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High Definition Video for Independent Filmmakers
A How To Guide for Digital Filmmakers
Welcome all! This is my blog to share my latest research,
thoughts, etc. on utilizing HD for independent filmmaking.
YES, I am available for consulting
Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
All content copyright 2004-2007 Mike Curtis.
Friday, December 16, 2005
OK, so here's the scoop on the RED camera:
It's real. Jim Jannard, founder of Oakley, is the guy behind it, as the web rumors have suspected.
I got a chance to have a long conversation with Jim Jannard and a bunch of his engineers about the RED camera that they're making. After hours of conversation, you can color me a believer in what he's doing, and what he wants this camera to do and be.
UPDATE: this is NOT an interview. I wrote this in a hurry and realized a Q&A between a hypothetical reader (and the questions and tone they typically would have) and myself, knowing what I know about the camera, would be a good format to present the information in. For instance, my comment about "da bomb" was me having fun with some of the reader inquiries I get. In my hurry to get it online, I failed to define that. My bad. Read this more like an FAQ on a website than a sit-down interview with anyone in particular. Answers provided are my answers, based on my opinions and knowledge of Jim and the RED. My apologies if I inadvertently gave the wrong impression.
OK, on to the good stuff:
Q&A on RED the company:
Q: Is this thing for real?
A: Yes, it is. Wholeheartedly.
Q: So who's behind it?
A: Jim Jannard, founder of Oakley. Jim is a HUGE camera nut himself, owns about 1000 cameras himself - digital, film, motion, still, all of it. He shot all of Oakley's ads himself until the early 90s. This guy is hands on about cameras, and has changed his role within Oakley to allow time for the new company, RED.
Q: But they make sunglasses and stuff. What are they doing making a camera? Why?
A: Two reasons:
1.) Jim is a huge camera nut, as I've said, and
2.) Jim has a long history of entering markets that others have dominated and disrupting those markets. Jim's original vision when he started Oakley was to marry art and technology.
2 1/2.) Oh, and probably because he thinks it'd be fun and cool, and Needs To Be Done. The established players are reluctant to come out with disruptive technology, because, frankly, it would disrupt their business models and make their existing client base cranky. RED isn't.
Q: Can they do this? Jim? Oakley? Huh? After all, they make sunglasses and clothes and stuff.
A: They have, time and time again, entered new markets different from where they started and done well with it. At first that was a motorcycle handgrip, then goggles, then sunglasses, etc. etc. etc. I was very impressed with how serious they were about the technology and material science parts of this. Oakley is a big believer in being self contained, they have extensive tooling, testing, and machining capabilities inhouse. They are big believers in best tech for the job, and were the seventh delivery of a rapid prototyping system back in the early 90s for example. They are big on being early tech adopters where it pays off, and aggressive about incorporating latest advances.
Q: Where's the money coming from?
A: Jim and Oakley have tremendous resources, both financial and technical inhouse, and this puts them in a different league from all the other camera wannabes.
Q: Dude! So what about the camera? Is it da bomb, or a bomb?
A: As for the camera itself, there's a lot of information on the RED website itself, go check it out. I wrote about the specs a couple of times already here and here. But it says right there on the website that "This information is preliminary. It could change at any moment."
Q: When's it coming out?
A: Unknown. If you read their contact page on the site, it says they'll be making a presentation at NAB 2006 (that's in April in Vegas for those not keeping track). It doesn't say shipping product, it doesn't say announcement, it says presentation, which is ambiguous. And see above Q&A about preliminary specs - sounds closer to malleable dough than cooked bread. Engineering takes time.
Q: What good is it going to do non full-on Hollywood productions if it is only fiber channel out? Isn't that ultra expensive and big and heavy?
