The RED ONE Camera Gets Ready for Its Close-Up
Since December 2005, when Jim Jannard and his team first announced the RED ONE camera concept to a doubtful industry, pundits and users alike have been waiting and watching to see if the new company could eventually deliver on what it so boldly promised. Are you ready, as I am, to see if RED can deliver a universal camera system that can shoot in everything from 2540p down to 720p, is IT-based, scalable, flexible, uses a broad range of lenses, has its own new compression codec (REDCODE), shoots RAW like a digital SLR camera, and is priced miles below the competition? The moment of truth comes this April at NAB.
Many early doubters began to change their tunes in September 2006 when RED screened 4K footage from its new sensor at the IBC Expo in Amsterdam. A few months later, RED premiered 4K footage to a theater in Los Angeles packed with A-list producers, directors and cinematographers. The reaction? Deep breaths and sighs. I know- I was there. Since then, RED has progressively shot footage with its new testbed cameras, posted its video clips and frames, and continually refined the camera and its accessories- all with input from the future users of the camera. The REDCODE codec is an even a bigger story than the camera, but that’s for another.
Sounds great, but who is RED really for? The RED camera system is being designed for use in multiple cine-style and EFP-style production environments (see chart, below). If you analyze the formats, resolutions, form factor, and lens mount options of RED ONE (find the complete specs online at www.red.com and in a longer story on www.studiodaily.com), you’ll see that you could probably make it just about any camera you want it to be. If you do multiple genres within a particular style, you should either buy additional accessories to accommodate that, or more cost-effectively, simply rent the occasionally needed accessories on a per-project basis.
So, is a $50,000 investment necessary to create a RED camera field production workflow? Not really. Your RED associated equipment can be as expensive as you want it to be. But because it’s modular, there are ways to start out on a limited budget. Here, for example, is a cost-effective RED kit and workflow: RED ONE camera body = $17,500. RED Drive onboard storage will probably be under $1,000, as stated by RED. Batteries should be inexpensive. If you’re financially challenged, use 35mm still lenses until you can afford RED cine lenses. Then just rent everything else and build it into the budget quoted to the client.
RED has also just announced delivery dates. The company is still aiming to ship about 100 RED ONE cameras, as well as the RED 300mm prime lens (at left), RED DRIVE, RED RAILS and possibly the RED electronic viewfinder, "around NAB," though even Jannard has said recently that that date may slip a bit. The first 100 cameras will not be feature complete, but all will be operational by July. Expect the RED 18′ 85mm zoom later in 2007. To date, approximately 1,500 RED ONE cameras have been reserved worldwide. There has also been an unspecified number of RED lenses reserved. RED says that reservations will again be accepted at NAB. "We also plan at NAB to announce the specs and pricing of the various accessories available for the RED ONE, but won’t stop there. We will continue to work on enhancing the user experience through our continued project development," says Ted Schilowitz, RED’s head evangelist. "We will be ready for NAB," added Jannard in a recent online post. "The images are incredible. The best part of what we are doing is the ease of the workflow. It really is mind-blowing. But don’t underestimate the difficulty."
I don’t think anyone does, but we sure are grateful for it. I took a quick poll of some of the professionals worldwide who have reserved RED ONE camera systems. Says Ken Corben, a producer, director and underwater cinematographer in Hollywood, "I’ll use RED ONE for features and television programs. To me, RED is a one-stop filmmaker’s solution for aerial, underwater and action-based storytelling. I finally found a camera that will meet all my needs as a filmmaker- and in a tapeless acquisition format." Michael Devlin, a producer/director/cinematographer in Anchorage, AK, sums it up best: "Resolution simply rules!"
I’ve also stepped up and reserved two RED ONE camera systems and both RED lenses. In the coming months, I’ll put them through a grueling series of mobile productions around the world in Africa, Asia, Europe, Australia, the Caribbean, the South Pacific and beyond, as my gang and I find out just exactly what our RED ONE cameras can do. Stay tuned!
RED Formats and Target Apps
Feature films (2540p, 4K, 2K)
Indie films (4K, 2K or 1080p)
HDTV programs (4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p)
Commercials (4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p)
Infomercials (4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p)
Stock footage acquisition (4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p)
Music videos (4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p)
Business videos (2K, 1080p, 720p) HDTV News & promo B-roll (1080p, 720p)
POV deck (1080p, 720p, with a cigar cam)
POV mount camera (2K, 1080p, 720p)
In-water camera with a custom housing (4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p)
Aerial handheld and gimbal mounted (2K, 1080p, 720p)
Events of various sizes (1080p, 720p)
Film festival screenings (4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p)
Broadcast teases and promos (2K, 1080p, 720p)
Public service announcements (2K, 1080p, 720p)
Note: 1080i, if needed, can be extracted from any format RED ONE shoots
Steve Gibby, President of Cut4 Media Group (www.cut4.tv) is an Emmy-winning producer/director/cinematographer, a national Emmy Awards judge, and a veteran of several hundred national television programs that aired on twelve different broadcast and cable networks. His stock footage is currently available through Mammoth HD.