Mar 21

RED Scarlet-W (First Footage) – Dragons and Puppies

 

Over the past few days, I’ve been circulating some of the first footage shot with the RED Scarlet-W. There really aren’t many of these out in the wild, and as far as I know; I was one of the first to receive the camera (brain only) after switching my pre-order from the Red Raven to the Scarlet-W. As most would expect, the image is very similar to the other Red cameras, the Epic and Scarlet. Red’s Dragon sensor remains the same, so in theory the image should stay the same, right?

Not quite.

Red’s latest generation of camera bodies, which Red refers to as DSMC² cameras, include the Weapon, Scarlet-W, and Raven. Retired is the surname “Dragon” as all the new DSMC2 cameras from Red now employ the Dragon sensor as opposed to their older Mysterium-X (MX) sensor. From this point forward, saying Weapon Dragon or Scarlet-W Dragon is simply redundant, though it will be hard to drop as the industry has been stuck on “Red Dragon” for a couple years now. You’d be surprised how many calls I hear of people asking for a “Red Dragon camera,” not realizing that “Red Dragon” can either mean the Epic Dragon or Scarlet Dragon… but that’s a whole other topic.

 

DSMC² Features and Improvements

According to Jarred Land, CEO of Red, there are 7 main highlights that the DSMC2 system brings to the new cameras. This will just be a quick overview, but I’ll be going more in detail discussing each of these features as they come up.

  • Internal and simultaneous ProRes recording (with DNxHR/DNxHD coming soon)
  • Lower compression ratios for REDCODE (Red’s RAW recording system)
  • Auto Sensor Calibration (Automatic black shading)
  • 3D LUT support (32x32x32 for the Weapon, 17x17x17 for the Scarlet-W, but NO LUT support for the Raven)
  • Lighter weight and new body layout
  • Built in WiFi
  • 3rd Party Module Ecosystem

 

Ultimately, it’s up to you whether or not these improvements will be worth the upgrade for you and if these are features that you find valuable. I’ll be going into some of these features more in-depth as I discuss my shooting experience and what I found different in shooting with the Scarlet-W.

 

Compared to the original Scarlet Dragon, there are certainly noticeable improvements to image quality. With the new brain comes faster processing power allowing for lower compression. But it’s not just lower compression that gives a better image, but the collective whole of the better components and body design that allows for more efficient processing. The main thing I noticed when shooting with the Scarlet-W (after shooting with the Scarlet Dragon several times) is that it’s much less noisy than it’s DSMC1 counterpart. It’s hard to say what in the image has improved without directly compared it to it’s precursor so I will be doing comparison videos in the future between the original Scarlet Dragon and the Scarlet-W. But for now, it’s simply a matter of a much cleaner image, which trickles down to post work and gives you more room to play; you have more freedom to push the R3D files before falling apart. It’s that latitude and such large amounts of data in a small container that truly makes REDCODE such a wonderful system to work with.

 

Using the Scarlet-W (Dragon)


The Scarlet-W simply felt like the lightest, most compact camera rig I’ve ever used. I spent the day chasing a little puppy around and never once felt like it was too heavy. It really reminded me back when I used to shoot with DSLRs, I felt like I could put the camera anywhere, swing it around, and really put it in any position  I wanted. I couldn’t get over how small it was, it’s really impressive once you get your hands on it.

The build was fairly simply and contained all the necessary components to get it running:

  • Scarlet-W Body
  • Lemo Adapter A
  • Red 5″ touch
  • Red Run/Stop top handle
  • Red Brick
  • Wooden Camera Quickback 2.0
  • IDX V-mount plate
  • Leica R cine-modded lenses
  • Red 120 GB Mini-Mag
  • Bright Tangerine Misfit clip-on mattebox with Schneider IRND 1.5 for the beach shots

 

I’ve since added a Wooden Camera Easy Riser and Easy Top plate (with Pogo-Lemo ports to eliminate the Lemo Adapter) and I’ll be highlighting different build configurations in the coming weeks. For my first time using the camera though, I was very happy with my build and could see it being used on real productions with that exact configuration. I didn’t choose to add a rail mount system to add a follow focus as I just pulled off the barrel, but I could easily see one fitting nice and neatly.

 

The Shooting and Footage

 

The whole point of this shoot was to really see how the camera performed in less than ideal conditions. I wanted to push the sensor and see how well it would handle the extreme contrast of daytime conditions at the beach. For the most part, it really exceeded my expectations; there was an enormous amount of information and detail I was able to recover in the Red R3D files.

I chose to shoot with a multitude of framerates and compressions to see how they performed and cut together. I would be shooting 5K for one shot, a few seconds later I would drop to 2K 240fps, back to 4K, and back to 2K. It was all over the place and really dictated by what Oliver was doing. Constantly switching around resolutions and framerates was quite fun and I think it was assisted by the auto black shade feature of the DSMC2 system. Previously, you would want to black shade whenever you wanted to change framerates, but with the new DSMC2 bodies it’s built-in to a range of calibrated presets that are changed automatically.

