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RED EPIC-X: Jeremy Wiles and Creative Lab

By Heath McKnight

The RED EPIC-X (www.red.com), with its Mysterium-X Sensor sporting 5K resolution, one of the best dynamic ranges at 13.5 stops (18 with HDRx) and rated at 800 ISO, frame rates up to 120 fps at full resolution, the ability to use a variety of lenses, and you've got a camera that's made for both Hollywood and the working professional.

Peter Jackson is using the EPIC in a 3D rig for The Hobbit films, and even more major and indie filmmakers are taking advantage of RED's latest camera. We decided it's time to get to know the RED EPIC-X, and Jeremy Wiles of Creative Lab in West Palm Beach (http://www.creative-lab.com/), Florida, was more than happy to introduce us.

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As mentioned above, the RED EPIC-X's 5K resolution, at 14 megapixels and a frame size of 5120 x 2700, packs quite a punch, and makes it a great choice for shooting movies, television shows, commercials, documentaries and more. But resolution is just part of the story, because without great dynamic range, you just have a high resolution camera, not a true 35mm film replacement.

Jeremy showed us some raw footage of a darkened room with a man over a fire, and you could make out details in the blacks and the fire wasn't blown out. Try doing that with most cameras on the market, and something's going to give. http://vimeo.com/38512053

 


When Jeremy brought out the RED EPIC-X brain, I noticed just how much smaller it is compared to the RED ONE. While the RED ONE weighs 10 pounds, the EPIC is only 5 pounds. It has more heft than you expect, but it's much lighter and easier to carry around. Jeremy also said that it's much faster to build the EPIC with the lens, battery, LCD and other accessories, plus disassemble it, than with the RED ONE, making it easier for him to shoot multiple locations. Even fully built, the EPIC is light and portable, living up to its DSMC (Digital Still and Motion Capture) designation from RED.

The RED EPIC-X shoots in REDCODE, and you can shoot in 12- or 16-bit RAW, with a range of 18:1 to 3:1 compression options. Pretty much all resolutions you choose to shoot in, from 720p up to 4.5K and 5K, can handle 24p to 120p, but as you dial down the resolution, you'll get more frames per second.

For example, at 4K, you get a maximum of 150 fps, 3K you can shoot 200 fps, and 2K you can shoot 300 fps, for terrific slow motion. Peter Jackson is shooting The Hobbits at 48p, which may help push filmmaking into the next level. James Cameron has stated that higher frame rates, such as 48 fps, will give a more realistic look, but it's up to film projectors and home video players and HDTVs to support that high frame rate.

Jeremy walked me through his RED EPIC-X production and post-production workflow. He'll shoot in REDCODE RAW (.R3D), and he uses the RED 5-inch touchscreen LCD to set his compression, F-stop, resolution, shutter, color temperature and more. The EPIC boots up much faster than the RED ONE, and its fans will kick on to keep it cool, but as soon as you hit record, the fans will stop. It's seamless and sound is preserved. Jeremy can use a focus assistance in the LCD, and he tells me he'll use the histogram as well.

The EPIC records in multiple resolutions, but it's actually always shooting in 5K, but the sensor crops it to the resolution you select. It records to REDMAG SSD cards, which Jeremy easily pops out to dump to his computer and RAID.

For post-production, Jeremy puts the REDMAG SSD card into the RED STATION, which is connected to his powerful Windows system, then he copies the files over with REDCINE-X Professional, RED's software that will organize clips, allow you to "develop" the REDCODE RAW footage, make non-destructive adjustments to the color and exposure, and then he imports the .R3D files into his non-linear editor of choice, Premiere Pro CS5.5. He can get playback at half-resolution, though a RED ROCKET card will give him full 4K resolution playback.

Once he's finished editing, he can output to any format he wishes, either to a specified video codec or out to tape. Jeremy tells me he'll export a 5K video in pretty much any codec, such as QuickTime, WMV and others. He'll also export the video with H.264 using MainConcept's encoder (http://www.mainconcept.com/products/sdks/video/h264avc.html), or VideoLAN's X264 (http://www.videolan.org/developers/x264.html).

Summary

The RED EPIC-X is truly a celluloid killer, and it's being used on everything from mega-blockbusters like the upcoming Hobbit and Spider-Man films, to independent filmmakers and video producers, like Creative Lab's Jeremy Wiles. He explained to me that he started out with the legendary Panasonic DVX100, then re-invested in his company, growing to a 2600 square foot facility with a 30-foot wide cyclorama and a 24-foot wide greenscreen, plus his RED EPIC-X and a RED ONE with the Mysterium-X sensor (up to 4.5K).

He didn't go into debt, instead focusing on putting part of the money he made on projects back into his business. He also told me that he never loses sight of his skills as a filmmaker and director of photography, that the RED EPIC is just a tool, albeit an impressive one, that allows him to produce excellent films and videos. Be sure to check out Jeremy's work at http://www.creative-lab.com/ and rentals at http://www.creativelabrentals.com


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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.


Related Keywords:RED EPIC-X, 5k resolution, Jeremy Wiles, Cinematography, RED Digital Cinema, Creative Labs, 35mm film replacement, Digital Film, Film Production, Filmmaking

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