RED Gemini Real World Test “iPhone Only” ;)

So – what does the #Gemini look like at high ISO in the wild?
i.e. in “real world” use – vs a studio test?

That’s likely what every RED Digital Cinema​ user, filmmaker and DP is asking right now, especially a few days before #NAB2018

I too was curious … so much so that I took the fresh off the assembly line body with me to Sedona, AZ and the Grand Canyon during spring break with the kids… and natch: I put everyone to work. (Thanks to Bruce Dorn​ for being such a wonderful champ, guide, model!)

In many ways this video re-defines the “iPhone Only” term to some small degree – as a series of scenes is shot purely with iPhones … which I thought said everything one needs to know about the Gemini.

The fact that this was shot POST sunset for the most part – and in the 30-90 minute + range is what is exceptional to me specifically. That’s something I’m only used to when I shoot time lapses on DSLRs. Until now. (And we had to turn the iPhone screen brightness levels down!)

Filmmakers, TV shooters, doc, and pretty much everyone will be pleased with the excellent low light performance of this body as well as the smaller 5K size. I noticed I was filling up those SSDs much more slowly than in 8K… I was able to fill 5 days of footage on two of the new tiny G-Technology Europe​ 2TB SSDs and filled them each only 60%. That’s cool!

The results are incredible to me. I think the body easily sees 1.5 to 2.5 stops more into the shadows than any RED I’ve used to date and any 4K or above camera that I’ve used to date as well.

The lenses used played a big part of this as well – as you’re pushing the limits of optics here too. I used the ZEISS Camera Lenses​ Otus 55mm 1.4 , the Milvus 25mm 1.4, and the Sigma Corporation of America​ 14mm 1.8 for the most part. Almost always WIDE open. Exposure, shutter angle, FPS, compression and all details are overplayed on each clip.

Some other bodies may see more into the shadows perhaps, but not deliver the level of detail, color, or especially dynamic range as the RED bodies do. Let me step away from comparing this to other camera quickly – and go back to RED because it’s a fight no-one can win in the end. I know RED works for what I do … flawlessly. From using multiple mounts (PL, EF, Nikon, Sony, Hasselblad adapters, and Leica M lenses… as well as the Motion Mount – I’ve got everything I need.). Being able to shoot from 1 fps to 96 fps at 5K … well that’s just a dream for me for a package that’s not much bigger than a Pentax 6X7 or Hasselblad​ Medium format kit w/ filter.

For me this vacation was a big step. It was the first time I did not bring a STILL camera. And I don’t regret the omission one bit. I think it’s all RED and motion for me from now on – and pulling still grabs when I want to make prints. 8K is 36MP (up to 60 times per second full RAW!) and 5K is 16 Megapixels up to 96 times per second. Basically it’s iPhone + RED kit for me.

I’m not seeing much, if any, loss in detail in the highlights thanks to the two modes the body offers. There’s a low-light mode, and a standard mode (each optimized for each particular situation.). With the exception of the Daytime shots, all of this test was shoot in Low Light (LL) mode. (You’ll notice that I did TWO versions of Bruce walking around the tree … the first is exposed correctly at 6400 ISO and is quite clean … the second is underexposed by more than one stop (we were 49 minutes POST sunset! at 3200 ISO and when pushed not as clean. So don’t be afraid of 6400 ISO!) My daughter was side-lighting the scene from camera left with just her iPhone’s LED light. NUTS!

The only test I haven’t done yet is the RED Weapon 8K (Helium sensor) vs the Gemini – which I think the Gemini would win – as well as including the RED Monstro VV camera (which could make things interesting once downsampled from 8K to 4K … some have said the Monstro is the king in the end given pixel pitch/size etc. TBD!)

Here’s what this camera is NOT: It’s NOT a Sony​ A7xx killer.
Those still cameras still have 3-5 stops of signal-to-noise-ration on pretty much everyone. Those bodies do well in the 6 to 7 digit range … However that’s in still mode and you simply can’t compare the compressed video to the quality you’ll get from a RAW 5K or 8K file from the RED IMO. The Dynamic range and ability to work on the footage in post simply isn’t there.

One other note: I pushed the exposure a bit under moonlight. I was limited to 1 second exposures (I didn’t know there was a multi-sampling option until Jarred Land​ answered me at 12:30 a.m… but by that time the kids were tired and we had to go…). I can’t wait to do 16 second exposures – that will make things VERY interesting. And one more thing: How cool is it for a CEO or a major brand to answer a text from overseas (I think he was in Japan) when you’re on the edge of the Grand Canyon? Pretty cool IMO.

