As 2013 comes to an end, many of us are starting to think about fresh starts and goals for the New Year. For most, 2014 will mean expanding and upgrading gear or even taking a leap of faith. Personally, I’ve taken a very counter-intuitive leap of faith. I sold the most expensive video asset that I've ever had: My RED Scarlet.
(Disclaimer: Before I get too far. I want to remind you to take everything I’m saying with a grain of salt. I hope that hearing my story will inspire you to ask questions and start a dialog about the gear-choices you make.)
The Back Story
When I started my video company, Innovate Imageworks, in 2010, I shot with Canon DSLRs. I started with the t2i and quickly moved up to the 5D Mark II. These DSLRs are revolutionary tools that opened doors to people like me. My clients have always loved the look of my DSLR footage and have never had issues with lack of quality. In hindsight, I would be sitting on a fairly sizable chunk of money right now if the 5D was still my main camera (but where’s the fun in that?).
By 2012, I began to feel the need to separate myself from fellow DSLR shooters. Work was going well and I could afford to make a major camera investment. As my gear-lust grew, a few newly-released cameras caught my eye.
It was the innovation and undeniable cool factor that lead me to the RED cult. The Scarlet was an indie-filmmaker’s dream. Suddenly I had access to the same camera that many big-budget Hollywood crews were using. I drained my bank account and bought a Red Scarlet.
I’m glad that I was booking so much work, because I definitely needed the income. I remember hearing filmmaker Philip Bloom refer to the RED Scarlet as a gateway drug and he couldn’t be more right. Suddenly a $16,000 investment grew much larger. My DSLR gear needed to be upgrade to support the RED, so I invested in a new steadicam rig, jib, slider, batteries, handles and many, many external harddrives.
(Photo by Jon-Mark Wiltshire)
The Scarlet blew my 5D out of the water in terms of resolution and cinematic image. I may have bought the RED because of its hype, but I quickly realized that many clients were hiring me because of that same hype. The RED was more than a camera; it was a status symbol.
My content suffered. Plain and simple. I began to prioritize pixels instead of content. Suddenly loading in gear, setting up shots, editing and delivering the final product became a much longer process. This isn’t to say that I believe everything should be shot run-and-gun, but there is a certain laziness that hits me when I’m holding a RED camera. I find I’m far less eager to grab the RED and capture a quick candid shot.
I also found myself disappointed with the color I got from the camera. I acknowledge that the RED team does an amazing job of updating their color science and releasing new firmware regularly, but I never felt the RED color matched my style. I’m sure that RED’s new Dragon sensor will be incredible, but it just isn’t worth another 5-figure investment for me.
When Canon released it’s c100 many people wrote it off because of it’s AVCHD codec and awful viewfinder. If you look at the specs, the c100 is a huge downgrade in almost every category. The RED beats it out for resolution, codec and dynamics range. I pegged the c100 as a documentary camera that would have sub-par image quality.
This all changed when Stillmotion jumped on the c100 train. I have a huge amount of respect for Patrick and his team and instantly became interested in the camera. Soon after I saw some of Joe Simon’s c100 work. Joe mentioned that he was able to effortlessly change over from a DSLR workflow. I was sold.
After using the c100, I realize how wrong I was. In my opinion, the Canon C100 is the best of both worlds:
A sharp and dynamic image in a compact body with professional audio inputs and amazing battery life/record time.
(Photo by Jon-Mark Wiltshire)
The RED Scarlet is easily one of the best cameras to come out in the past 5 years. The fact that I owned and shot with the same camera as Peter Jackson or David Fincher without going into debt is incredible. That being said, I feel that the RED wasn’t a good fit for me and hurt my creativity and content.
I’ve learned that you should buy a camera based off of your own needs, not your idols’ needs. Movies like The Social Network may look amazing, but owning a RED doesn’t mean that your footage with look anything like David Fincher’s. Sometimes less is more. In my case, I’d much rather shoot with a $6,000 rig than a $20,000 rig.
