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
I have a heard a few people state that the Ninja was unreliable. Since it is the main reason for my purchase (instead of a C300), should I just say screw it and get a C300.
I have owned my C100 since the first day it came to market. I have shot over 200 videos with it (automotive, corporate and weddings) and I still love it. The low light, the audio connections, the built-in ND, the form factor and more. I hate the viewfinder but I got a Zacuto for the screen. I am sad that the camera doesn't have any 60p but I don't shoot slow-motion. Lots of people hate the camera on paper and have not even tried it. It's a surprising tool.
I'm about 10 videos in with the c100 and I couldn't agree more. Let's hope the next 190 don't change my mind ;)
Great article. I'm not nearly at that stage of video work, but the same principles apply to photography.
Couldnt agree more. I made the same mistake when upgrading to a Hasselblad. I should have focused on the content.
I was considering getting the Red Epic, but am so glad I decided to go with the Sony FS700 instead!!
so i dont get why you had to buy a new camera and to start being creative and stop being lazy.
Guess you read through the article too quickly.
When I was in the RED mindset, I pixel peeped and focused way too much on gear. Simplifying and downgrading has helped me make some of my best content.
I guess I read what you said but I still didnt see what was stoping you from taking corrective action. Anyway what ever works for you. as long as your making good images or video
It has to do with focusing on the creative art of getting a good image, or being bogged down with the tech details.
Dude, you must be kidding. As noted by others, if you need to buy a lighter / smaller camera to not be lazy and get creative, your 3 years of experience has misguided you more than you realize.
RED has the deepest color space known on the market and it takes time and effort to master it.
This article is more of a testament of your commitment as a film maker and less of any kind of judgement of any camera.
Lastly I'll leave you with some knowledge in hope you'll get back on the right path. A good film makers knows what tool to use on every job. Those tools change.
This would be a good point, if I had bought the RED and used it on a couple of shoots before selling it.
However, I bought it nearly 2 years ago and shot well over 50 music videos/commercials on it. Most, I'm very happy with. As with most readers, you've completely skipped the point of the article.
Don't get caught up in hype. Find what works best for you.
Could you imagine if you had shot your Such Great Heights Acapella and Kraft Lunch Autotune videos with the Scarlett!!! Me either, because they are fine just the way they are. Content is king and I think you're headed in the right direction. Obviously I have watched your work a while now, keep up the good stuff and thanks for introducing me to Chelsea's music.
People make mistakes. Learn from them, and grow stronger! And that is exactly what he did, and in a society where material things and money mean so much to all of us, this lesson is a hard one to truly learn.
Keep pushing sir!
Hurt your creativity? Maybe you never had it and you're looking for excuses. Perhaps the superior resolution and dynamic range showed your shortcomings with lighting (the real key to great cinematography). I can't believe you wrote this whiny article. Do you really think clients will come knocking at your door based on this article? Next time work on your skills instead of finding excuses, and certainly STOP this public airing of how you "feel inside," nobody cares in the real world. It is a non-productive toxic trait that self-centered people nowadays think is normal.
Jesus man, did you even read the article? Have you ever used a RED? Depending on the type of work you're doing, a cinema camera isn't always ideal, if you're familiar with a RED and its workflow then you'd be more understanding of this article and wouldn't be making these ignorant and rude remarks.
-And wait a minute, you think there are clients are lurking on Fstoppers looking to hire writers and bloggers? Could have fooled me! Last I checked, this was a place for creative professionals to share their experiences, tips and advice, it's not a place for them to post their portfolio, advertise themselves and book jobs.
It was fun looking through your recent comments on this site. You seem like a really positive person!
The funniest thing about this comment is that Jim assumes that having better dynamic range would reveal shortcomings in lighting, when in reality the reverse is true. And Dave's response could not have been better. Classy response to an obvious troll. Show us your content Jim. Let's see how good you are.
You know what else we don't care about? The fact that you don't care.
And I don't care that you don't care that he doesn't care.
What picture style settings do you use?
Well written article. I am stoked for your reconnection to content and creativity! I saw you rockin' the C100 on sunday but didn't get a chance to ask what the story was. Now I know.. :)
I'd have to say that stating 'the fact that I owned and shot with the same camera as Peter Jackson or David Fincher' is a rather silly thing to say. Peter Jackson uses the Epic, which if going by the DSLR range, would be saying that a 500D is the same as a 1D-C.
I've seen beautiful imagery and downright crap from both cameras. as with any tool its not the tool but the user that makes the difference. When I was in college, they made us shoot stills with a cheap plastic Diana camera to teach us that it was the photographer who made the image , not the camera. At my shop we shoot Alexa, 5D MKIII C100 & C500 and get great stuff from all cameras. As the old quote goes "the best camera is the one in your hand". Best wishes for 2014 all
Right on Ron. Good comparison from your Diana days. This article would have caused a lot less drama and inaccuracies if it presented the issue more like that.
