News for NMU Employees

Digital Cinema Raises Bar with RED Camera

NMU digital cinema majors now have access to a camera and editing equipment that utilize the same 4K video technology featured in House of Cards, Gone Girl, The Hobbit series and other projects. The School of Art and Design recently purchased a $30,000 RED Scarlet Mysterium-X camera kit. It can be customized in various configurations to suit project needs and shooting styles—from handheld documentary styles to studio set productions. The camera also is capable of recording high-resolution RAW files.

“The industry is transitioning away from film,” said Michael Cinelli (Art and Design). “For the first time in our program, students are able to use the same equipment professionals in the field are currently using. It has fallen within our reach financially, so students can leave here saying they had experience working in this format. We need to keep up with technology because our students are really interested in it. They ask about technology when they come for campus visits and it’s one of the main factors in their decision to enroll.”

The RED cameras adapt the methods used in digital SLR still photography to video. Jim Jannard, the owner of Oakley Inc. eyewear and apparel, founded RED. According to the company website, he and a small group of pioneers started working out of a warehouse garage to engineer a camera that could record RAW, 4K images at up to 30 frames per second. That served as the genesis of “digital cinema on a modern scale.”

Daric Christian (Art and Design) said the RED camera is designed well and features a user-friendly touch screen. At a resolution of 4096x2160 pixels, 4K offers four times the detail of high-definition at 1920x1080p.

“The nice thing about shooting RAW files is that it gives you a lot of flexibility in the editing suite,” said Daric Christian (Art and Design). “When working in HD projects, you can crop the video or scale down to HD without sacrificing quality. The camera also has larger sensor, which offers greater detail, low-light sensitivity and a wider range of color control. You can make it darker or brighter or change the contrast in post-production without diminishing the detail. You can also composite or remove things from the screen—almost like Photoshop—with greater flexibility. And no matter how radically you edit a clip, you can always go back to the original RAW footage.”

The $10,000 editing suite includes a new Apple Mac Pro computer and a Thunderbolt hard drive. The Mac Pro has two graphics cards capable of driving three 4K displays and the Thunderbolt bus has fast enough transfer rates for editing the larger 4K files. Christian is teaching a special topics class so that he and students together can learn more about the new camera and editing equipment.

The technology for capturing 4K video has so far outpaced the ability of viewers to see a final product in that format. Only a handful of movie theaters nationwide have 4K projectors, Cinelli said. HD still rules the television industry, though some early adopters have purchased ultrahigh-definition 4K sets. As more film and TV projects are shot in that format and 4K content is streamed through services such as Netflix (for a higher price than HD, as announced this week), it appears 4K will be adopted more quickly. That makes this a solid investment on behalf of NMU students preparing for careers in the field.