The settings on the camera were:

  • ISO 800 (native)
  • 5600K
  • 180° shutter angle
  • 23.976 project base
  • Various framerates, resolutions, and compression ratios
    • 5K – 23.98 fps – 4:1, 50 fps – 9:1
    • 4K 120 fps – 13:1
    • 2K 240 fps – 8:1

 

ALL the beach footage was shot with a Schneider Platinum IRND 1.5 with a Leica R 35mm. The Schneider ND gives a distinct blue/green tint to the image. I would ride the iris to set exposure, though obviously it may not be perfect since I’m chasing around a little puppy 🙂

All clips were color corrected and graded with DaVinci Resolve. No noise reduction or post sharpening was done.

 

Post Workflow

To someone who has never worked with RED’s massive resolutions and R3D files, the post workflow for RED cameras might seem very daunting and time consuming. I personally find it very easy once you understand how to transcode your footage and edit using proxies; it’s really the only way I can get around to editing large 5K files without spending thousands on a powerful system. My PC is significantly outdated — it’s over 5 years old and I’m still running an i7-2600K processor but that didn’t stop me one bit in editing 5K footage.

I transcoded, edited, and colored all the footage in DaVinci Resolve. Redcine-X didn’t seem to work, it would constantly crash on my Windows based PC but that was fine, I’m much more comfortable with Resolve.

My workflow with all the 5K, 4K, and 2K footage is simple:

  1. Transcode all the R3D’s to 1080p or 720p Quicktime Proxies (took me 40 minutes to transcode 100 GB of R3D files)
  2. Edit using the 1080p or 720p proxies
  3. Replace the proxies with the original, full resolution R3D files
  4. Color
  5. Export for delivery

It’s that simple.

 

UPDATE:

I have made available some RAW R3D files for download:

4K 120 FPS shot of Oliver in the car: http://www.mediafire.com/download/8zo13uhcmzida3q/A001_C036_0312WQ_001.R3D

5K beach shot of Oliver sitting there: http://www.mediafire.com/download/lez4b4qog9abp3z/A001_C057_03122L_001.R3D

Have fun!

 

Click for full resolution. All clips downscaled to 1920×1080.

I think the most impressive clip that really shows of the dynamic range of the Dragon sensor in the Scarlet-W is the middle before and after with Oliver in the car. He was underexposed inside car and he was back light by the half open car window of the outside, which was overxposed. I was able to recover a significant amount of shadow detail and bring him up without the use of any power windows or anything else. There’s very minimal impact to noise even bringing up the exposure in Resolve.

The last clip of the video was a mistake with grading on my part. I went too heavy on the contrast and shifted the highlights to an awkward pink. It was 2 AM at that point and I wanted to sleep and gave it a quick 1 minute coloring job. In retrospect, I should’ve spent more time to fix it, but I included it to show that there was detail in those blown out highlights after I went up with the contrast.

Slow-motion and 2K 240 fps – Is it usable?

 

Obviously a significant amount of the video was in slow motion, it was the primary feature I wanted to test in this video. There was a mix of 5K 50 fps, 4k 120 fps, and 2K 240 fps (at 8:1 compression). To be honest, I could not tell the difference between the 5K 50 fps and the 4K 120 fps. Even though the 4K 120 fps was 13:1 compression, it was hard to distinguish which was which — it looked that good.

It’s very clear which are the 2K 240 fps shots. They are noisy, soft, and have dancing artifacts (1:05 in the video). The question is, is it usable?

To me, 2K is not a viable resolution to shoot when you’re shooting in RAW. The reason for this is because at 2K RAW, you’re cropping the sensor to such a small size that the noise and grain is amplified significantly. At 2K, you’re effectively shooting smaller than Super 16, you really can’t expect sharp and amazing performance at such a small sensor size. It didn’t come to a surprise to me, nor should it come to a surprise to you if you decide to shoot with such little sensor size. I guess one thing that was surprising was how the noise and artifacts would flicker, which was not expected.

Phil Holland creates a fantastic sensor size comparison graphic. You can see that 2K is really a fraction of the Scarlet-W’s 5K sensor.

However, if shooting ProRes, 2K is most certainly usable. Shooting ProRes downscales the 5K sensor to the ProRes resolution you are shooting, as opposed to how it crops the sensor when shooting RAW.

 

 

super16-2k

Photo courtesy of Red’s Crop Factor tool

 

 

phfx_REDDSMC2BRAINS_formatsAndFilm

Photo courtesy of Phil Holland from the RedUser forum

In Closing

If you got this far, thank you for taking the time to read this long post. I plan on writing blog posts more frequently with more videos, comparisons, and all that fun stuff that I love talking about. This is just an outlet for me to share my thoughts on gear, and as a gearhead it’s nice to have that outlet when no one else will listen.

