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James Malamatinas

The Hobbit shooting on RED EPIC - big news?

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What I meant is that a producer can no longer rationally insist on the use of 35mm film as an excuse to weed out film makers from auditions but must accept digital content as well. However I also pointed out that producers can use other excuses to dismiss consideration of an emerging film maker in favor of more established film maker. It would be interesting to know if going through the trouble of creating a trailer in 3-D would open any doors for an audition.

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"The producers" usually try to push digital technology over the head of the artists. A few years ago, sub-1M€ small-budget movies were regulary shot on 35mm. Now, in times of HD and RED, it's just too expensive...

5k, 120fps... It all sounds nice until you look closer (5k are only 20% than 4k, compressed output...) but the proof is in the pudding as we all know. I've seen "the social network" (director with incredible visual skills - same sensor-technology as Epic) shortly after "Inception" - simply no comparison! They we're worlds apart! Fincher even worked with the sharpest lenses available - it didn't help at all.

So there is no special technical reason not to choose 35mm for 3D? Then "the Hobbit"-visuals will be seriously limited by the cameras used, just because the want to be cool - people didn't seem to care with "Avatar"... But is this really the direction we want to take? Shouldn't we wait with digital aquisition until technology is ready and not just a "looks somehow like film"-compromise?

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Inception was filmed using 65mm film. Yet you are using that as a basis for recommending that 35mm film should be chosen for 3-D. If 5K digital is an inferior format compared with 65mm film then 35mm film will likewise be an inferior format.

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So there is no special technical reason not to choose 35mm for 3D?

 

Well, what about the ability to look at the footage on-set to monitor the effect? Seems like that's very important for 3D.

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"The producers" usually try to push digital technology over the head of the artists. A few years ago, sub-1M€ small-budget movies were regulary shot on 35mm. Now, in times of HD and RED, it's just too expensive...

5k, 120fps... It all sounds nice until you look closer (5k are only 20% than 4k, compressed output...) but the proof is in the pudding as we all know. I've seen "the social network" (director with incredible visual skills - same sensor-technology as Epic) shortly after "Inception" - simply no comparison! They we're worlds apart! Fincher even worked with the sharpest lenses available - it didn't help at all.

SN is a 2K DI so you are limited to 2K by definition. And the MTF was high for 2K. If you want to judge RED Epic or MX resolution I suggest you watch some 4K footage on a 4K projector. There is a reason John Schwartzman says Epic has VistaVision resolution and to get more resolution you have to go IMAX/70mm.

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Shouldn't we wait with digital aquisition until technology is ready and not just a "looks somehow like film"-compromise?

 

There was a great post by David Mullen around here about the compromises that the adoption of new technologies usually brings to the game. I'm not sure you can ask technology to wait, it'd be great to tell everyone "don't drive until all cars are electric" but that's never going to happen.

 

 

If you want to judge RED Epic or MX resolution I suggest you watch some 4K footage on a 4K projector. There is a reason John Schwartzman says Epic has VistaVision resolution and to get more resolution you have to go IMAX/70mm.

 

I'm sure watching 4k footage projected at 4k is beautiful, but it's going to take a while before that happens for the majority of people.

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The majority of "Inception" was shot on 35mm anamorphic and it still looked great - it's a pity that Warner (again) blew the Blu-Ray-transfer...

 

The Epic has 5k - I'm not sure how well a downsampled 4k-RGB-image looks like, but oversampling (ARRI claims 1.5x linear is the minimum -> 2880 pixel to 1920 pixels) is crucial to justify the expense of a 4k workflow. Otherwise you end up with a mushy image full of artifacts from debayering in critical situations. Will it be close to a 35mm-DI when shooting a test chart? Propably, but that tells very little about overall IQ in real-world situations.

Even with 2k digital projection, many well-made 35mm-films look more detailed than RED. 4k in digital aquisition is still a marketing gag. Does 4k projection look better from 4k RED-source material? Yes. Does it give 2times (linear) the resolution? Not even close.

