Thread: The Red "LOOK"

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    The Red "LOOK"
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    Senior Member polfilmblog's Avatar
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    I've brought this up at least twice over at Red's site, but never really got a decent answer.

    So anyway, I'm motivated having just gotten out of SKYLINE, shot on Red MX, seen on an old film print at the second run theater.

    Skyline has some decent looks, primarily in the sunrise exterior when they finally see the invasion.

    Other shots are good in the aerial night looking down on the city. Although, I would have upped the contrast and made it more cryptic. So there's the thing, the image is malleable and these filmmakers chose for it to look that way.

    Only, lots of shots look like lots of other Red footage. They have the Red "LOOK," like this signature fingerprint, and I really, really don't like it.

    They look flat with pastel colors. There are unnatural skin tones all over the place (could be intentional, who knows?), but they seem to mimic other Red footage in their quirks.

    What combination of things accounts for this Red look, and is it possible to get away from it completely?
    Is their compression a factor?

    Their custom sensors and the phosphors they use?

    Is it all this "Color Science" that keeps evolving and everyone orgasms every time there's an update over there ... but I thought it was supposed to miraculous already, before the latest color science update???

    Epic holds some promise as a reinventing of the whole system. I want to see some results, especially HDR. But, the MX supposed state of the art they are at now just does not appeal to me. As a film substitute it can only be considered a poor man's second choice.

    I'll probably think of more to add later. But -- is that really as good as it gets?

    Take me back to the 70's and some widescreen Kodak moments.
    “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” -Warren Buffett, New York Times

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    Do you think that The Social Network, Knowing, and the other big films shot on Red all have this crummy "look" you describe? I don't see it. Obviously some of the biggest names in Hollywood aren't aware of what you're claiming, since they're shooting on Red's for the biggest tent pole films going into production.


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    I'd hardly claim to be the definitive source on this, but Graeme (the guy behind the compression and color science) has noted that a lot of the teal/orange grading and such has had a tendency to skew skin colors. Haven't seen Skyline, so I don't know if it follows that grading trend - but it's a thought.

    As a counterexample, Jim recently posted some stills from one of the earliest test shoots of the Red One (so pre-MX), processed with the latest color science/gamma:

    http://reduser.net/forum/showpost.ph...43&postcount=1

    I personally find the skin tones to be pretty agreeable there.

    Quote Originally Posted by Snazzy Flapper View Post
    Do you think that The Social Network, Knowing, and the other big films shot on Red all have this crummy "look" you describe? I don't see it. Obviously some of the biggest names in Hollywood aren't aware of what you're claiming, since they're shooting on Red's for the biggest tent pole films going into production.
    I'll agree with you on Social Network, however I personally disliked the look of The Knowing. Might just be a matter of taste, though.


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    I don't think the OP meant to say crummy. It's the OP's taste to like the RED footage or not. He says he would've done differently, and that in and of itself means the OP understands the malleability of the RED look. If he proposed a way to make it look different I don't think he's bashing the camera at all, I think he's noticing some traits evident in choices the filmmakers or DP's/Colorists make when working with red footage.

    I wouuld chalk up any bias to the characteristics of RAW origination. Dealing with a RED file or two (I haven't done as much work on RED, I'm talking four or five shoots, but I took on post all the way with two of em), I can say that it helped me identify RAW files and clarify how they behave, no matter how I read about them.

    I saw a thread the other time where someone shot a contrasty origination, and really toned them down in grading, making them flatter and ever so slightly lifting the shadows. I liked the result, I felt it looked a bit more posh than the origination, but the poster was slammed for working 'backwards'. I personally liked the flatter look, it helped this particular footage, but that's taste.

    Still that poster back then said he wanted it to look 'Red'. Which brings me back to this post, and my guess on what the OP is driving at.

    The RED RAW look, the washed out, flat, low contrast, incredibly versatile form in which the footage originates, that we like, we like because it screams possibility in our faces. Low contrast can, to the DP, imply power. I don't know about anyone, but I can see myself and a few people I know, irrespective of the objective, subconciously being precious with the RED footage, and trying hard to save every bit of detail we started with.

    I can see how the washed out look can become something in and of itself, and have people like it, and others not.

    I think the washed-out-ness of the RED look is osmething a viewer may not understand, but if any of that lasts till the screening, I'd chalk it up to a colorist subconsciously trying to save as much of it as possible. Again the power of having a crippled or 'bad' video mode, is that you lose any sentiment of being precious, and really bash the thing around.

    It's ironic, cause the RED look was designed for balls. Balls of steel, pushing it around wherever it needs to go. Still, the flat look of RAW, once moving on the screen instead of a still image we're accustomed to, just screams power, and I can see how someone would be sad to crush blacks from example.

    It's this low contrast, that can hide the midtones, or do something to them, resulting in the skin tone skew that the OP may find displeasing. I chalk it up to a new format having this dominating power that makes us treat it preciously.