A: You'll notice they state a variety of output options on the camera on the website:
"RAW 4:4:4 through the dual fiber channel outputs, 4:2:2 out of the HD-SDI output, or record to RED codec. Full raster 2540p, 1080i/1080p, or 720p" Lots of choices. Also, RED Flash system is mentioned for recording, this sounds like some kind of solid state recording to me. Hard drives are also mentioned. It sounds like they are trying to offer a variety of options to a variety of users. Uncompressed RAW, as I wrote about the other day, would be a deleriously huge amount of data, and quite expensive as well. The RED codec, described as available at data rates from 100 down to 19 megabits, sounds like it would serve a variety of markets at a variety of price points. How high for the high end users? How low for the low end? Unclear at this time.
Q: So what's up with this Mysterium sensor?
A: I don't know, but the specs are pretty amazing. Mysterium is still just that - a mystery.
Q: What tape format does it record to?
A: I've seen no tape format mentioned on their website. I've seen lots of data storage devices mentioned, but no tape. There is an HD-SDI tap for those who want to go old school to a tape deck. But it sounds like they want to go "New Skool" and skip tape altogether except for legacy support (and live broadcast type situations, if this camera is applicable there?).
Q: What about lenses?
A: PL mount and custom RED mount, with their own Ultra High Def Lenses. So keep in mind, that opens up all kinds of doors to use existing film lenses. One of the reasons HD lenses have been so expensive is because the biggest sensors have been 2/3 inch at best. The smaller the sensor, the better the glass has to be to focus accurately on that smaller target. Costs go up as tighter tolerances are required, etc.
Q: So, can they REALLY pull this off?
A: Time will tell. If they can draw on Oakley's resources, then yes - they have experience in optics and designing products for use in the harshest conditions. Jim has extensive camera experience and interest himself, and clearly has the personal resources and connections to recruit and support some high level talent for what they don't have inhouse. Before my conversation with them, after I knew Jim was involved but before I'd spoken with them, I felt the biggest obstacles were going to be the expertise to manufacture the serious glass involved in the lenses, and the electronics expertise to pull off the guts of the camera. The only electronics product I had been aware of were the THUMP sunglasses with MP3 player embedded.
But I was extremely impressed with what they had to say, and I heard a lot of good answers back when I expressed doubts and had questions about some things.
This looks like they want to make a radically different camera than what is presently on the market. Others have tried, or are in the process of trying, to get a camera out that will be IT centric, small form factor, large imager, etc. But this looks to be the best funded effort out there.
In summary: if there is going to be a seriously disruptive technology, I feel it pretty much has to come from an outsider company, with no entrenched architecture, infrastructure, or client base to protect. To be successful and long lasting, it also helps to be a well backed venture, with strong engineering and brains behind it. And a marketing machine like Oakley can provide surely can't hurt.
Jim and RED fit the bill to take a serious swing at it.
Based on my conversations with them, I think RED is going about it the right way, and will make exactly the kind of camera that I'd LOVE to work with.
(Nice work, Mike.)
This is very typical vaporware. Sounds like you bought the marketing/investor presentation hook, line, and sinker.
BTW, Arri and Panavision are in for "disruptive" technology, but frankly, the tech is just not there right now for the uber-be-all camera. The largest sensor is in the Panavision with 12 megapixels, that gets sub-sampled down to HD resolutions and written to tape at a very low compression rate in HDCAM-SR with a 10-bit log LUT for maximum dynamic range preservation. But have you seen how LARGE it is? Or how about the Dalsa? same-thing. And they fab their own chips, so they don't have any excuses either.
It will be interesting to see what their "presentation" is at NAB, and basically if it's a call for partners/investors, etc., or if it's actually a shippable product in the near-term.
some random thoughts (could be that some of that is old news, i dont remember):
red codec at full raster 2540p down to 720p with data rates of 100 to 19mbps.. they gotta be kidding. who would spend the money for a camera like this and work with compressions that are higher than DVCPROHD or even HDV? why not make that 400mbps to 100mbps?
recording options now include blue ray.. what's the write speed of first gen blue ray recorders?
sensor now mentions pixel size, 5.4 micron (or is this old news?).
the format page mentions that the sample image was not shot with the real beaf.
