The Red Experience, Part 1: The Shoot

Well, the red camera shoot, “Padded Cell” (Entitled Productions, Dir. Andrew Martin, DOP Simon Dennis), is in the can– it was a very interesting experience.

There were a few oddities about the camera itself- there is no back focus plane indicator anywhere on the camera body, so our focus puller had to manually measure where it was and mark it with a piece of tape. The record and power buttons are also very easy to press accidentally when setting up.

The camera internally numbers the clips by reel number and take. The take number is incremented every time you press record, and the reel number is incremented every time you change the flash card. However, there are a couple of things with this method that make it unreliable: first of all, the reel numbering is not consistent; there were several occasions where the number either didn’t change automatically, and even when set manually it seemed to just use whichever number it liked. The other thing is that starting and stopping the camera doesn’t necessarily imply a complete take; for instance on a few occasions we recorded a slate just before a set up, so you really need to go through and properly log everything afterwards. What all of this means is that you can potentially end up with two or more clips that have the same name (I’m looking at a few like that right now), and changing the name just in finder or windows explorer feels like a very bad idea, not least of all because the metadata is also written into the RedCode file itself, and it doesn’t appear that you can change that at all. So what I did straight away was just ignore the reel and clip numbers from the camera and number them sequentially myself. It’s also another reason why it’s critical to slate footage in some way whenever possible, or at the very least, try to log shot material soon after the shoot while it’s still fresh in your mind. We slated some of the shots in the traditional way, but I also kept a log of everything as I went along, including the reel number I’d assigned and the corresponding RedCode filename.

The only serious problem we had with the camera was right towards the end of the shoot, when we were getting errors whenever the record button was pressed, at which point it would instantly stop recording. Initially we suspected it was to do with the flash card we were using, but it turned out the camera was just overheating- 5 minutes later it was up and running again. The flash cards themselves worked well, they’re very robust as you’d suspect- all the precautions that other people have mentioned, like anti-static bags and so on, seemed completely unnecessary; in fact we didn’t lose a single bit of data from the flash cards the whole shoot.

What we did as far as saving the data was basically having a laptop with a USB flash card reader (again, contrary to what other people were saying, any old reader works fine), I would create a folder per reel (the “right” reel number as opposed to the one that the red camera said it was, and move the contents of the flash card to the folder. I moved it rather than copying it, because that way I could guarantee everything had gone across. The way Macs move files is to copy first and delete anyway, so in the event of a transfer error (there was one during the whole shoot, due to someone accidentally cutting off the power to the disk drive we were saving to…) nothing was actually lost and we could pick up where left off.

Finally each of these folders was converted to a DMG mac disk image file for various reasons, the nice thing about doing that was that you end up with a very portable read-only file per reel, which checks itself whenever you open it– and these become the original camera reels. Then it’s a matter of backing them up to tape and copying them to whoever needs them (the other nice thing abour Red is that it’s all very compact, we had just over 250GB of data for the whole shoot).

I’ve created an Automator workflow that does all of the transfer side of things automatically, but only works on Mac OS 10.5, and requires quite a powerful machine.  Grab it here… and submit feedback here…

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The next part will look at preparing the rushes for the edit.

Posted: February 26th, 2008
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Comment from Jeff - 7/13/2011 at 9:34 pm

nice article – i hear you about dragging and dropping rather than copying – waaay better!

:)

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