Thursday, 31. January 2008 - 2:25 pm
On one level Stuart Gosling’s video for Universal Classics and Jazz artist Jonathan Ansell is a conventionally slick and cinematic showcase for the ex-G4 singer’s solo debut. But it actually could be a pioneering piece of work. It’s almost certainly the first music video in the UK shot with the revolutionary RED camera system.
RED is special because it is a non-film format camera which purports to comes closer to the replicating 35mm film than any other digital format – including High Definition. So the camera’s introduction into the UK by Stuart Gosling, the hugely experienced Canadian director and cameraman, could be a highly significant moment.
And the technology has demonstrated its tremendous potential in the Ansell video for Now We Are Free (a co-production between Gosling’s Panda Pictures and producer Gail Davey’s company Davey Inc) but also posed significant challenges which required some ingenuity to overcome, mainly at Concrete, the Soho-based post facility where the post production for the video was undertaken.
The RED camera claims to offer twice the resolution of HD-cam, plus greater latitude than HD in terms of light sensitivity. It’s sensor is as big as a frame of 35mm, so the camera can also take 35mm film lenses and replicate film-like depth of field when the camera is shooting at 4K. And Hollywood has already picked up on it: Peter Jackson’s latest movie Crossing The Line, was shot on RED prototypes.
“I’ve been following its development from conception,” says Gosling, the director-cameraman of numerous videos for all manner of pop artists from Tom Jones to Ronan Keating to Backstreet Boys. “I first heard about it from Graham Natress who creates FX plug ins and codecs for Final Cut Pro and is working closely with Jim Jannard [the inventor of RED]”
What is interesting, and somewhat controversial, about RED is that it has not been developed by a recognised camera manufacturer, but by Oakley, the sunglasses and sportswear company. Gosling had his first outings with this new technology shooting a short film and a commercial before suggesting it to Universal commissioner Cynthia Lole for the Ansell job.
“As director-cameraman I specialize in strong visual concepts,” he says. “I always try to shoot 35mm and focus very much on the image. I had told Cynthia about the camera and suggested that we should use it on a low budget video where she might be considering shooting on tape and needed a quality 35mm look.”
The shoot, at the historic Coronet cinema in London’s Notting Hill, went very well: Gosling shot two commercials as well as the promo in a single 12-hour day. “It was a very fast day and I treated the camera just as I would a 35mm camera. My lighting and exposure and composition methods were exactly the same, and as usual I relied mainly on my instincts to move quickly and not shoot multiple takes.”
But the uniqueness of the RED cam also posed a problem: the camera records to files rather than tape, and it has its own file system which happens to be incompatible to the Mystika system used by many post houses, including Concrete.
“There was a lot of scratching of heads and jiggery-pokery to make it work,” says David Cox, MD of Concrete Post and the visual effects artist on the job. And it was Cox who came up with the answer: REDCINE, a programme (still in beta) which takes RED files and translates them into the industry standard. The 4K and 2K files from the camera were “digitally developed” at Concrete, then all of the post took place under the one roof, starting at Metropolis, the editing house now situated at Concrete, where Guy Morley edited the clip. Cox then took Morley’s cut into one of Concrete’s Mistika HD suites for the final online and colour grade.
“The images from the RED camera were great to grade from,” Cox reveals. “They initially had a flat feeling similar to film that had been scanned. However, they contained a rich depth of colour that allowed very accurate colour picking, and this is important for music videos where it is common to apply a different treatment to the artist’s skin tones.”
Concrete are so excited by the RD camera’s potential that they have established a strategic alliance with Axis Films, the Shepperton-based HD camera rental house which provided on-shoot support and accessories for the Ansell video, and who are now investing in a couple of RED cameras. The two companies plan to provide an integrated shoot–to-post production support for the camera’s subsequent outings in the UK. “Clients can have an end-to-end solution,” says Cox.
Meanwhile, Stuart Gosling has now taken the RED camera to Australia where he is shooting a post-heavy video for Vanessa Amorossi. “This camera is perfect for the job,” he says. “We’ll be working for a month in Sydney with big team of people who all need instant access to the data. Having all the data in such hi resolution means that everyone has them immediately after the shoot and post flow stays in the digital realm. If we shot on film we would constantly be going back to the analogue world, where most operations take time and money.”
Gosling is under illusions that the RED camera is perfect, but most seem to be associated with being a new piece of kit. “There are problems – overheats and crashes, monitoring is difficult and not many experienced focus pullers are up to speed yet. That puts more pressure on me to deal with technical issues rather than the creative ones. But we are all working out the bugs.”
Looks like it could be a RED future.
Now We Are Free (Universal Classics and Jazz)
Prod co: Panda Pictures/Davey Inc.
Director/DoP: Stuart Gosling
Producer: Gail Davey
Editor: Guy Morley at Concrete Post
Telecine/online: David Cox at Concrete Post
Commissioner: Cynthia Lole
Watch online: here
• Stuart Gosling is represented for music videos in the UK by Debs Herbert at Y-I London