How to Prep Your Red Media for Field Use.
Once you’ve purchased your Red Digital Cinema camera, you’re eager to get out there and start shooting… Many simply insert the media, format the RedMag and roll! This procedure does ‘work,’ and it may work well for a while. However, we’ve established a much more solid framework and procedure set for your data security and field troubleshooting.
You’ll immediately notice that you have a few distinct options when you go to format your media. You’ll notice there are two boxes in the main Menu > Media > Device page: “Format Media” and “Utilities.” Selecting “format media” allows the operator to format the media for use in a Red DSMC2 camera. Red Digital Cinema states that this is the type of format that the operator should choose on a general basis.
Selecting “Utilities” brings up another menu with two choices: “Secure Format” and “Download Media Firmware.” Selecting the latter allows the operator to update the firmware on the media, if necessary. A Secure Format is a low-level format that rebuilds the SSD file system. Red Digitial Cinema states in their Operations Manual that It should only be used if the performance of the SSD is in question. You might be asking yourself, "what is the difference between a 'format' and a 'secure format? ...and when do I use which method?" When you use “format” you can choose between two media record types: Fat32 and UDF. If you choose the FAT32 selection, all camera firmware versions support FAT32. When an SSD is formatted as FAT32, all video clips including R3D, .Mov and .MXF are separated into the 4GB segments (but display as a single clip when referenced together). If you choose the UDF selection, only camera firmware 6.4 and later supports UDF. When an SSD is formatted as UDF, .mov files are NOT split into smaller files. However, R3D and .MXF files are still separated into 4GB segments.
One advantage to using the “format” selection is that media can be recoverable if nothing has been recorded onto your mini mag after formatting. For example, if for some reason, after you’ve formatted a mini mag, you realize you didn’t copy your media, you can use a Mac based computer and the “Red Undead” program (available at www.red.com), and there is a good possibility that your media can be saved; the media isn’t necessarily erased, but the Red Mag is allowing the operator to record over what is on the SSD. If you use Secure Format, you’re literally deleting and rebuilding the SSD file system immediately. No media can be recovered by Red Undead if a secure format was performed. Red Digital Cinema recommends performing a secure format in the following scenarios:
- Before recording Apple Pro Res or Avid DNxHD/HR.
- Always perform a secure format before using Pre-Record. A Secure Format restores the SSD back to factory out of the box settings and optimizes the SSD for Pre-Record.
- If one needs to perform a stress test on the camera.
- If one receives an “Audio Buffer Overflow” warning message.
- After installing new firmware in the camera.
It’s also noteworthy to inform you that it is possible to format your media on your computer, as FAT 32 , if and only if it wasn’t “last” secure formatted. This means if the ‘last’ format of the card was a secure format, then one must format the card “in camera.” If you performed a “regular” format, you can use a computer to reformat your card!
I’ve been using Red Cameras since 2011. I devised a new process for handling my media in 2012. I was covering the Phoenix Open for the PGA Tour, and my camera wasn’t acting properly. I called Red Technical Support and they suggested that I reinstall the firmware, as that typically solves many lower level issues with the camera. I was caught on a golf course, at the at the famed 16th hole and I didn’t have access to the internet... therefore I couldn’t reinstall my firmware. In short, it was a mess… At the end of the day, when able to return home, I was able to reinstall the firmware and the camera worked perfectly. Red Technical Support also suggested that I perform a Secure Format after completing the firmware install. I vowed to never allow that to happen to me again. It took me a few weeks, but I credated a process that has proven itself time and again... I’ve used it ever since, and still use it to this day!
I 'clear/secure format' my cards before EVERY shoot! I also 'pre-name/pre-number' them before I go out into the field. I'm such a stickler, that I continue names/numbers of the cards with the next available consecutive number, and NEVER duplicate. (How many times have you gone with "A01"... you need a clip later to cut say your demo reel, and there are 50 clips named "A01!" This is why I came up with a different approach. So each year gets a "letter" and each time I use a mag, it gets the next available number... so I'm on "E78" for the year, currently... (2017 is my "E" year because I've been doing this for 5 years...)
I take all the cards, and I clear them, then format them with next available/appropriate numbers. This also allows for super fast media swaps on set. No more making your client and crew wait on you! You can eject the 'full' media and replace it in mere seconds! Once the card is inserted, you're immediately ready to roll! (As you can see the first clip is already named too!)
I label the media on the face and the sides as well, so I can see what card I'm using if I'm looking at the camera from the side, or if I'm looking down. It also helps anyone that is around the camera know exactly what the name/number of the media currently loaded is!
I have a folder on my computer with all my looks. I load that onto each card. They don't take up that much space, so each time I create a look in RCX that I like, I save it to my looks folder, so I can take it in the field!
Next, I take my 'presets' folder from my computer and copy that to each card. I have presets for different types of shooting that I can load quickly. Everything from button configurations to actual frame rate/shutter configurations. It's a real time saver!
Then, I take the 'calibrations' (yup, I save those too! Saved me many times from having to recalibrate on the spot... just look for the appropriate temp/shutter you need (if you've saved them from previous shoots) and load! )
Finally... you can take firmware and load it onto a card... just change the name of the folder from "force_upgrade" to "upgrade." This allows the user to make the choice of if/when they want to upload the firmware. If you do the "force" it automatically does it for you.
To take it a step further... I've run with 'beta' firmwares for years with no issues... I will put the CURRENT firmware I'm running, even if beta on all my ODD numbered cards (I have 6x 512s and a 1TB).
Then I take the LATEST 'release' build and put it on all my EVEN cards! That's right... EVERY SINGLE card gets this stuff! So if I'm in the field and something goes wrong, I can LOAD what I need FROM the card in the camera or one in my pocket! I can't tell you how many times this has saved me!
To make all of this easier and faster, I've made a master folder called "CameraReady-Files-V(firmware number). Inside that folder are TWO distinct folders ready to load onto media.... one labeled "even" and one labeled "odd". I put all the appropriate folders in each, so I can copy all of them at the same time to the Mini Mags. This makes the entire process so much faster. Yes, this takes time to do before you go out... but switching mags takes only about 2 seconds... your clients don’t have to wait on set for you to format your media. You can surprise them with how fast you can do media changes! Additionally, if you get into trouble, or something wigs out, you're so prepared!
Also: you can make "force_presets" too! They work the same as the force upgrade... turn on the camera, it loads all the parameters you want to utilize and then deletes the force preset from the card.
I did this for a few friends... they broke their monitor on a shoot. they had fool control, but their monitor was their ONLY way to 'navigate' in the camera... so they had no way to turn on wifi and such... not a problem, I just made them a “force_preset” that turned on the wifi function, and emailed it to them!
I've now made a few force presets that I keep on my computer for those "oh crap!" moments! I have another for turning on HDMI spigot and ensuring that it is clean; I’ve another that does the same thing with SDI signals. Build what you think you might need for your style of shooting and keep them on a laptop that you can load quickly, if necessary in the field.