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RED Dragon Test Part 1: Basic

  • March 26, 2015
  • Shane Hurlbut, ASC
RED Dragon Test Part 1: Basic

The RED Dragon Sensor:

Turning the RED Epic from a “Jack of all Trades”

to the Master

RED Dragon Test

All of you know how passionate I am about cinematography. I am constantly trying to push its limits, think about things differently, just not go with what everyone else is doing. The Arri Alexa has swooped in and gained huge market share. It’s a great camera, but not brilliant, not a master, but a good option depending on your story.

Great Design
The master builds a camera design with forethought. They make it future proof; they think out of the box, providing a size that can intensify creativity and a workflow that doesn’t require terabytes of storage. The Dragon sensor has done this for the Epic. There is another camera that takes all that I just talked about and makes it even better. Your WEAPON of choice will be just that – the RED WEAPON. It’s my camera of choice for my project that I shot until the end of the summer 2015 in New Orleans. But that is not what this post is about. The WEAPON sensor has some more improvements to the Dragon. They are very close, so take this as a road map with laser focus in the coming months when I put the WEAPON to the test.

I wanted to establish ground for testing the WEAPON sensor by showing you what I found in the Dragon sensor first. In order to give you the best testing of the WEAPON, I had to do a complete test of the Dragon so we could compare both sensors individually and then cross compare them to really see what RED has done to improve their game.

(Shane sets the shot on the RED Dragon for a Coors Light commercial spot in late 2014)
RED Epic Camera Body. Look at how different it was before it went to Dragon! Haha, just kidding.

Never Liked the EPIC
The Epic was a camera I never wanted to use. WHY? It was a camera that I thought was brilliantly designed with its ability to shoot multiple frames per second, as well as multiples of resolutions and compressions that is genius. Its internal recording capabilities are unsurpassed, but it could not deliver skin tones. Well, the Dragon sensor changed that, along with increased latitude that looks so real and filmic. It is another choice in addition to the Canon cameras that has the ability to deliver great skin tones. I have said it before. Skin and its vitality are everything to me. Emotionally, it connects you to the character’s emotions. It is life, unless you are shooting zombies. HA HA!!!

Please Keep In Mind
I am not beholden to any camera manufacturer because that is not who I am. If I believe in something, I am all in. After a discussion with the director, I choose the camera that I believe is the right tool to tell the story. It’s just like this site. I am fully committed to delivering education that is unparalleled. Period. Now that we have that straight, we can move on to learning some incredible insights into how you will expose this amazing Dragon Sensor.

Audio Commentary (Membership Required)
As I was gearing up for this project, we did not take our usual approach to record individual audio commentary for each video you will see below.  What we came up with was to provide you a playable podcast of sorts, where I talk about the experience as a whole.  The audio is about 24 minutes long, so grab a frosty beverage and a comfortable chair.  We’re going to experiment with this design and see how you all like it.

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in March 2015 received this entire article as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.

 

DIT Derek Johnson, Camera Operator Chris Herr dial in the shot with Shane during the test.

Extensive Red Dragon Sensor Tests: Part 1
These tests are the first of a two part series that will dive into getting the best out of this sensor. I will discuss where it breaks and what filters make it shine during the day. I will be shooting with both OLPFs (Optical Low Pass Filters) so that you really get a sense of both and find out which one really speaks to you and your story. We will end with skin tone, which is the epicenter of these tests. We will show you skin tones at all different IRE values. I will share which one I like as well as the Dragon against my camera of choice for two films, the Canon C500, and how its skin tones compare to the Dragon’s.

We are doing something a little different for all the Inner Circle members.  We shot this test in 6K resolution and mastered them at 4K to use the full scope of this sensor.  I know it has been difficult to see the subtle nuances that I talk about sometimes because of the Vimeo/YouTube web compression.  We are offering a download option off of our FTP server that supplies folder for each test with a series of 4K UHD TIF screen grabs, as we cannot upload TIF files to our website for viewing, the screen grabs that are embedded into the post are still 4K UHD but they are JPEG images, you will see that as you click them they expand out.  I wanted to give you the highest quality images to look at on your personal computers on your own schedule.  We will also be using the power of YouTube and their 4K UHD streaming resolution so that you can dig in there and see what is up without downloading.  It’s your choice, ENJOY!

IR Pollution is a problem with this camera. Trying to put together the best game plan to combat this is what these tests are about. We will show you what the sensor looks like with just Tiffen straight NDs. Then we will show you with Tiffen IR NDs, and finally with what everyone seems to use with the RED, which is Tiffen Hot Mirror IR NDs. I will show you that this is the best and worst thing you can use and why. Finally, I will offer up the best solution which has just come out on the market.