 

I'm not saying that "the social network" always looked bad, but in critical scenes it clearly lacked "visual richness". And now there are claims that by increasing resolution 10-20% (I don't know if Fincher used 4.5k RedRAW) you not just overtake 35mm anamorphic, but also Vistavision! RED claimed to be superior to film even with the first R1 - now, 3 years later, we saw the results in cinema on various features - and they couldn't fullfil these expectations.

 

ARRI chose 2k/1080p output because otherwise the photosites on the sensor would become too small. They still work on an on-board recording solution for real RAW - a difficult task because even at the relatively low resolution of Alexa it takes up to 700MB per second (I guess they want it to work up to 60fps). I'm sure they will come up with a real 4k camera some day, but right now, the recording & sensor-technology is too limited (even Alexa only looks close to film). We don't have to buy/ use compromised "4k"-cameras now to push manufacturers like ARRI or Panavision to develop proper ones...

 

"The Hobbit" costs several hundred million $ - they could have raised the bar in aquisition technology (waiting till 4k is ready, using Vistavision, 65mm, IMAX) for them and others to follow - but they didn't. So is it "big news" ? I doubt it. Does Peter Jackson care or will it compromise the potential success? No.

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I'm sure they will come up with a real 4k camera some day, but right now, the recording & sensor-technology is too limited (even Alexa only looks close to film). We don't have to buy/ use compromised "4k"-cameras now to push manufacturers like ARRI or Panavision to develop proper ones...

 

While I do agree with you, I remember what happened when I moved from shooting stills on film to digital, 5 years ago. My first digital camera was a D70s, 6 megapixels and a lousy dynamic range compared to what I could get from shooting my old F3 and F100 and some Fuji or Kodak film. That camera was then used by many professional photographers, and I clearly remember David Alan Harvey shooting reportages for National Geographic on it. It's almost ridicoulous how much better the new cameras are, and only 5 years have passed. Someone thought that level of technology was good enough and appropriate to replace 35mm film, there was a huge marketing campaign by Nikon and Canon (with the Rebel), and while some photographers were saying that it was not nearly good enough to be a valid alternative to film, those two cameras were sold in huge numbers and most professionals started to use them.

 

I think we might see something like that in the movie world as well, and to a certain extent, it's already happening: is the technology as good as the "old" one? According to many and looking at the numbers, no. Is it good enough, i.e. can you shoot a movie digitally and project it on a big theater screen without people complaining about the low quality of the images? Yes, and that's not big news at all. All I'm saying is that probably we'll see digital cameras becoming the main medium for aquisition long before the technology is more than "good enough".

 

"The Hobbit" costs several hundred million $ - they could have raised the bar in aquisition technology (waiting till 4k is ready, using Vistavision, 65mm, IMAX) for them and others to follow - but they didn't.

 

I'd like to think that if the quality of the images was truly bad and light-years away from what they could get by shooting 35mm film, Andrew Lesnie would have pushed for something else. He didn't, so probably he's happy with what he can get from the Epics. Same thing for Schwartzman on Spider-man, Wolski on Pirates 4, Cronenweth on the Social Network, and whoever gets to shoot the Alien prequels. At the same time, Deschanel, Deakins, Richardson, Khondji and others are more or less crazy about the Alexa, or at least it's good enough for them.

On the other hand, Pfister is probably going to shoot the new Batman on anamorphic 35mm and on 65mm, so you could say he's waiting for the technology to advance some more.

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I think the big mistake people are making about the Epic is thinking it's made for independent film-makers and smaller budget films. It's not. Big productions have the money and resources to use the Epic camera in the right way, small films most likely don't. This is my major gripe with RED; their strategy to democratize cinema. It doesn't work. I'll try to explain my case point by point.

 

Price:

Of the thousands of RED One cameras sold, how many were to rental houses and how many were in to private hands? Productions save money by renting cameras and not owning them; it also ensures you have a fallback should something bad happen. A DP who owns a RED will most likely still need to rent lights, lenses, a dolly, etc. The strategy Arri, Sony and Panavision have is to rent cameras, not sell them. So, why is it so important how much more an Alexa or F35 costs if you're not paying for it? The price of a camera means little to a large production when they have to pay for big lights, cranes, steadicam rigs, production design, crew and so on. A 'cheap' camera doesn't mean a cheap production.

