RED first made a splash in 2007 with the RED One 4k, which was hailed as far ahead of its time. Since then, it’s remained a favorite high-end cinema camera. But for those unfamiliar with RED, it can be intimidating to know what’s what.
Unlike brands like Canon, RED cameras have fewer out of the box options. With a spread of cameras that offer a range of resolutions from 2K to 8K and sensor sizes from 25.5mm to 46.31mm, it can be confusing to know which camera rental or purchase to choose.
In this guide, we break down what the big deal is about the RED camera line and how the models differ.
Why Shoot on the RED Camera?
RED’s cameras are known for the gorgeous images they capture. With up to 17 stops of dynamic range and a modular system that allows you to heavily customize your camera for your needs has made them a popular option for many cinematographers. That very same modular system, though, can make the camera frustrating and intimidating for newbies. RED’s cameras are not made for the starter cinematographer or for event videography. The RED is designed for professional and semi-professional cinematographers (with a price point to match).
The RED Raven: When You “Just” Need 4K
The RED Raven is RED’s kit package, which offers the lowest maximum resolution of their current cameras. Is your project destined for the web? A short film that most people are going to be watching on YouTube? Maybe a documentary that’s going to live on streaming platforms? Then you likely don’t need more than the 4.5K maximum resolution offered by the Raven.
The RED Raven offers 16.5 stops of dynamic range and can shoot 2K up to 240fps and 4K up to 120fps. The Raven also has a Canon EF lens mount built in so you can use your favorite Canon lenses. Unlike the other camera offerings from RED it’s also sold as a complete camera kit with monitor, batteries, hard drive, and a lens.
The “Build-A-Bear” of cameras
The RED system is, as we said, a modular system. It’s not a matter of getting the right camera but assembling the right components for the camera that meets your needs. First, you choose the “brain,” then lens mount, then a package of accessories that meets the needs of your shooting style, and polish it off with a few optional accessories. The brain is where you need to focus when it comes to understanding what the different options for RED cameras can do for you.
The core of any RED Camera package is the brain: the computer that processes the sensor data and records it to the media. Despite the name, it would be best for your pet zombie’s dental health to keep these RED brains well out of their reach. Best for your pocketbook, too: they start at $12,500. Each RED brain has its advantages and disadvantages, and each can be paired with with sensors offering either 5K or 8K maximum resolutions.
In addition to the aforementioned Raven, there’s the Red Scarlet, Red Epic, Red Epic Dragon, and DSMC2 (formerly known as the Red Weapon). These brains can each be paired with lens mounts and more options to build out the cinema camera that meets your needs and preferences. They support different sensor sizes, fps capabilities, and data rates that you should keep in mind when selecting one for your project.
RED Dragon and RED Gemini: A Little Extra Headroom
Let’s say you want more than 4K, but not that much more. You might be doing a documentary that you expect will need a few shots reframed. Maybe you have a VFX heavy narrative where you want more pixels to play with. But perhaps your machine for post isn’t quite up to the task of much more than 4K. RED Cameras have a range of options available in 5K to accommodate you including the Scarlet with the Red Dragon 5K Sensor, or the Epic or DSMC2 with the Gemini 5K sensor.
If you’re working on a tighter budget, the older Scarlet brain with the RED Dragon 5K sensor can get you the resolution you’re looking for. However, the newer Gemini sensor on the Epic and DSMC2 is larger. Those brains can also handle 5K at 96fps and 2K at 300fps, versus 60fps and 240fps respectively with the Scarlet, giving you more options for getting slow motion shots. The Epic and DSMC2 also offer higher data rates (275Mb/s and 300Mb/s respectively) than the Scarlet (170Mb/s), which gives you a lot more to work with in post…but also is going to eat up a lot more drive space.
RED Helium Super35: Let’s Get Cinematic
RED’s current cameras jump from 5k to 8k. You might need 8k for your epic masterpiece that is going all the way to biggest of screens, or if your client demands it
The aforementioned RED Epic and RED DSMC2 brains can be paired with the 8K Helium Super35 sensor to give you resolution options of 2K to 8K. Each can also be paired with a variety of lens mounts to accommodate your preferred lens brand. The difference between the two comes down to the difference between the brains: the Epic offers the slightly smaller file size of the 275Mb/s data rate but the DSMC2 offers up to 60fps at its full 8K resolution compared to only 30fps on the Epic. If you need the fps or the higher data rate for your project the DSMC2 is going bring you more of the flexibility you need.
RED Monstro: No, I Mean Really Cinematic
RED cameras don’t go above 8K resolution, but with the 8K Monstro VV, you can get 8K on a full frame sensor. When you want to go for broke and get the most camera you can from RED, look no farther than the DSMC2 with the Monstro 8K VV sensor. Its larger sensor gives you an extra half-stop of dynamic range at 17–compared to the 16.5 stops of other RED cameras.
The VV stands for VistaVision so this camera isn’t for your Instagram. Traditionally, Hollywood used VistaVision for biblical epics like The Ten Commandments and to capture special effects shots for the likes of Star Wars, Aliens, Contact, The Matrix, The Dark Knight, and many more. RED’s flagship camera should be used accordingly. Are you shooting something epic? This is the camera for that. Need a camera to shoot your VFX that’s going to give you the most to work with to craft beautiful VFX shots? This is the RED camera for it.
A Professional Option
With four times the resolution of HD, why would you ever shoot in anything less than 8K? Well…for many projects, shooting in 8K may be like swatting a fly with a Hydrogen Bomb. No one is currently watching anything at 8K resolution. At best people will see your project at 4K or less. Some theaters feature 4K projection. Streaming services offer some content at 4K, but many viewers may not have the bandwidth to stream quality 4K to their new 4K TVs.
RED and it’s resolution options are for the semi-professional and professional cinematographer market. Their maximum resolution options are for the projects that demand the highest quality image. An 8K resolution video at 300Mb/s is going to eat up a lot of hard drive space and processing it in post is going to take time and a lot of computer. Take these factors into consideration when planning your project and when setting up your RED Camera Rental. If it’s not being seen at that resolution and you don’t need the resolution for VFX, considering shooting at the lower resolutions and saving yourself post-production headaches.
Get Out There and Shoot Already!
Now that we’ve run down the options for RED cameras, get out there and get shooting! Sign up for KitSplit to rent any of the RED cameras listed above as well as all the other gear you need including lights, sound gear, lenses, and support and grip gear. We’ve got gear experts ready to help you make your selections and easy to purchase instant insurance for your gear rental.