A company in Japan that has the ultimate solution, not just for the Dragon but for every camera other than Canon, has developed by far the best IR filtration – True ND. Bandpro currently sells them, and to my knowledge there are only private owners in the United States. They are not currently in any rental houses yet. We will have this test available to you in the coming weeks. We are currently testing these filters during my lens test for the new project. I have used these filters on my last two commercials and they have completely blown me away. From .3 all the way to 2.1, these filters are beautiful.

Membership required to view these tests in 4K video.

IR Pollution Test: Tiffen Straight ND Filters

Ungraded
Straight ND_ND .3_UG Straight ND_ND .6_UG Straight ND_ND .9_UG Straight ND_ND 1.2_UG Straight ND_ND 1.5_UG Straight ND_ND 1.8_UG Straight ND_ND 2.1_UG

Graded

Straight ND_ND .3_CG Straight ND_ND .6_CG Straight ND_ND .9_CG Straight ND_ND 1.2_CG Straight ND_ND 1.5_CG Straight ND_ND 1.8_CG Straight ND_ND 2.1_CG

IR Filtration Test #1: Tiffen Hot Mirror IR ND

Ungraded
Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .3_UG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .6_UG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .9_UG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.2_UG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.5_UG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.8_UG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 2.1_UG

Graded
Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .3_CG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .6_CG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .9_CG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.2_CG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.5_CG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.8_CG Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 2.1_CG

IR Filtration Test #2: Tiffen IR ND

Ungraded
IR ND_ND .3_UG IR ND_ND .6_UG IR ND_ND .9_UG IR ND_ND 1.2_UG IR ND_ND 1.5_UG IR ND_ND 1.8_UG IR ND_ND 2.1_UG

Graded
IR ND_ND .3_CG IR ND_ND .6_CG IR ND_ND .9_CG IR ND_ND 1.2_CG IR ND_ND 1.5_CG IR ND_ND 1.8_CG IR ND_ND 2.1_CG

IR Filtration Comparison Test #1: Tiffen IR ND vs Tiffen Straight ND

Ungraded
IR ND vs Straight_ND .3_UG IR ND vs Straight_ND .6_UG IR ND vs Straight_ND .9_UG IR ND vs Straight_ND 1.2_UG IR ND vs Straight_ND 1.5_UG IR ND vs Straight_ND 1.8_UG IR ND vs Straight_ND 2.1_UG

Graded
IR ND vs Straight_ND .6_CG IR ND vs Straight_ND .9_CG IR ND vs Straight_ND 1.2_CG IR ND vs Straight_ND 1.5_CG IR ND vs Straight_ND 1.8_CG IR ND vs Straight_ND 2.1_CG

IR Filtration Comparison Test #2: Tiffen IR ND vs Tiffen IR Hot Mirrors

Ungraded
IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .3_UG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .6_UG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .9_UG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.2_UG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.5_UG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.8_UG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 2.1_UG

Graded
IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .6_CG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND .9_CG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.2_CG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.5_CG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 1.8_CG IR ND vs Hot Mirror IR ND_ND 2.1_CG

Dialing in the Skin Tone test with our model Monette.
Dialing in the Skin Tone test with our model Monette.

Skin Tones and Understanding Why It Looks So Good
In my quest to find the “Master of all cameras,” it starts with skin and how the sensor sees it. Does it see it as a wash of color? Does it see it as a grey layer under a skin tone or does it reveal subtle color nuances that feel real, immediate and engaging? I do not want to go into how I perceive skin tones and its quality that grabs me; to each his own. Why I choose to expose a specific way is my creative choice. It does not have to be yours. I do not want to get into why I prefer one camera over another. This is not a sensor popularity contest. If you feel the Alexa is your brush or the Sony or the CION or the URSA, it is not for me to judge, but to try and state the facts and set up a test where you can extract information that would cost you a good amount of time and money. This is where the Inner Circle comes in. The membership pays for these extensive and expensive tests. On an average, each test we do costs us about $10,000 to $15,000. This one doubles that budget.

Let’s talk Skin Tone IRE value for a minute. If you were able to join me on the Illumination Experience Tour, we went into IRE values and how I expose in depth. Here you will see this practice extended to the Dragon sensor and where I feel it responds the best.

I read a lot of what experts say to put skin tones on an IRE scale, but they never seem to add up the way I expose. A perfect example was Canon and its experts suggesting that 18% grey should be at 32 IRE and skin tones around 40. I politely disagree. If you expose that camera around there, you will underexpose your digital negative a good amount.

