RED Digital Cinema’s cameras are legendary in the industry for their ultra-high resolution imagery. The newest addition to their arsenal is the 6K Epic Dragon with a sensor that has nine times more resolution than “standard” high definition. As the flagship of RED’s product line, this camera is already taking cinema to unparalleled heights.
RED 6K Epic DragonFEATURES
Having a 6K camera in your hands for the first time can be daunting. The 19-megapixel sensor (6144 x 3160) boasts 16.5 stops of dynamic range to provide a rich spectrum of detail. With a stunning degree of latitude that preserves the darkest blacks and brightest whites, the Dragon gives you the freedom to compose a dynamic and visually satisfying image.
In addition to capturing pristine imagery, the camera is also capable of a myriad of variable frame rates, allowing the capture of high-quality slow motion. You can shoot at up to 300 fps in 2K, 200 fps in 3K, 150 fps in 4K, 120 fps in 4.5K and 5K, and 100 fps in 6K. With a variety of REDCode Compression ratios at your disposal, you can also craft a visually lossless image with storage space to spare.
Another advantage of shooting on RED is the versatility of the RAW linear color space that allows you to make metadata changes well after you’ve completed shooting. As the additional color and gamma space information is not baked on to the RAW file, you have the freedom to change ISO, color temperature and other visual aspects in post or in-camera. You can apply any number of looks to your image that can be shared among multiple devices.
The camera weighs only five pounds and RED has also recently released a lightweight carbon fiber version, which is nearly a pound lighter and is making a huge impact on the burgeoning aerial cinematography industry. There are multiple options for viewing your work in-camera: the RED Touch LCD screen (available in 7- or 9-inch versions) and electronic view finders (OLED or LCOS EVF). You can also use an external monitor via the HDSDI or HDMI ports.
Power options also come in many flavors, with AC powering being the easiest. However, the battery options are also worth mentioning. REDVolt batteries are housed within the DSMC side handle (one battery at a time) and last around 25 minutes. You can also use RED brick batteries, which will power the camera for well over two hours. In our evaluation of the camera, we used a third-party V-Mount battery that lasted about four hours.
There are also a plethora of additional options such as mounting plates, rails, adapters, along with several other accessories to help flesh out your kit. The camera was designed with modularity in mind so that you can configure the camera for everything from lightweight run-and-gun shooting to broadcast to studio. Complete technical specs, product configurations and more information can be found on www.red.com.
Files created by the camera are known as R3D, which is the native codec of RED cameras. The RED DSMC (Digital Still and Motion Cameras) use both 1.8-inch REDMAG SSD cards, as well as MINI-SSD cards, which are 50 percent smaller and 30 percent faster than the 1.8-inch iteration. These 1.8-inch SSD cards are available in 48, 64, and 240 GB capacities and the MINISSD cards come with 512 GB of storage.
Once you’ve completed your shoot, what are the options for post-production?
RED offers a free grading program known as REDcine-X, which is available at the “downloads” area on their website. REDcine-X allows you to adjust the composition of your footage from color and curves to overall exposure. Minor or major adjustments may be made and then exported to your editing software (in my case Final Cut Pro X). The R3D codec is now natively supported in many nonlinear editing programs such as Final Cut and Adobe Creative Cloud.
With this much technology and capability on hand, the most difficult part is how to best use the EPIC Dragon in the field, which is exactly what I and my class attempted to do.
I only had access to the Epic Dragon for a few days, limiting the time for conducting different shoots in different environments. Our package was valued at around $50,000 and included the 5-inch LCD, RED Pro Zoom, REDVolt batteries, V-mount Adapter and four TB of SSD storage cards. My students were eager for the impending arrival of the loaner package, with some 64 people wanting to get some hands-on time. Once the package was assembled, we discovered how easy it was to navigate with the RED Touch LCD. The touchscreen vastly improves the selection of choices that can be made in a timely manner; however the DSMC side handle proved to be a bit more difficult as a user interface.
We had several scenario scripts available with actors to shoot in 2K through 6K. With so many people vying for an opportunity to use the camera, the introduction and overview session lasted four hours. The greatest interest in this initial session was high-speed use. The 6K option took a back seat to the highest frame rate of 300 fps. Anything and everything that could be shot at this high frame rate was captured, from backflips to staged combat. The immediate playback had each student instantly wanting to see what he or she had just captured.
The real test came when my cinematography class shot a six-minute continuous take of an actor in 5K. Having the actor turn slightly as the camera dollied around him in expanding circles, the class mastered rack focus in three takes. We shot in 5K RAW and the footage was edited in Adobe Premiere CC, with DaVinci software used for color correction. Due to our older MAC processors, we suffered a bit during the transcoding process; however, the end footage still looked great. The final result is available for viewing on YouTube at http://youtu.be/A4zeGj3tHKY.
The Epic Dragon lived up to all of our expectations and more, providing the best possible capture; the only other ingredient needed is a killer script.
The RED Dragon camera is really one of the highest quality 6K cameras available. With all of its shooting capabilities, you can easily obtain the “Hollywood look” in your productions.
Chuck Gloman is an associate professor and chair of the TV/film department at DeSales University. He may be contacted firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image capture in 6K, 5K, 4K, 2K or ordinary HD
Multiple shooting formats and frame rates and high-quality import and export
Package at tested: Epic-M RED Dragon body, $32,500; Red Touch 5-inch LCD screen, $1,600; DSMC side handle, $950; REDVolt internal battery, $390; REDmag Mini-Mag 512 Gb SSD, $4,900; REDPro zoom Lens (18-50 mm), $4,750
RED Digital Cinema