Regardless here are the results. Should note that I DID use Neat Video​ on all of the files starting at 3200. I debated giving you the RAW files but I realized I would never release anything shot above 1600 ISO on any motion picture camera without at least some minimal noise correction. Especially since I like to push the contrast and colors a bit (my style I guess) which directly accentuates noise in general. In most cases I pulled the noise correction down by 60%-80% and blended the original back in – I left the noise in there even though I could actually have made these images silky smooth with ZERO grain – I like the organic feel to the noise. This was mostly to remove pattern noise. So to be fair – with the exception of the moonlight footage, the noise correction is relatively minimal. Only the last shot in the video was pushed very hard in terms of noise correction – and even then I left the blemishes back in.

I did this on VACATION so please excuse the less than perfect editing … and see you all at NAB!!! I get in on Monday at noon.


My Backup Strategy – From Drives to LTO Tape

And so it starts – the LTO 2018 set… from G-Technology Shuttle XLs to LTO tape the never-ending data backup continues. Hits 8K RED Digital Cinemausers and anyone shooting 4K RAW as well I’m sure.

Been lazy going to cold storage for almost a year but with close to 250 Terabytes of drives online in my office w only 20TB of the critical files on the cloud via Dropbox you gotta be safe.

I have my drives organized as:
ONLINE – In Progress (Fast SSDs)
ONLINE – Projects less than 1 year old
OFFLINE – actually online but 1+ year old and can be deleted at will
ARCHIVED – for my most common stock request and also deletable. But not worth going to tape for a commonly requested asset…

Obviously everything is backed up to LTO-6 Tape ASAP in the initial phase (so it’s actually ALL archived – but this naming convention has worked for me to know where to put things in relative levels of priority.)

Critical in progress files are on DropBox

Trimmed R3Ds and Proxies SELECTS are shipped toNimiaa for stock sales and backed up there too. (And backed up to tape here too eventually.)

And ALL project files are on DropBox – I currently have 22TB on the cloud w their business plan and am super happy to have access to them on any computer or iOS device instantly from anywhere (easily downloadable or shareable.).DaVinci ResolveeFinal Cut Pro XAdobe Photoshop Lightroom Adobe Premiere Proo

My DropBox copies files to the cloud, a computer w Studio XL (64TB) in LA and a third copy in NYC on another Studio XL (64TB)

I already have 100+ LTO drives and am starting my 2018 set this week – my version of “spring cleaning.” Used to have a server w 14-tape LTO drive back in the day but now things have gotten so much simpler and more compact (and affordable!)

This is the least fun part of the gig but one of the most critical. And it feels good when it’s done right – one should NEVER delete a file … Just in case ONE request comes in for a sale it usually pays for the drive …

Wonder if anyone knows of a service that will economically make dupes of the LTO tapes …

What’s your workflow? We don’t all have Full Time DITs …

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So is the 18-Core iMac Pro Worth It?

So is Apple’s 18-Core iMacPro worth it?

In short: YES – if your software can take advantage of it. That’s the KEY.

But just as key: the 10-core iMac is really at the sweet spot of what the vast majority of users will likely ever need. It’s a little beast!
Final Cut Pro X is clearly designed to take FULL advantage of the 18 cores, whereas DaVinci Resolve is several times slower on similar exports (as much as 5 times slower) and unfortunately Adobe Premiere is currently not even on the same racetrack…

The results continue to be seriously impressive especially for those transcoding high resolution and RAW coded footage or using processor intensive VR footage for example.

The best way I can illustrate this is by sharing the following test:

1. I started off w/ 62GB RED Digital Cinema R3D 6 K files totaling 8 min 21 seconds of aerial footage.

2. I loaded the footage into the latest Final Cut Pro X version and asked it to generate: Optimized Video + Proxies.

Here are the results of how much time that took:

1. iMacPro 18-Core: 25 min 17 seconds to generate both Proxy + Optimized Video

2 I then exported the 8 min+ timeline as a 4K ProRes444 file in 8 min 20 seconds … that’s 1:1 on RED footage (nice!!!)

At this point:

– The 10-core iMac Pro was anywhere from 10-80% slower depending on how the software took advantage of the 8 additional cores and the process.

