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RED ONE CAMERA: OPERATIONS GUIDE Companion - CH 4 Theory of Operation - by Will Wagner
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RED One Theory of Operation

This chapter will ramp up the learning curve dramatically.  Im going to break this section into multiple pages.

This is where we begin to explore RED's translation of traditional analog film making in to the digital world.  In my opinion they have suceeded very nicely and for the most part their translations are intuitive.  I find them to be intuitive because I think about digital images in much the same way they do - how do we take modern technology and apply traditional workflows where appropriate to maintain the highest standards of Images.  That's what it all comes down to - the image on the screen.  But in order to get the very best image, its important to understand and maximize the use of the hardware.

Now its time to explore what makes the RED One™ different from other cameras.  As was stated in the introduction - the One is a Digital Film camera.  That means it is using 1s and 0s to approximate the look and feel of Film.  It is not a video camera.  Video cameras can be either digital or analog and they record to a tape, and they like frame rates like 29.97 or 59.94.   But most importantly - they save filtered information - when the image is stored on the tape you have captured all the information you will get from it, and by the very nature of video the bandwidth and colors will be limited to a television  type color space.  The RED cameras save RAW information to the hard disk.  This means that you can set in-camera looks for preview but know that you will have the luxury of changing it greatly later.  RED differentiates itself from other digital film cameras like the Dalsa™ or Genesis™ because of their REDCODE™ codec.  They have suceeded in crunching  a huge amount of data through the e-SATA cable to the drives.  And to be able to work with 4K files natively in Final Cut Pro is unique.

So what does all this mean?  It means think of the RED like a film camera - then realize there is no film in it, so there must be something else doing the recording.  That something else fundamentally is not just 1s and 0s, but the way those 1s and 0s are translated back to colors and motion blur and depth of field and other visual clues to the eye that approximate the look and feel of analog film.  But recognize that there have been programming and design decisions that help to define that look.  So if we understand RED's theory of operation, we can understand what parameters we can change to achieve the look we want. 

Further, its important to understand that much of this is also filtered by me.  The descriptive terminolgy used is necessarily based on my sense of the aesthetic of film.  In other words - I can't say that the RED One's algorithm for the shutter effect is like a film camera unless I understand how they both work, AND how they both affect the look of the image.  In a film camera there is a spinning mirror that acts as the shutter - this piece is not present on a digital sensor.  So the guys at RED wrote some code to achieve that look.  Its up to us to decide if their implementation was successful.  It was not successful on video cameras - there was an obvious difference in the quality and the feel of the images captured by film versus video.  I believe the RED has been very successfuul so far in their implementation.

So - enough philosophizing -  lets get dirty.


Once again is a brief discussion of the various lens options available for the RED One™.  What's important to garner from here is that you can use almost any lens you want on the camera.  It is important to understand that if you use a 16mm lens - you should not shoot bigger than 2K.  This is because the Mysterium™ Sensor in the One™ is the size of 35mm film.  So when you shoot at the lower resolutions of the camera, it simply uses the middle part of the sensor rather than the whole surface area. You will get the same effect if you put a 16mm lens on a 35mm film camera.

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