with all their technical knownledge they don't seem to have anybody who knows a thing about webdesign ;)
seriously, why waste everybodys bandwith with fat jpegs (at least use png or gif if you dont want to put up searchable text)
What I doubt that can be done in a timely manner is the RED codec. I done a quick calculation and Minidv is 5:1 DCT. HDV is 25:1 DCT + Motion compensation. RED is 65:1 with an unknown method. What is more plausible is that they meant MBps instead of Mbps, which would mean a compression of 8:1. People already complain that they can't use HDV that it breaks up under motion, and is difficult to key on. The RED codec at 65:1 will likely be impossible to key on, and get giant macrosblocks everywhere and require the highes end computer just to play back the video without an intermediate codec.
2 Cameras currently exsist that have similar specifications, but actually work. Both are made by NHK with the most recent being a 4K x 8K (32Mpixel) using 16 Hd-SDI links. The camera was more of a demonstration but it is real. It would likely cost a fortune because they needed to have their own sensor made.
So if RED is building their own sensor then their isn't really a chance to get this into the hands of an indie unless they go into heavy production of the camera. R&D for a sensor is quoted at being 250K-500K and then a large cost per unit of sensors. Probably close to the 3K range per sensor. So even if they made 500 cameras the cost per camera is still going to be out of read, as I would guess it would cost 6K-7K to build without any type of recording device and for bare electronics and encasement. Once you start getting to this large a number then you have to deal with insurance and warrenty, and engineers, marketing, etc. So your probably closer to 10K-12K to build so need to sell at 15K-20K for profit and you still don't have a deck.
I don't doubt it can be done. I believe the webpages was slapped up with an unrealistic belief that they can done things based on theory. I'm seeing everyday in my work in electronic engineering of a similar, but lower end product, that its easier to do something in theory then real life. If you want to do it in a timely and cost effective manner compromises and a lot of research has to be done.
Man who make sunglasses about to make best HD camera ever. Sounds like a story found on the Onion to me.
For what it's worth, Jim Jannard is worth over a billion dollars:
He's not just "a guy who makes sunglasses". He's "a friggin' rich guy who makes sunglasses".
Maybe nothing will come of it. Maybe something will. But either way, it's just a guy with a powerpoint presentation and a (completely off the wall) dream.
Small companies build fantastic new little cars all the time in history. They're not GM either.
A lot of guys in this thread sound like the fat guy in the hat at the front of the audience eating potato chips and shouting out catcalls.
if you tell me it's available next summer and is going to cost only 20K, i'm going to shout vaporware... if you tell me that it's going to happen in two years and cost around 80K, i probably agree, but i won't get too excited about it either ;)
Also, digital cameras are such a huge and growing industry. I don't think it's a stretch that a sensor can be manufactured with 60fps ability. Is it? And moving and processing the output is a beast of a task, but we are not talking about a moon landing here.
# posted by Anonymous :
Mark my words now. Never going to happen. We'll see in a two years who is right and who isn't. It sounds an awful lot like you were won over by their investor presentation. Wanting
This anonymous (posts) sounds funny, who is it, sounds almost like what you would expect from a failed competitor from the projects over at dvinfo?
If you look at the big (and tiny) objective picture, you can see that it is possible to sell a platform like this in configurations ranging from mid priced to expensive. 500 sales, something like this could easily do 5K-50K sales, if they are interested in low margins. Most of the comparative companies mentioned have a vested interest to blend in, and make as much money as possible.
The truth is that a basic 720p capable camera system can be done for hundreds of dollars in a mass produced design, over at dvinfo we found that the problem really came down to software to do pro cinema capture and camera control (and the lack of bleeding edge performance embedded real time programming). Today you can probably rig up a system with less than $1000 camera (including on head compression to network output), laptop, if you had the software and external controls.
So for a well funded billionaire, we should put the BS factory (negative spin) behind us, until we see what happens in NAB. I am still far from convinced this will be on the market and relatively cheap, though I find it also difficult to see it going $80K (they can if they want low sales) when $20K (with cheap lens) would open up a flood gate (10K and 5K compressed 100Mb/s low end versions also possible).
