Shooting with RED Epic #3: You’re Limited with Monitor Outputs and Options

RED has since fixed some of these monitor issues with software updates and hardware modules, but those working with a vanilla RED Epic should still be aware of monitor limitations.

From our ongoing exploration of 10 Things You Should Know Before Shooting with RED Epic:

3. You’re Limited with Monitor Outputs and Options

Having an electronic view finder (EVF), an on-camera monitor, and a director’s monitor via BNC connection is a standard monitoring setup for most camera rigs. The camera operator uses the EVF while a camera assistant references the on-board monitor for menu navigation and focus.

The director, meanwhile, can relax and enjoy the view from video village with other above-the-liners.

With the RED Epic, you can still finagle this setup, but it requires playing a bit of musical chairs.

Because, unlike the RED One which had dual outputs for RED branded LCDs and EVFs as well as an HD-SDI output, the Epic gives you one RED display output and one standard HD-SDI feed.

Essentially, you’re working down from three outputs for three monitors to two outputs for three monitors. So what does this all mean?

No RED EVF and RED LCD at the Same Time

Basically, that in the Epic’s standard setup, you can’t run a RED EVF and RED LCD (touchscreen or not) at the same time. You pick one or the other.

But to get around this limitation you have two options:

  • Use the RED Pro I/O Module
    The Pro I/O module provides quite a bit of power in a cube that mounts to the back of the camera. Among XLR inputs/outputs, you’re given many more lemo power outputs as well as BNC connections for genlock, pgm, and previews. And, yes, you get another LCD/EVF jack for a 2nd RED display.
  • Attach a 2nd Monitor/EVF by HD-SDI or HDMI
    As an alternative to a 2nd RED display port, the Epic has an HD-SDI output and an HDMI output. You can choose to use a third-party monitor or EVF by feeding it the signal from one of these ports. But be aware that HD-SDI and HDMI cannot output video signal simultaneously — again, you pick one or the other.

Oh — one last thing — did I mention the Pro I/O module hasn’t even shipped yet? July 1st, 2012 is the expected date, but not promised. Which means you’re kind of stuck with option two for at least a couple of months.

Utilizing Pass-Through Monitors to Complete the Setup

And if you’re stuck with the 2nd option, you’re going to want a third-party monitor or EVF that supports signal pass-through. That way you can also attach the third monitor to be placed at video village for your director.

Otherwise, you’ll run the HD-SDI feed to your on-camera monitor where it’ll come to a dead end. That may not be a big deal on small shoots, but on a large cinematic film-style set, there’s no way that would fly. Producers and directors love their video village too much!

The lack of outputs on Epic also becomes an issue if you’re using a third-party device such as the Teradek Cube to record dailies or editing proxies.

The most important thing you can do is ensure your monitor chain — utilizing pass-throughs — is seamless and works while in camera prep.

Many of these issues will be solved when the Pro I/O module is released and, to some extent, the Meizler Module as well. But until that day comes and until the orders proliferate throughout the fleet of Epics, we’re stuck playing musical chairs with a setup we’ve become accustomed to.

And when the music stops, without adding more chairs ourselves, someone is getting left out.

What monitors or workflows do you recommend when working with Epic? Have you tried to recreate the three-monitor setup or do you succumb to the whims of RED and ditch either the LCD or EVF? Share your stories in the comments!

  • Zac Crosby

    RED has also announced the RED +1 Monitor adapter, with an extra monitor and power port, I’d assume it’s a lot less complex as the Pro I/O and should come out around the same time. I saw it @NAB, and its pretty slick.

    • Evan

      Ah ha. Thanks for the heads up on that Zac. That’s a good idea by RED. I’ll have to make sure to re-write this post when both of those options come out — it will pretty much make this a non-issue unless you’re shooting a barebones package.

      • Zac Crosby

        Exactly, and shooting barebones, you’re not going to be needing an extra port because it’ll probably be run an gun.

  • Benjamin Tubb

    I used to work with this particular Red Owner/Operator, and the only viewing option he owned was a single Red LCD.  Most of the shoots we worked were so low budget that they were barely willing to poney up the dough for a video village monitor, much less a “luxury” like a second onboard for the AC.  Since the operator needed the monitor for himself, I had to make do with nothing.  On these shoots, I’d just default back to the way I originally learned to pull focus: no monitor, just you, your AC tape, and some distance marks.  Not ideal, but I find going ‘monitor-free’ from time to time is like driving without GPS.  Removing the crutch for a bit can help keep you sharp.

