Understanding RED Camera Formats & Camera Angles

In the Sketchup™ Camera Tools seminar this past weekend I talked about the current trend in digital cameras and how they relate in using camera lens angles to view 3D models and illustrations.

The RED Epic™

A camera that is creating a great deal of excitement in the camera world, and a lot of confusion in Art Departments, is the RED camera. Just over three years ago the Red Digital Cinema Camera Company  entered the market with what they called a DSMC system, or Digital Still and Motion camera system. The camera was basically a component system with the body, or brain, containing the sensor and the other various components needed to record an image. The system was designed to be configured and upgraded as the user saw best to fit their work needs. The design of a camera with dual capabilities would fuel the current trend of high-end still cameras which also record HD video, but that’s getting ahead of ourselves.

Designed with a 35mm sized chip, the camera is able to record video with the same depth of field as 35mm as well as having similar focal lengths, allowing for the use of existing lenses from other camera and 35mm systems.

The system allows the user to record in four different formats: 4.5k, 4k, 3k, and 2k and each of these can be framed or extracted in different aspect ratios. With the new Epic, whose sensor is 5k (5000 pixels across), the choices are 5k, 4.5k, 4k, 3k, 2k, 1080p, and 720p.

At this point your eyes are probably crossing and you’re saying, “so what?” Basically, what you need to know is that each successive format is a smaller cropped version of the previous one.

diagram showing a Super 35mm frame and the three extracted ratios

In Super 35mm, the frame, or negative is cropped according to the aspect ratio for the release. The difference is,  the cropping only occurs vertically. The width of all the formats is (nearly) the same, so that a lens focal length will be similar in each of them. Here is a diagram explaining the Super 35mm format from an article comparing digital and film formats that I wrote for theAug-Sept. 2010 issue of Perspective Magazine.

With RED, each format will have a narrower horizontal field of view than the previous one. Meaning that a 50mm lens in in 3k will have a much narrower field of view than it does shooting in full sensor 5k.

Below is a viewport in Sketchup™ set up using the Advanced Camera Tool pluging. The “camera” is set up for the full sensor option with the safe areas turned on for the other formats.

screen capture showing RED Camera full sensor area and 2K, 3K and 4K crop areas

In this screen shot of a model viewed with a 14mm lens, you can see how each progressively smaller ‘k’ format crops the sensor and has a narrower angle of view with the same lens. So, when you are setting up a model to view from a specific position with a particular lens, it’s important to know at what ‘k’ is the set going to be shot. Click on the image to enlarge it on your screen.

Chart of horizontal fields of view for various focal length lenses in the three different shooting formats

Here is a chart that breaks down the horizontal angle of views depending on which format the film is going to be shot in. The lenses listed are generic focal lengths and do not cover the entire range of lenses available. But, this should give you an idea of the proportional change in the horizontal angle of the captured frame based on the different shooting formats.

Sketchup Pro Camera Tools Seminar

I recently did a post on the new Advanced Camera Tool plugin for Sketchup. I’ll be teaching a seminar on Sunday, January 15, from 10 am to 2 pm that will cover the use of the plugin.


I’ll also be covering a number of other topics such as; basic camera information you need to know, how the new camera systems are changing the business, how the new method of ‘re-framing’ in post-production effects the final product and how to allow for it, and I’ll explain why they have so many RED camera settings in the plugin pre-sets!

The seminar is half-price ( $25 ) to ADG members and will be held at 13907 Ventura Boulevard, Suite 101 ( on the second floor ) in Sherman Oaks.

The facility limit is 30 attendees so you won’t be guaranteed a seat unless you reserve one in advance. To find out more and reserve a seat, go to this webpage.


The Leadholder Museum

A. W. Faber patent drawing for leadholder

The humble leadholder has been around a lot longer than you would think. Actually since the American Civil War, when the first perfected-for-manufacture holder was patented by John Faber of Germany in 1860. If you hung out with Art Director Harry Otto, you would know these things. Harry forwarded me a link to a website called Leadholder- The Drafting Pencil Museum, which is another example of how you truly can find anything on the internet.

It features documentation on just about every lead holder ever made, all the way back to the 1560’s. It might not sound that fascinating but once you see the site you’ll end up spending quite a bit of time there, ever if you’ve never used them.

The site is nicely designed and has some great history of their use including vintage catalogues, ads and blueprints of various makes and models. You never know, these could be the Hummels of the 21st century. (Considering what some of these things go for on Ebay, you may have your kid’s college fund sitting in your desk drawer.) So, ditch that gold and buy some vintage leadholders. Get started here: Audrey’s Pencils.

Suggested Reading – “Illustrated Cabinetmaking”

Face it, having to design furniture or create construction drawings for it is not on most set designer’s list of favorite-things-to-draw. Sometimes you can get away with doing what’s basically a giant napkin drawing but most of the time you’ve got to get into some real details: like joinery, hardware and material specs. And there are the standards: what’s the widest bookshelf you can have before you’ve got a serious sagging problem?

If you have only one book on furniture and cabinetry, Illustrated Cabinetmaking by Bill Hylton, is a good choice. Written for woodworkers, this book is an excellent reference for anyone who needs to draw or understand furniture design and construction. The book details over 90 different pieces and contains over 1300 beautiful pencil drawings. Each spread describes the piece in detail with exploded views and details, and gives design variations as well as sources for measured drawings.



There are also chapters on joinery, door and case construction, styles and the basic design standards for each type of furnishing.

Typical layout showing exploded views and details

Examples of joinery details

Each chapter is begun with a design standards chart

The book is published by Fox Chapel Publishing and retails for $24.95.