I arrived at Thunder Studios in Long Beach excited for everything to come. Not just to play with some fascinating and powerful cameras, but to push the edge of everything I knew and practiced in my career and with Zerosun. It's been an interesting road, advancing from prosumer cameras to DSLRs and the EX1, eventually up to the Canon C300 & C100, the Sony FS700, and now the RED Epic Dragon... I mean, I built my reel many years ago shooting video on photography cameras, and now I'm working with a camera that can take 100 19 megapixel frames of video every second (or 'photos', if you'd rather call/use them that way). Incredible.
My class had about 36 students, a few instructors/RED reps, and about 8 'TAs' (pros that have been working with Dragons for some time) with a good range of backgrounds. Many were working in Hollywood/Los Angeles, and it was great to hear their input on using the camera in features, commercials, and fashion. Most of us were camera geeks - artists, if you will, that have spent our careers getting every last illuminated pixel out of digital cameras, at the right white balance, at the right exposure, in focus and ready for post.
Walking that line between noise and beauty, to bring a vision to life. This camera, like every investment we have all made with every camera before, would be our main tool to take us forward. So the air was charged with anticipation for this sexy beast before us.
They explained the capabilities of the Dragon, running down the list of impressive stats and tantalizing numbers: enormous 6k resolution, high speed framerates, RAW workflow, HDRx (highlight protection), and 16.6 stops of dynamic range. We'd all read the specs before coming, I'm sure. Watching the results on screen was something else entirely. They'd set up a couple projections on the stage walls. One usually had a computer desktop open with REDCine-X on it. The other was a 4k projection of the video scratch out from that workstation (or sometimes directly from a camera at the front of the class. So of course I made my seat right in front of that 4k projection. I carefully scrutinized levels of compression, colors, exposure in highlights and shadows.. looking for a breaking point somewhere... something that I would know to look out for when I started shooting. But instead, all I saw and experienced showed me how this camera should be a versatile and phenomenal workhorse for us. The features and specs open up more possibilities than ever before, with the flexibility to outfit the rig any way necessary to get the shot.
Each day we'd break into groups for a time and get hands-on time with the cameras. They gave us a chance to get comfortable and assemble a camera, dive into the menu systems, upgrade firmware, and take test shots to demonstrate features. I was lucky to have Ivan Egerton, a DP from Seattle, leading my group. He had a similar appreciation for smaller production style, often working in the field with corporate clients and more 'run-n-gun' situations. It was reassuring to see that the camera could hold its own for this kind of work, which has resulted in some of my favorite Zerosun projects in the past.
Paired with Zerosun's efficient production workflow and our great team, there's no question in my mind of what's to come with this new camera. We've worked really hard to get to the leading edge of production in Denver, and we're here, forging our path forward with every creative project we take. Owning our RED Epic Dragon, we will produce many beautiful images, and the pride of our work will be evident in the dazzled eyes of our audiences, our clients, our ourselves. This is the way forward... welcome to the universe.