Nice article. It is a weird status symbol. I find it funny when actors post pics of RED cameras on their Facebook wall. They don't even know what a codec is but they are excited.
I'm wondering what the 5D III with the Magic Lantern RAW Technicolor CineStyle profile is like.
The 5D Mark III with Magic Lantern RAW is a BEAST, but picture profiles like "Technicolor Cinestyle" are meaningless with RAW video. Picture styles are for compressed video, not
RAW. RAW is the raw sensor data, not a baked in picture profile look or log simulation.
When you pull RAW DNGs from the 5D Mark III into Adobe Camera RAW you don't start off with a flat log like image that Cinestyle is trying to imitate. In fact, the RAW DNGs will probably open with far too contrast and sucky picture to start that looks like the opposite of Cinestyle, but you are given control over exposure, exposure, white balance, shadows & highlights, etc in post.
This is definitely an interesting article! I bought a C100 earlier this year and sold it because I didn't like the uber compression on that avchd codec. Your absolutely right though about the other things the C100 comes with out of the box!! Great AUDIO (which is HUUUGE), and I bought the extra 9500mA battery for it. That thing could shoot for 10 hours straight! dual SD card slots is a cheap medium to record on and you can get a ton of record time with the compression on the codec. The image quality was extremely clean, and the ISO range was great!!! way better than any of my DSLR's (5d3, D800, etc). So why did I sell it? I just wanted a bit more room to play with in post. I felt the image broke apart as easily as any of my dslr footage did and for 6 grand... I may as well invest in the BMPCC instead. (yes it has its drawbacks as well...) Im alright having to use external audio recorders, external batteries, and SSD drives. I don't believe there is one camera that can rule them all right now, and even if there was I am sure it would be years away from my pay grade. So props for you for finding out what you like and what you need!
There is some truth to slowing yourself down to get back to the reality of composing your shots more! I loved going from AutoFocus to Manual focus a few years back! It really forced me to slow down and pay more attention! (stills)
"I’ve learned that you should buy a camera based off of your own needs, not your idols’ needs." Dave Wallace
This alone sticks out to me the most. It's the best line of the whole article (though the rest of the article is fantastic as well and definitely supports what you say here).
I do portraits, I have an Olympus that was gifted to me last year. I love it!!! Sure if I went after what my idol wants, it would have been the latest Cannon on the market. Having the newest camera on the market doesn't make you a great photographer or videographer, your skills do. Obviously you have amazing skills.
or your clients' perceived needs
Your footage didn't look like Fincher's because you didn't have Fincher's DP!! Its not the camera its the photographer/cinematographer. You logic follows that if I can only buy some Air Jodans I can dunk from half court.
Hey I bought air jordans and I can dunk from half court....still can't shoot like Finchers DP though. It's all a lie.
I bought air Jordan's and I don't even play basketball or understand it! I do play better tennis with them though,
This idiot is like any other over enthused, smug arrogant fool who thinks he knows about cameras and just owning a RED camera makes him cool. The dumbass spent so much money and he didn't even realize he did not get the look of Fincher's movie cuz he did not have the same camera, RED EPIC not RED SCARLET is used for big-budget Hollywood films, and a top tier cinematographer. I guess this guy was so blinded with the word RED that he just thought he bought a pot of gold. And now he goes for another camera instead of just sticking to his 5D and showcasing his talent by focusing on content. But then again this is a guy who can't tell the difference between a RED EPIC and RED SCARLET and went buying a RED camera he thought major Hollywood films use. Way to go.
He should just watch Upstream Color or Musgo to see how a real talent behind camera does it, both films shot on GH2.
And damn that article has a lot of grammatical issues.
Casey Neistat would have a lot of respect for this article. Depending on your type of buisness is how you should choose what camera you need. People are more interested in the story of a video rather than the quality.
No one cares about your purchases...
Which is why you don't bother to read or comment on them
Red Dragon https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6AIdXisPqHc | I think they both have their places.. I'd love to own a Red with a movi rig & some primes etc.. But it wouldn't make sense to use it unless the budget was 5-7.5K minimum.. Any project between 1-5K I'd use the 5D or C100.. That's as far as music videos.. For anything else other than feature films I think the C100 would do just fine! Just my thoughts. What about the BMPC? I heard that's both a workflow and hardware nightmare...
I actually meant the regular BMC, however could use thoughts on both...
I really like the look of the C500 but the price tag not so much
I think it would have made a big difference if you use cinema lenses... just like playing a cheap Squier guitar on an expensive Marshall amp, it's not in proportion!
Fascinating stuff. I still believe the Epic to be one of the too 3 camera out there it's still not practical for most every day work. When I still use it the results always delight but like my F55 (which with its ability to record internal hd impresses) it's not for everything (nor is the c100) but what it does well it truly excels at. The C100? A really solid dependable workhorse. Paired with my Atomos Blade and it goes up a massive notch.
