Alexa vs Red camera advice

Dominik Bauch Oct 15, 2016

  1. Deciding which way to go camera wise and wanted to get some feedback from some working colorists here.

    Currently have a Red Epic Dragon and I can either go the the new Helium or an Alexa Mini.
    Helium 8k resolution is insane to the point of being unworkable but there is a new color science promised that might be interesting.
    Alexa is Alexa and to be frank that's the look that I'm always trying to emulate.

    What's the general feeling here; on a well lit and shot production is there really much difference between Red & Alexa? There are a ton of great looking Red movies and shows but obviously Alexa is the gold standard so is it hype or fact? Is the highlight performance and skintone reproduction really much better on Alexa or can a good colorist easily get same results from r3d's?
    I'm interested from the point of view of a non perfect shoot environment, is Alexa significantly more forgiving under less than ideal conditions?

    Also is the Alexa's resolution ever an issue? i.e. is it sharp enough when compared to Weapon Dragon etc?

    Any thoughts or advice appreciated. Thanks.
  2. We shot on Red One until a little over a year ago and then upgraded to a Red Dragon. We would've loved to convince the boss that we needed an Alexa Mini, but sometimes you just have to look at it as a tool and see what makes more sense for you. For us, 6k, the ability to shoot higher framerates, price, the fact that we already had a lot of Red gear, and other factors led us to just upgrade to Red. We do smaller commercial jobs so it was hard to really push for an Alexa. If we did features I probably would have tried to push for an Alexa Mini for prores alone. We are a small shop, but I still hate when I'm in color and I get some baked in shots at in redgamma4 instead of red log because it either got overlooked or I didn't communicate it well. That being said go classic pro con list and maybe rent an Alexa on a shoot or two so you can better judge.

    Edit: I used "since" instead of "sense".... so...

    Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
  3. We have a lot of features and adverts here now shot on Alexa on 3.2 k and in ACES workflow it just look really good out of the box.
    I bet you get the same results out of red also if someone does not select different "colors" like Zach describes.

    Both should be really capable if you know your systems well.
  4. To get "true" UHD/4K resolution, You'd need to downscale from 5-6K bayer sensor. Alexa is 3.2K. So that is an issue, it's a camera for HD/2K finish, and damn good for that.
  5. If I was looking at buying Red camera, I'd rather be looking at Dragon sensor. Helium doesn't make sense, unless you're looking at run and gun style shooting, but why would you then need 8k?
    On the other hand, Red still doesn't come even close to the "straight out of the camera" images, that you get with Alexa. Yes, with enough experience you can get great images out of Red camera, but that requires someone who knows the camera and someone in post who knows Red as well. Sadly, usually that's not the case.
    Last weekends I ended up shooting with both Dragon Weapon and Alexa mini with KOWA anamorphic lenses. With two cameras we ended up with very different images, each beautiful in it's own right, but still very different. So, it's up to the individual user's taste, which one to choose.
    One final note. Red prides itself in always offering the upgrade path. As a result, many Red owners are feeling nervous, as almost every year they are confronted with the choice of spending $10k-20K on an upgrade or being left with an obsolete camera. On the other hand, ARRI doesn't have any upgrade programs. Yet, ARRI users are happy to continue to use a camera, that doesn't require periodic upgrades and over the years retains it's value.
    So, you can buy a Toyota or you can buy a BMW...
  6. Oh no! Such a great write up ended with the inevitable car comparison[emoji3]
  7. Last weekend I shot my friend's Toyota on Red camera, but personally I drive a BMW.
    What's the problem?:p

  8. Isn't that an 18mm car and a 1200mm moon? =)
    Andrew Webb and Zach Ball like this.
  9. Anyone ever noticed moire on the Alexa sensor?
    I shoot a lot of laptop screens and on the red an 85 definitely can be dicey. Would the moire on an Alexa Mini be worse or better? Concerned that the lower sensor resolution will be more problematic? Any thoughts?
  10. Those desert mirages can play tricks with your lenses and the direction of the light:D
  11. to be honest I don,t know why any one would actually buy a camera at that level we never hire camera ops and there camera's...ever

    just the camera ops, the kit come from the rental house .As we know it's check out by the engineers we can go over prep the set ups shoot ,charts etc etc

    when they guys turns around i have red camera

    way to risky.... dead camera on set ......pick up the phone another one turn up in a hour or less

    Failed media turns up

    issue with the lens turns up

    problem with the grip gear .....the grip hire van turns up with new thing

    Nah can keep your Toyota and BMW,S there last years car the moment you buy them any way

    if you must buy something to play with buy something cheap ...and spend the rest of it on a holiday :)
  12. if 4k is not mandatory Like for netflix, i will get the Alexa over the red any time.

    i like both tonal range and color reproduction, less noise on the sensor and such.

