First Impression: Red Epic-W Digital Cinema Camera
The Red Epic-W is a serious tool for filmmaking, which means it really isn’t designed to be volunteer-friendly. However, it opens new possibilities to more closely tie together a church's film, web and print presence.
One of the driving forces behind the incredible growth of media ministries is the desire of churches to compete in the arena of ideas. Rather than simply trying to one-up the church down the street, church film teams at many of today’s most forward-thinking ministries are striving to create projects that communicate spiritual concepts and ideas at a level of creativity and quality which meet or exceed the standard set by Hollywood.Over the past several years video has also begun to play a far more central role in weekend worship programming, meaning that original film content created for a single congregation may be seen by thousands or even tens of thousands on a single weekend. Strong coordination with social media channels can often mean thousands of additional views through embedded sharing. As ministry film teams become more firmly established, they’re beginning to explore the potential of original short film and documentary projects to make a real cultural impact. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the frontlines of church filmmaking. As churches embrace the unlimited potential of film to expand their reach and mission they are increasingly investing in the right tools for the job. For a number of medium-sized and larger churches across the country that means investing in cinema cameras. So when Red recently announced the release of a new camera capable of 8K-image acquisition it definitely captured our attention. While we haven’t had a chance to try one of these cameras out yet, we definitely thought the news was worth a deeper look. Power Under the HoodSince the introduction of their first camera in 2007, Red has quickly risen to become the go-to camera for some of the biggest projects in Hollywood today. Films such as The Revenant, Avengers: Age of Ultron, and The Tree of Life were all filmed on Red. Their cameras are also in high demand for television projects such as Mr. Robot and Netfilx’s Stranger Things. Fashion photographers for magazines like Vogue, GQ and Esquire have also begun utilizing Red cinema cameras into their workflows. It’s a surprisingly relevant development that we’ll look at a little later. With the release of the new Epic-W digital cinema camera Red has introduced the possibility of 8K acquisition for the first time. The ability to capture footage at this resolution is potentially groundbreaking in that it brings digital closer to the gold standard of film than ever before. Early footage from the Red Epic-W appears to be nearly indistinguishable from film; in some instances it may even be superior. “From the very beginning, we’ve strived to not only develop the best imaging technology on the planet, but also make it available to as many shooters as possible,” says Jarred Land, president of Red Digital Cinema.Filming in 8K allows end users the power to reframe shots in post while still maintaining a 4K final output. Even better, the footage captured in Raw is considerably more malleable, allowing tremendous flexibility in the post-production stage. The additional resolution opens up more possibilities for visual effects work, as well as the ability to correct accidental shakiness in the footage using digital image stabilization. A New Way to SeePowering the Epic-W is the new Helium 8K, a super35-sized sensor capable of filming in up to 17x the resolution of HD. Beyond the resolution, one of the most jaw-dropping features of the sensor is it’s promised 16.5+ stops of dynamic range. This is a similar range to the Red Dragon, which is already considered one of the very best sensors on the market. The Helium sensor is able to film up to 30 frames per second (fps) at 8K resolution. By dropping the output down to 4K, the Epic-W is able to film at 120fps for cinematic slow motion. By further dropping down to 2K it’s capable of recording to an amazing 240fps. The Epic-W can record to RedCode Raw at up to 275MB/sec, while also recording to ProRes or DNxHR/HD proxies simultaneously. Currently editing software from Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid, Final Cut Pro and Resolve all support Red footage natively. One of the most important things to understand about Red camera systems is the fact that they are modular by design. This means that while the Epic-W is the ‘brain’ of the camera, it’s designed to be paired with other specific elements in order to begin creating footage. In addition to this brain, users will need their own lens, as well as a specific lens mount. Currently Red manufactures lens mounts to support PL, EF, Nikkor and some Leica lenses. The Epic-W also requires a control panel/viewfinder, Red Mini-Mag media card and power supply to get started. For first time Red users, this modular approach can lead to some initial sticker shock. Once filmmakers get their heads around the approach they’ll start to appreciate the fact that future upgrades to the camera system are easier to incorporate, as adding or replacing one part of the rig doesn’t invalidate the rest of the camera.
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