Odemax Distribution Platform to Debut at Sundance

For several years a disrupter in the acquisition business, Red Digital Cinema got into distribution late Friday with the announcement of its new Redray 4K Cinema Player. The product release includes a new .RED file format that carries 4K at just 2.5 MB/sec (20 Mbps), the RRencode plug-in for RedCine-X Pro that converts footage to .RED, and the Odemax content distribution platform.

The Redray player is slated to begin shipping later this month, but Red is already taking pre-orders at $1450 and it's likely that those first units are already spoken for. One RRencode license is included, and additonal licenses will set you back $20 each. 

Unless we missed it, there was no word on the status of the promised Redray or Crimson 4K projection systems, but perhaps that will come when Red unveils more information about Odemax at the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, UT, next month.

Breaking Ground

Technically, the single most impressive spec here is probably that 20 Mbps bit rate. For the sake of comparison, 1920×1080 Blu-ray video maxes out at about 40 Mbps. But Red officials say they're confident of the format's quality, and note that they've used prototypes of the .RED format at even lower bit rates for trade-show displays of Red camera footage. If the picture really does hold up, it will set new standards for compression efficiency.

From a business standpoint, Odemax is probably Red head Jim Jannard's biggest play to date. The question is whether Red can achieve its apparent goal of making Redray a ubiquitous device driving high-resolution playback in movie theaters and living rooms, not to mention the special-venue applications that could help make the Redray player a B-to-B success. . 

For content creators that sign up to distribute material via Odemax, the revenue split will be about 70/30, Red's Jarred Land said via a posting on reduser.net. Theatrical revenue-sharing arrangements will be different, but theaters will have access to material shared by content owners on Odemax channels, Land wrote.

Tech Specs

The company said Redray supports playback in 2D or 3D at up to full 4K resolution (4096×2160). It improves on Blu-ray in ways that don't have anything to do with the overall pixel count, boosting bit-depth to a possible 12-bit YCbCr 4:2:2 or 8-bit RGB 4:4:4. The .RED format (with up to 7.1-channel 24-bit 48kHz LPCM audio) will be required for 4K playback, while 1080p and 720p MP4 files will be supported. Possible frame rates run a familiar gamut: 24p, 25p, 30p, 48p, 50p, 60p. And, yes, according to Red's Stuart English, the Redray can output 4K stereo 3D video at up to 60 fps per eye. (Whether you can display that is another question entirely.)

The posted tech specs indicate a Rec. 709 color space, but Red's Stuart English told users that's not a limitation of the codec, but rather a reflection of the gamut of Ultra HD consumer displays and limitations of the HDMI outputs. (The forthcoming Crimson projector, which is aimed at theatrical installations, will not have the same limitations when it access .RED files.) The player is slated to output in 4K (DCI), Ultra HD, 1080p, and 720p formats.

Output connectors include four HDMI 1.4 outputs as well as HDMI 1.3 outs for monitoring and audio. Content gets onto the system's included 1 TB SATA drive via Ethernet connections, SD card, or USB 2. It's all encrypted with something called REDCrypt.

Not Built for Real-Time Production or Post Workflow

One thing to keep in mind — the Redray is designed to play .RED files, not .R3D files, meaning it does not replace or make obsolete those Red Rocket real-time playback cards for .R3D workflows. What's more, it doesn't sound like the speed of software .RED transcoding is going to be anywhere near real time. That means Redray is a delivery and exhibition solution, and not part of a dailies or post workflow — except at that final part of the process where you use RRencode to output a final .RED file.

For more on the Redray 4K Cinema Player, see the official Redray product page, not to mention the Reduser forum thread following the announcement, and stay tuned for more info from Sundance.