Open letter to Variety from RED Digital Cinema.
Hopefully this will spark some spirited and interested commentary …. Please feel free to forward this to those you work with in the production and post biz that do not spend a lot of time on the forum, as it is a constant point of discussion from what I gather.
There was a recent article in Variety regarding the confusion on if it’s really cheaper to shoot in Digital as compared to film.
Here is the web link to the original article from a few weeks ago:
While the article was interesting to read, I think it just added to the confusion and did not offer any data or assistance on how to make the best choice regarding shooting Digital or Film as it relates to the financials.
I believe that we do a service to the entertainment community by making our best efforts to be logical and factual about the process and associated costs of shooting digital vs. shooting film.* Mentioning in the article that it is confusing and difficult to figure out I believe does not accomplish anything positive.
In our specialized RED education classes that we have been teaching in Los Angeles, we cover this in depth, and I wanted to share our findings.
Attached are two PDF cost matrix charts based on 3 perf 35mm film shooting, vs. HD tape shooting on F23 vs. Digital Data shooting on RED.
Attachment 1: A Conservative Cost Comparison – One Week Rental Package/ 10 hrs of shooting / 10 hrs of dailies
Attachment 2: A Conservative Cost Comparison – 90 minute feature | 4 wks shooting | 100 hours dailies | 50 hrs of grading
This is not meant to be a comprehensive budgeting exercise, just an overview of costs based on conservative numbers from local labs and rental companies in LA, and current film stock, digital stock, processing, data copying and prep, camera rental costs and post production costs.
There are no doubt variances in these figures based on special deals that savvy producers can cut with rental houses, labs and post facilities. *This is a starting point, based on factual data.* It clearly shows the general cost matrix of the different formats, and is a good starting point for creating a comparison of film vs. digital budget in a logical, comprehensive manner.
Note that our budget reflects using 3 perf 35mm for shooting, as this appears to be the most popular choice currently for TV and a fair amount of feature film work. If you prefer to budget for 2 perf 35mm, then subtract 25% to the film stock and processing costs in the chart. If you prefer to budget for 4 perf 35mm, then add 25% to those costs.
Note that we used an average rental rate for an F23 camera package in our cost matrix as well as an average rate for both 35mm and RED camera packages. For F35, you would budget higher for the rental, as that camera typically rents for more than the F23. The Genesis Rental rates and F23 rental rates I’ve been told are comparable based on current rental numbers. You can of course check with your preferred rental house for proper budgeting on 35mm film cameras, HD video cameras and RED cameras for a true comparison based on your project parameters. You will find rental rates all over the map for cameras, usually based on how the gear is maintained, the level of rental expertise, and the level of customer service provided.
Note that the charge for shooting stock of the RED camera is included in the camera rental cost in one chart, and as a line item for production to own their own media assets in the other chart. Since RED the media is re-usable, the cost of renting the appropriate amount of RED media for a one week shoot is typically very low and usually included in the rental cost of the camera equipment.
We find, and you can get many Producers, Directors and DPs that shoot RED on a regular basis to attest to the fact that it takes no longer to prep for a RED shoot than a 35mm or high end HD video shoot, and shooting style of RED is cable free if desired, just like shooting film. The RED does not require a video village tent or traditional DIT role, just like shooting film. The RED stock and the film stock live directly on the camera body, and RED can be shot just as quick or quicker than a film shoot. We do recommend the modern version of a 2nd AC on RED shoots, the First AC job of focus pulling remains the same as film. If the project is large enough, we recommend on set Data Manager, since you have the ability to take portions of the lab processing and file prep for editorial steps onto the set, or into offline editorial, as they are all data functions, requiring off the shelf computer gear.
In addition, you can take the same post pathways with RED that you do for 35mm with the exception that you replace the expensive telecine to HD tape step with a more cost effective data prep step. You can also use a modern approach to tapeless post production, end to end, for both TV delivery and theatrical delivery, and find extraordinary cost savings over traditional methods.
We at RED believe that all these shooting mediums are all viable and good choices for high end production.* This is not meant to be a value judgement on what camera to shoot for your production, just cost matrix data and some workflow logic for budgeting.
If there are any questions, comments, thoughts regarding this, please direct them to my email: firstname.lastname@example.org
. We are always happy to assist, discuss and debate for the purpose of allowing Producers and Productions to make well educated decisions.
RED Digital Cinema