Whilst on holiday near the Great Lakes in June, I was able to borrow Eric Kessler’s RED Epic for a few days. I messed around with the slow motion 300 FPS first thing but I really wanted to shoot a little piece with it, so we found the Great Lakes Boat Building Company online. Phoned them up and asked if we could spend two hours with them making a little film…Mike, the owner said of course!
So armed with the RED Epic with the latest firmware giving it 300FPS, 3 Zeiss CP.2 lenses a 35mm, 50mm and 85mm along with my Duclos Tokina 11-16 and my generation 1 RED Zoom 17-55 T3 we set off. Joel from Kessler Crane came along to do BTS and brought a Cineslider and a pocket jib. Both excellent tools to lift the production and work a treat with the RED EPIC. My pocket dolly would not cope with the weight of the EPIC, but thankfully the Cineslider can handle just about anything! Click on the photos for more info and pricing on them. Honestly the Cineslider is the best slider on the market, better than mine simply because it can take any camera. Mine can’t. My slider is the best compact slider!!
The concept was simple. Make a nice little film of Mike Keifer who makes wooden boats, something he can have for his website and something for me to shoot to test out the camera, but actually in a real world example. Two hours to shoot a web commercial is a real world scenario. Especially with a camera you barely know.
Lighting wise, I used almost all available light. I turned all the overheads fluorescents off. Especially with the 300fps it would have been a disaster. I did have a little 150 watt kicker that I stole from the Kessler Studio, but i only used it sparingly when I needed to pick out something, like a reflection on varnished boat etc… All the interview is available light. When shooting 300fps (about 5 or 6 of the shots are that speed) you really need 2KHZ or higher lights due to the flicker, which I learnt the hard way when I did my first camera test, throwing water at Eric Kessler.
All sound was recorded on a Tascam DR100 using a Rode NTG-2. I use the NTG-2 over the 3 with the Tascam as it takes a AA battery rather than phantom power which drains the Tascam like crazy. The 3 has better sound, but life is always about compromise. The sound effects were real even on the slow motion stuff. I simply slowed the sound down then ramped the pitch right up so it sounded right, just a lot slower!
Now I don’t own an Epic. But I have been lucky enough to shoot with some great cameras recently. Arri loaned me an Alexa for a weekend and I had a blast, lovely camera. Heavy power hungry beast though! I had to give it back of course. Eric Kessler recently bought an Epic for his Kessler Shooters and I was lucky enough to use it first. We didn’t have all the bits as they were not available at time of shipping. I had the LCD screen but no bomb EVF, no batteries, no charger. So big props to Mike Sutton of Boston Rule Camera for getting me some spare batteries and charger with rig. We actually had some stuff from woodencamera.com to mount the battery, and that worked great.
Operating the EPIC was a breeze. Seriously, and I have never shot on a RED before. The menus are very simple to operate. I shot at 23.976 and did some overcrank at 120fps and 300fps. I shot 5K for the majority of the footage and of course 2k for the 300 FPS as that’s what it drops to. One thing to remember when wanting to overcrank more than 120fps is that when you go above that and drop to 2k, you are cropping the sensor. So you may have a beautifully framed shot and think….mmmm, I want to go slower. Problem is you need to totally reposition or even change lens to maintain that frame…so take that into consideration. To be honest 120 FPS is more than enough for most stuff. The 300fps on the dust of the sander and the water looked wonderful mind! Just be careful of any artificial light when shooting that fast. You won’t see the flicker in the LCD but you will in the edit!
I did all the shots first, I used the jib mostly but only so I could easily change position of the camera quickly… it’s on the K-pod which has wheels, and with Eric as my 1st it made it very easy! The tripod we had was bloody awful. Some terrible Manfrotto thing that was NOT rated for a camera this heavy. The tripod I had with me was my Miller DS20, again not able to take the EPIC. All my proper heavy duty tripods were at home. I used the Cineslider to add some life to some of the shots. None of them motorised. All done by hand.
