I’m in early pre-production for a new TV series. Although Offspring was very successfully shot using RED over the last two seasons, I was very keen to see what the new kid in town could bring to the table.
Although I recently did an available light shootout with director Kate Dennis, I wanted to test the Alexa and the RED in more conventional lighting situations. I had a day to shoot some tests and put them through our post production pathways with out preferred post production provider.
I was also able to test some 16mm as I was really interested to see how it would stack up against these two cameras and as a bit of a dark horse outsider. A lot of the locations feature a lot of windows and I’m really concerned about how we’ll deal with that contrast when the time comes. And as we’re shooting in the midst of winter, there will also be a lot of night material, both true night and just gloomier days as well.
So herewith is a selection of the tests setups. I came up with 4 scenarios. A day interior with the glass windows. Once the subject is seated, it’s about a stop down on the base exposure. The bricks were reading as much as 7 stops over base. The blacks were about 3 stops under. The only additional lighting I had was a Dedo 400 HMI bounced into some poly from camera left.
For the next setup I had the subject walk around to the back of a projector and turn on a practical light. I had a single 100w Dedo from camera left bounced into the roof for some ambience, the prac that is turned on and off (you can see some paper I taped to the wall for bounce) and a fluro prac in the far right background. It’s really interesting to compare the light on her face when the light is turned on and off.
The third setup was in one of the houses we’ll be shooting in. I had a single blondie through a frame for when the subject stops close to camera that was metered at base exposure. Everything else just fell where it landed. I really wanted a mix of pracs and ambient light here.
And the final setup was a brutal night scene, shot available light and using a single frontal redhead that the subject would walk into that would metered on base exposure, in this case T2.
It was pretty amazing to see how much detail the Alexa held in the highlights from the first setup with the glass bricks. It also seemed to have much less noise in the blacks even in low light.
For those that care, all the tests were shot using the same Cooke S4 series lenses and 15-40T2 cooke zoom. The daylight film stock was Kodak 250D and the other three setups were Kodak 500T. The film was transferred using a Spirit direct to 2K DPX and graded in Lustre. No noise reduction was applied, though it would be normal to have some.
The Alexa was rated at 800 ISO, except for the final setup, which was rated at 3200. We shot Pro Res 4:4:4 in log c.
The RED MX was processed natively in the Lustre and was rated at 800 ISO and 3200 for the final setup.
I used a grey card to try and simply get the balance right. Not much as actually been done in the grade itself.
Enjoy the clip. If you click through to Vimeo, I’ve made the original clip available to download. It’s over 1Gb though.