(Quick A/B test I did between the two cameras)
After owning the c100 for a month, I made the choice to sell my RED last week. Not necessarily to pocket the extra income, but to help simplify my approach and focus on creativity and content going into 2014. I couldn’t be more excited.
I know that many of you have the same gear lust that I did and it may be the best choice you ever make. I just hope that you’ll take a second to clearly identify your needs: from complex things like image quality, to “little” things like battery life.
Good luck with your next big purchase!
Make sure to leave a comment below or find me on Facebook and Twitter
It's the third time that I say that what suits my needs may not work for others. I never shoot documentaries. And I if I had to do so with a bmcc (but I would obviously pick another camera) I would just record Prores on the SSD. In fact SSD are cheaper than CF if you consider the price per Gigabit. And if it is still to expensive for you, just equip a panasonic G6 with decent audio and cheap SD cards.
the difference i think, is that a lot of young filmmakers, myself included, started out shooting on cf cards, so the c300 seemed like a no-brainer because i was already deeply invested in cfs prior to purchasing that camera.
I agree with Martin.
As anyone else that is also photographer, I know the difference between shooting JPEG and shooting RAW. Shooting RAW gives more latitude, and has more info. It takes longer to get a final product, but it is well worth the extra time.
I understand that the process is much longer when shooting RAW video, but having someone on our team that can color grade it will step your quality up quite a bit.
Now, I understand your position, and if shooting RAW makes you lazy because of the process, you made one of the two good choices you had. The other option was to bump up prices for projects in order to get them shot, and colored the way they have to be, in order for you and client to notice the huge difference a camera like the RED offers.
I personally like the SONY FS700 because of the slow motion it offers. The base package does not offer RAW, but it would do the job hat I need just like the C100 does the job you need.
So, in the end, enjoy the C100, and maximize it as much as you can when needed (Samurai Blade)
Thanks for the comment... but I think you misunderstood part of the article. Editing RAW isn't what "made me lazy". In fact it was my favourite part of shooting with the RED and often was quicker and easier to edit.
oh, well, I guess I did miss that part :D
You could have just skipped all that other stuff and gone right with "The Bad" paragraph. People get way too hung up on gear, cool factor etc.. The only reason someone would view your work is because the content is interesting. Certainly not because of what it was shot on...unless your audience are a pack of gearheads.
The gearheads will oogle your $16K pixels but they usually aren't the ones paying you for your work.
When I owned the RED, I often shot projects with the 5D for various reasons.
SO MANY TIMES I would have friends or even fellow pros tell me how good my RED footage looked, not realizing it was 5D footage.
I think this is often the case. The general audience doesn't give a damn what you shot your film on. It either sucks them in from the first image or it doesn't, and contrary to what people would have you believe only a gearhead technophile is watching films on two monitors to compare resolution, and if you are doing that, I would gather the content isn't your real concern to begin with.
sold mine too...bought the FS700 and CD recorder for raw...love it
I think the FS700 is the best bang for the buck, since it can shoot RAW (with the appropriate hardware), or compressed, slow motion. You don't have to go crazy expensive right off the bat. I can't wait to get one :D
Listed as discontinued at B&H.
Great article. I've had my C100 for a while now and love it. I've shot TV spots and documentaries with fantastic results.
I fear for the backlash you may receive though from the fan boys. Just hope RedUser.net doesn't get wind of this as it'll probably meltdown again.
I'm fully ready for the RED fan backlash. I just hope that they hear what I'm actually saying.
The RED is a phenomenal camera and visually superior to the c100 in the right hands. At the same time... a camera is just a tool and in my case, the c100 is the tool that suits me best.
Of course, that seems to be what most people think about cameras in general.
It's a shame it can get nasty on the aforementioned website if you're not in the 'cult'.
Batten down the hatches my friend. I have been there and it was intense. Just don't go on reduser!
