RED Digital Cinema company has been very active in pushing a cinema quality experience. We spoke during the week to RED founder Jim Jannard, who also founded Oakley, Inc. The RED Digital Cinema Camera Company is one of the companies behind the move to shooting stereo films at 48 fps rather than the traditional 24fps – in fact it’s safe to say RED is the strongest force behind this move. RED’s first camera, auspiciously named the RED ONE, was developed specifically to match the look and resolution of 35mm film by recording RAW 4K digital images at 30 frames per second. RED launched the Red One and the company at NAB 2005, at a tiny 20×10 booth in the South Hall.
RED’s founder Jim Jannard started the camera company in the hope of replacing film as an ageing, and what he says had become disrespected, medium.
“The industry was not going to develop a suitable film replacement for motion capture,” said Jannard. “They were trying to sell the idea that 1080P was adequate. It isn’t. I have shot for over 30 years and it killed me how film was being disrespected. Film deserves to go to the retirement home being proud of its successor.”
Since 2007, a number of high profile directors have filmed with RED cameras. David Fincher’s ‘The Social Network’ and Rob Marshall’s ‘Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides’ were both shot on RED cameras, with ‘Pirates’ being captured in 3D with stereo camera rigs.
Now, with RED’s next generation EPIC cameras, (the Epic X started shipping this week), people can shoot in much higher resolution and at higher frame rates. As such these new cameras are being used on major films like ‘The Amazing Spider-Man’.
The EPIC contains a 5K or 14 megapixels Mysterium-X sensor, capable of capturing up to 120 frames per second. In many respects it is a high end stills camera, shooting SLR style stills 120 times a second.
So why do we need such high resolution? According to Jim Jannard, it’s all part of making the experience at the cinema something ‘big’.
“You need to see something special like the old 70mm days,” he said. “If the experience at the theater is not important, the industry loses. 5K has enough information to knock your socks off, which is the desired effect.”
Add to this the EPIC’s ability to shoot at a super-wide dynamic range – up to 18 stops – using RED’s proprietary HDRx. The EPIC actually films two image tracks ‘A’ & ‘X’ during one normal exposure cycle, an ‘A’ track for normal exposure and an X-track for highlights, hence a much shorter exposure, these can then be manipulated in post and combined into one image, either as a mix or temporally adjusted using Red’s innovative Magic Motion option.
These advancements are not lost on some of the most tech-evangelistic directors of today. James Cameron, for example, happens to own 50 EPIC cameras.
Then there’s Peter Jackson, who is currently filming ‘The Hobbit’ with EPIC cameras, in stereo, and at twice the standard frame rate.
“He’s shooting his movie at 48 frames per second giving you twice as much visual information,” said RED’s Ted Schilowitz. “He has now 30 of these cameras in multiple rigs all running around New Zealand.”
Other filmmakers, too, are pushing higher frame rates as the next cinematic evolution. Visual effects legend Doug Trumbull, known for his work on ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and ‘Blade Runner’, recently announced an upgrade to his patented high-speed, large-format Showscan film technology for the digital realm.
Although it may still take some time to convince every filmmaker to move to higher frame rates, or even to move away from shooting on old fashioned film, the technology is here and the results, according to Schilowitz, speak for themselves.
“It’s so incredibly immersive that you feel like you’re being literally thrust into the screen,” he said. “So it’s no wonder that guys like Peter Jackson are excited.”
In the meantime, Jim Jannard favors a “never-ending quest to make things better” in terms of image quality and options for the RED cameras, and suggests that consumers, not just professionals, will soon be using and watching 4K footage in their homes.
Here is an interview fxguide recorded for News Corp’s The Daily.