With software such as Adobe Lightroom the difference was negligible- whereas w FCPX transcoding it was as much as 80% faster due to the 8 additional cores.

– The top-of-the line Mac Pro was still transcoding (generating the initial first of three steps: generating proxy and optimized media for the first of the 2 clips .. it was at 96% of the first clip…)

– The top-of-the line MacBook Pro 15″ took:
1 hour and 11 minutes to render the same files and 27 min to output the ProRes444 output.

– And for of those who are still holding onto the old 15″ MacBook Pro w/ Magsafe… well … it took well over 6 hours to do the same 3 steps.

Here’s where it gets REALLY interesting though:

Comparing dif

ferent pieces of software that are specifically designed to take advantage of the CPU / GPU etc:

I exported a recent shoot via DaVinci Resolve my usual go-to NLE (editing) app that I use because I love to grade in it … and compared the results to FinalCutPro …

I exported a nearly 3 hour timeline shot on the RED Helium 8K at 60 fps to a ProRes444 4K file:

Thru Resolve the export took 5 hours 22 minutes …

Thru the 18-core iMacPro it took … 1 hour 9 minutes!

That’s significant.

In fact the round-tripping between Resolve and Final Cut Pro is so effortless that I’m currently going thru my second round of FCP X tutorials…

Speaking of FCPX – the playback of the 8K footage and scrubbing of it is so utterly effortless that it’s very hard to recommend anything else right now if you’re editing RED R3Ds on a Mac.

The iMacPro 18-core plays the footage in DaVinci Resolve at 5.8 fps whereas the 10-core plays the same footage at 3.8 fps. More importantly the footage (while rezed-down) in FCP X looks sharp on the 18 core prior to any proxy generation … is visibly lightly “blurry” looking on the 10 core (as it’s being rendered at a lower quality.)

So what’s the skinny – is the 18 core vs the 10 core worth $3K more? The answer is simple: what’s your time worth? What format are you shooting (and can it take advantage of these cores) and more importantly: Can the software you’re using take full advantage of the 18 core?

If you’re using FCPX and you transcode RAW 4K-8K footage, let alone RAW RED R3D footage in Final Cut Pro – it’s a TOTAL no brainer…

If you’re purely a Davinci Resolve user – then you’ll need to wait a bit for them to take advantage of those additional 8 cores – and I’m sure they will. Currently you get an error message every time you launch Resolve, stating that it can’t take advantage of the 18-cores with RED’s RAW decoder 😉

You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Adobe Premiere Proe Pro results in these tests … well, you’ve got to realize that all of these pieces of software improve upon one-another with leaps and bounds… and given the amount of friends I have at AdobeAdobe I’m simply going to say that as of this moment: their photo and video apps are on the valley side of the equation … not the peak.

If you use Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Photoshop Lightroom user for example: the software is simply not designed to take full advantage of either the 10 or 18 core machines just yet. In fact the software seems to be taking advantage of less than 20% of the CPU’s power.

Disclaimer: as with my last post, for those on the very highest end, a custom built PC is still likely to give you the best bang for your buck in terms of pure performance. That being said, 50% of those who’ve custom-built one swear by them … whereas the other 50% swear AT them and are utterly frustrated w them and Windows … it’s a mixed bag and larger depends on your Love (or opposite) of Windows.

Just 2 years ago Adobe’s Premiere and notably Adobe’s Media Encoder was TEARNG thru R3D and H.264 footage making it a – if not THE – GO TO NLE – or editing software.

At the end of the day: we’re going to have to become proficient w ALL NLEs – Final Cut Pro. X, Adobe Premiere, Davinci Resolve and … well no: Not Sony Vegas …sorry. Is that still around?

Point is: it’s likely going to ebb and flow and all of these pieces of software have CLEAR advantages. For exaMark Toia Toia is teaching his son to become proficient in all of them. He’s editing 20-30 day commercial shoots (shot in 6K-8K RED) on his MacBook Pro on the road as well as a feature film in Final Cut Pro X … and he is proficient in ALL NLEs. Says a lot – no?

For those who use software that routinely use high end footage that pushes hardware to its limits – the 18-core is AWESOME.

For most people: the iMacPro 10-core is a really, really, really SWEET SPOT. That’s also a key takeaway – I’d venture to bet that most people will be quite happy with the base model 10-core iMacPro for their Video and Still photography needs – that is 2X to 3X faster than any other Mac out there today.