10 Things You Need to Know Before Shooting with RED Epic

10 Things You Need to Know Before Shooting with RED Epic (Series)

This series will cover things like black-shading calibration, REDVOLT batteries, firmware updates, and using still lenses with the Epic. Not every post will cover a "major" problem, but each will cover an issue that is extremely helpful to be aware of before you even prep the camera.

It’s no secret the RED One was a less than perfect camera.

But what it lacked in perfection, it made up for in pure disruptive power and changed the digital cinema game. Even though it was a quirky and difficult camera to use, top notch directors like Peter Jackson jumped on the RED train to digital town.

And now that RED has had quite a bit of time to mature both as a company and a manufacturer, their follow-up to the RED One, the RED Epic, is supposed to provide a more streamlined experience and user-friendly camera.

Does it deliver? Well, sort of.

But like any RED product, there’s a catch or two waiting to snag you just when the Assistant Director is about to yell “Roll camera!

Let’s be clear: no camera is perfect. RED has simply become the poster-boy for buggy cameras.

That’s because the company releases firmware updates constantly — patching holes, creating new ones, and adding features not fully tested — but also because their cameras have such distinct problems.

For instance, I remember the RED One on my first gig as a camera assistant that would randomly go into timelapse mode, shooting 1-frame bursts between setups. Or the various times I’ve watched a boot dialog on the back LCD come to a dead stop. Or finding “phantom clips” the camera chose to shoot itself.

On the latest RED Epic shoot I was on, we avoided major software glitches, but I spent a lot of time comparing Epic to RED One and examining the trade-offs of each. I asked myself, “What are the ‘gotchas’ on this camera? What are the unique problems it presents?”

Afterward, I came up with a list of 10 “must-know” problems, issues, quirks, and limitations of the RED Epic camera.

And over the next two weeks (starting tomorrow), I’m going to be going in-depth on each of them to discuss further how you can have better control over this powerful camera and what proactive steps you can take to avoid common pitfalls.

This series of posts will cover things like black-shading calibration, REDVOLT batteries, firmware updates, and using still lenses with the Epic. Not every post will cover a “major” problem, but each will cover an issue that is extremely helpful to be aware of before you even prep the camera.

Throughout the series, you can check back here to see a list of the posts in one convenient spot.

In the meantime, I’d love to hear your thoughts on shooting with the EPIC and what unexpected happenings occurred while you were working with it.

Basically, what advice would you give to someone who has never used the camera before and is about to for the first time? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Posts from This Series:

  1. How to Properly Calibrate Black Shading
  2. REDVOLT Batteries Trade Power for Portability
  3. You’re Limited with Monitor Outputs and Options
  4. Use the LED Status Indicators to Save Time
  5. How Epic’s Auto-Focus Works Against You When Off
  6. Know Your Camera’s Firmware and Its Limitations
  7. The Difference Between REDCODE Data Ratios
  8. How to Shoot Slow Motion at Varispeed Framerates
  9. You Must Know What You Want From the Camera
  10. It’s a Computer Inside of a Camera’s Body
  • http://twitter.com/Tom_C_Hall Tom C. Hall

    There is a perfect camera, it’s called the alexa.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Haha! Nice one Tom :) it’s as close to perfection as I’ve seen

    • Frosty72

      Except for the size and the price and the RGB 1080p (without doubling the price to get 2.5K RAW), then sure… Pretty good sensor.

      • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

        To each his own :) for some, price and the 1080 are non-issues, for others, they are glaring mistakes.

  • Robert Loughlin

    I think the hardest thing for ACs (on sets with low budgets that can’t afford a dedicated DIT) to get is that all digital cinema cameras are more computer than camera (and certainly NOT camcorders–I see a lot of people, DPs included, try to troubleshoot REDs as camcorders), and should be treated as such during troubleshooting.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      I agree, Robert. That’s an important concept to grasp — that what you’re dealing with is similar technology to an iMac or a PC tower, just harnessed to utilize an image sensor.

  • Benjamin Tubb

    The fact there isn’t a power output for accessories. If you want a Preston FIZ or something, be ready to mount a brick. No Red LCD and EVF at the same time. Very little physical real estate for velcroing stuff. RedMote is a friggin’ nightmare. Black balance takes like 90 kajillion hours. Good camera for the right project, but certainly not as well thought out or executed as Alexa o ANY FILM CAMERA.

    By the way, Evan, you should totally do an article on wireless focus. Different products, setup, focus tactics, etc…

    Great blog by the way.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Ah the velcro issue! That’s something that hadn’t occurred to me consciously. Like, when prepping the camera, I noticed, but I don’t think I ever acknowledged it out-loud or anything.

