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Documentary Thoughts, Scarlet and 2010

Well, I haven’t mentioned it yet, but for the last 4 months I’ve been slowly hashing out plans for a documentary in the middle east for the first part of 2010. This came about during some discussion with the guys I was working with in Malaysia; they want to do the same thing for their work in the Middle East. Because Christian religion isn’t so locked down in the particular country I’m going to, this doc will be far more publically accessible. The Malaysia one, unfortunately will not.

In the film world an interesting discussion is how much depth of field (or DOF) to use. Hollywood loves shallow DOF. Watch any movie and you’ll see everything out of focus behind the subject. I subscribe to, “what tells the story best?” A recent post by Phillip Bloom who’s currently shooting for Greenpeace with the Canon 5D in India got into a little bit of this philosophy: would he have brought the 5D if he knew this was going to be more of a doc style shoot? His synopsis was that the 5D would make a great documentary camera. You can read the post and view some of the discussion here.

And while I haven’t yet posted up a recap of my workflow and gear list; the what I would do again and what I wouldn’t do again items, I’m going to go into a little bit on what I plan to do gear-wise for this next one. Much of which is still speculative because of the fact the camera I want to use is still under development but with rumors of release in the next few months. That camera is the Red Scarlet.

Non-video people may not be aware of the waves Red made when they produced the Red One last year. This camera puts out better picture in a completely modular system than anything else on the market. It’s been used and love by Peter Jackson and Steven Soderbergh.

However, the Red One’s price point is purely for professionals putting many independent’s out of the game. The Red Scarlet on the other hand is bumped down a couple notches. Without many of the features however and intended for a different market, this camera will run the price of a high-end digital SLR with the same fully modular system and extremely high quality picture.

Unlike a digital SLR like the 5D MKII that’s still camera first, video camera second. This is a camera that is video camera first, still camera second. Why do I like it?

Form Factor: It’s the size of your standard DSLR. I like to go as a tourist when I shoot, leave a smaller footprint, remain less intrusive and keep from interrupting whatever story I’m capturing.

Sensor Size: It’s a 2/3″ sensor vs. the standard 1/3″ sensor. If I recall correctly, most standard, daily DLSR’s like the D90 or DigiRebel have full frame 1″ sensors in them. Most professional broadcast video cameras are 2/3″ in size. Your common stock of prosumer video cameras are 1/3″ in size. Sensor + Lens = image quality. There are other variables though to be considered, but your image starts there.

Long Term Viability: Because of it’s image resolution (3K as opposed to current >1K or 1080HD), sensor size and form factor, I believe this is not technology that’s going to be easily obsolete. It will be several more years before other manufacturers like Sony, Panasonic and JVC start producing simliar cameras with simliar specs in this price range. The sheer fact that there is no distribution channel for anything close to the resolution this camera shoots means it’s WAY ahead of the curve.

Price: The “brain” as Red likes to call it is predicted to start just under the $3K. That’s less than the price of standard prosumer HD video camera from other manufacturers. Granted, a few other accessories will need to be purchased such as lenses (although they’re going to offer a fixed lens version), recording module, etc. at the least. Either way, you probably wouldn’t be able to rent it for any considerable length of time (for even 1 doc) at a price to justify renting over buying but we’ll see.

So my tentative plan is to use this with a f2.8 zoom lens as primary and maybe a prime or something (Red will be producing mini-prime lenses) as secondary for interviews and other attractive footage. The other option is to bring a second person with something akin to a 5D as secondary for interviews and b-roll.

I’m anxiously checking the boards and on the appropriate mailing lists for this camera for the latest updates and hopefully releases and concrete information.

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©2019 by Jay Friesen.

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