    It could last, it could be celebrated and the RAW look may be in soon, it could leave and people would get used to it, heck maybe even take it for granted (which is the goal right?) so they can really break down the limits when pushing it around.

    I personally like a flatter look, and love the RED footage when crammed into a 1080p frame. Even with a DSLR, I find myself lifting the shadows and crushing the midtones at times, just to have that detail in the darks. It's only when I don't care that I really do what I want with my footage.

    I could be totally wrong, but I'm starting this point off so that we don't say this is crummy and this ain't. Skin tones are in a tough part of the curve, a part where I read CCD's do better. Desaturation may be pretty, but irrespective of camera and format, I find that when I desat, skin tones exhibit an INCREDIBLE amount of change and lose their fleshy colour almost all the time, turning into this pastel tone that I find horrid. I almost always desat with HSL in secondary, focusing on cool colours (blue, gree, etc) and leaving my warm colors alone.

    I know I'm talking dslr and videocam right now, but still, where they can take only a -5 desat, the r3d can take a good -25 before that pastel kicks in.

    Thoughts?


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    Reading the first post again, I don't think it's the sensor or the compression, on the contrary, this is an edge that system has over this, and I'm sure can handle preservation of skin tone more than most. I think it's the user behind it, and the aura of RED format as a product and how badly we wanna show people how versatile it is, in the form of saving detail, and desaturating slightly to get that look. Could result in skin tone alteration to the pastel, but still there are lots of films I saw where skin tones were clobbered, it oculd be creative decision more than anything.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Kevin Marshall View Post

    I'll agree with you on Social Network, however I personally disliked the look of The Knowing. Might just be a matter of taste, though.
    I couldn't satnd book of eli. i thought i had a bad copy (lotsa those in beirut) got the original, just didn't like it. Like But that's taste.


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    http://reduser.net/forum/showpost.ph...43&postcount=1
    He just crushed blacks there to see more in shadows and added a bit of contrast


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    OP, in 'The Social Network' remember how the scenes in the meeting room with glass walls had a distinct look, more crisp and less dull in color. I think colorists are somehow just grading RED images to the desatured side. 'District 9' had a very distinct, sharp, punchy blacks, look and great skin tones even being pre-B16!

    Since RED is RAW you just need to figure that if something looks good or not, it's because of post. RED is very flexible to look like a lot of things.

    But I agree that RED can be way too pastel and smooth. It's the main characteristic of the sensor, if that doesn't float your boat, well, there are other options, film being a great one.

    I'm curious to grade some RED footage, sharpen it a bit, crunch the blacks way more than normal and add some grain. Might look good.

    Pietro Impagliazzo
    flickr.com/photos/impagliazzo


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    I think one of the best examples is the Pirates 4 trailer:



    You can still spot the pastel-ness and smoothness there (along with the great clarity of resolution, let's not forget the good part eh), but no desaturated, muted BS. I think people are getting a hang of RED grading just now.

    And I think these images are using the newest Color Science as well.

    Pietro Impagliazzo
    flickr.com/photos/impagliazzo


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    Senior Member polfilmblog's Avatar
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    In all honesty it might have more to do with the lack of film grain than anything else. A face seems more plastic when the millions of little grains aren't flickering subconsciously making it seem more alive and vibrant (literally). It tickles the retinas, and it adds value to the series of images.

    Adding layers of film grain to the footage could be the answer, given a colorist who doesn't leave the image too flat, pastel and off.

    I never once thought about any of this until people started shooting films on video cameras. The images were just there, seamless, always acceptable and appropriate.

    Now we have blown out digital highlights to contend with (all over Skyline, btw), and suddenly I'm like: "That is horrible! How could they have avoided that? I want HDR, at a minimum."

    I never once had a problem with bright highlights on a piece of film. It looks fantastic, magical, intentional.

    On video, even on $50,000 "digital cinema" cameras, it looks like crap.

    PS

    That "milk girls" image doesn't exonerate, viewed on this computer monitor. I'm talking about large screen projection. I've been disappointed with the looks I've seen, and apparently I'm not alone.

    "Obviously some of the biggest names in Hollywood aren't aware..."
    I couldn't care less about the above idea that Pirates of the Caribbean is doing it, so I have to like it. Are you serious?

    How about this? A century of celluloid, and all those DPs, directors, studio heads and fan bases stood by it. And it's still the gold standard on real productions. So that means I must be right, no? And if you disagree you must be displaying your ignorance.

    Knowing looked crummy. Yes. Nick Cage's face looked like plastic. Colors looked off.

    Crummy. How much better could it have looked if they had just shot film?

    POTC4 has a much better finishing than most films, and infinite resources. I still see some Red signature signs in the trailer. It is those signature telltale signs I was hoping to make this thread about. If anyone knows how to accurately and technically describe them?
    “There’s class warfare, all right, but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.” -Warren Buffett, New York Times

    Radiation
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    Hell of a Deal

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