      Thanks for the kind words and the comment, Benjamin. A lot of what you mentioned is going to be covered, so stay tuned!

  • Xanoramix

    i´ve worked with Epic a coulple of times 
    bad things- keep changing shutter angle and other settings without changing anything on camera- crashed sometimes- assembling it is similar to a 5D full equiped…you start with a small camera and end up with something with the same size and weight as an Alexa with the downsize of having to assemble modules and more modules, lots of stuff attached, cables everywhre… a nightmare to change configurations… - can´t use viewfinder and monitor at the same time- tons of gigabytes, taking forever to do downloadgood things- fast startup- it is resistant to water :) it survived a crasy DOP without any  respect for the equipment…- i don´t shoot with it often:):):)This will be the year of Alexa and C300Hope to see 5D and Red out of the film bussiness… 

    • lancemokma

      That won’t happen…purely due to the mediocrity of the C300 compared to RED and the price point of the Alexa.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Have to agree with Lance here, none of these companies are going to go out of business. They all have too much skin in the game and there’s so much money to be passed around.

  • Alexander Prokos

    I’ve seen a lot of ACs letting a lot of light to go through the lens directly into the sensor, or not taking precautions when changing lenses, I’m not saying “be a sensor freak”, but why take extra chances? If I’m G&E, I always try to follow with a courtesy flag when shooting outdoors for the same reason.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      An AC’s dream: the G&E courtesy flag! Agree with your points. It’s easy to just have someone pop their hand over the sensor during quick lens changes, etc.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Volstraav Kevin Marshall

    I AC on Epic/Scarlet cameras just about every week, and I’ve never had any real “problems.” On an earlier build, we had a slight annoyance with manually putting in the reel number when changing cards, as opposed to it now auto-incrementing. I also had one instance where the client monitor on set didn’t support progressive, only Psf.

    Black Shading isn’t as ridiculously necessary as people seem to make it out to be – only necessary if you’re shooting timelapse…maybe once during prep if you’re renting the camera and don’t trust the rental house/owner (or the previous renters). One set I was on actually screwed up the black balance because they thought they had to black shade all the time, and they botched it.

    I’ve never worked with an Alexa, but I don’t understand much of the negativity surrounding the Epic. My only real problems with the Red One (boot up time and joysitck menu) were solved with the Epic, and we’ve switched from Ronford Heavy Duty legs and a Sachtler 7+7 to Gitzo carbon fibers and a Sachtler DV12…I can lift the whole damn setup with one arm, sticks and all (not that I actually move camera that way). With a Macbook Pro and an eSATA card, I’ve never fallen behind on one-camera shoots doing verified copies to two drives – always shooting 5K FF 5:1 with three 128GB cards.

    All in all, super-easy system to work with, and great results (at least for me).

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Good points Kevin and thinks for lending a positive perspective to what can easily become a RED bashing thread. Let me set the record straight that I don’t think Epic is a bad camera. It has as many caveats as any other camera system has. I’m just writing this series because it’s useful information to know before you shoot with the camera. All-in-all, my Epic experiences have been positive.

      And, as I always say, the audience only cares about what they see. And the Epic provides results in that arena. So for all our bitching and moaning, it doesn’t really matter.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Volstraav Kevin Marshall

        Of course – I didn’t mean to imply anything about you. Just trying to, as you said, “lend a positive perspective.”

  • Nolan Maloney

    If you’re changing your presets via the touch LCD, if you touch outside of the preset dropdown menu, the camera locks up and you have to hard reset.

    The lack of user buttons on the body itself makes using an EVF unpractical, unless you have the handgrip attachment that adds a few more user buttons.

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Is the preset thing true? I thought tapping outside just exited the menu, but is that an issue on that specific screen? Even with newer builds?

      Great point on the EVF w/o side-handle

      • Nolan Maloney

        Not sure what the current up-to-date build is, but my info is from practical experience working with the camera in late March 2012.  This was the DP’s first Epic experience after trading in his MX.  Every time my finger grazed out of the drop down, the system would freeze.

        I can tell you that both he and I were very VERY stressed about that issue, but the shoot proceeded without issue.

        I thought of another one:  Auto-Fan Control, while usually good, sometimes won’t quiet down when you roll, especially if you’ve been working in warm conditions.  It can be corrected by switching the Fan Speed to low when rolling.

  • Paul Tackett

    This is very helpful, thank you. Couldn’t have found a better list of “must knows” on the web

    • http://www.theblackandblue.com/ Evan

      Glad you enjoyed it, Paul :)

  • Matt @ 9G Films

    Great post, Evan. As a shooter, it all comes down to the right tool for the job. The Epic suits my needs better than any camera out there. I posted a blog a couple of months ago about my first experiences with the Epic – http://9gfilms.tumblr.com/