RED, and what it means for us “DV Rebels”

RED announced the specs for their 2009/2010 products: ranging from a fixed-lens 3k Scarlet at around $3000, to a 9k system that can shoot in stereoscopic 3D mode (two connected cameras at once, next to each other), to a crazy 28k (261 mega pixel) sensor ($55,000 just for the main unit). How big is a 28k image you ask? Here’s a comparison to a 1080p HD image. These are amazing specs of course, and the prices are extremely low for what these products will be able to do. There’s no question about that.

Here are my two problems though.

1. I am what the author and video professional Stu “ProLost” Maschwitz refers to as a “DV Rebel” on his book of the same name. DV Rebels are basically amateur videography artists, that take cinematography more seriously than normal camcorder owners. DV Rebels try to make the best with what they’ve got even if they only use dirt cheap hardware. In essence, is a lot like how computer geeks like to play with Linux, tweak it like there’s no tomorrow, and enjoy the challenges. The 3k fixed-lens RED Scarlet, possibly the cheapest RED of the bunch, will still cost over $3000 after you add an LCD monitor to it, the special kind of CF cards it requires, battery etc. I am sure that quality will be good, but if Canon comes up with a next-generation 1080p “geek” AVCHD camera for under $2000, similar to what I describe here (e.g. all features the HV30 has, plus gain/AV/TV full manual control, true 24p, DigicDV-4 half-inch sensor, 43mm filter size, fast lens up to 8x or 10x zoom, full 1080p at 24mbps, proper focus ring), I would go for that instead of a Scarlet. Simply because, it would be enough for my needs, and a good bump over the HV20/30 legacy. The RED will definitely change professional cinema as we know it, but I don’t think it will grab all the lower-end artist attention. I have a feeling that wedding professionals won’t care much about it either. In other words, Canon will continue to exist and sell well, but it will feel the heat and hopefully will upgrade their specs for a new market class that it’s between consumer and prosumer. That’s what I am waiting this January from Canon.

2. RED is a hardware company. And as with all hardware companies, their software sucks. RED has been under heavy criticism about their buggy software, and how they sell hardware where the firmware is barely stable. The early bird users end up losing their feathers and becoming guinea pigs, while some basic functions for professionals are missing. Their computer tools are not great either, and only few editors support their files (meaning that you might need to additionally buy the $1000 Cineform Neo4k to get your footage on your editor). Adding to the injury, if you complain about these problems, you end up getting banned from their online forum.

The only way I am getting the cheap Scarlet is if the complete package (with LCD, battery, CF card) costs up to $3000, if it has the ability to shoot 1080p in non-windowed mode (I don’t care about its 3k resolution at this point as I don’t own a super-computer to process it), and if the PC tools (compared to their Mac tools) are sane enough to let me process the raw image and export in an AVI lossless codec via DirectShow (so I can edit in Vegas). There are a lot of “if”s there, so there’s a better chance that Canon will release a hybrid consumer/prosumer “geek” (“DV Rebel”) camera that does everything I need in a more convenient fashion than RED can.

Discussion here.

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