My Red Camera Experience

Red Camera

If you’re not in the film industry, you may not have heard about the most advanced video camera in the world. Thanks to the Digital Cinema Society, I had the privilege of getting an in-depth look at what makes the Red camera tick.

First off, what makes this camera special is that it records in 4K. This is the same resolution that 35mm records on – a resolution higher than High Definition. Currently there are only 50 Red cameras in the world. At the event we were looking at #30.

What makes the Red camera even more unique is the idea of add-ons. The Red camera itself is simply a computer with a laser beam that costs $17,500. You’ll have to purchase separate lens, storing devices, etc. These add-ons, along with firmware updates, allow the Red camera to be extremely flexible and cost efficient.

The setup that was at the event weighed in at 29 pounds. It featured a lens, camera body, LCD monitor, and the harddrive storing unit.

The way the Red camera works is pretty simple concept. Imagine taking a digital still camera and then recording 24 pictures within that second. Since our brain blends these images together, you’ll see a moving image. Rather than recording on film or HDV – you’ll record on Flash memory cards. Currently the camera works wtih 4 gigabyte cards allowing for 4 minutes of footage. A 16 gigabyte firmware update is coming soon, which will allow for slightly over 8 minutes. In addition to this, there’s an upcoming harddrive attachment that will allow for multiple hours of footage.

The Red camera records on a specific Red codec that can be viewed in the Quicktime player and edited in Final Cut. The video images are captured on the computer using software called Red Alert. What’s really cool about this process is that the videos appear with limited color, appearing mostly gray. The video clips can be greatly altered using RGB and other color sliders. In theory, this will make color modifications much easier since there really isn’t a set color to begin with. These presets can then be added onto the camera viewfinder or into Final Cut for editing.

Lets face it, currently 4K projection capabilities are down right limited to high-end theaters and random rich people. What this means is that you won’t be seeing true 4K imagery until the well future. I had my first 4K theater experience watching Blade Runner: The Final Cut on Sunday afternoon at the Landmark theater in Los Angeles. Visually speaking it’s phenomenal! There is really no comparison to even the High Definition version of Blade Runner and I won’t even bother to mention the current DVD version, it’s that inferior.

The good thing is that even if a film is filmed using the Red camera in 4K, it can be downgraded to High Definition and other lower resolutions.

The Red camera is a great piece of technology that is built to bring the future of cinema into the present. Film tech junkies are jumping on this bandwagon as quickly as possible. Sure it’s not a perfect camera: currently it doesn’t directly record sound, the camera body has a loud sound fan, the body will overheat, etc. Secondly, the Red camera is a constantly evolving piece of machinery. That means there’s potential for standards to get tossed out of the window, which will hurt the industry as a whole (a la Blu-Ray vs. HD-DVD). But with that in mind, Red does what it needs to do – record high quality video, at the lowest cost possible.

For more information about the Red camera check out its website at Red.com.

Red camera body

Update – April 2009:
One of the senior film projects used the red camera. They demoed it for us:

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