Updated March 12, 2008
For almost three years the industry has been anticipating the RED ONE DIGITAL CINEMA CAMERA. As with many aspects of our industry the visual seems to push the market and the audio is left to keep up. Until February 08, the actual audio I/O connections have been theoretical. We know it has displayed TA3 connections for the inputs and a TA5 for the output, but the actual pin configurations and audio operations were a mystery. Some of them still are. Using the latest manual, Build Version 2.0.3, and a loaner from AC Inc. (thanks guys) I’m going to lead you through the most important feature, the audio system.
The camera has four analog inputs and will accept both line and mic level signals. The line level input does not provide any adjustments, and according to the manual this is 0dBu, this is measured on the same scale as professional (+4dBu) line but four decibels lower. Internet buzz has indicated that this is not true, and that the line level signal is actually looking for -10dBV, consumer level. The reason for this discrepancy is headroom. At 0dB line level you’ll only have 8 dB of headroom. In order to compensate for this many users are finding the -10dBV a better fit. Line level signals are immediately digitized to 24 bit at 48 KHz. Mic level signals each have preamps to raise the level before the analog to digital converters kick in.
There are three menus that important to audio. In the Setup Sound menu, each input is selectable, then you can choose mic, mic 48 (phantom power), or line input and arm tracks for recording. The next two menus are accessible through the video button. Select Audio. This allows you access to the mic preamplifiers and their gain controls. Metering is not available in this menu. It will take some getting used to, but meters are on the main screen outside of the menus. Under the headphone menu you’ll find the variable headphone matrix. You can control the master level, left and right levels independently, and three input combinations. Monitoring is available in stereo pairs; input 1 left, input 2 right or input 3 left, input 4 right. You can also monitor all inputs together summing inputs 1/3 to the left and 2/4 right. Also note that any level or mix changes you make to the headphones also affects the stereo TA5F monitor output.
Timecode is currently an input only connection, but output is a future upgrade. This connection uses a 5 pin Lemo and is wired compatible with Nagra, Zaxcom Deva, Sound Devices 7-series, and Aaton products. User tests seem to indicate that only 23.976 is currently working. We did find some other peculiarities in the manual. Here is a recreation of page 63…
UPDATE!: We have successfully wired input adapters for the camera. For the TA3 connectors, follow the chart, not the graphic. The TA5 connections are as described above, no ground, pin 1 hot left. The connection is balanced, but with out a ground pad cables and other interfaces could be tough. Remember this one.
The internet has provided a lot of information on the topic of audio for the RED. A few users have confirmed my suspicions, and rewritten the manual before RED could. On some select cameras the TA3 inputs may be out of phase. This could be an issue with the mislabeling of the connector graphic in the manual; either an internal mistake in the camera, or the cable was made to the graphic and not the chart. Beware.
I’ll be updating this post as more information comes available. If you have had any live experience with the RED, I’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email.