Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why spending $17,000.00 in SSD Media was a good idea

I thought long and hard about what to do with Uroboros's RED One MX once our Epic arrives.

It's a great camera, it does nearly everything i want it to do, and given it uses the same senor technology as the Epic, it makes the an excellent B camera.

But there are some things that I don't like about the RED One. It's big and heavy like a traditional 35mm camera. Also because our primary media has been the RED Raids, we've had to be careful of handling the camera in some situations. We invested in ISO mounts to mitigate the problem of dropped frames when the camera needed to move aggressively or was in an environment where there was a lot of low frequency vibration, say at a concert or on a balcony or bridge. This hasn't been a huge issue, because for any project that didn't require takes of longer than about eight minutes, we could use CF cards.

But the drives, and particularly the drive cables were are only real failure point I've experienced while shooting the camera.

Separate from that issue, long experience has taught me that it's a very good thing to be at the front on the line for all things RED. RED does world class engineering and I think it's fair to say that their work has served as a catalyst to revolutionize high high end cinematography. When it comes to timely delivery of that technology however, RED doesn't get great marks. I won't belabor that here but suffice it to say that we ordered a significant amount of media for our Epic well in advance of the camera's arrival.

Given that the upgrade for the RED One to enable SSD media was only $1,500.00 it was an easy choice to add that capability to the camera as we'd decided to keep our MX.

What I wasn't prepared for was how much of a difference it makes in the day to day shooting of the camera. The RED One body really isn't all that heavy, it's all the gak and cables that get added to the camera. by eliminating the drive and drive cable and the mounting hardware for the drives, the camera has a much more manageable footprint, and it weighs quite a bit less. It also removes the issue regarding camera movement and vibration aforementioned.

But there is another really key advantage to the SSD upgrade that is particularly valuable for larger or multi-camera projects. The offload speed of the RED RAID's is constrained by the bus speed of the Firewire 800 port, the fastest port available on the raids. This is a real problem for long form or event shooting when many cameras are involved. Me and my Red Alliance partner Chris Layhe had a five camera RED shoot of Swan Lake that ran three hours plus With only ~80 MB/s offload speed, it just wasn't possible to backup all the footage at the end of the night or compete transcodes.

When using SSD media with the RED Station an e-sata interface can be used, and offload speeds can be essentially tripled. The interface is not longer the choke point, it's the speed of the media.

This enables backup, transcode and playback far faster than is possible when using drives.

On balance while seventeen grand is a LOT of money for media, I think the SSD upgrade is second only to the MX chip upgrade when it comes to wise investments on the RED One platform. The combination make it a far more capable camera and keep it at the forefront of digital cinematography.

Pair that with the added convenience of using identical media for both Epic and MX cameras on set, and you've got a real winner.

Here at Uroboros we are now exclusively shooting SSD media, because ease and speed on set make everybody's production days better.


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