Stay posted and please feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel where I’ll be posting my content: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCPKnsz2m0uI9JQJJXBKib3w

 

-Brian

 

About the Author:
Brian is a freelance cinematographer based out of Los Angeles, CA. He's currently a Cinematography Fellow at the prestigious AFI Conservatory.


35 Comments:

  1. Neil
    March 22, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for the elaborate article. Lot of my original questions were answered.
    I have a small question about the full frame vs the lenses that can be used. Lot of people are finding it difficult to use their existing cp2’s with the dragon 6k sensor. Are there any issues with this camera? Your thoughts?

    • Brian
      March 23, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Neil, thanks for the comment and I’m glad you found the article helpful. The Scarlet-W’s 5K sensor is almost the same size as a Super 35 sensor (it’s just barely wider) so any Super 35 lenses, including CP.2’s, should work perfectly with no vingetting. I know for a fact that even the widest CP.2 (I believe the 18mm) is compatible with Red’s 5K sensor. The 6K sensor is closer to Full Frame which, as you may know, is a sensor size most often related to still photography. Most cinema lenses were designed to cover Super 35 and Full Frame really wasn’t on their mind at the time. However, the CP.2s use the same exact glass in Zeiss’ ZF.2 full frame still lenses; it’s just wrapped in a cinema housing. So there are a lot of full frame still photography lenses that do cover Dragon 6K, including my Leica Rs, Zeiss ZF.2s and most CP.2s, but some wider Super 35 lenses do not cover Dragon 6K. I know there will be a trend to manufacture cinema glass that covers the image circle of full frame, Dragon 8K, and beyond in the near future.

    • Brian
      March 23, 2016
      Reply

      This is a great resource to see lens coverage for the Dragon 8K and 6K sensor: http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?140564-RED-Weapon-8K-Lens-Coverage-Information

      According to the chart, the only CP.2 that does not cover Dragon 6K is the 18mm. In fact, all but the 18mm covers even up to 8K.

  2. Neil
    March 23, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks Brian. Great help. Will look forward to more articles and footage.
    Cheers!!

  3. Henry
    March 24, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for the article Brian, loving your blog so far! Was wondering what made you decide to change your preorder from Raven to Scarlet-W?

    • Brian
      March 24, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Henry, thanks, I’m glad you enjoy it. I realized that the Scarlet-W will get me more for my money in the long run. I’ll be writing an article discussing my decision and the differences between the two, and my thoughts on where each camera sits in the market, so stay posted 🙂

  4. Rich
    March 26, 2016
    Reply

    Brian,

    I saw you were in HB. Do you live close? would love to pick your brain maybe have coffee sometime. Thanks!

    • Brian
      March 27, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Rich, good eye 😉 I live in LA but I go down to HB very frequently. Feel free to e-mail me at briannguyen227@gmail.com and we can set something up.

  5. Luca Di prospera
    March 27, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Brian thanks for your comments and images! I am writing from Italy, so sorry for the bad english. In these days I am really obsessed by this camera, I want to make the great step to a pro camera ( for now I used black magic cameras ). So my question is: I saw in your equipment something that could suggest me to make an investment only for the brain and not for the I/O V lock package, so I can save some money, what do you think? I saw that it’s possibile to attach an IDX V mount plate with the Wooden Camera Quickback 2.0, which model is it? And with a lemo adapter I can use an old 5 touch screen… So I had to buy also a canon mount and an sad minimag. Do you think It’s smart doing like this or do you suggest me to buy the package v mount?
    Thank you very much! I cannot wait for other footage! Bye!

    • Brian
      March 27, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Luca, thanks for reading. It’s possible to power the camera with the WC Cableless V-Mount back but you won’t have any input/outputs, such as SDI, HDMI, audio, or even a DC In. You can decide to purchase the brain only and the other accessories separately or used like I did to save some money, but you will still need to buy either the Base I/O Expander or the V-Mount I/O expander if you want it working as a proper camera with outputs. If you choose to buy the Base I/O Expander, you’ll need the Wooden Camera V-mount plate and that combination actually ends up being more expensive than Red’s V-Mount Expander module. I also suggest you go with the older 5″ touch screen; the 4.7″ doesn’t rotate like the older 5″ which is very annoying.

      • Chris
        January 17, 2017
        Reply

        Hi Brian,

        Thank you so much for the review!

        It is posible to mount the old monitor (5″) on the Scarlet-W DSMC2?

        Thank you Brian!

        • Brian
          January 17, 2017

          Hi Chris,

          Yes, you can use the old 5″ monitor. That’s the one I used. You’ll just need to get a Pogo to Lemo adapter or use the Wooden Camera Easy Top.