 

Also, the Canon 7D, 5D, and even the Sony F900 cost less than a RED, and they can deliver great images provided you've got the right people behind them.

 

Sensor:

Personally I think having a 30mm-wide sensor is a dumb idea. You can't use cine lenses because they will vignette, so you're left with using stills lenses that have a smaller focus rotation, deliver less optical performance which should be important when you're shooting 5K, and typically have a larger stop wide open. Some Panavision and Zeiss lenses have a larger image circle than S35, but not all of them. Only the Zeiss cp.2 lens range has a universal large image area, and even then your limited in focal lengths.

 

If an indie were to shoot on an Epic, they would probably be shooting with stills lenses. This would belie the point of shooting on a larger format, higher-K sensor. I doubt many independent films will shoot with Leica or Hasselblad lenses. Also be prepared to have an excellent focus puller.

 

Post:

RED have created a monopoly in regards to their capture of images. Other manufacturers have HD-SDI as a standard output to deliver uncompressed 1080p and even 4K (via 4 HD-SDI signals) which can be captured into a multitude of other codecs (HDCAM-SR, Cineform, P2, AVC Intra, etc.). With RED cameras r3d files are the only way to go; what may be right for you may not be right for some. Post houses and NLE's were made to accommodate themselves with the r3d codec, thus far only being used in one camera model with several builds.

 

Not every production needs RAW 4K files and so are wasting data because of RED's stubborn and inflexible post path.

 

So my feelings towards the Epic being used on The Hobbit and Spiderman? I say the best of luck to them. They have the money and power to deliver great movies, but the camera itself won't make either of them great. The Epic camera should be used by professionals who can use it right, and in all honesty that's a very small number.

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I can understand that, but have you honestly seen an increase of quality in indipendent movies since Red (or any "affordable" digital camera) came out? According to them, they've sold almost 10000 cameras: assuming only a tenth of those have been used only once for a narrative project, have you seen a thousand movies shot on red in the last 2 years reaching your movie theater? Have you seen the new Kubricks coming out of their parents' basements because of the digital evolution?

I think it's great that the quality of the images coming out of digital cameras is approaching the quality of the "big boys", and since it's reasonable to think that digital will become the medium of choice in the future, the better it gets the best it is for everyone, but that has almost nothing to do with the ability to tell a story.

 

 

 

Yes, but we go back to the point I was trying to make earlier: if there's no talent, technology will do very little. If, on the other hand, there's talent and hard work, then technology can help, but at the same time it becomes what it's exactly supposed to be, a tool in the right hands.

 

Was - insert title - a great movie because it was shot on - insert medium - or because the story was great and well told?

 

We can go round and round here about talent, tech, story telling film vs. digi. Now my original questions here were: 1. Why is there so much hate on this forum for a camera that's trying to bring high quality at a reasonable cost? 2. In the next months if you go to the theater and watch a movie shot on Epic and its as good as 35mm in all areas are you going to come on here and say it?

Edited by Dustin Lindgren

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1. Why is there so much hate on this forum for a camera that's trying to bring high quality at a reasonable cost?

 

I can only speak for myself, Dustin, but frankly, I don't see "hate" towards Red around here, what I've seen since its introduction is something more like scepticism by many people who were trying to understand what was behind the triumphant claims that Red (the company) came up with as part of its aggressive marketing campaign (for instance, the Red in-house re-definition of "raw").

 

Personally, as a camera assistant and as someone who'll never buy a motion picture camera, I can only say a few things I don't like about it: the long boot time, the ergonomics, the menu, the fact that it seems like no two Red One cameras are alike (in terms of "behaviour"), and more generally the fact that it feels like it wasn't designed by listening to cinematographers, operators and assistants. I'm really glad when I read about established, good, professional cinematographers testing the new camera, I hope Red has listened to professionals more this time around, and I truly hope Epic is very different from Red One.