With the interview I wanted Mike to look into the camera to address you, us, the audience. I find a better connection with them that way. It took a few minutes, but I got him relaxed enough to do it and to repeat the questions as I certainly did not want my voice in it! I interviewed him for about 15 minutes, got the SOT that I needed and moved on. I knew when I had enough grabs, and time was of the essence. Fortunately I have had a lot of experience interviewing people so I knew when I had enough!
I was surprised that the camera didn’t devour all my batteries. In fact I only used 1! I expected it to be as power hungry as the Alexa as Vincent LaForet had warned me, but I did the whole shoot on one V lock and 1 and a half 128gb SSD cards. Not much at all!
With the piece I simply wanted to convey Mike’s obvious love of what he does in a very simple way. He made it easy for me – his love for it was so obvious and that he was an easier interviewee.
What took me the longest to do in the edit once again was find the right music. I tried loads of stuff I had licensed and I even had Olly Knights of Turin Brakes send me some acoustic guitar tracks that were wonderful but didn’t quite fit. I have been struggling for days due to the music. Once you find the right music, the edit clicks. Fate intervened when famed Canadian Patrick Moreau wrote to me to let me know about www.withetiquette.com. The idea of it is that they have real artists that make real music, and you can license it for a reasonable amount of money. It gives these new artists a break and gives you some fantastic music. The license for this piece by Drew Barefoot was just $99 for 5 years. A pretty good deal. As soon as I heard it I knew. I actually gravitated to it as soon as I opened up the site! Music is so important!
The camera is pretty aptly named. Epic. A joy to use and of course makes me want one. It’s a lot of money though but you get a lot with it. So a lot of thought would need to go into that before taking the plunge. But from these results…yes I want one!
Now could I do this with any of my other cameras? My DSLRs, my F3 or my AF101. Well of course the content would have been exactly the same. Just different image. The 300fps of course would have been impossible. The 60p out of the Canons I hate due to the moire and aliasing. The 60p in the F3 and AF101 is pretty good but it’s still not 120fps, let alone 300fps. Twixtor would have helped a little but no comparison.
The image out of the EPIC is stellar. As you would expect. Is it THAT much better that the others? For the web it is obviously not really going to shine as much as if I projected it at the Leicester Square Empire cinema. Then we would see how incredible that image is. The F3 is still a really great camera though and this has not at all put me off it. I look at the image from my recent short on the F3, Insipiens and I still love it! Even if I owned an EPIC I know I would still probably use the F3 half the time. Mainly because it’s a lot easier for most companies to cope with the workflow than from a RED for now! How about DSLRS? Yes, still capable of incredible images. Let’s not fool ourselves though. They won’t compete with an EPIC for video, nor should they. Different tools for different jobs. I shot with the GH2 just ten days ago with one single lens (I will post that soon) and the image out of it was amazing. There is no way I would have used an EPIC on that shoot for instance. Out on a boat…water…EPIC…scary.
So yes it was an absolute joy shooting with the camera and I can’t wait to again! Oh…and the RAW gave me so much room to play in the edit. I didn’t use HDRX. I wanted to learn to walk before I ran. This is also the first piece I cut with Premiere CS5.5. Am nowhere near as fast with it as FCP7 and no I didn’t edit using the native RAW files. I converted them first in RED CINE X as my MBP couldn’t cope as it doesn’t have the correct video card in it…I do have an HP Elite workstation with an Nvidia card so I could use that. I just am so used to the way the Mac works…if I end up getting an EPIC I will get a RED ROCKET. Real time conversion…yum!
I am lucky in that I love what I do. I love to shoot. Give me any camera and I am happy. But give me a EPIC to shoot with and I am over the moon! This was my first shooting with any RED, let alone an EPIC and it was inspiring. The camera really is gorgeous and it is capable of so much, I didn’t even come close to scratching the surface with it…
Shot on the RED EPIC
Music by Drew Barefoot “Enjoy the calm”
Courtesy of withetiquette.com