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December 2014
Issue: Wednesday, April 18, 2007

RED SAYS 4K CAMERA CLOSE TO SHIPPING

By: Randi Altman

LAS VEGAS - Okay, I think we can all agree that Red Digital Cinema is pretty good at marketing themselves. With no actual shipping product, they became one of the most talked about companies at NAB last year when they showed up with a red curtain, non-working proto bodies and an idea: an affordable digital camera that records 4K images. Industry pros (about 1,200 of them) literally bought into it, plunking down $1,000 to reserve a future, working model. And those early reservation holders will most likely have the camera of their dreams in hand shortly.

Red (www.red.com) has come a long way since last April, says Red Digital Cinema’s Ted Schilowitz. As it stands now “we are going to do exactly what we set out to do, which is show working cameras at NAB, show 4K footage from those working cameras at our theatre in the booth and have a few more surprises.”

They also intend to have a shipping Red One camera — for $17,500 — this month as well. It will not be a final version with all the bells and whistles, but it will have RedCode — which is the key to shooting 4K for under $20K.

“Everything ties to this advanced codec that we’ve developed called RedCode. It’s a 4K wavelet 12-bit codec that is visually lossless from full uncompressed 4K, which would need to record to a massive amount of drives. What we are doing is giving the ability to record this compressed 4K onto this onboard drive system or onboard Flash system. The onboard Flash will give you probably 20 minutes of recording time in various configurations. The onboard drive system, which is actually slightly off board — it’s not on the camera body itself, it lives right behind it where the battery lives — that’s going to be a couple of hours of onboard 4K recording. So you’ll be able to take this and use it in a way that is almost like you are using DV today, except it’s going to be 4K, and that is what is going to blow people’s minds.”

MORE THAN THE CAMERA

Literally gearing up for the camera’s release, the company recently put two accessory packages with pricing information on its Website. And Red is also offering its own lenses for those interested: The Red 300mm f2.8 is due in late 2007 for $4,995.

But the accessories don’t all have to have the Red logo on them. “There are a lot of things that are industry standard on the camera,” explains Schilowitz. “There is HD-SDI out dual link so you can connect your HD monitors. There is a [standard] mount on the front of the camera so you can use your existing cinema grade lenses.”

THE WORKFLOW

Red is also offering RedCine software that will be used on the post side. “It’s designed to take the RedCode files in 4K, or whatever file size you’ve shot — 2K or HD – but you record in our RedCode codec in either RAW mode or RGB mode. You hook up your red-drive to your computer, and load the media to work within RedCine.  Let’s say you put it on your Mac or PC and the files are still in RAW mode, so you import them and the software will do the de-Bayer on the fly, create a “best light look” and then you can color correct them more precisely and you choose to export them into any codec or file format that you want.”

Schilowitz likens it to working with a very high-end Digital SLR  “We are doing something very similar to what a digital still camera does, only we are doing it at 24 or 60 frames a second in 4K. So if you are shooting with a high-end digital still camera you are shooting RAW Bayer pattern images and then you bring it into some software that understands what raw is and that can debayer it — essentially turn into RGB and then you can go work with it. Aperture or Light Room does that and RedCine is a kind of a moving version of that in sort of an initial software release. You then take these files and process them and turn them into whatever codec you would want for offline, creative editing, then you can link back to the original files for a 4K finish.

He says it’s called RedCine because it’s essentially a virtual telecine. “In a telecine session, you take your film — your negative — you put it up on the reels and you convert it to something, typically on a piece of tape. Now it’s typically HD, so it’s probably D5 or HDCAM SR, and you work with those files. Red  and RedCode RAW is the digital version of that, so you shoot a digital negative and use RedCine for your processing and file creation, but instead of putting your files to tape, and then creating your offline and online files from that HD master, we skip that step since we are all file based. ”

Schilowitz says that for broadcast work, you never have to go back to your digital negative, “you’ll just create files in whatever codec you want and then edit them and finish them in whatever codec you want for a broadcast deliverable.  For a guy doing a filmout, or a DCI package for theatrical, they are going to go back to their 4K files and relink to those and do a film-out via DPX or Cineon.”

They haven’t figured out the backend licensing side of things yet, but if you own a camera, the software comes with it free. “We’ll see how that extends to the post houses when they start reaching out to us saying, “We’d like to have a site license for RedCine.’”

In the meantime, keep an eye out for an affordable 4K camera that comes in around eight pounds.