You have to hand it to RED – they are always pushing their products in unexpected directions that break new ground from a technological standpoint. While I’ve always been much more of an Arri fan than RED (not just because of the image quality differences), the growth of RED’s ever-evolving camera lineup is undeniably fascinating to watch.
Recently, RED custom made two cameras for two of the most well known directors of our time: Michael Bay and David Fincher. It’s no surprise that seeing as these two directors have very different approaches to filmmaking, their custom designed cameras are worlds apart too. After reading about some of the specs on Cinema 5D, which I’ve also listed below, I couldn’t help but feel that Fincher’s camera is much more in line with what I would be looking for in a cinema camera.
Let’s take a look at each of them.
MICHAEL BAY’S RED “BAYHEM”
Custom designed for his latest move “Transformers: The Last Knight”, Bay’s camera is more about what’s on the inside than what’s on the outside… Despite the fact that it looks like this:
While the camera body is obviously a custom design, when you look past the neon paint job, it’s not all that much of a departure from any of RED’s other cameras. The difference here, is the sensor.
This camera features a brand new 8K Super 35mm sensor (named “Helium”), that is different from RED’s 8K Vista Vision sensor. While the Vista Vision sensor is much larger physically (closer to 65mm film in size), this sensor is a true Super 35mm format, which means the pixels being used are smaller and higher quality. Take a look at the graphic below and notice how both the Vista Vision and the Helium sensor have the same resolution, but different physical sensor sizes:
I personally was never that drawn to RED’s Vista Vision sensor, as I am more of a fan of the standard Super 35mm format. I think larger, 65mm sized formats have their place in cinema (The Revenant proves that point quite obviously), but in many cases the lack of lens choices and other logistical issues associated with shooting 65mm aren’t ideal… Especially for independent filmmakers. With that in mind, it goes without saying that I find this Helium sensor to be much more interesting, seeing as they’ve packed so much technology into such a small format.
What’s even more interesting though, is that we will see this sensor from RED in future cameras. It’s not strictly reserved for this custom camera. Jarred Land of RED Digital Cinema recently stated that this is the first of a new 3.65 micron sensor line that we will see in the future. It will also be offered as an upgrade for Weapon owners.
DAVID FINCHER’S RED “XENOMORPH”
As I stated above, Fincher’s RED couldn’t be more different than Bay’s. While Michael Bay’s custom RED is all about it’s screeching 8K sensor, David Fincher’s custom RED is all about functionality. Take a look.
This camera body may appear massive at first glance, but in reality the benefits of having an “all in one” package like this can far outweigh the negatives – especially on larger productions. Here’s a short list of the camera’s features, as seen on Cinema 5D:
- RED Weapon Dragon 6K Sensor Technology
- 7.0″ LCD Touch
- Paralinx wireless video
- Extended WiFi/Foolcontrol antenna array
- RT Motion Lens Motor Control
- Zaxcom wireless audio and timecode
- Anton Bauer Gold Mount
- Shoulder Mount
- Xenomorph-inspired brain design
I’ve stated before in multiple blog posts that what I would love to see from RED are new camera bodies. RED image quality has consistently improved, and their cameras offer some really great features… But what’s always kept me away from their lineup is the modular body design. I think modular camera bodies are great for many filmmakers and they certainly have their place on certain types of productions. That said, my preference is nearly always to work with a camera that I can just pull out of the case, turn on, and start rolling.
People often argue that modular cameras can be pre-built and left in a case with all the peripherals attached, if you’re looking for more speed or convenience on set. In reality though, that never works perfectly. Cables get loose, magic arms get bent, and other peripherals get knocked around in the process. If RED could adapt this type of design into one of their future cameras (hopefully with a smaller footprint), I think they would open up the flood gates for a lot of filmmakers that prefer a more traditional camera body design.
Fincher’s Xenomorph has virtually everything you need built right in: from wireless monitoring to a shoulder mount, and everything in between. It may not have the 8K sensor that Michael Bay’s custom RED has, but 6K is plenty for just about any other filmmaker out there (4K is plenty for that matter!), and I would assume the functionality of this camera would be amongst the best of any that RED has created to date. Unfortunately, this is not a camera that will ever see the light of day though, as from what I understand, it was solely developed for use on Fincher’s new Netflix show, “Mindhunter”.
That’s about it for now. I will be sure to post some updates and more thoughts on these cameras in the future if and when more details start to emerge.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!