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Reliability of Red cameras?

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Gareth Randall
Reliability of Red cameras?
on Mar 22, 2011 at 10:36:37 am

I've got an upcoming project that I was thinking about shooting on the Red, but at an HDCAM shoot a few days ago I had a long conversation with my DoP and camera assistant that has made me unsure.

Basically, the view of both the DoP and CA was that Red cameras shoot lovely pictures, but are unreliable and twitchy - "You breathe too hard on the battery and the camera goes down". They said that when features are shot with them, they have "dozens" of backup Reds available at a moment's notice to cover failures.

They had numerous stories of dropped/corrupt frames and of data being lost. The CA said that he had several experiences of playing back rushes through the camera, removing the card and connecting it to a computer and finding all the data gone.

Consequently, he said that his company had started to make it a policy to refuse to allow any playback of rushes before the data had been backed up, with directors or clients who insisted on immediate playback through the camera being required to take full responsibility for any subsequent data loss.

They both said that they've got no fundamental problem with the concept of the Red, they weren't "real film protectionists" or anything like that, it's just that they perceive that there are significant reliability concerns with the camera as it stands at the moment.

So how much truth is there in these opinions?



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Gunleik Groven
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Mar 22, 2011 at 11:28:20 am

So, I am currently supervising two 9 month continuos shoots on R1, well 5 months into one, two months into the second and have experience from TV series and features on RED.

And that sounds strange.

I'll do it point by point:

Batteries.
Yup. This was an issue back in 2008. The RED original batteryplates were not good, but were also replaced at no cost by RED back then.

The RED batteries gets worn down in the contact, Globalmediapro and others make RED compatible (in the sense that the % shows up) batteries with much better mounts. Any rental should have a good batterysolution. New RED batteries are fine, too...

Backups
As you shoot to disks/SSDs/CF cards which will eventually should be re-used, you need more than one copy when you copy to new disks. Disks will eventually die, no matter what. If that's today or in 10 years, the day is inevitably approaching. But this is NOT a RED only issue.

That said, if you have good routines, you should not have any issues. I have lost exactly 1 frame due to copyissues since march 2008, and that was how I became aware of them.

Use r3d manager for copies, and do an offline transcode before formatting any media. So far, for that receipe has been 100% foolproof for me.

Cards have had more copy issues than harddisks and SSDs. That is mostly due to CF readers going warm, it seems. Either have more readers available... or wait... :-)
REDs CF reader comes with a stamp of approval from the manufacturer and has been used on amongst other productions Pirates of the Carribean on thousands of copies without issues.

The playback "problem"
I never lost any data due to in-camera playback and I have never heard about that before.
BUT a while a go (like 2+ years) there were issues with the camera hanging up on playback.
Almost had forgotten thatone.

This sounds like FUD.

It is good advice to bring an experienced DIT to the table. That is not a guy dragging and dropping files, but with good knowledge of file-based production, what equipment you need and hopefully a good trackrecord and knowledge of the camera of your choice.

The issues you list all sound user-inflicted.

Cheers!

gunleik


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Gareth Randall
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Mar 22, 2011 at 1:36:13 pm

Interesting, thanks.

I think it's a bit unfair to suggest that they were trying to spread FUD. These are professionals who have used Red a lot, giving me their personal opinion. It does not benefit them to turn me away from using it.

It's possible that part of their caution about Red is related to the fact that we're all based in the United Arab Emirates, where technical support for Red is apparently non-existent. Any problems and the cameras have to be sent back to Europe to be fixed, and there is also nowhere to get any accessories at short notice should you need them - by contrast, if you need service or spares for HD and film cameras, you can get it straight away here.

What's your take on the opinion that TV and features cover themselves against camera faults by routinely insisting on having numerous Reds on standby as backups? How many Reds do you have immediately available for your projects should the main camera go down?



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Uli Plank
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Mar 22, 2011 at 5:48:44 pm

I've had a Sony 750 HDCAM going down in Morocco. The replacement had to be sent from Europe while the talents and crew had to be paid and were sitting around the pools in their hotels…

So, without backup you're never safe! But a spare RED body comes pretty cheap.

Plus, do you get enough HDCAM tapes in the UAE these days? The Tsunami in Japan has stopped their production too!

Director of the Institute of Media Research (IMF) at Braunschweig University of Arts


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gary adcock
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Mar 22, 2011 at 2:10:23 pm

[Gareth Randall] "Red cameras shoot lovely pictures, but are unreliable and twitchy - "You breathe too hard on the battery and the camera goes down""

Gareth, this was an issue more than a year ago, and most of the early cameras that suffered from that malady have been fixed, note that using an MX version of the camera would insure that issue has been at least looked at.

"They said that when features are shot with them, they have "dozens" of backup Reds available at a moment's notice to cover failures."

its not uncommon to have backup cameras on set, Dozens and dozens sounds a tad overblown. Again the latest of the MX models are far more reliable than the first RedOne models.

"The CA said that he had several experiences of playing back rushes through the camera, removing the card and connecting it to a computer and finding all the data gone"

This issue unfortunately is true and being worked on, playback should be handled from the DIT or Data Station. In theory playing back from any device should not affect the file, I know that RED has been actively working on the issue, but in reality, the bigger question is why is your production not using video assist for playback if you need to review content, playing back from tape has long been a long time no-no due to TC breaks, playback wear on the heads etc...


