Shooting on the Red Makes Me See Red

After working as a camera assistant on several features shooting on the RED, I’ve come to the conclusion that I hate this camera. Don’t get me wrong, I think the images you can potentially get with the camera are amazing, and I understand being a director or cinematographer and reaching an agreement with a producer to shoot on the RED, because it’s HD and yet still a pretty cheap camera package. This is the part that I despise. It’s a good idea, but it’s one that hasn’t been cooked all the way through. And the cold raw chunks in the middle make my stomach want to shoot itself out my nostrils, just to ease the pain.

One of these things, is not like the others, one of these things just does not belong. Can you tell which thing is not like the others, before I finish my song?

My first sign of discomfort came upon seeing the logo for the RED camera. Yes, a reference to a Kubrick film makes sense for an up-and-coming camera company catering to the industry, but using a sociopathic homicidal computer as the basis for the logo seems like it sends the wrong message about the product.
Maybe I’m just splitting hairs here.
After a brief discussion with Baseball for Dinner management, it was decided that the team was to embark on a cinematic endeavor. Something epic. Something with class. Something way out of our price range.
We were to create a remake (all the rage with Hollywood these days, so the likelihood of the picture getting picked up was better than average, with the average being somewhere between “no fucking chance” and “when angry bees shoot out Joe Biden’s nipples”). Not just your average remake. One based on the work of a master. A remake of 2001: A Space Odyssey in 2010+ seems like a fool’s errand. You know what happens when you send a fool on an errand? You get buckets and buckets of fool’s gold, and you can take that all the way to the bank (the fool’s bank). Baseball for Dinner decided the best camera to shoot such an epic remake was, you guessed it, the RED ONE. We have sent the company an electronic mail message, outlining our plan, but as of yet, have not heard anything back. Keep your finger’s crossed if you want to see BfD’s vision on Mr. Kubrick’s vision.  Here is the message in it’s entirety (after all, we at Baseball for Dinner believe in full disclosure and transparency).

FROM: Baseball for Dinner
SUBJECT: Reinventing 2001 with the RED
Hello –

I am sending this email to you on behalf of the Baseball for Dinner collective. We are a group of bloggers & filmmakers, and have an idea for a documentary / remake of Kubrick’s 2001: A Space Odyssey. We want to shoot our version on the RED ONE, and also use the RED ONE as the new face, er “Eye” rather, of Hal. This project blurs the lines between reality and imagination, and we wanted to see if there was any way that RED could help us in this endeavor. Alas, as we are still a relatively small blog site, we cannot afford to rent equipment, but thought we might be able to reach some kind of agreement, since the end product would help promote your product. Free advertising towards an audience that actually is interested in the use of your product. Thank you for your time, and I look forward to hearing from you.

– Roscoe

But that’s not what I came here to tell you about. I came to tell you about the draft reasons why working with the RED ONE sucks when you’re the schmuck that has to build the camera, and rebuild the camera, and build the camera yet again, all on the whim of the director and cinematographer.  Part of what makes this solid state camera so alluring is the many different ways you can configure it. You can strip it down to just a body and lens so you can strap it onto a car hood, or hang it from a 20 foot tall scaffolding and makeshift stripper pole. you can also put on so many accessories, such as a work light, multiple handles, both a standard and remote follow focus, and just for shits and giggles, an espresso machine. This in it self is not a problem, but rather a quite strong selling point (so the company says). You get to relive your carefree days as a youth building stuff with Legos and Kinex, only now you get to use the end result to actually shoot a movie! The problem comes in when after spending 20 minutes building it one way, the shot is then changed and you have to pull off all the attachments and start over, all the while the Assistant Director yells at you how you’re putting the entire show behind by an hour.

Another fun gem when using the RED in extreme cold, such as I don’t know, shooting outdoors in Michigan in fucking January, you have to tape the vents shut on the bottom of the camera or else the thing won’t retain enough heat so the hard drive will start dropping frames and generally making everyone’s life a little bit more miserable. Glad I was working with people who had dealt with this particular problem before, because I would never think it would be a good idea to tape shut ventilation vents on a piece of electronic equipment.

The camera itself is pretty light, so often times it will be decided by the powers that be to shoot a sequence entirely handheld. This is fine one most camera rigs, but the RED makes it a fun little puzzle to get it to work. The normal shoulder mount is a piece of junk. Seriously. It’s a hard plastic shoulder mold that doesn’t fit on the camera very well, and when you do manage to finagle it, it puts the camera way off balance. The basic handle attachments are pretty worthless as well, most ops prefer to simply grab onto the matte box instead of the chintzy handles. You can also get a shoulder pad that attaches to the operator instead of to the camera, which works pretty well, as long as the operator doesn’t mind sporting a look out of The Road Warrior.

I think it would be quite satisfying to re-enact the seen with the copier from Office Space with a RED ONE, but I’d like to have another one recording the entire incident. Hopefully the net generation of RED cameras won’t be outfitted with a speaker, or else the robotic “They made me watch!” cries would be heard throughout the countryside, much like when that chick from Sin City had her hand eaten by Elijah Wood, but with less emotion in the voice.

And on that note, I bid you loyal readers a fond farewell. Until next time.

– Roscoe