Wish is had a better viewfinder though. Paired with zacutos z finder though and it works a treat!
Buy the camera for you, I sat down with someone who talked some sense into me. I wanted a top of the range camera. So sat there with a pros and cons table and my financial guru, who is not a camera operator. But he had a head for figures, so we looked at my options, what can I afford? how am I to pay for it? is it future proof? Is the camera cost broken down into a daily rate? What do I need to support the camera can I afford that? I wanted a F55, which became a C300, which became FS 700, then finally the FS100. That camera is what I need at present, is what I can afford, with the addition of a Ninja 2 is fit for my needs, I dont need slo mo, I have 4x4 ND filters, and am not filming for broadcast. It would be cheaper to hire a F55 / Epic than buy one. Also it had a side effect it taught me how to shoot frugally, how to push the camera and work with limiting factors. If I need to shoot for effect hire the camera and pass the cost to the client. As my grandad taught me a bad workman blames his tools. Buying the latest whizzbang item will not make you a better craftsman.
Something I say and again. A better camera won't make you a better shooter BUT the right tool for the job and the red often is and an fs100 can be too, although it's ergonomics bugged me so much I sold it for the c100
Amen to that. I have the FS100 and I adore the image is produces, but hate the ergonomics. Worse even than the awful form factor are the insane mounting holes on the underside. Conforms to virtually no standard at all. Try putting a cheeseplate on it! Takes a lot of Franken-rigging just to get it usable in the field.
Still, for what I can afford I love the results it gives me.
And the best example of "it's not the camera it's what you do with it", see Shane Carruth's 'Upstream Color'. Shot on a hacked GH2 and is currently getting praise everywhere for its beautiful visual aesthetic.
Indiewire has the shot from its promotional poster as one of its 'best shots from 2013'.
Good conceptualisation, good lighting, good composition, good grading. Get these right and it doesn't matter what you shoot on.
I agree with you, Jim. I was both surprised and impressed by Carruth's 'Upstream Color'. The camera used for the job does not matter much, if you can light for it.
Having said that I will say, there is a big difference as to which camera is used for which sequence in a film.
But in the end, who cares what camera you use? You'll get clients if you are 1. Well connected and 2. Good at your trade.
(going quite off topic here)
'Upstream Color' looks like garbage. I'll take 'Primer,' shot on film over the cinematography in 'Upstream Color' any day.
Well, yes Martin. Of course I'd rather shoot on film than on a dslr-like camera. Film of any format is more aesthetically pleasing to most eyes than digital, especially low-budget digital. You're missing my point.
Shooting film is expensive and increasingly rare. Only a small proportion of people shoot feature films regularly on film, a larger number get to work regularly on high-end raw cameras like the Alexa, Epic or F65. Many more have to work, at best, with cameras such as MXs, C500s, F5s, more frequently with Black Magics, C300/C100s, F3/FS700/FS100s etc. Everyone else is shooting on consumer grade cameras.
Due to Carruth's talents as a filmmaker (love them or hate them, both films have been widely noticed, and that takes talent), the film has been included in many top 10 film of the year reviews. It has been discussed widely, to both positive and negative reviews, in the LA Times, New York Times & Hollywood Reporter in the US, and in the Guardian and Observer in the UK. All of these heavyweight titles took the film on its own merits, discussing visual aesthetics without mention of colour banding, compression artifacts, looking cheap or of the cinematography being compromised in any way.
This isn't meant to sound like a banner-waving for the film. But this is a GH2 we're talking about for goodness' sake. As a colorist you know how poor the footage is to work with for a professional delivery format. This is what makes the relative critical success of the film so noteworthy.
One review in the Guardian compared Carruth's style to Malik and Cronenberg. The Hollywood Reporter did mention that it is micro-budget, but went on to describe it as "sensuous" and "mesmerising". That Indiewire article makes a shot taken from this film one of its Best Shots of 2013 alongside shots from the likes of Emanuel Lubetzki, Roger Deakins, Bruno Delbonnel, Sean Bobbit etc!
Whatever the film's merits or demerits, whether or not you like Carruth's style, and regardless of its digital 'look', a feature film shot on a camera most people could hope to own has been accepted by much of the major international movie industry press as valid for discussion as a serious work alongside multi-million dollar movies.
The is a powerful statement to a generation of kids, who maybe have an older sibling or parent with an old 5d or similar lying around, and even to established owner-operators who make a living through commercials, documentaries, music videos, corporates etc:- that a good story or concept well told, photographed with love, attention and skill, can be accepted for discussion alongside major Hollywood titles without mention of the consumer-grade technology used to shoot it. Obviously Carruth had a budget and resources well beyond most kids shooting on their dad's camera but it still has impact as a statement of meritocratic intent.
Apologies for going off-topic at such length, but my 16 year-old self would have been seriously inspired and excited at the possibilities. I think it could do exactly that for a large number of young aspiring filmmakers and I think that's something worth celebrating.