9:11PM
Very impressive. The image is absolutely stunning. In my mind, and to my eye based on these limited tests, this is the camera to take the step into film's domain, and I don't say that lightly at all.
October 6, 2016 at 12:40PM
"with 8K giving approximately 35 million pixels (twice as many pixels as 6K) you're going to get deep, rich colors and creamier tones."
That is absolute bunk.
October 9, 2016 at 12:00AM, Edited October 9, 12:08AM
I was wondering about that, too. Since when do more pixels automatically give you rich, deep colors and creamier tones? That has nothing to do with the amount of pixels! The original Arri Alexa only had 2K resolution and was still way better than all competitors in colors and skin tones.
October 9, 2016 at 9:37AM
if you guys can't see the benefit of having a massive amount of pixels shot at 8k squeezed down for a 4k, or even 2k delivery and the magic that happens there its your lose.
October 9, 2016 at 1:03PM
You mean like 90% of Hollywood productions shot on Alexa @3k instead of Red 6k?
Anyway it will be time to buy some used 8k Helium for $8k in a few months if it's as disruptive as people want to believe it is.
October 9, 2016 at 2:02PM