Act II – Getting Ready to Shoot with the Red Scarlet
At last, the Red Scarlet arrived, on the last day of February 2012, leap year.
I didn’t even bother placing the camera on my support gear, I just grabbed a lens plugged in my on-board monitor and powered up… nothing. The camera definitely came to life, but there was no image on the monitor. I quickly thought it must be a setting I wasn’t seeing because in my haste I hadn’t attached the Redmote. So I powered down, attached the Redmote, powered up, changed a few settings… nothing. Luckily, I had another very high-end monitor that I could check. I plugged that one in and nothing short of a splendid 4K image greeted me on this 2K monitor. Everything was right with the world… almost.
Never being one to lose it, at least not on set, I quickly checked the Reduser forums. I hadn’t read about this problem previously, but I quickly found a thread on HDMI monitoring (even though I was using the Scarlet HD-SDI port) that answered my question. Scarlet will only let you view progressive images on a progressive monitor. My Marshall V-LCD84SB-AFHD, even though it could have viewed the Scarlet frame size and at 24fps, just wasn’t the right flavor of 24fps; it was a PsF (Progressive Segmented Frame) monitor. So unless I wanted to carry a twenty-four inch reference monitor everywhere, I needed a new on-board monitor.
Now I should preface this by saying that I was trying to build a camera package that would serve most of my production needs without going into debt. Most of you Scarlet owners know what I’m talking about. If we had the money, we would be Epic owners. The Scarlet is entry level, but only in terms of your pocketbook. When I purchased a sled for the camera, I didn’t buy any offerings from Red or Element Technica, I went with Zacuto. Likewise for the glass, rather than go with a Leica, Angeniuex, or Cooke solution, I chose Zeiss ZF glass. After all, I did purchase a Scarlet with a Canon mount. And before any hairs begin standing up on the back of any necks; please, don’t read anything more into these choices other than choosing what I could reasonably afford.
I really wanted to start shooting tests with the camera ASAP so I began a quick search of what would work. Of course, I really like Marshall. My monitor never failed me and I could always trust it to show me exactly what I was getting. But for anyone who has checked, a new Marshall with HD-SDI and HDMI is pricey. Not Astro Design money, but pricey enough. So I evaluated the usual suspects; Panasonic, TVLogic, Ikan, Manhattan LCD, Nebtek, and one I barely knew anything about, SmallHD.
I had read about them in the Reduser forums, but with very mixed reviews. High praise for the resolution and image but squirrelly with their functions and connectivity. I read other reviews, checked out other forums including Reduser’s sister site DVXuser and found mostly positives, so I finally took a look at SmallHD webpage. A polished site, definitely catering to our market, but I found something I wasn’t expecting. A change of approach. I was seeking an on-board monitor, but I found myself considering a viewfinder. Of course, I had seen Red’s Bomb EVF whose cost makes a Marshall monitor look like a bargain; and in retrospect probably kept thoughts of a viewfinder out of my mind. But when I saw SmallHD DP4 EVF solution, a viewfinder was definitely back in the forefront.
They offer their DP4 4.3 inch monitor attached to a very elegant and well thought out viewfinder attachment with a host of accessories for under $600. Not only did the price work, but the design really appealed to me. Other manufacturers offer similar set ups, but none attracted me as much as the DP4. From its easy attach and removal to the strength of its magnets, which holds the uplifted viewfinder in place to the seriously wide and comfortable eyepiece, I was becoming sold. So I read and watched everything on the site; I trolled YouTube for anything on the DP4 EVF and, of course, went back to the forums to discover anything new. Now while everything wasn’t high praise, it was overwhelmingly in the positive and with careful consideration, I pulled the trigger on the DP4.
It arrived a few short days later and I immediately connected it (heads up: you will need a full size HDMI cable, it only comes with a mini) and I was greeted with a stunning 4K image on an 800×480 monitor. But I really do mean stunning… I thought I was looking at the new iPad screen. First, the viewfinder works exactly as advertised. It is solid and stays put when you lift the viewfinder. The eyecup is plenty large and accommodates eyeglasses with no problems and little worry of scratching the viewfinder lens. The monitor itself is very sturdy and the buttons feel like they will last a while. I did get the Nikon battery back, but the D-Tap connector will probably be all the power I need, but nice to know if I ever needed batteries they will be there. I have played with just about every setting on this monitor and always find the 1 to 1 pixel mapping one of the most useful; but a heads up: if you are also using Scarlet 1 to 1, remember which is in use. It can get confusing. The monitor will get warm… just know that.
The lesson learned was that although I planned and thought I had everything… I didn’t.
Keep your eyes peeled for ACT III – Shooting with the Red Scarlet… coming tomorrow.
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Three Horizons Productions is a team of independent filmmakers who want to develop, acquire, and produce multi-media projects that showcase inspirational themes, compelling stories, and provocative characters to entertain or educate international audiences.