Does it really matter what camera you use?


Does it really matter what camera you use?

This is a question I’ve always considered the answer to be “No” to, and I honestly still believe this. Ive seen some of the best travel films made with the simplest and cheapest of DSLR cameras that range in price from £1’000 to £3’000. So why on earth would we go and spend in excess of £30’000.00 on a Red Camera.

Well that’s a very good question, one that I too have often asked myself… But every time I shoot with this camera and see the images it produces, every single penny is justified. Not just that, but as a filmmaker, I finally enjoy looking at the images I capture. It was very common for me, in the past, to feel as if the subject I was shooting, was not being done justice by the quality of the camera I was using.

I know a lot of travel filmmakers will at this point stand up and shout about films like Watchtower of Turkey and how this was filmed with a £1’000 camera. The thing is, those kinds of films that are littered with quick cuts and fast transitions, for those kinds of films it really doesn’t matter what camera you use. The shots are generally on screen so quick, the viewer doesn’t even have time to notice pixels or latitude (how much you can see in the light and dark parts of the images)

Personally I’ve never been that interested in creating travel films like that. Don’t get me wrong, they are awesome and I love the style, but ever since getting into film and photography, it’s the beautifully cinematic content that has always captured my attention the most, and more times than I care to count, those films have been “shot on Red”

So what’s the point and why would you need 8K resolution camera, when most web content is still displayed in 720P and 1080HD?

Two reasons … Downsampling and Future-proofing.

So Most of you out there know all about HD and 4K. The Red Epic W is capable of capturing 8K video, 16 times greater than HD.

Downsampling is simply all about shooting at a much higher resolution, and then cramming all that wonderful detail into a smaller image size. It just makes everything pop.

Future Proofing our content now means that this content will still be usable and perfectly adequate for marketing purposes 5-10 years from now. A very large portion of our work comes from repeat business and clients that request further pieces of social media content, brand films that contain archive footage, and the popular “look how far we’ve come film” These could be requested anywhere form 2-20 years later, so shooting the highest possible content now, means this content will still serve a purpose decades from now.

Another wonderful benefit of shooting at higher resolutions is the ability to pull still images straight from video. Many times in the past, we have been asked by clients if they can get a few still images from our video content. Unfortunately taking a still image out of and HD video clip, means you will end up with a 2 Megapixel still photo.

Shooting in 8K means we are able to pull out 35.4 Megapixel images from any point in the video. That’s the same resolution as high end photography cameras.

Here’s a few frame grabs from some content we filmed out in the Galapagos and South Africa recently.

The next big argument most people would have against investing this type of money in a camera system would be that “typically” Red RAW footage is of such high quality, that’s practically impossible to edit.

Again, this is something that Red Digital Cinema has taken into account and allowed us to simultaneously film the full Red RAW content, as well as smaller HD Prores LT proxies (Which are essentially just smaller file size copies of the original clip) It actually makes editing much easier that with any other system I have ever used. Here’s a little tutorial video illustrating just how easy it is to edit Red footage.

Another issue that puts a lot of people off of this type of camera is the very high data rates. In order to capture 8K resolutions and slow motion at 100 frames per second at 6K or 120 frames per second at 5K, the amount of data you capture is pretty ridiculous. As an example, we used to come back from a 1-2 week shoot with around 500 Gigabytes of video and photos. These days it is not uncommon for me to capture around 1Terabyte of footage in a single day. This does mean we require bigger and more storage hard drives on location, but hard drives are getting smaller and cheaper by the day. Currently a 4Tb storage drive is around £100.00. Thats not a lot to ask if you are serious about creating beautiful travel content.

For long term storage we have actually gone old school and now use LTO tape systems. Basically big cassette tapes that allow you to store 6Tb of content for anywhere between 20-30 years. We still choose to work off of large Raid systems that are much easier to access and edit from, but for long term storage and backup, LTO tape is still by far the most secure and affordable way forward.

So hopefully that answers your questions about why on earth we would spend that kind of money on a camera. It certainly is a lot for a small travel film company, but I do still firmly believe that it doesn’t matter what camera you use, at the end of the day it’s all about the story.

Here’s a small taste of some of the stories we told in the first 6 months of owning a Red.