I am considering starting a thread at dvinfo alternative imaging forum discussing relative performance of H264 codec, and alternatives, that might offer similar quality to HDV at 65:1 (in motion I don't know) and use on the projects etc. There has just been announcement of another h264 chip for cheap cameras next year. Also the basis of an alternative to a h264 FPGA design has been done by http://www.elphel.com. So there is technical latitude out there for the RED camera to offer descent performance in 720p/1080p 19Mb/s.
Especially if it has the possibility of extracting a RAW 4K signal in the future when portable super storage becomes feasible.
Think about it, 4K imager for the all of us today... even if we drive a 1080p signal from it. It'd buy that over a 1440X1080 $100K system... wouldn't you? For half the price?
I just don't see why it can't be done in a portable and fairly inexpensive design (say $6000 USD). With marketing and loyalty from the Oakley user base, then this could be a big seller at a low price point. I'm also ignorant of the actual design of a video/film camera system, so I could be dreaming...
We know however what we want (4K For Everyone). Let's wait NAB to see what's really going to happen. And let me just quote one of the 20th Century's greatest philosophers said: Think Different
So... get lost with all the RAW talks... 300mbs for 2K at 25 (we live in PAL country) is acceptable for us if a codec uses this bandwith wisely.
Keep up the Spirit you Red guys... no risc no fun. It's about time that somebody kicks some butts in this protected market. Just because the kinetta guys don't do it... doesn't mean it can't be done.
A wise one at the end:
The Titanic was built by professionals... the Noah's Arc by a amateur...
Think about it
-mike the blogger
I mean do you honestly think it's important as an indie filmmaker that you must have a 4k camera??
It's not easy to work in 4k even if it's compressed. Visual effects, motions graphics, color grading all adds to really heavy render times.
Try taking footage shot in HDV and do some rotoscoping, throw on some nice title animation, color correcting and see how long it takes to render.
I can't imagine 4k being indie friendly or affordable even in 2 years with the advances of hardware.
If the Red camera comes out, great. Though I think it takes more than money and passion to create something so cutting edge.
I think you are missing the point about 4K.
In my opinion, 4K doesn't necessarily mean working with 4K in post. It means something much more exciting. It means using 35mm cine lenses without having to buy a mini 35mm adapter. It means getting a 35mm DOF out of the box. And it also means getting the highest possible resolution as your source even if out of the camera, you'll only use 1080p24 until working with 4K becomes more convenient.
Think about shooting 35mm... most of that content, in the last few decades at least on TV was only SD throughout the complete post process (sitcoms, series, etc...)
So 4K is about the best possible image capture.
Plus, it doesn't hurt to also have the ability to do 4K throughout the process with your camera should you need to for theatrical work but I suspect that this will require cumbersome and expensive storage as well as workflow, at least for a while.
But for now, give me a 4K camera, I'll rent some decent lenses and generate a 1080p24 film with it.
So all this talk about needing a 4K sensor for 35mm-DOF is nonsense-you can do it right now with a 2/3" Chip, you just need the right lenses (either Zeiss Digiprimes or get a prismless design and use Superspeeds or Optars).
Anyway, I wouldn't call the ability to use 35mm cine lenses nonsense, this is the very foundation most digital cinema companies based their products on (Panavision, Arri, Dalsa).
I don't think it'll be that long before a competitor does the same.
Is the image from a 4k camera downsampled to 1080 worth the extra expense than an HD camera? That is debatable.
There are small number of films doing 4k digital intermediate, have you noticed a difference between a 4k DI and a 2k DI?
In the end these are just tools. It's always nice to have the best tools, but that shouldn't overwhelm the other aspects of your films.
Canon's HDV camera is $9k
Sony's Z1U is $5k
JVC's HDV camera is $7k.
Opinions may differ, but these cameras fall into the HD realm.
Do you honestly think a 4k camera is going to be cheaper than this, especially 2 years from now??
I think you are missing the point again.
You listed 1/3" CCD cameras and challenge a 4K chip camera to beat their prices??!!
