Many of the complaints levied against the RED One have been that its dynamic range is far too limited and its colorspaces too contrasty. The Arri Alexa came along the way and swept everyone off their feet with “images of a quality comparable to film,” according to Roger Deakins. Jannard must’ve been listening because these stills look promising.
Following up on his HDRx demonstration, Jannard released these stills only a few days ago with the help of Michael and Don Burgess and Brook Willard. The HDRx footage looked good but it’s much easier to see what RED has been up to when comparing the stills to the company’s older offerings.
Let’s start first with REDgamma, a colorspace that DP’s always hated but directors always loved because it gave an instant view of a more contrasty image. Before, shooting in REDgamma meant dealing with clipped highlights and crushed blacks resulting in an image that gave little leeway in terms of exposure.
Here is the still of REDgamma (old):
Here is the still of REDgamma2 (new):
The difference between the two images is quite substantial at first glance. Immediately notable is the expansion of the range in which highlights are blown out and blacks are crushed. The detail in the Capital Records building and the building being illuminated with sunshine really comes through instead of inching closer to pure white. The shadows of the palm trees, the window shops, and the people on the street lift up detail into the image.
While some may prefer REDgamma to REDgamma2 as a final image, the capture process is never meant to render a finished product. These colorspaces are designed to ingest footage to later be color corrected. REDgamma is meant to be an approximation of a color correction, but certainly not a substitute for it. When capturing an image, the more detail that is acquired at first, the more flexibility there is to manipulate that detail during color grading procedures. In short, more detail equals more options.
That simple equation is the reason why Arris Alexa’s dynamic range is so highly touted and admired – because it lends itself to a higher level of detail and manipulation. And that’s why most won’t care too much about what REDgamma looks like, but instead are far more interested in what HDRx and the new REDlogFilm colorspace can render. RED did have a “raw” option for it’s RED One that apparently was called REDlog (though I never knew it by that name) that attempted to add a film-like color evaluation for the camera, but it was never that great. However, it was certainly better than the REC709 and REDgamma alternatives.
Here is the old REDlog:
Here is the new REDlogFilm:
Again, nothing revelatory here – simply an increase in the range of light handled by the camera. This is due in large part to the camera’s Mysterium-X sensor, shown by Peter Jackson to handle light better even on RED One, but the software for RED’s new Epic and Epic Light handles the sensor data differently. RED has really done their homework to take the same sensor and output such a better looking image.
The new REDlogFilm displays a much flatter image that is going to be more flexible for colorists, directors and cinematographers in post-production. It will also change the tactics of on-set lighting with the RED. Where once scenes had to be lit to compensate for blown out highlights, the new camera and sensor is going to be more forgiving in this area. It seems to me that the best feature of Mysterium-X handling low light well is not that it can shoot with less light, but that it can compensate for more light while still retaining shadow detail.
To really get a feel for these improvements, check out the 4-way comparison image below (click to enlarge):