Gareth,
if the tools were as unreliable as you were led to believe, they would not be used on as many features as they are.
So while every thing you were told was true at some point in time, the fact is that RED's cameras are used on a huge number of features. Social Network, Fair Game, Book of Eli, the upcoming Spiderman re-release that is shooting now. RED has diligently worked to maintain quality and solve issues on hundreds of productions, hire the right people, and your issues will be lessened to a great degree.

gary adcock
Studio37

Post and Production Workflow Consultant
Production and Post Stereographer
Chicago, IL

http://blogs.creativecow.net/24640



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Sam Roberts
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Mar 22, 2011 at 10:31:20 pm

Yes the batteries are terrible. I had a lot of trouble with my battery belt clip battery holder basically shutting the camera off every time I took it off the tripod to go hand held. RED refused to fix it as did my local dealer. Told me to buy a new one even though it is probably just a loose wire or bad contact.

So I would go with Anton Bauer or some other battery brand. Other than that in 3 years I haven't had a lot of problems. The odd green screen on a few frames now and then but that's it. Thing is built like a tank. It is a good idea though, to back up your images before you start playing them back for clients or Directors.



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Noah Kadner
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Mar 27, 2011 at 7:16:59 am

Yeah most folks who say this sorta stuff haven't had much hands-on experience with RED. Is it a perfect camera system with zero flaws- of course not, same as any camera. Is it reliable- absolutely, in the right hands. I'd look for another DP if this is the camera system you want to use. 'Dozens' of backup reds for a feature is obvious hyperbole.

Noah

Unlock the secrets of 24p, HD and Final Cut Studio with Call Box Training. Featuring the Canon 5D Mark II and 7D.


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Justin McAleece
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Apr 17, 2011 at 2:12:19 am

Batteries/plates used to suck. They're fine now. I've never lost any frames unless the power went down for one reason or another and I knew I was going to lose that clip. The firmware should be updated periodically. That is always a good habit. The camera is pretty solid compared to in the beginning but it does act like a finicky computer on occasion.

Justin McAleece
Production Manager

Video Production





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Larry Johnson
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Apr 6, 2014 at 5:41:53 am

"Is it a perfect camera system with zero flaws- of course not, same as any camera. Is it reliable- absolutely, in the right hands. I'd look for another DP if this is the camera system you want to use. 'Dozens' of backup reds for a feature is obvious hyperbole"

So, it's been a long time since this topic has been covered but I think it's the right time to talk about it again, especially when you see that there was no Red Cameras used on the Oscars Nominees this year.

Why ? Because they are the most unreliable cameras out there.

You said that the Red have issues as any other cameras and the truth is NO. Arri cameras does not have data corruption, data loss or drop frame issues, neither do the Sony cameras, the Canon ones, the Panasonic ones..

The only cameras with these issues are the Red.

And you will continue to say that others cameras can have these issues. Yes they can, if you stupid enough to take out the card or the SSD out of the camera while it's still powered on. Otherwise you won't have these problems which is not the case with the Red as these problem can occur any time for any reason even though you took care to do everything right.

This is why there's less and less high profile shooting with Red, there's too much money in stake, even at Hollywood.

Like I said, other camera manufactures does not have these anormal issues...

And with the NAB 2014, we will see Arri present a 4K and a 6K camera on a 65 mm sensor, that will lead Red to its end, they've done good things, but I'd rather shoot in HD with a camera that will never let me down.

It's like computers, look at the new mac pro, at it full config, the thing will cost 10 000 $, for the same spec HP is selling its computers 17 000 $ and they are unreliable because they are PC. So why pay more for something that will end up to be completely f***ed up ?

In this case of money, the sony F55 with 4K RAW is cheaper than a Red Epic 5K RAW, it's more reliable ,actually let met rephrase this, it does never bug...

In 15 years of shooting, the only cameras I've seen failing are the Red, I've had no problem with other cameras whatever the manufacturer. My old Sony DV still work !!!! The old Sony DCR-PC2E still work man !! Let's see in 10 years if you Red Epic is still there and then we'll talk.

Sorry if you found me aggressive but I can't stand this fanboy attitude anymore, to all of you stop focusing on a particular manufacturer and face the facts : Only the Red have problems .
Period.


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David Battistella
Re: Reliability of Red cameras?
on Apr 6, 2014 at 10:52:34 am

I can only speak from experience.

I have a lot of hours on my EPIC X number 111. A lot.

I have recorded terabytes of data both for myself and my clients. I have not lost a minute of shooting time with my EPIC. Not one hour. I have not lost a single frame. Not one dropped frame. It has been, for me and from my experience, a very reliable camera system.

I have heard about people having problems and cameras going down. I have also heard about this. Maybe we hear about this more because there might be more cameras out there or a more vocal camera purchaser. A person with a problem with an ALEXA does not tend to take to internet forums.

I'm not sure about other peoples problems, but I haven't had that issue with my EPIC.

Once, with the RED ONE MX on a large commercial shoot we went to the backup camera. Why? The sound recordist put a toothpick into the fan gate to stop the noise on a 32 degrees set. Naturally, the was an overheat and shutdown. That was the only real problem I ever had with a RED camera.

Battistella

______________________________

http://www.bottegabattistella.com/blog/


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