 

2. In the next months if you go to the theater and watch a movie shot on Epic and its as good as 35mm in all areas are you going to come on here and say it?

 

I would have absolutely no problem with that, I can't wait to see the Hobbit or the new Pirates movie (though I'll see them in 2D), and I don't have any problem saying that "The Social Network" was one of the movies I liked the most this year.

Edited by Francesco Bonomo

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1. Why is there so much hate on this forum for a camera that's trying to bring high quality at a reasonable cost?

"Trying" yes. We were looking more for "succeeding".

 

1. Can you point us to specific examples of posts expressing actual "hate" toward "the camera? Cameras are inanimate objects. One might hate using a particular format, or hate the compromises one is forced to endure for various reasons. But only a lunatic hates the camera itself. The endless wannabes who choose to slavishly align themselves with the Red Universe, in the folorn hope achieving of God-knows-what, are often the target of much sarcasm here I'll freely admit, but I don't see a lot of actual hate there either (except from them). Contempt, maybe; hate, no.

And last time I looked, hardly anybody posts anything about the RED here any more, anyway, hateful or otherwise. We're pretty much over it.

 

"Hate" is exactly like the word "Scam" which is supposedly widely used here when referring to Red products. An in-depth search for that word through the entire Red folder from post #1 showed that with one exception, (which referred to a dodgy-looking eBay posting, not the camera itself) that word has never actually been used by anybody here, EXCEPT for the posts rebutting claims that we ever said it. Who has the highest post count here containing the word "scam"? Jim Jannard!

 

 

2. In the next months if you go to the theater and watch a movie shot on Epic and its as good as 35mm in all areas are you going to come on here and say it?

And if by some oversight, it isn't, are you going to come on here and say it?

One of the many problems with Red cameras is that almost from the very instant RED mentioned that they had had achieved the first glimmer of an image from their first rough prototype, forums like this one were infested with over-the-top sycophantic drivel from clowns who had never actually seen any more than a couple of heavily compressed JPEG stills (not even that in the early days), but were absolutely convinced that the availability of such a camera was going, by some unexplained means, to turn the industry (and their hunmdrum lives) around completely.

 

In any case, there're aren't likely to be any movies shot on Epic in the cinemas anytime soon. They've got to make the things first, then the movies would need to be shot and posted. If anything did manage to appear in the next few it would have to be a somewhat hurried affair, not likely to be a particularly stellar showcase.

Of the pitifully few movies and TV shows I've actually been able to see that were shot on RED cameras, none has had an image quality that I would describe as more than "ordinary". OK, maybe the MX/Epic is better, there's nowhere to go but up, but I'll believe that when I see it. Haven't seen any real footage yet...

Pirates of the Carribean 4 is at least 6 months away from release.

Spider-man 4 and The Hobbit at least 18 months. (I never got past halfway through Spider-Man 3, so I'm not entirely optimistic there).

Come back then and we'll talk some more.

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Keith; just wondering any thoughts on Social Network? Off topic I know; just curious.

Aw crap! I completely forgot about that.

It's now only showing in a couple of boutique cinemas in Sydney; I'm not going to be able to get there in time. I'll have to wait for the Blu-Ray.

I briefly popped in on a session of it on the way back from a comfort stop, during a movie my wife wanted to see and I didn't really care about.

It was a film print, and the bit I saw looked OK, but nothing special. I probably wouldn't have known it wasn't film originated if nobody had said so, but frankly that's just not the sort of production where you're likely to notice the difference, or care overmuch.

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I for one wouldn't mind hearing your thoughts once you catch it on Blu-Ray as I expect a rather frank summation ;)

I felt similarly about it from your own blurb, though for me, digital always seems lacking in the skin tones.

 

Ok everyone else-- sorry to the side-bar!

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I would need to write a novel to answer you two. One more question, have you guys spent the same amount or more time bagging on another camera other than the RED? It seems that one could pick apart any camera? Give me one camera and ill give you a list of what it can't do. Its a tool.

