Do I Need a RED Cinema Camera?

Do you need to film on a RED digital cinema camera? 

Like most questions…it depends.

There are many considerations, and I can’t address them all at once, but I have some essential pros and cons I’d like to share below – let’s start with the downsides:

CONS

#1 – Size

If you’ve grown accustomed to a smaller form factor ergonomic friendly camera – the first thing you’re gonna notice is this thing is a tank, and it’s heavy, bulky, and if you’re shooting handheld, start hitting the gym because you’re gonna need some biceps. The larger size also requires bigger gimbals, tripods, bags, and much more.

#2 – Clunky

I am more of a run and gun cinematographer – and so the fact that it takes 1 minute to boot up is sometimes problematic. Also, if you’ve enjoyed the luxuries of autofocus and internal stabilization, you will not find those features here.

#3 – Price

Obviously these cameras are very expensive, and all the accessories are also very expensive. The 480GB Mini Mag card alone was $1500. My pretty minimal and stripped down setup is about $30,000 all in, and they can get much more expensive than that.

PROS

So why is this clunky beast still my A-cam? Well, there are a few big positives.

#1 – Raw Files

These shoot raw, and I love the raw r3d files.

These files give so much flexibility in post to change almost everything relating to the image, color, ISO, etc., and they playback and edit so smooth in premiere, no proxies necessary (depending on your workstation of course).

#2 – Color

The color science is just superior. Right out of camera. Its just better than what I’ve ever been able to get with other cameras. I understand there are many other great options and LOG options that can produce really great color in post, but for the sake of this point, the color right out of the RED camera is king.

#3 – Rolling Shutter

No rolling shutter on those fast movements and subjects. Subtle but significant. In my first few years of filming, I used to never care or notice this until it was pointed out to me. It is important.

#4 – Cool Factor

This one seems silly, but here is a cool factor with holding a red.

As a filmmaker and director, I have experienced the different perceptions when i walk into a set with a small camera vs. this beast. The RED commands respect. 

#5 – Dynamic Range

Lastly, and i would argue maybe most importantly: Dynamic range is #1 in the industry. 

Trying to pinpoint why a certain film just looks better and more cinematic is difficult to articulate sometimes, but I would say the majority of the time its dynamic range, that is, how well can you see the shadows and the highlights in a shot. 

Let me put it as simply as I can: Cameras struggle to see and balance the light of what our eyes can actually see, but the red cameras get close. Closest. 

Conclusion

So in conclusion. There are pros. There are cons. If you’re wanting to film super high end ads and land high paying gigs, you need to consider renting or buying this camera. If not, honestly stick with the smaller cameras, they are so affordable, and so good, and very so user-friendly.

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