Seeing Red

the-red-camera.jpg

Photo by Dan Germony cc Creative Commons License [see flickr site]

This is probably out of the league for most of us but it’s interesting for what it says about technology and those who make it.

Ever heard of the Red Camera? If all goes as planned you will, if you follow the buzz in cinematography. Red is a digital camera system that rivals the big camera’s that used in the mainstream movie industry. I will eschew the jargon about resolutions etc and simply say what Red shoots is ultra HD. Most digital images have in the past been a little too, well cold for lack of a better word. What Red delivers is easily as good as film if not better. If you want to know all the numbers you can go to http://www.red.com and check it out for yourself but if you want to see how good it is, go to the gallery section and download the clip called “Crossing The Line” by film director Peter Jackson.

Red’s objective at least in part is to provide the indie film maker, or anyone else for that matter, with a very high grade [4k] camera for a reasonable cost. By contrast the big Panavision cameras used to shoot many hollywood films you can’t even own, I guess they have some lease program or rent by the day. There is a full breakdown of costs on the Red site but a basic setup with a 50 to 150 zoom lens will set you back around 15 31 thousand dollars. If you bought the whole kit you would be more in the 50 60 thousand range which is not bad for the pro level of gear. You still have lights, sound and all the other gear involved in making a film but Red makes it possible for more people to achieve big studio results; at least image quality wise.

The Mac connection – The folks at Red worked closely with Apple in the development stage of their cameras because you can’t make films without editing. Since Apple makes one of the premier editing tools on the market it was a good fit to make Red work with Final Cut Pro. Apple’s Final Cut has a new codec called pro res 422 and allows for editing a shoot right on location. You can shoot the full 4K raw files in redcode and then edit them on a laptop in pro res 422. Very streamlined for the production of all kinds of video situations whether it’s a movie or video shot for broadcast.

Red has been in development for several years and is about to ship their first units in just a few days. Selected filmmakers have been using prototypes to do real work and have received rave reviews. It will interesting to see if they take the industry by storm which will depend on how they serve their users and if supply can match the demand.

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