This past summer, I borrowed Eric Kessler’s Red Epic and shot a quick short film with it. This would be my first time ever using the camera system. I wanted to get a few hours on it and experiment with the workflow. I also wanted to try mounting the Epic to the Kessler Pocket Dolly.
I shot the above video in “CinemaScope 2.55:1“. That ratio has gone extinct since Fox used it in the 1950s but I figured I would bring it back! It is very wide screen and kinda ridiculous to view on our screens!
I met up with my friend Nick Keating and traveled to North Conway to shoot Frontside Grind Coffee and Espresso owner Austin Orth. Austin is a Barista and coffee roaster who resides in New Hampshire with his family. Austin lives, in my opinion, the perfect lifestyle. He rides his bike in the morning, runs his coffee shop during the day and roasts beans at night. Not only is he riding in epic mountain landscapes, but he is constantly experimenting with different coffee from around the world to find the perfect blend.
Two of my favorite things: coffee and bikes. The ideal subject matter for a mini documentary captured on a Red Epic.
I wanted to shoot a short about Austin that captured a slice of his life. We only spent a few hours with him. The plan was to mix the coffee roasting and experimentation with Austin’s ride. After interviewing him I realized that Austin thinks about java when he is road cycling and thinks about road cycling when he is working the beans.
Nick and I used the Kessler Pocket Dolly to add a bit of motion to a few of the shots. The dolly was pushed to its limits as far as weight goes, but preformed well. I had an ElektraDRIVE 200 series motor do all the work for me and I adjusted the moves with the Kessler Basic Controller.
I used a Manfrotto 701 head, and locked it down. The weight killed this tiny fluid head and I had to be very careful with it. I could only pan while dollying, tilting was risky because the head was not able to properly balance the rig.
We later went to Austin’s coffee shop on Main Street in North Conway to shoot some b-roll and to sequence the creation of the perfect pour. I learned about the visually beautiful “Latte Art” and how it zaps the taste buds.
I had a single battery operated Zylight Z90 led light and used it to add a bit of punch to some of the tight shots. Shooting Epic is different because of the extreme resolution and color space. Yes, it does require more light but you think a little different when composing the shot. There are a few shots within a shot!
When editing, I used the 5k resolution to “punch in” on my 1080p Final Cut timeline. By doing this, I was able to get wide and tight shots in a single master shot. Nice to have, but you must be thinking like an editor while shooting. It is not a good habit to get into as using a proper lens to get wide and tight for your sequences is the right thing to do. But…we were in a rush!
The firmware I had did not allow for playback in camera, so that was a bit of a pain. Felt like I was actually shooting real film! It would have been so nice to see if I had audio or what the higher frame rates looked like after the take.
I had four Zeiss CP2 lenses with me. I used the 21mm t2.9, 35mm t2.1, 50mm t2.1, and 85mm t2.1. These lenses are very light and super sharp. The only problem with them is the fact they are slow and require more light. Plus I found the Epic not as light sensitive as a Canon 5dmk2 DSLR or other large sensor cameras.
I shot a bunch of the coffee roasting at 2k 300 fps. Austin gave both Nick and I a crash course on the art of cooking the beans. Austin has been doing this so long that he can tell when the coffee is ready just by the sound of it while it is being blasted in the drum roaster.
Later in the day, Nick, Austin and I drove up the famous Mount Washington Auto Road. This dangerous road winds up the 6,288 foot mountain, the highest in New England. This place is also the home of the world’s worst weather and the highest ever recorded wind speed on Planet Earth, 231 miles per hour. I love this place and was so happy to be spending time on Mt. Washington during a warm late summer afternoon.
Austin got permission from some very friendly people he knew who worked at the mountain. I shot very quickly since we only had about an hour up there. Nick drove a pickup truck up the narrow road as I shot from the bed. I captured Austin cranking up the hill at 300 fps from a few different angles.
At 5k, the Red Epic camera looked amazing in post. I am borrowing a Red Rocket card from a friend. This card made a big difference in speed/display and made working with R3D files a breeze. The Red Rocket was my Mac Pro 8 core tower and I used the card to transcode all the footage to ProRes 422 HQ 4096×3072. This is essentially ProRes 4k. This high resolution footage was placed on a 1080p ProRes Final Cut Pro timeline and it was natively scaled to just 37.5 percent! That allowed me to re-frame and digitally zoom in without loosing any resolution.
When editing the footage, I was surprised at how much noise I found at the 2k resolution. It did not matter if I was shooting at 24, 30 or 300 frames per second, in 2k the Epic was not very clean. I did a light grade to everything, but did not change it much from its original capture metadata. I hope this gets addressed in a future firmware update.
Huge thank you to Eric Kessler and Kessler University for letting me play with the Red Epic. The camera is a pain to work with at times, but the pictures coming off the sensor are incredible.
Thanks to the folks at the Mount Washington Auto road for granting us permission to spend some time in one of the most amazing places on Earth. I also want to thank Nick for taking pictures for this blog and working with me as a first AC.