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“ The Inside Scoop: Post-Production and Distribution ”
Cyndi Greening interview with Mike Curtis

By Cyndi Greening. Phoenix, Arizona USA (Cinema Minima: 7 December 2005) -- Mike Curtis of HD for Indies and Cyndi Greening discuss distribution for independent filmmakers and new options for superior quality post-production at affordable prices. Great stuff!

New Digital Cinema Camera Coming: RED. 4K. 60p. RAW format. Always sniffing out the latest and greatest in technology, this post is from Mike's site! The podcast above and the data on the new camera make him the definite "go-to guy" on independent DV. www.red.com is such a simple, innocent sounding little domain, but who are these guys?

I don't know, but they are claiming to have a pretty killer digital cinema camera in the works.

They claim, right there on the front page, in all caps:


...and boy, do they look like they're going for it!

This is ambitious. This is audacious. This, if they can pull it off, would be the all time mother humdinger of a digital cinema camera, to which one could start asking "Does it do.." and the response would be to cut you off and say "Yeah. It does that."

So why this confidence? Why this arrogance on their part? Because these RED folks are claiming to have a camera that can do it ALL, up to 4K practically.

Some features gleaned from their very sparse website (which is a graphic, so can't even google for the text!):

1.) 4520x2540 pixel resolution. Native.
2.) 60p. Native.
3.) S35 sized image single CMOS sensor (Bayer pattern, presumably?) - 24.5mmx13.5mm, native 16:9 image sensor
4.) captures RAW (sounds just like digital still cameras' the way they put it), 4:4:4 or 4:2:2, however you want it
5.) Uses standard 35mm PL mount film lenses, or their mount and lenses.
6.) Records to their "RED Flash based system, external hard drives, BlueRay (sic), tape or any other capable format."
7.) Shoots pretty much any frame rate you'd want.
Delving further, they have some images to compare the image size between their 4.5Kx2.5K max res to 1080p to 720p to lowly, lowsly 480p, but they do NOT claim it is from the camera.

The only real data they have is on the specs page, summarized here:

-4K, true S35mm image sensor that does 4520x2540 @ 60p
-2540p@60p, "Mysterium" CMOS sensor (never heard of that, neither has Google for that matter),
-does 2540p, 1080p, 1080i, 720p, 480p/i, anywhere from 1 to 60 fps in 1 fps increments (hopefully hits the high notes at 23.976, 29.97, and 59.94 as well)
-format - "RAW 4:4:4 through dual fiber channel outputs" (egads, that's gotta be some hellacious throughput!), 4:2:2 out of HD-SDI (good, it has one), or RED codec (no details provided). Select 100, 80, 60, 50, 25, or 19 MBps (this sounds like the kind of data rates bandied about for MPEG-2, but that doesn't mean anything)
-1080i (if you've got 2540p, 1080i is a snap to derive from it), 720p, 480i, etc.
-use standard PL mount lenses or their lenses with their own mounting stuff - "RED Ultra Definition Cinema Lenses", but "other lens mounts available"

Mike's Commentary: WELL. These anonymous folks are talking up a mighty tall game, but I have no idea how serious they are about it. To propose a new camera, with fiber channel outputs (dual, no less!), variable frame rates, their own lenses (THAT is no light undertaking!), and all these other goodies means they are taking a mighty, mighty big bite to chew. The contact page says they will have some kind of presentation at NAB 2006, but presentation does not equal shipping product, nor anything close to that. Jeff Kreines over at Kinetta has similar ambitions, but he's been demoing at NAB two years in a row that I've seen, and has yet to give a ship date, let alone ship that camera *(see note at end).

But just based on the fact that they went out and purchased a short, clear, concise, expensive domain name involving a color implies that SOMEBODY's got some spare change lying around (or if not, their budget choices, whilst reminiscent of dotcom era excess, might be similarly misguided).

In theory this all sounds fantastic, and eerily familiar. Oh yeah, wait! I wrote this a year and a half ago, read it and see what you think about the benefits of RAW (and they're saying RAW in a context that implies similarity to still camera RAW, so I'm assuming that is what they mean).

In that article, I said:

I think, in time, folks are going to want to be able to capture the raw CCD output from their video cameras. Certainly the highest end professionals will want to be able to, and visual effects artists will want to be able to. I think it'll be years before the possibility, and might involve producing cameras with a special "bypass" mode that allows for capture directly from the CCD array straight to a hard drive.

Hmm...that sounds like what these folks are doing if I'm reading this right - but they're saying "RAW 4:4:4 out dual fiber channel outputs" which I can't see being anything else.

This one covers related issues, too.

In the second article (June '04), I wrote:

if you want to shoot digitally in 2K res, 4:4:4 color space, utterly uncompressed, you're talking about a multi hundred thousand dollar digital cinema motion camera, and a storage system costing many tens of thousands of dollars.

...and this may end up being the case. This camera sounds very cool, but the specs are mighty "up there", so I would expect the price to be up there as well. Price always determines success in a market - just because you CAN pay for a ride to the Russian space station doesn't make it a success at $20M a pop. My gut says the price on a rig like this, based on the market for such a beast, is going to end up in the six figure territory. Also, no mention is made of size, weight, form factor, battery powerable, etc., so much remains to be proven.

But the implied workflow sounds like it might really live up to the potential of the whole digital moviemaking thing (if a place can be found for all that raw data).

Of course, I wasn't the first to think along these lines - Jeff Kreines was WELL under way and was already showing prototype hardware when I wrote that, as were others. This might end up being like the Drake digital camera, of which I keep hearing how great it'll be, how on the edge or readiness it is...and time keeps flowing by. Or like the Andromeda project to get 12 bit RGB 4:4:4 out of a DVX100A...which is a glorious hack, but I feel a semi-wasted effort based on the native resolution of the CCDs and the fixed, less-than-stellar lens on that particular camera.

And at the bottom of one of the pages, it has a note to the effect of all specs are preliminary and subject to change without notice...definitely this thing is in the early stages, and this is their wishlist.

Wait and see, wait and see...and I'll keep looking into this thing.


UPDATE I inadvertently misstated what Jeff Kreines of Kinetta has done and not done - in the timeframe in question, they HAVE shipped product (film scanners and recorders), just not shipped the camera (see more below).

* note at end - Jeff Kreines pointed out that they've shipped film scanners and recorders, but not a camera in that timeframe. They are waiting on components (I think the Altasens imaging sensor last I reported if I recall correctly) from a vendor. So for me to say they haven't shipped product is incorrect - they've shipped non-camera products. But the product in question, the camera, hasn't shipped yet. My read on that situation is that the sensor they had hoped would work wasn't up to snuff and they had to wait for the next generation. In the meantime, I've been in touch with Jeff and engineering has continued, adding more features and dropping the target price point in the meantime. Apologies, Jeff!

-mike again

©2007 Greening Productions / Angel&Wings Productions • All Rights Reserved