At least, compare Apples with fruits.
Unless of course you think the cameras you listed perform as well as the 2/3" high end cameras (HDCam, EditCam, Varicam). If so, then I'm sorry.
There are only so many people that can afford a $50k plus camera system. They will never buy a first generation camera from an unknown company no matter how great it is. Feature film makers will not trust their work to it for years. I just don't see the way to sell this unless he gets some name director on board like Sony did with Lucas.
This isn't going to be a cheap camera. They aren't even claiming it will be.
A high quality HD lens for whatever 'uber' sensor they plan to make is going to be hell of expensive. Lenses never get cheaper. To buy a decent 2/3" lens now is almost $20k. And that's just a decent one. This is a industry standard lens that is produced in somewhat high numbers. How are they going to make their own lens and sell it for less ?
I'll be the first in line for one of these if it was to equal what they want to deliver. One concern I have is if this isn't just an attempt to show prior work when they patent a raw shooting video camera without ever making one. Then sue the first guy that makes when when we actually have the technology for one. This happens all the time. Just ask Blackberry.
also yesterday i was looking for new sunglasses and from an industrial designers perspective i was marveled by the quality of some plastic injection/lost wax casting parts of some brands. but when i looked at the okley glasses, they were poorly manufactured - so poorly that those chinese 'bootlegs' you can buy on the street actually have superior quality :o
"...but when i looked at the okley glasses, they were poorly manufactured - so poorly that those chinese 'bootlegs' you can buy on the street actually have superior quality :o"
This is the most ridiculous claim I've read for a while. This completely discredits anything "anonymous" has to say. Why hide behind anonymous?
Oakley is the absolute standard of quality in the sunglasses business. In frame quality as well as lenses... Do you research and you'll see. But I get the feeling that you already know that and that you will make such ridicuous claims at any cost.
Some people just have to be ignored.
"...He may be rich but, he doesn't have the money for what he wants to bring to market. He needs investors. Lots and lots of investors."
You really sound like an expert on camera manufacturing and it sounds like you have amazing insight on Oakley's capabilities and resources.
You know, you don't have to post if you have nothing valuable to contribute.
Also, grabbing that frame rate from the sensor is not that hard. One merely needs the bandwidth, and let me tell you, fiber has the bandwidth.
Storage? It will likely be FiberChannel to a SAN as an option, which can be configured, with todays (yesterdays?) technology for extremely fast sustained writes and reads.
Cost? Scenario 1: Camera: I'd say 150k (heck, even the Panasonic HVX2000 is around 60k), and SAN will cost you about 25k. Software API's and CODEC's will be priced per seat, and for the rendering farms, probably at 2500/seat.
I'd wager that the FLASH solution would be similar to the Panasonic P2, but with denser memory, maybe Samsung, and good enough for a few shots on location.
Me: I'm thinking of setting up a business to produce ruggadized SAN enclosures for location shoots. Call me 800 966 1337 if you want to work on the project.
When you have a billion dollars and PASSION about camera technology, you can do whatever you want.
RED has hired some of the top engineers in imaging science, optics and data compression to develop a camera that is a dream come true for filmmakers.
For those of you that are bitching that they're only trying to snare investors, if you did a little research you'd see that they are a PRIVATELY HELD COMPANY and aren't seeking investors.
I think if Apple and AJA are on board to support RED, there's probably a little more happening behind the scenes than we are privvy to.
Filmmakers have long been held hostage to the manufacturers of our tools. Do you think KinoFlo really has enough costs in their lights to justify the $1000 price tag? Is that dolly wheel really WORTH $5000? No, we're just getting screwed by business models.
Red wants to make the technology more attainable and I cheer for them. In fact, I hope they get into the lighting, motion control and rigging business while they're at it.
Their motives seem pure, the technology is coming and a lot of naysayers will be eating crow this time next year. And I'll be there filming it in glorious 4K.
The Red One camera is becoming available throughout the UK for hire for those who cannot afford to buy one. Camera Speed has already delcared the rates it is hiring the camera for.
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