Traveling with the RED Epic

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I have spent a good portion of this year on the road, from Australia to Southeast Asia and back – and I made the point of  taking my RED across the globe.    What’s the point of owning such a camera if it lives on the shelves back at the office after all?

The challenge has been: how do you carry a digital cinema camera with you across the world, have the essentials you need to shoot, without lugging a number cases of gear with you everywhere?  

As I have said from the beginning, my favorite thing about the RED EPIC is how compact and portable it is.   It’s the closest (at 5K capable of 120 fps producing RAW files) that you can currently get to traveling with an IMAX camera today…

The beauty is that you can carry this camera in a backpack or roller case with you literally anywhere, along with all the accessories you need to shoot – which can’t be said of most high end cinema cameras – they’re simply too big and far too heavy.

Lately, I have been using the Petrol DigiSuite DSLR Camera Case (pictured left) to house my EPIC and accessories.  This is a carry-on size roller case (much like the ThinkTank rollers I have used for over a decade for still cameras) but this bag’s notable difference is the heavier-duty customizable velcro padded inserts so you can customize the internal layout and the fact that it was designed specifically for DSLRs/Cine cameras and accessories such as matte boxes.

The interior has a length of 19.7 inches, width of 13.2 inches, and height of  8.27 inches.   While this bag is meant to fit in US Overhead bins on airlines – it is also built to protect your investment and keep your gear (that one normally packs in cases) safe.

When taking the EPIC out with me, I typically always have the Canon EF mount attached to the camera.  This allows me to use both Canon EF glass, and my Zeiss CP.2 lenses.  Usually, I travel with the 25mm and 50mm CP.2 lenses – my two go to lenses in general for cinema.  I’ve also been going around with two stabilized lenses, the new 24mm f/2.8 IS and 100mm Macro f/2.8 II.  These IS lenses are great for handheld work – the 100mm macro especially, I can often do handheld shots that look like they were shot on sticks.   If I do find myself wanting to rent PL glass for some reason, I bring the PL mount for my Epic just in case I get asked to shoot a job while on the road.

Depending on how I accessorize the camera, I also bring along two solutions for filtration.  In run and gun situations, I like avoid having to deal with rectangular filters and matte boxes, so I use a Schneider Vari-ND 77mm filter for the Canon glass with step up and step down rings.  

For the CP.2s I use 114mm circular filters from Schneider and affix them to the lens using an adapter that was originally designed for using circular filters with Angenieux glass (They’re still working on a prototype so I’ll let you know more when it’s available as a product you can buy.  Basically this allows me to snap the high quality Schneider ND filters directly onto the front of my CP.2 lenses)  If I do want to build out the full kit with the matte box, I use Schneider 4×5.65 ND Filters – though I won’t always travel with a full set, maybe just a 0.6 and 1.2, and a circular polarizer.

In terms of accessories, I try and bring enough parts so that I can either shoot quickly on the fly or be prepared for a more typical studio setup.  I always have the DSMC top mount attached to my EPIC body, and typically I have the DSMC plate attached to the bottom (which has a RED quick release mount and 15mm lightweight rod adapter for the front of the camera).  So when I need to shoot with the camera quickly I will throw the sliding top handle on the top mount.  If I want to build out a full shoulder mount I can attach the DSMC shoulder pad with the quick release platform easily to the bottom of the camera.  I can then throw on lightweight rails and mount my Arri FF-1 follow focus and OConnor O-Box.  The hand grips that I use are OConnor O-Grips, which I can attach directly to the side of the matte box.

For monitoring I travel with both the 5" RED LCD and the Bomb EVF.  I can attach the LCD to the camera body using 16×9 Cine locks, and mount the EVF to the top rail mount using the Spinner mount.  Which of these I use is totally dependent no the situation, but it is convenient to have both options. 

For power, I travel with 6 RED Volts and the RED volt charger.  These batteries work great for run and gun shooting – adding very little extra weight to the camera.  They don’t have a large battery life, but are completely adequate for trying to grab some beautiful imagery on the fly.  In the event that I need to use the camera on a more traditional shoot – I always pack my gold mount battery plate so that I can rent some Anton Bauers for extended camera battery life.

The one thing that is very important to note about packing my EPIC in a carry on is that I am always pushing my luck just quite a bit in terms of weight restrictions.   I’m playing with fire really. The kit weighs in exccess of 30+ lbs. when it is fully loaded, and around 25 lbs. w/ minimal accessories.  Airlines definitely frown upon these weights as the maximum allowed overhead compartment weight is 20 lbs. in U.S. airlines – and less so in international airlines.   I often try to sweet talk the airline personnel into stowing this in the front compartment which is doable when I get upgraded to business class – but nearly impossible in economy.  So keep this in mind as it’s also frankly dangerous.  However, if you are only fitting out your Petrol roller with a DSLR camera kit, weight should be far less of an issue for you.

Below is a visual breakdown of how I pack the roller to fit my EPIC, EF lenses and accessories, in three stages.   Over the coming weeks I will go over some other solutions that I have been using – including smaller backpacks, as well as checked luggage cases to make this work.