  6. Luca Di prospera
    March 27, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks Brian for the advice!

  7. Brett Lyon
    March 28, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for taking the time to film these tests and write all about them. Do you know when you will be posting more footage? I have been checking everyday in anticipation haha!

    • Brian
      March 28, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Brett, thanks for checking in. I have some big stuff coming in the next couple days, including complete over-under dynamic range tests and Standard OLPF vs. Skin Tone-Highlight OLPF videos and posts.

  8. Karl
    March 28, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for the insightful demo. Looking forward to more content man!

    • Brian
      March 28, 2016
      Reply

      Thanks for your support Karl 🙂

  9. Billy
    March 29, 2016
    Reply

    Thanks for the video Brian!
    Would you say that the dancing artifacts are due only to the extreme crop factor, or could a higher compression rate also introduce crazy stuff like that? At, let’s say 120 fps 4K FF 17:1?

    • Brian
      March 30, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Billy, it could really be a combination of anything, I haven’t had a chance to test those individual parameters. I do attribute it more to the crop factor though as the grain is just more prevalent in the cropped image. Compression and high frame rate certainly play a role but cropping the sensor really magnifies the grain and makes it much more noticeable.

  10. Gottfried
    March 29, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Brian, thanks for your experience. its possible to publish some raw footage (r3d) from your beach shots to play with it? still waiting for my two cams 🙂
    greetings Gottfried

  11. Arne
    April 11, 2016
    Reply

    great review! I downloaded both files to play around with them a little bit. Unfortunately the files seem to be broken somehow. I can only import them in after effects in CC and CS5 (tried it on a windows and mac). In Premiere it says that they are not compatible or broken. Tried several other r3d files and they worked great. Do you have any advice?

    • Brian
      April 11, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Arne, there is known compatibility issues with Scarlet-W footage and Premiere. Adobe has yet to patch it but I think they updated After Effects already to support it. No fix yet as far as I know.

      • Arne
        April 13, 2016
        Reply

        thanks a lot!

  12. Jeff
    April 14, 2016
    Reply

    Hello and thank you I just found some new hope- I have some of those “pushed to awkward pink” shots and I’m using red raw settings and lumetri in premiere- not resolve. I’m wondering if you may be able to help me out with these pinkish highlights- kind of stuck and on a deadline, of course- my first rodeo with red and boy did I learn a lot.. Just not enough to be satisfied with this grade yet. Any hep would be much appreciated. Please email me-

    • Brian
      April 14, 2016
      Reply

      Just move the highlights closer to yellow/white, most people seem to like neutral colored highlights.

  13. jørgen bull
    May 02, 2016
    Reply

    Hey!
    Great stuff!

    Im wondering if you have tested the camera at really low iso values (iso 50-250)? How does it perform when shooting prores at these values?

    Lets just say, I really wish this camera had internal nd-filter trays. (Not liking the motion mount)

    Keep up the great work and greetings from Norway!

    • Brian
      May 04, 2016
      Reply

      Hey Jorgen,

      Thanks for the comment. I have not tested low ISO values, I would personally never rate the camera lower than 400 ISO, and that’s if I were using the Skintone Highlight OLPF. You lose a ton of highlight dynamic range when rating your camera that low and you’re really limiting your camera.

  14. André Buurma
    May 10, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Brian,

    thanks for your great blog. Very interesting. I was surprised to read that the camera is that light. Can you tell me what the weight is? And don’t you use a viewfinder?

    Cheers and greeting from the Netherlands,

    André

    • Brian
      May 15, 2016
      Reply

      I use a viewfinder, I just haven’t purchased one of my own yet. Weight is 3.5 lbs.

      • André
        May 25, 2016
        Reply

        Thanks Brian!

  15. Minh Quan
    May 15, 2016
    Reply

    Hi Brain!
     I’m glad to read and see your footage with RED Scarlet-W. I was learning to oder this camera. The scene was great!
    Tubers your clip look like and we really wish to own such a camera.
    I was in Vietnam and served mainly for the production of the music video so need to come Slowmotion, 4k, RAW, etc … … Lets ask you some things that I am very keen for it !!
     1. This camera easy to use? it’s hot?
     (Vietnam is very hot, so I do not know affects the temperature of the machine.
    2. There should be nothing but corruption buy RED introduces combo that does not? (I’m interested in the package $ 14,500 with V-lock)
    3. If the camera can not buy this (high costs, high taxes on Vietnam, accessories expensive), you advised me to buy another camera ???
     Thank you very much !!

  16. Rich
    September 26, 2016
    Reply

    Hey I see you have some of your build out on here. I’m starting to build my cam out and need some help. Not fully sure what I need and what I can do with out. Thanks


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