The issue I have with this particular assesment is that you're the first to complain about R3Ds and their color. It's RAW! You can manipulate all day as it's very elastic! If you do your own coloring, then I can see why C100 footage will appeal to you as most is handled in-camera. However, R3Ds are as powerful RAW format out there and are a dream in post.
Another thing I scratched my head when I read it- you speak of creativity not being there when picking up a RED....dude! I understand that it takes longer to plan (batteries, boot time, follow focus, bulky), but I've set up my rig as an ENG rig and it rocks- the only things I removed from the rig, even transporting it, are the lenses.
All other points you mentioned are valid- the rig will get up there price wise, and the battery life sucks (although I get 4 hrs with 1 v-mount GMP battery, but the batteries are huge).
I was in the same boat as you, with a Scarlet and not really impressed with it, debating to sell or not, then I upgraded to an Epic through RED's program and BOOM! I had no idea how 5K and 100 FPS would change my shooting style.
But hey, it takes lots of tools to build a house, and cameras are just that- tools. Good luck to you,
So many great stories have been told with less technology than even these wonderful examples. The story, I believe, is the key. The way in which we capture it- certainly the best we can afford to use- is last.
What made you choose the C100 over the Blackmagic 4K camera? It seems like you'd get more bang for your buck from the BM.
Yeah, the Blackmagic 4K looks pretty enticing. I've been watching from the sidelines as the BMCC cameras were getting delayed and suddenly they were old news before a lot of people received theirs. Seems like a lot more quality control with Canon.. but that's just my 2 cents.
Hmm.. I understand the problems with Red Epic. But why not just get a 5D mark III? Gets awesome footage out of the box, awesome stills, fits your L lenses, small form factor, cheap, decent battery life and.. ML! The flexibility to shoot RAW when needed is so awesome.. not to speak of the added value of other ML features such as Zebras.
if you want to shoot audio into the camera on a streamlined rig though... get the c100
From personal exp: the 5D's pre-amp's are not that bad, especially when coupled with mics such as Rode VMP which allows you to set gain +20db to reduce the camera's preamp level, so it's barely even felt.
And NO slow-motion?.. even at 720p?.. this is totally a deal-breaker for me, especially at that price.
yeah, i don't own the c100, but i can see the benefits of xlr inputs and not having to deal with pre-amps separate sound.
In the video, the quality of the RED IS better, but we're splitting hairs people. Is that little bit of higher quality worth 14k? Not in my opinion.
I think you made a great choice switching to the c100. You'll be alright man!
It's kind of hard to take the writer seriously with that picture. I mean you're posting a story on a popular website so is it asking too much not to see your chest hair down that much? And that haircut...what happened? The barber started working on the right side and then had to go to lunch and forgot to finish the rest of it? That's the professional look you have to make us listen to your substance?
Ok fine, can't judge a book by its cover and so on with all the years of experience you have. Except that you've only been in business for just over 3 years and you're already giving out life long lessons? There are video people who have seen it all and been doing this for 20 years and digital video has been around for much longer than 3 years so in my humble opinion, whatever lessons you have learned, you should just apply to your craft because I'm sure in 5 years, you will come back and have a completely different philosophy.
Ok, I see, I was still judging. Sorry about that, it's the internet and all and my boss is away so I have time online. Back to the substance. The gist of the story is that since you had such nice gear, you lost your artistic view and the content suffered. What? Why not have the best of both worlds? Create content that's compelling with the best gear. Why should the two be mutually exclusive? Just come out and say you're too cheap to use the Red and the C100 does most of what you need. Why get all philosophical about it?
And seriously guy, the suit makes the man. They sell suits for like $300 .
Really? Your first two paragraphs deem your argument invalid...
Really? Experience and appearance make no difference to you? If you walk into most businesses with that look, you'd either be told "food deliveries use the fraight elevator" or "sir, we're going to have to ask you to leave".
