In thinking about writing a few thoughts on using the RED MX (and the Canon 7D) for The Foundation For A Better Life TV spot in China, I decided I wanted to write something about the whole process, not just the cameras we used and how they performed… so I though I’d make a few comments about the organic process of using these cameras, or any camera. (For a really good technical evaluation of the RED ONE and the MX, see “Filmmakers Forum,” American Cinematographer, Aug 2010 for an excellent article written by ASC member, Steven Fierberg).
In fact in trying to write about this process, it reminded me about the fact that all cameras, formats, films stocks, etc., are just tools, and thinking that one or the other can be the next “answer” is to me, the wrong way to think about this, but we all get caught up in it. So much of what’s out there about these cameras can be based on fad and cool, along with technical specs… but are they always the correct choice? (I read something recently where a person said that they’d rather see what Vilmos Zigmond shot on a cell phone camera than what most others shot on the latest and greatest digital gear)… and there is some truth in that, as it points out the differences in how some of us see the world vs. others.
It is a process applied with that persons particular eye, thoughts and experiences, the way they see the world and what they are wanting to create, and less about the device in which they are using. Yes there are advantages to the different processes and when working with budgets, these things can come into play, but I think over all it’s more about the way it’s thought about and put together… and created. Example, if you can work faster to create more shots; get more of what you need to tell the story, then that might be a reason to use one camera system over the next… and that was partly the motivation for our choices… (see my previous post)… and yes the cameras out there today all look pretty good in their own way, so again any one choice could have been used to make this commercial… but I felt with RED’s new MX sensor, and the 7D sensor, that we could achieve the feel that we were after while also keeping it light and quick, as the lighting was a fairly large process already… and coupled with the fact that we had an international star (Lang Lang) for a short period of time.
And even though the fact that the new RED ONE MX is better in low light than their original sensor, (it does have better color depth, resolution with less noise) and when choosing the correct lenses to match the new sensor, and the look is much improved over the original RED ONE I feel, we had to create the light for the setting in the theater anyway, so we weren’t necessarily in need of shooting in low light… but I could see that the darker areas of the images had less noise… especially when shooting with tungsten light on a daylight based sensor. The RED ONE loved contrast and that’s how they in part created resolution, and the original camera was better suited to edgier looks, but that’s not what we were creating here. We were going after a softer look in the feel (not sharpness), but with good contrast and shooting directly into hot theatrical lights that you would experience in a concert theater setting… to help create the emotion of an important event like a concert setting. (The Canon does a good job with that as well when using the right lenses and filters).
Creating any image is a blend of ideas, locations, talent, sets, props, and creating any image in any given moment mainly comes from prep, inspiration and a look pre-visualized, and most of that look comes from the choices made up front; color, mood, light and tone. All of the above mentioned tools (from film to digital) render these collections of choices in different ways… not better or worse, just different.
So much of what happens out there today is about the tools in this process… so I thought I’d try and write about my perspective on this topic, but from a different angle.
I thought about including all of the specs here, but this seemed counter to what I’m talking about…
So we used the RED ONE MX and the Canon 7D, several different lenses, a few different filters, varied exposures, jib arms, 3 Axis heads, handheld, many lights, gels, colors, sweat, the talents of several people, our experiences, our eyes and our brains.