This is the last post in our exploration of 10 Things You Should Know Before Shooting with RED Epic:
10. The RED Epic is a Computer Inside of a Camera Body
As our series on the RED Epic comes to a close, it’s time to take a look at the most obvious, yet most often ignored part of the camera.
When I say ignored, I don’t mean people consciously choose not to acknowledge this, but more like we sometimes forget what we’re dealing with:
…a highly-sophisticated computer smooshed into the casing of a camera body.
It’s easy to look at the body of the Epic as a whole piece that slaps together with a lens, some monitors, batteries, and accessories. Configured correctly and mechanically pieced together to fit, the Epic gives us the opportunity to make amazing images.
But inside that one piece, the body, is a multitude of technological complexities you and I are unlikely to ever fully understand.
Taking the Mindset of the Camera as a Computer
So what impact does taking this mindset have?
Well, first and foremost, you have to treat the camera as a piece of digital technology rather than a mechanical machine — you can’t just open it up to fix a part or re-solder some of the circuit boards to patch up an issue.
That will be easy for those of you who have grown up shooting video or cut your teeth working with digital cinema, but for many camera assistants or operators used to dealing with film cameras, this mentality can be restrictive.
In all likelihood, the Epic is a camera that you or I will never fully grasp the true inner workings of without first earning a degree in Computer Science and Electrical Engineering.
This isn’t a camera that runs on milled metal and oiled pieces. To capture such high-quality images, the Epic has to work through so many technological hurdles.
Once you understand the theory behind this mindset, a few practical concerns rise to the surface:
- The risk of over-heating in extreme environments.
- Computer internals are much more sensitive to physical impact or movement than mechanical cameras.
- The software will, at times, require patience. Computers never work as fast as we want them to and rarely work as flawlessly as we hope. The RED Epic, at some point or another, is guaranteed to give you some frustrations.
I’m not going to pretend I’m not pointing out the obvious here, but that shouldn’t undermine the truth that having this fundamental understanding of the camera is essential to operating it correctly — especially when dealing with troubleshooting (you shouldn’t rule out fixes from the computer playbook like reboots, swapping power, etc.).
If anything, the Epic is a machine of a few types: general mechanics, video camera, and computer.
The key to operating the Epic successfully and troubleshooting it correctly is to identify which area your problem lies in. If the lens isn’t mounting correctly, that’s a mechanical issue. If the white balance is off a bit, that’s a video issue. If the media is failing to format, that’s a computational issue.
Being able to wrap your head around each of those will help you approach the problem from the right angle and use your experience with each type of machine to apply the appropriate fix.
An Evolution of the RED One
For all its K’s of resolution and Oakley design aesthetics and ability to mount the highest quality lenses on it, the RED One camera still boils down to being a computer inside of a laser-gun like casing. Its inner workings are full of circuity, cooling fans and cable strips.
I wrote that sentence almost two years ago as the last in a list of 10 Things You Should Know About the RED One (see what I’m doing here?).
The Epic is a natural evolution of the RED One in a positive direction — a lot has changed with the Epic — but the idea that it’s a computer pretending to be a camera hasn’t.
If anything, it’s even more crucial to understand that the RED Epic, despite the gorgeous images, incredible high resolutions, and mind-blowing slow-motion, is just a computer living a camera’s life — more so than its chunkier little brother.
A large portion of the posts in this series can be tied back to the Epic being such a sophisticated piece of technology — from specific issues like black shading calibration, REDCODE compression, and monitoring capabilities to more generic computer matters like firmware updates, battery power, and LED status indicators. Though it’s true that the Epic still embodies a certain ethos of camera in its auto-focus and high-speed functions.
Ultimately, the Epic is a camera built on many technologies of many types. It’s a computer, a camera, and a tool.
As a final piece of advice, I implore you to remember that while the Epic gives us the opportunity to make an amazing image, it’s still up to you to do most of the legwork — you operate the camera, not the other way around.
How Did You Like This Series?
I never thought I’d donate two weeks of my blog to the RED Epic, but in the end, I’m happy I did. These are issues, how-tos, and problems that are practical, common, and likely to pop up if you shoot with the camera.
But I want to turn it over to you: what’d you think of the series? What did I miss? What would you like to share with readers of The Black and Blue that is crucial to shooting with Epic?
Sound off in the comments below and be as honest, mean, or congratulatory as possible (especially congratulatory :-P ). Thanks for reading through this with me and I hope you managed to take away at least one useful piece of knowledge from the series!