I will take you through many IRE skin tone levels and you can choose what you like. A hint to what I love is the one that I cross reference every IRE value with. HINT HINT!

IRE Value (Skin Tone) Test: Using Skin Tone OLPF

Ungraded
IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 10-20_UG
IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 15-25_UG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 18-27_UG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 25-35_UG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 40-50_UG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 50-60_UG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 60-70_UG

Graded
IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 10-20_CG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 15-25_CG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 18-27_CG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 25-35_CG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 35-45_CG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 40-50_CG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 50-60_CG IRE Value Skin Tone_IRE 60-70_CG

IRE Value (Skin Tone) Test: Using Low Light OLPF


Ungraded

IRE Value Low Light_IRE 15-25_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 20-30_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 25-35_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 28-38_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 35-45_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 40-50_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 45-55_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 55-65_UG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 60-70_UG

Graded
IRE Value Low Light_IRE 15-25_CG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 20-30_CG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 25-35_CG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 28-38_CG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 35-45_CG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 40-50_CG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 55-65_CG IRE Value Low Light_IRE 60-70_CG

IRE Value (Skin Tone) Test: Skin Tone OLPF vs Low Light OLPF

Ungraded
IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 15-25_UG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 18-27 vs IRE 20-30_UG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 25-35 vs IRE 28-38_UG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 35-45_UG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 40-50_UG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 45-55_UG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 50-60 vs IRE 55-65_UG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 60-70_UG

Graded
IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 15-25_CG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 18-27 vs IRE 20-30_CG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 25-35 vs IRE 28-38_CG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 35-45_CG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 40-50_CG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 45-55_CG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 50-60 vs IRE 55-65_CG IRE Value Skin Tone vs Low Light_IRE 60-70_CG

Now that we have selected an IRE value for skin that resonates with your story, let’s see it up against the C500 and its skin tones. This was an eye opening test for me. What I quickly realized is how sharp the C500 is compared to the Alexa and the Dragon. I felt the Dragon was even a little softer than the Alexa and that old lenses were not really required to “take the edge off” unless you were going for that particular look. I was a huge proponent of this style of lensing with digital sensors, but now really surveying the mainstream sensor landscape, I feel the “taking the edge off” would need to be done with Canon, Panasonic and Sony exclusively. The others not so much.

The Canon also clips skin very quickly, so exposing at high IRE values to burn a face with hot sunlight or fashion photo style is really not achievable, but with the Dragon you can do it in spades. The camera rolls off very nicely in the over-exposed areas. I chose the 55-65 IRE values as the benchmark on what I feel looks good with both of these sensors.

IRE Value (Skin Tone) Test: Dragon Skin Tone OLPF vs Canon C500

DRAGON vs C500 6K vs 4K
DRAGON vs C500 6K vs 4K
DRAGON vs C500 6K vs 2K
DRAGON vs C500 6K vs 2K
Jarred Land gave us the first sneak peek at the RED WEAPON on social media back in February.

What is coming next
In the coming weeks, we will take the Dragon to its breaking point with over and under exposing. We will demonstrate how far you can safely push your ISO, using the sensor with hot overexposed Back Light and end with resolution and compression tests.  I want to get you up to speed before you head to NAB this year and bombard Jarred Land and the RED team with all of your questions about the WEAPON when you finally get to see it!

Members of Shane’s Inner Circle who were members in March 2015 received this entire article and 4K video as part of their membership.

If you would like to view the rest of this article, it may be purchased in Shane’s Store, as can all other educational content of interest.

Don’t miss out on another article from Shane’s Inner Circle! Sign up now.

Read Red Dragon Test Part 2 >>

All videos were edited on HP Z840 workstations using HP Z24x DreamColor monitors.

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TECHNICAL SPECS
6K Digital Capture
Full-Frame 8:1 Compression
4K UHD REDCODE Editing timeline
4K UHD H.264 Youtube Export
4K UHD REDCODE TIFF FILE EXPORTS
Color space during shooting: REDgamma4
Project Editing: Adobe Premiere CC 2014
Project Color Correction: Davinci Resolve 11

Camera

Camera AKS:





Monitors:

 

Support:

Lenses:

Lighting:
1K Open Face (“Red head”)


Grip:









Shot at Revolution Cinema Rentals

  • Adobe
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  • Camera
  • cameras
  • Canon
  • canon c500
  • Canon cameras
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  • Low Light OLPF
  • Matthews Studio Equipment
  • Red Dragon
  • RED Dragon Sensor
  • RED Dragon sensor tests
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  • Skin Tone OLPF
  • skin tones
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