This is the most pointless comment of the day. Congrats, you win the internet, friend. What, is he going door-to-door selling his services? Besides, it's an image on what would be considered a trade website, you sure that his leisure duds are what he wears to client meetings? So, you've successfully missed the entire point of his story. It's hard to argue that now, more than ever, there is a need to exercise restraint when it comes to buying new gear. Especially if it's not in the interest of your best creative work; acquiring new gear simply for the specs is silly. And it's an ever-increasing problem among people coming into this industry to practically bankrupt themselves in an attempt to have top of the line gear for the sake of having top of the line gear. As a young man who hasn't been doing this very long, he's obviously gained some experience in that department and wanted to share it. Wisdom is wisdom, regardless of the age of the person. Sorry to bust your bubble here, but focus on the message. Even IF he shows up looking as he does in the picture above, apparently clients don't seem to care as it's apparent he has a steady stream of work. Besides, if you believe a cheaply cut $300 suit makes you a man... then, sure, you go right on ahead and believe that gem of a thought. I'm sure the best filmmakers of a generation would have a good chuckle at that one. Have a great day, haha!
Comment sections wouldn't be the same without some weird humor. Do you get all offended at the Onion too?
Anyway, I just think you need to have some experience under your belt before you start preaching. These days anybody who has ever held a camera starts having workshops and writing articles. And I'm just not a fan of dude chest hair all the way down to the navel.
Would you be so kind as to post on here with your real name and image so we can see your suit and your professional portfolio so we can deem our time well spent or wasted at listening to your slander? I would much rather hire a personable, hard working slob (not at all saying that Dave is, but based on your comments) than a kind of OK dressed, hard working jerk. wouldn't you?
I hate fighting fire with fire, so I struggle with the fact of calling you a jerk, after all...we are on a industry bog, not really in front of clients and such...but also, as you stated in your comments, what we wear and how we talk on here seems to be how we also talk in a business situation.
I'm baffled we've managed to talk this long and suck up this much time discussing how Dave wears his shirt and styles his hair.
Hey, it's the weekend...
I'm just anonymous internet guy here. If the time comes that I'll write an article, I will be dressed professionally. The first thing people notice is your appearance. You can't ever get a second chance at that.
I know Dave personally and the guy is consistently landing amazing gigs with new and old clients.. He's personable, professional and delivers every single time. Your comment -- completely invalid. Congrats.
I know Dave personally and the guy is consistently landing amazing gigs with new and old clients.. He's personable, professional and delivers every single time. Your comment -- completely invalid.
Are you related to Casey Bennett by any chance?
I am related to Guest, in fact we're twins-- we often quote each other verbatim.
He must be taking the piss....surely. Personally I often have at lest one more button undone that that and I still get work... :)
yea another guy who sits at a desk wearing a suit while sloppy looking guys buy nice gear and make good content. The Irony.
Did you even read the article? You're an idiot and apparently an asshole too.
Really, you are preaching about professionalism as you troll the internet while "your boss is away". Face it, suit or no suit, your just a troll who needs to sneak onto the internet to leave snarky comments. You should hide behind "childsgame".
interesting points.. i love my c100, and my clients seem to love the image that comes out of it also. its really the (near) perfect camera for me. good to hear its working out for you.
"I also found myself disappointed with the color I got from the camera."
the RED suffers from very bad IR pollution. This is easily fixed with a Tiffen IR or IRND filter.
Surprised the author was not aware of this, as most RED shooters are.
I think there are RED stockholders in these comments :p
Always going to be a contentious blog post...the camera has a loyal following for better or worse.
Typical for American made junk. They have to hype it to sell it.
I love everything about my c100 but I have to admit I really wish it could shoot HD at 60p. The lack of slow motion is a serious bummer. The avchd is kind of a pita, too, since the Ninja is so unreliable. Still, for the price point it's an amazing camera.