Shooting with RED Epic #8: How to Shoot Slow Motion at Varispeed Framerates

Shooting with RED Epic #8: How to Shoot Slow Motion at Varispeed Framerates

Part of the sexiness of the RED Epic is its amazing ability to shoot high-speed, slow motion footage at high resolutions. And you bet directors and cinematographers take advantage of this. So it follows that if you're working with the RED Epic, you need to know how to shoot slow-mo.

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

8. How to Shoot Slow Motion Footage at Varispeed Framerates

Part of the sexiness of the RED Epic is its amazing ability to shoot high-speed, slow motion footage at high resolutions – up to 300 frames-per-second (fps). That kind of silky smooth slow-motion that makes our mouths drop used to be reserved for speciality cameras, but is now available easily on the Epic.

And you bet directors and cinematographers take advantage of this. I’ve even worked on shoots where a RED One, which “only” shot 120 fps, was brought in explicitly for its Varispeed capabilities.

So it follows that if you’re working with the RED Epic, you need to know how to shoot slow-mo.

An Easier Process to Shooting Varispeed

Previously with the RED One, shooting Varispeed was a somewhat laborious process. You had to first set compatible REDCODE compression and resolution settings, then enable Varispeed, then select your chosen frame-rate by dialing it in with the joystick. If you forgot to set the record quality settings correctly, your chosen framerate wouldn’t be selectable — you’d have to backtrack and do the process over.

RED Epic throws all that to the wind.

To set a higher frame-rate with Epic, you simply access the “FPS” option within the main menu and dial in the frame-rate you want.

Once you do so, the FPS text turns yellow and the audio meters are replaced with “Varispeed” as shown in this screenshot:

RED Epic Varispeed Menu Screenshot

If you already know the compression settings and/or resolution you prefer, you can set them yourself. Or, when you hit record, the Epic will automatically choose the best quality REDCODE at your chosen resolution and prompt you to continue.

It’s simple, straightforward, and makes sense.

Setting and Keeping a Consistent Time Base

There is one setting you need to make sure stays consistent: the time base. The time base, as explained in the Epic manual, “defines the frame count to be used for time code and as the clip playback and editing frame rate … the primary frame rate for acquisition.”

So make sure the high-speed framerate you choose is relative to the framerate you want it to playback at (in most cases 24 fps or 29.97 fps). For instance, if you want to shoot at half-speed, you would set the framerate to 48 fps while leaving the project timebase at 24fps.

(For a better understanding of high-speed framerates, read this article.)

To set the timebase in the first place, navigate to SECONDARY MENU >> SETTINGS >> PROJECT >> TIME BASE.

This is a setting that you will really only lock down once at the beginning of the shoot as all footage will remain relative to this speed.

Bonus quick tip: if you want your shutter to remain consistent between footage shot at 24fps and Varispeed slow motion clips, make sure the “Shutter Mode” is set to relative (it will display in yellow text if active) — this will scale the shutter speed you set at your timebase so it matches at Varispeed framerates. You adjust this by going to SECONDARY MENU >> SETTINGS >> DISPLAY >> MODES >> SHUTTER MODE.

Now the Hard Part — Finding Something to Shoot

Short, but sweet, huh?

The Epic makes shooting Varispeed an easy process to change on the fly in the chaos of production. The only “gotcha” here is to confirm your timebase settings are correctly configured and then the Epic can take care of the rest itself.

As for finding a good reason to use this feature? Well… do you really need one when you’re shooting 300 frames-per-second? Everything looks cool.

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

    EDIT: Just found out the “target RedCode” function will be in the release this week, so the below point is only valid for a couple more days….but I’ll leave it for posterity…

    ____

    The other caveat to mention: after you’ve done your high-speed, which requires a higher compression ratio (with current media), make sure to set your ratio back to where you want it.

    There will be automation for this in the future…I can’t remember if it’s in the imminent firmware release, or one more down the line. But for now, remember to manually set your compression back after high speed.

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

      Haha it’s good to know for people who might hop on an Epic sometime soon without the latest release or who didn’t realize thet target REDCODE existed.

      Did you also see they’re amping the slow mo to 400 fps at 1K? Already my article is dated…

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

        Haha, just the nature of RED…gotta stay on your toes (for better or worse).

        My heart already sinks when I go out with an Epic just to shoot in 2K all day for slo-mo…god help me when everyone inevitably will start shooting 1K – which is essentially standard def (1024×575, I think), maybe up to 720p, depending on what they actually choose for the dimensions.

        But hey, options are good.

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

          Yeah, it’s not the best, but Phantoms have been doing the same thing where they sacrifice quality for more fps — although Phantom does it a much more intense level.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Merlin/1277071487 Brian Merlin

            Maybe so, but Phantoms cost a ton more and you can’t upgrade the sensor. Some Phantoms are like 200k still!

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

            True! But if high quality slow mo is what you need…

  • Brian

    The tip about relative shutter is important. That could really change the look of what you are doing.

    check these outhttps://vimeo.com/37998218
    https://vimeo.com/37996982

    Both of these are pieces i shot on Epic at 300 FPS. The first one is just random stuff I thought would look cool in slow-mo. The second one is making tea at 300 FPS!

    Good article!

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

      Thanks Brian! The relative shutter setting is one of the first things I always turn on. It’s so easy and one less thing to worry about when shooting varispeed.

      Great footage! 300 fps is sexy :)

  • Mano

    How to set speed ramp mode in red epic