The latest episodes of Film Riot take a look at a dream camera, the RED Epic, a camera that has been used to shoot Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, next year's The Amazing Spider-Man, and Peter Jackson's future mega-blockbuster The Hobbit. The RED Epic will also cost you around $55,000 to own, so this isn't exactly DIY material host Ryan Connolly is taking on here, and in fact he is only being loaned the camera for demonstration purposes.
An Introduction To The RED Epic Camera - Hands On
Episode 121 of Film Riot is pretty much a review of the RED Epic, and Connolly shows how easy the camera is to use, despite rumors that you would need an Epic technician on site at all times during a shoot. The Epic shoots in 24 frames-per-second and 48 frames-per-second, which Ryan compares. There isn't much difference, but at 48 fps, there is less motion blur, which Connolly feels is a bit disorienting. Peter Jackson is shooting The Hobbit using 48 fps, but apparently has learned some different techniques to make the overall image better. We'll see.
Ryan also mentions that the camera can shoot in slow motion, at 300 fps. He has a lot of fun showing various slo-mo mishaps with his on-screen foils around a pool.
RED Epic Vs. Canon 5D For Web Video
Episode 122 performs a camera vs. camera battle that isn't really fair, the RED Epic against the Canon 5D. Ryan is quick to explain that there is no contest between the two cameras, the RED Epic blows the Canon 5D away. This is like comparing a Lamborghini to a Toyota Camry. However, he wanted to see what the Red Epic footage would like like once it was compressed down into a web video. Now, you would probably never, ever buy a RED Epic for web video, but it is an interesting experiment to see a $55,000 camera go up against something that costs $50,000 less in any kind of battle.
Still, the RED Epic generally beats the Canon 5D footage in this scenario because the Epic is able to smoothly translate dark areas better than the Canon 5D. Ryan raves about the Epic's ease in performing color correction on its footage. After color correction, he's able to make the Canon 5D look at least close to the Epic footage, but it's clear this is a race the lower-end camera has no chance to win in most if not all cases.
Ryan does find one issue with the RED Epic, and that's rolling shutter. Rolling shutter is when an image is not captured in its entirety like a photograph, but scanned either horizontally or vertically, which means not all parts of the image are recorded at the same time. So with objects that move quickly, distortions show up on playback.
Here, Ryan moves the camera rapidly back and forth to show that, while the Epic is better than most cameras at combating rolling shutter, it does have some issues negating them completely. Still, the camera is pretty awesome otherwise.
A segment of Episode 122 shows how to download RED Epic footage into an editor. You can shoot 2K footage with the camera, but Ryan didn't like the cropping that produces, so he shot everything in 5K. With 2K, you can simply ingest the footage into Adobe Premiere, as it handles Epic video natively, but with 5K Ryan suggests using a free program off of red.com called RedCine X, which will compress the 5K footage into something manageable for editing software.
While many DIY filmmakers will not likely have the money for a RED Epic, Ryan's point in showing such a high-end camera is that he believes everyone trying to make it in the business should aspire to become professionals one day, and not just be hoping to do web videos forever. This means, when you learn all the things you can do with a cheaper camera, you should be able to step right in and work on the better stuff and have some idea of how it works before you get to that point.