[Tig] camera thoughts (was: Re: RED workflow)

Rick Schweikert rick at fsm.com.au
Wed Apr 1 01:09:05 BST 2009

In April 2008, FSM and the Australian Cinematographers Society (ACS), as
part of the ACS 50th Anniversary - commissioned a side by side comparison
shoot using 35mm, S16mm, Genesis, F23, F900 and RED One cameras. We doubt
anything like this has been attempted before - in a public forum anyway.

Shooting over a two day period, same lighting, same locations. Tests
included bracketed exposures, compression and noise, chroma key, interior
and exterior shots ranging from bright beach scenes front and back lit with
hi contrast to interior scenes lit by candlelight.

We also analysed the exposure tests to determine the dynamic range of each

FSM scanned the 35mm at 2K rez, kept the HD footage at its native size and
scaled the Red footage to half its size (2k). Projection was via a Barco DP
100 in a theatre for 100. Subsequent demonstrations were done at FSM's DI
theatre using identical projection. Grading was via BaseLight.

The S16mm was not shown as a comparison because of severe fogging that
occurred in the lenses on the shoot. That's another story.

The results? We made no comment during the screenings, preferring to let
people decide what they liked the look of. Not very technical in that
respect, but these are all experts in their field. DPs, directors,
producers, editors - all manner of people viewed the material.

The aim was to provide our clients and colleagues with a balanced
presentation to make their own decision. Throughout the whole process the
aim was to make an "apples for apples" comparison and at the same time let
each format put its best foot forward.

We did not write a technical report as the agenda for this demonstration was
more getting an appreciation of the visual differences.

But, in my opinion - hands down the best image was 35mm. Definition,
texture, colour tone, contrast range all extremely good. Next best -
Genesis, followed by F23, RED with F900 coming in at the end. I found the
F23, RED and F900 looked like video cameras. The Genesis was probably the
nearest to 35mm. My opinion only. By video I sensed occasional burnt out
whites, lack of detail in blacks - in shots that 35mm retained all detail.

In general, others tended to lean towards the F23 as their preference after

Fast forward 12 months - we now have F35, D21 and 12 months of development
on the RED camera - and my suspicion is they all look better - but not as
good as the 35mm. We'd love to do the test again (our operators wouldn't!)

Conclusion? I'd like to say you get what you pay for, but realistically,
because the data camera workflows do add complexity to the post process and
that should cost more, the costs are not that significantly different on a
"standard" shoot. But it all becomes interesting when higher volumes of
material are required to be shot and high speed comes into play.

I don't think the public will pick the difference provided care is taken
with whatever camera is chosen. Except, perhaps, they might perceive a
difference but not understand what it is.

If you can afford it, shoot 35mm. If you can't, the options are now becoming
excellent. Two years ago, they weren't.


Rick, FSM Sydney

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