Film is Dead.


Well, maybe not dead -- but the revolution definitely will not be shot on film. I had the pleasure to shoot with a RED ONE for the first time this weekend and it really is the game changer that everyone says it is. I have been a fan of shooting video for a long time (I guess I am just of the digital generation), but the RED ONE  is the first digital video camera to really compete with film in all categories. For the record, I would like to make comparisons between Common video formats(MiniDV, HDV, Digibeta, etc), Film and the RED ONE.


  • Video: Ranges from 640x480 pixels to 1920x1080 pixels with a variety of different pixel apsect ratios (rectangular pixels) thrown in there for good measure.
  • Film: No pixels, but comparable to 4k. Though most digital intermediates are done in 2k resolution
  • RED: 4k -- 4096 x 2304.


Recording Medium

  • Video: Lots of tape formats, some proprietary solid state and hard disk formats.
  • Film: 35mm or 16mm Negative Film.
  • RED: High Speed Compact Flash, Raided SATA drives, anything that accepts HD-SDI


Dynamic Range

  • Video: Varies wildly but averages between 4 and 6 f-stops
  • Film: Depends on the stock, but reliably 11 stops.
  • RED: Technically 11, but in reality around 9.


Image Plane Size

  • Video: Anywhere from Tiny up to 2/3rds inch.
  • Film: Super 35mm -- 24.89 mm × 18.66 mm
  • RED: 24.4mm x 13.7mm


Hardware Cost

  • Video: Starts from as low as a few hundred, tops out around 100,000
  • Film:  A new Arri 435 is around 75,000 body only. Prices vary in the + 20,000 range
  • RED: 17,500 body only.

Shooting Cost

  • Video: Some tapes and hard drives for editing. Quite cheap.
  • Film: Raw film stock, Film Processing, Telecine. Hard drives for editing. Quite expensive.
  • RED: Some CF Cards, Maybe a RED RAID, Lots of hard drive space -- probably a raid for storage. Not cheap, but cheaper than film.


Frame Rates

  • Video: Most commonly 24, 25 and 29.97. Some newer cameras can shoot up to 60fps
  • Film: As fast as your camera will let you go. Ultra high speed cameras can shoot 10,000 fps. Up to 120 is quite common
  • RED: Varies depending on resolution. Up to 30fps at 4k, 60fps at 3k, 120fps at 2k


In all these categories the RED is fairly equivalent to film, but beats film in terms of cost. A few other areas where I think the red wins are speed of use and safety of footage.

Ease of use: We shot a short film in 48 hours in 4k resolution this weekend. This would have been incredibly difficult with film. Film needs to be processed and telecined before you can begin editing. Both processes that would have taken valuable time. It probably would have been impossible here in Switzerland due to the lack of 24 hour facilities.

Safety of footage: Film advocates will say that a hard drive can crash or a CF card could fail. However, film is obviously more perilous to use than digital. Just one little light leak and your footage is ruined -- not to mention what can happen in the lab to make your work unusable. With file based digital shooting you can make as many back ups as you want on set. With film your camera original is all you have until you have a work print made.

One of the areas where I found RED more difficult to use than Film was focusing. The RED shoots 4k, but as of now, all of the monitoring options only go as high as 720p. This makes it difficult to see what is in focus. There is a pretty nifty focus assist that outlines in focus areas with red lines, but this is not perfect. That said, with a little practice, I was able to pull focus fairly well.

There are a few other great things about the RED: REDCODE RAW, Speed Ramping, Stop Motion, User definable buttons, Modularity, etc. Too much for me to go into right now.

I am ready to shoot on RED again as soon as possible. Last weekend makes my dread shooting HDV again.


PS. I know I left out cameras like the F23, the Panavision Genesis and the like. They have lots of the same benefits of the RED but so far none of them shoot 4K.