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At some point, somewhere along the way, chemical film "died" as the format of choice for still photographers. It happened slowly at first, with the release of some "professional" Canon and Nikon DSLRS. Then the rate at which digital was replacing film increased. And then, at some point, the trendline of film vs digital basically went vertical and chemical film was swept aside very quickly and forever. This is what is happening with cinema, though some people are not able to detect it just yet. Another six months and the trend will be so clear that not even at c.com will anyone legit be able to dispute it. If Disney has 12 films on their slate, and only ONE is scheduled to be shot on chemical film, that tells you something. And this trend will accelerate even faster once Epic drops.

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At some point, somewhere along the way, chemical film "died" as the format of choice for still photographers. It happened slowly at first, with the release of some "professional" Canon and Nikon DSLRS. Then the rate at which digital was replacing film increased. And then, at some point, the trendline of film vs digital basically went vertical and chemical film was swept aside very quickly and forever. This is what is happening with cinema, though some people are not able to detect it just yet.

Oh dear. I think we need to make another pinned thread: "The Refutation of Certain Fatuous Analogies that Keep Getting Dragged Out by the Usual Suspects".

 

If you could shoot 24fps+ digital with a $20,000 video camera and get the same resolution and dynamic range that you get from a current model sub-$100 pocket stills camera, well, yes cine film acquisition would indeed have died some time back. The simple fact is, you can't.

 

Same ol' same ol'. Going from 10 stops to 14 stops is not like going from 100mph to 140mph, it's more like going from 100mph to 1,600mph. Similarly, going from one frame every three seconds to 24 frames every second needs a chip with a lot more than 72 times the performance.

 

Modern HD cameras don't really achieve all this by any means, they just do a better job of disguising their deficiencies.

 

Why don't you face reality, about 2 1/2 years you made a really dumb bet. Why don't you just admit you were talking out of your freckle, pay up Stephen and Max, and we'll move on from there.

 

If Disney has 12 films on their slate, and only ONE is scheduled to be shot on chemical film, that tells you something. And this trend will accelerate even faster once Epic drops.

Oh yes, and what films are they exactly? All live-action I trust? and why is that one being shot on chemical film.

 

Another six months and the trend will be so clear that not even at c.com will anyone legit be able to dispute it.

Och, nae troo Scotsman eh Tom?

Would ye care for a wee wager then?

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I would need to write a novel to answer you two. One more question, have you guys spent the same amount or more time bagging on another camera other than the RED?

Anything that is promoted as having capabilities beyond what it is actually capable of (or even possible in a lot of cases), is fair game. The F900 and the Genesis are both perfectly fine and capable TV cameras, they are just not a viable replacement for film cameras in cinema release projects. On my part at least any such "bagging" was restricted to the more absurd and grandiose claims, in particular that they were somehow magically going to provide a means of extinguishing the truly ludicrous levels of debt a certain famous film rental company was allowed to run up. No matter how popular they might have been with episodic TV producers, they didn't even make the slightest dent in the company's debt levels. The company has since been seized by their creditors, who after 9 months appear not to have figured out any viable means of dragging them out of their debt quagmire.

 

And really, this is hardly different to the waffling of the average fanboy telling us how the RED One is somehow gong to propel them into the cinematic stratosphere.

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I think all this talk about using 65mm film to improve the quality of a 3-D movie is a joke. To improve picture quality 3-D does not need so much added resolution but rather a higher frame rate. This is because the hyper reality of 3-D makes the motion artifacts of 24 fps so readily apparent as to become unacceptable. Using higher resolution formats such as IMAX simply does not fix the problem.

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Anything that is promoted as having capabilities beyond what it is actually capable of (or even possible in a lot of cases), is fair game. The F900 and the Genesis are both perfectly fine and capable TV cameras, they are just not a viable replacement for film cameras in cinema release projects. On my part at least any such "bagging" was restricted to the more absurd and grandiose claims, in particular that they were somehow magically going to provide a means of extinguishing the truly ludicrous levels of debt a certain famous film rental company was allowed to run up. No matter how popular they might have been with episodic TV producers, they didn't even make the slightest dent in the company's debt levels. The company has since been seized by their creditors, who after 9 months appear not to have figured out any viable means of dragging them out of their debt quagmire.