    That said, there were certain moments where I REALLY needed a monitor (extreme telephoto shots, ECU eyeball while actor rocks back and forth, cues based on framing or action, etc).  On these shots, the operator and I would just contort the monitor and ourselves so we could both see it.  And unfortunately, I’ve had to port these tactics over to the lower budget epic shoots, due to the lack of monitor options.  It makes me cry when I’m dealing with that retardedness, and I glance over and there’s a perfectly good Red LCD in the case that I can’t use, because the operators EVF is using up the port.

    • Evan

      Oh going monitor-free is awesome, especially when you nail all the shots.

      But where it bothers me to not have a monitor is on shoots where they’re giving me still lenses. Because with still lenses and no monitor, it’s nearly impossible to pull focus with any sort of accuracy. I mean, it’s somewhat possible, but extremely frustrating because you don’t have marks nor a monitor.

      So now that you have been freed, occasionally, from the monitor, which do you prefer?

      • Daniel Mimura

        I love love love not depending on the monitor, but the markings and go out of my way NOT depending on it when I can. HD monitors have made people lazier…but of course, with the still lenses, it’s how you pretty much have to do it to get your marks.

        Those bad habits are translating to people shooting with proper glass though. I’m a steadicam operator (I do AC occasionally) and AC’s often want me to stand there while they get the focus off of the monitor…that sh-t gets heavy! I’m trying to save myself for the take. I don’t wanna get into a pissing contest and tell them how *I* would do it (as an AC)…I think it’s b/c people now are used to having good monitoring instead of a crappy dim, flickery SD image off of the tap that people who did it 5-10 years ago had to do it.

  • Kevin Marshall

    Most common setup I work with/see is TVLogic and RED Touch LCD. While pass-through can be kind of a pain – having a BNC run to village from your monitor instead of the back of the camera, getting in your way – it almost makes more sense to me than tying yourself down to only RED-branded monitoring. Definitely a bit of a step back, though – especially for those upgrading from RED Ones – I’m sitting next to a RED EVF (old school, not Bomb), and a 5.6″ LCD that just haven’t been used in forever. There are also some compatibility issues with the old EVFs and the Epic – some people using them fine, and others (like my friend) whose won’t work.

    The +1 adaptor, I think, was a great response to the community to solve the two problems of the seemingly useless module adaptor, and the lack of a second monitor output (and power output).

    • Evan

      Yeah the +1 adaptor will be a godsend when it gets released, but for now its sort of obnoxious how you have to make so many accommodations with monitors for this camera.

  • Rich

    Hey guys. Occasionally I’ll try to use a t-barrell adaptor on the back of the camera in order to send a signal to a dead ended monitor that has no pass through. Be aware though that this can sometimes not work because the ohm through out on the hdsdi on the epic is not particularly suited to splitting the signal….it’s just not strong enough.

    Also, I like putting a 90 degree adaptor on that recessed bnc port so I have easy access for quick disconnect.

    • Evan

      Hey Rich — That was my worry with a T-Barrel, that the camera wasn’t designed for one. Have you noticed any big issues when it does work? How long of a cable can you string?

      BTW, great suggestion with the 90 degree adaptor. That port is a bitch to jack into

  • slateboy83

    Hey guys, I’m catching up with old posts. I’m now working pretty often with Red Epic and when possible my favorite camera set up is to attach a Sound Devices PIX240i (it’s a audio/video recorder that makes instant proRes proxys, way more cheaper than the Meltzer Module) via HD SDI or HDMI, that has a decent screen (it’s not the best LCD you’ve ever seen but it does get the job done) and also has both HD SDI and HDMI outputs to send the signal to one or two different destinations. And sure everybody already know it, but just to point it out, with the last firmware HDMI and HD SDI outputs do work simultaneously.

  • Allee

    I just got a powered HDMI splitter from ebay. I have the innocinema proteus so I power the splitter from a 5V out then run one cable to an attached hdmi LCD monitor and then a 2nd long HDMI to video village. This is better than having to get a LCD with HDMI pass through