Sunday, July 12, 2009

Here a guest article by Thorben Grosser;

As part of my job at the Edinburgh International Film Festival, I had the opportunity to listen to some of the speakers we were organising events for. One of the "rebellion leaders" from RED, Ted Schilowitz, made an appearance to a huge crowd of people, all wanting to hear what's next. Although I don't know jack about cameras, I was quite excited to see him. The day before I had the opportunity to see Lars Von Trier's "Antichrist" and to listen to Oscar-winning DP Anthondy Dod Mantle, who revealed that the larger part of the movie was shot on a RED:One.

Ted Schilowitz went trough the history of RED and showed pictures of early RED cameras. Unbelievable, these were built in wooden boxes and often only had a resolution of 9 or 12 pixels. At all. During the presentation, we watched different pieces or RED footage. Unfortunately, due to technical availability, the demos were shown in 2k, only giving a glimpse of what it could look like on a 4k projector.

Ted pointed out why the RED is a great piece of gear in advertisement-shootings. This is due to its incredible cheapness and the incredible resolution, which makes it easy to apply special effects, especially on a small scale (simulated crowds for example). And he pointed out the usability in difficult field. Many documentary DP's on RED are not afraid of technical failures. The reason is, that, due to its price, it is affordable to carry two or three brains with you instead of having one camera which might fail somewhere in the jungle. Obviously, he pointed out the big names shooting on RED like Soderberg, Lynch, Dod Mantle and Peter Jackson.

The crowd was quite nervous because Ted kept on talking and talking while forgetting to talk about that little silver box in the corner. This was an early prototype of the RED Scarlet, the new generation of RED cameras. Basically RED is moving away from the one-model system to a two-model system. The RED:One will be replaced by the RED Scarlet and the RED Epic. The first will be a low-cost student/amateur/semi-pro model, latter one will be the top-range camera.

The Scarlet will be available in different versions 3k-6k and will shoot up to 120fps. It starts at 2500USD for the brain; a complete ready-to-use kit of the 3k will be available from 4900USD. This made some people in the crowd check out their bank account. The thing with RED is a bit like Ryanair. The camera is 2500USD, but for every little extra (battery, viewfinder, memory slot, shoulder fixation...) you have to pay an additional fee. One member of a TV crew guessed they would charge one Euro if you have to take a piss during a shoot. Maybe. Parallel to the RED Scarlet, RED will release the Epic that will continue the tradition of high-end cameras. The Epic starts at 5k and up to 250fps, which makes it suitable as a high-speed camera (I guess the Scarlet with 120fps could do that as well). However, they are developing a 26k (sic!) version of it. All the cameras are set between 30000-55000USD (brain only). Somebody in the audience asked Ted Schilowitz why somebody would buy a 26k (26000*9000px) camera. He replied, "It's not our job to think of what you can do with that thing, it's our job to build cameras for yet unknown applications." However he suggested that 26k are useful to do panoramic shots and panoramic projections where several projectors would be linked. Another very interesting feature is that the RED cameras are an obvious choice for 3D. As they are so small, there's no need to build complex lens systems, you can just lock them next to each other.

Your browser may not support display of this image. Interestingly, owners of a RED:One can order a special version the Epic, the Epic X, which they can trade in for their old RED One (and receive a 17.500USD discount). Even if this unconfirmed from an official point, the old RED One are likely to be refurbished and sold for a fraction of its original price which is highly interesting for film students.

Ted put a strong emphasize on how much they like people experimenting with their stuff. He pointed out that it would be no problem if people put a Canon lense on a RED, even photo-lenses are welcome. Or how much he liked if people tried to build special cranes or other equipment for RED cameras. However, when I asked him what about firmware modifications, pointing to how much this has helped the iPod in order to evolve he said: “We love when people mess around with the mechanical parts of the camera, but when it gets to the guts, we get quite angry.”

After this exciting presentation, I had the strong urge to buy a RED camera, although I don’t do any filming at all. Ted was a great salesman being able to provide an outlook on the work of a very innovative and young company.

About the author:
Born in 1986, Thorben Grosser started to get involved in events very early. His first bigger events took place in the cinema business. In 2008, he joined Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh for an honors degree in Events management. Although he has no formal film related training, movies are his big passion, hence the link between events and film. He is poster on the blogs eventastic ( and Pianocktail (

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Dan said...

Thanks for sharing that update Olivier - makes me want to buy one too.