    Harris Charalambous likes this.
  13. I generally agree with you, Walter, but Netflix does specify 4K capture for episodic TV and features made especially for Netflix. They will gladly buy a theatrical film shot on Alexa and then just run it in HD, but if they're paying for the production, the delivery docs say they won't accept an upscale. (Though they don't explain what they do if 90% of the VFX sequences in a 4K film are 2K uprezzes.)
  14. True Marc. Netflix has movies(documentaries) in it's collection that were shoot on DSLR (HD) and cameras like the Canon C100.
  15. Just did some tests today and blowing up some arriraw files looks amazing. I would say better than red dragon in terms of sharpness. Was super impressed.
    Zach Ball likes this.
  16. I don't think this is exactly fair, and I think you'd have to actually put the cameras side by side to get an honest test. You can make a good case that Alexas handle overloads in a very pleasing way, and they also have great color right out of the box, which are big advantages over some Red cameras. I think it's also fair to say that Red has worked hard to narrow the gap with Dragon, Weapon, and Helium.
  17. Personally, if it's shot well, then it's not that hard to get great results out of the 4 main flavours that I work most with (RED, Sony, Arri & Canon).

    Unfortunately I have to ALWAYS think about future-proofing for UHD(2) and further ahead (if the Japanese get their way for the Tokyo Olympics)

    The most important things for any camera are:
    - The Cinematographer
    - The Production Designer
    -The Production budget

    Light & expose it well and Noise isn't so much trouble.

    Even C300 mkII can work in a scene inter-cut with bigger cameras if the DoP reads the manual & changes the default settings to: Cinema Gamut & CanonLog1/2/3

    (manuals are amazing. Read 3 pages and you go from being an average colourist to an awesome one)

    If 4K/UHD/etc is a concern the you should read the EBU tech specs on 'Camera Tiering'

    From memory the only Tier 1 cameras currently are RED Epic with Dragon Sensor, and Sony F65.
    F55, C300 mkII, etc are Tier 2

    Remember: UHD/4K is a 2 Phase development.

    Phase 1: More Pixels
    Phase 2: Better Pixels

    (No, I don't want to talk about 8Kres/120fps/Rec2020/4KFtL)
    Marc Wielage likes this.
  18. i've had AlexaMini accepted for UHD delivery,

    a film is going to camera next week that i'm gradeing, shooting on the Mini for UHD & 4k deliverable

    DP's choice, had to be cleared by the delivery partner

    AlexaXST (when avb) is accepted

  19. I have been on set with an Alexa producing moire shooting a computer screen.

    It's just the nature of digital sensors, when you are shooting a small grid of things with a sensor that is itself a small grid of pixels that are then debayered to create an image. It is not specific to one camera, though if you are often shooting the same kind of screen with the same mm lens at the same distance, by sheer chance one camera could be better or worse for your specific use depending on whether or not the grid of it's pixels is lining up well or not-well with the grid you are shooting.

    Or shoot film: no grid = no problem.
  20. In the last two months, so far, I had done four jobs shot on Alexa mini with KOWA anamorphic lenses. The deal is, Alexa images are 2904x2160 in 4x3 sensor mode. With Cinemascope un-squeese (2:1) you end up with 5808x2160 (2:66) image. Yes, technically it's still a 3k image even though for all intents and purposes it's an almost a 6k image and yet, it's considered to be not good enough for 4k delivery. Over the years anamorphic films, even though they were still shot on the same film were considered to be a superior images. So, why in this age of electronic cameras that had changed?
    Margus Voll and David Goldsmith like this.

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