 

And really, this is hardly different to the waffling of the average fanboy telling us how the RED One is somehow gong to propel them into the cinematic stratosphere.

 

Good answer Keith. Fanboy vs. Hater. I like film myself. Although, I have yet to see what the Epic can do and I have a feeling its going to be a game changer. Not the end of film but a huge game changer. And I feel what they did with RED One already at the offering price is amazing. I like that Jim sets high goals and seem to be reaching them faster than any other. Don't you think its great that one company is shaking things up from the norm and making it all affordable. Read the stats on what the Epic can do. Not just what the images looks like but what the camera can do. Is there anything close right now? The size of it as well. You have to admit this will be an unreal camera if what people are saying comes true.

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You have to admit this will be an unreal camera if what people are saying comes true.

Yeah, but I HAVE been hearing that for only around, what? 25 years now. Short answer: It never is.

And my only other comment is that if the Epic really does work as advertised, Jim Jannard has really done nothing more than deliver the camera the RED One was supposed to be, but at a much higher price.

 

But if we're talking hypotheticals, do you think he would have pushed the technological envelope quite so hard so fast, if he didn't have so many technologically literate and outspoken critics? He'll claim otherwise, but then he would, wouldn't he.

 

But sadly, (as far as I'm concerned anyway), the design is still too primitive, with its feet stuck firmly in the 20th century. He's sure to run out of steam eventually, but there is somebody ready willing and able to turn Mr Jannard's survey marks into a 6-lane super highway, so don't fret all you wannabes.

 

4K 30fps for less then the price of a decent restaurant meal for two, is a lot closer than the death of film. Count on it :-)

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One of the worst mistakes many new cinematographers and some directors make is getting too interested in whatever the newest technology is or will be. This unhealthy trend is nothing more than a distraction to something that is lacking elsewhere.

 

Big news? Lucas surprised people back in '02 when he used the Sony to shoot Star Wars with, but since then all the "big news" we get to hear about is big marketing without much to back it up with, the red guys being the worst contributors to that with Panasonic and Sony close behind.

 

Alexa finally broke the DR barrier some months ago; Deakins likes it, Richardson is using them on a Scorsese film, so what could be big news at this point? Resolution has been there for a while, now DR is, maybe now the famous "digital is just another tool" quote will finally sink in and people will stop all the (soon-to-be embarrassing looking) back and forth discussion.

 

Personally, I generally prefer using film for narrative projects I'm in charge of because I see and feel something that I do not get from any digital capture, 15+ stops of DR or not, and this is a preference just as I prefer In-and-Out to Burger King.

 

Come on Vincent, Peter Jackson and his crew hardly qualify as "new cinematographers and directors." Are you proposing that sixty-takes P.J. & Co. shoot a 3-D, effects laden feature on film?

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...

Also, the Canon 7D, 5D, and even the Sony F900 cost less than a RED, and they can deliver great images provided you've got the right people behind them.

 

...

 

Yes they can... but no way is an F900 cheaper than a Red.

 

http://pro.sony.com/bbsc/ssr/product-HDWF900R/

 

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/633399-REG/Sony_HDWF900RPAC1D_HDW_F900R_CineAlta_24P_HDCAM.html

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Is "The Hobbit" going to be for theatrical release or a Mexican TV special? Because that's what RED footage looks like to me... very videoish and low budget. I can almost see this decision back firing on Peter Jackson if he thinks he can get the same cool looks he was able to get in "Lord of the Rings". I just watched a LOR movie with a large group and they we're all blown away with the look of the opening ariel mountain shot... because they have grown accustom to HD video handling that kind of work like in "Planet Earth"... It's easy to forget how good a home cook meal tastes, when you've been living on frozen dinners.

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