Sunday, October 19, 2008
If you are a Sony EX1 or EX3 shooter, you might really want to read this. This solution has been fully tested and confirmed to be working 100% on the cameras.
Now you can have a FULLY WORKING $100 16GB Express Card for your EX1/EX3 camera. This compared to Sony SXS card for $ 1200 each.
Monday, September 22, 2008
Wednesday, September 10, 2008
It seems that everybody is into the SLR + Video hybrid nowadays since the introduction of the Nikon D90. Shooting a film is an uphill battle to begin with, and again IMHO, I just cant see why one would make the effort even more challenging by choosing to use a DSLR camera.
Now, just days after Nikkon D90 announcement, Jim Jannard from RED is announcing that they are going into the DSLR + Video market. I am not saying that one cannot use the D90 to make a full feature film, but it is surely the D90 is not the most optimum tool for that purpose. Yes it can be done ! I even have seen a music video that was done with a small Canon point and shoot camera.
Speaking about the industry and Canon, IMHO the biggest underachiever is Canon. Canon has all the resources in the world to dive into the indie semi-pro industry. Take for instance;
a) Canon has beenproducing one of the world's best lenses (both still and motion).
b) Canon is already in the digital video camcorder industry (HV30, A1, G1, H1 ...etc.).
c) Canon does not have any high end camera market to cannibalized.
d) Canon has full frame sensor on a $2000 5D camera.
So if you think about it, all the resources are already in place for Canon to produce a truly Indie camera ala the RED ONE. Imagine a shoulder mountable H1 sized camera that uses CMOS 35mm sensor that mates with their still camera lens. They know it is possible, they had in the past and still offers their EF adapter for the XL-H1 so you can use Canon SLR lens with the camera. All that is left, is to rehouse some of ther SLR prime lenses to cine style; declick the aperture stops, give it a longer throw and put gear rings on it and charge 2 1/2 times more than the current price.
If such Canon camera exists, it will easily sell a TON at ~$15k (Body) and ~$10k (set of primes). Yet, look at Canon; their camera still uses HDV codec, no tapeless option and nothing notable/perfomance during this past NAB. They can go absolutely insane, as currently they dont have any high end camera market to protect.
Too bad, the Japanese while having all the resources at their disposal but they are very conservative and not innovative at all. I can understand Sony and Panasonic being super conservative because they have to protect their higher end offering, but Canon has nothing to lose, and yet still, Nikon took the leadership by offering movie mode on the D90 ahead of Canon.
WAKE UP CANON & CONQUER THE INDIE MARKET !
Sunday, August 31, 2008
My new 'modded' Redrock Micro Mattebox 15mm setup that allows you to slide the mattebox on the entire length of the rods.
The new Redrock Micro Mattebox is a god sent solution to us poor indie filmmakers. However, you might be disappointed in how the 15mm rail version of the mattebox was designed. The mattebox was designed a bit too low, as the result, you are forced to mount the mattebox at the exact end of your rails. (NOTE: The 19mm version of the mattebox does not have this problem).
For 35mm adapter user (especially if you mix zooms and primes), this also means that you got to have exact length rails for each of your different length lenses. As you can imagine, it is a pain to do that in the field and also could be expensive and troublesome (cutting different rails to match different lenses). Also, if you want to use the mattebox with your camera's original lens, you might have problem to get the mattebox to be close enough to the camera lens without using an extremely short rails.
Until Redrock decides to fix this problem, here is a simple solid solution that you can execute now.
Step 1: Mount the mattebox on the topmost bracket on the swing away arm. This should lift the mattebox 1 3/4" above the rails. Align the mattebox so it is perfectly horizontal and tighten the knob. Next we got to give the mattebox some structural support.
Step 2: You need one short 15mm rail. I use a 4 1/2" rail in the picture above. Next, you need 2 Redrock MultiMount (Is there anything those little suckers cant do?) into the rod.
Step 3: Loosen the thumbscrew on the multimounts and then slide in into the swing away rods and then tighten all knobs. This is so, to give back structural strength and integrity to the mattebox.
With my 'mod', you still have about 3/4" of room before the longest part of the 360 degree rotatable filter tray touches your rails.
The entire assembly from the right side. The entire thing is as rock solid as the original. It does not have any flex whatsoever at all. No more custom rails or rail swapping to compensate for different lenses.Hey Redrock, what about having black as a color option on the multi mount ??
Now you can use your Redrock Shoulder Mount with your Redrock Mattebox on the same setup. Now thats a sea of baby blue on the rig.
Hope This has been helpful to you guys out there. Cheers.
Friday, August 29, 2008
The RedRock Mattebox, probably the most sought after film production accessories today. They are so much hype surrounding this product and the waiting list can span across several month. Out of the 8 lb shipping weight, out come 1x mattebox, 1x arm (15mm or 19mm available), swing away with 2 horizontal adjustment arms, 2 side wings, 1 top wing and 4x neoprene donuts in the following sizes (2" + 2.5" + 3" + 4").
The Redrock Mattebox is extremely well designed mattebox and it rivals other much more expensive system. Everything was well engineered and very well made and built, everything is solid and you cannot find any loose or rattling part in the system.
Almost everything is build out of metal. The eyebrow, side wings and mattebox adapter (the front body) are made of high impact ABS plastic ( dont worry as they are extremely hard material). There are also horizontal and vertical adjustments along with full 360 degree rotatable filter stage. The system comes with 2 filter stages and you can buy and add more stages from Redrock as needed. There is also the option of purchasing the 19mm swing away arm should you are moving towards studio accessories in the future. The finish on everything down to the 4x4 matte are all superbly done.
The whole package is housed on a very nice fitted foam case. You can save some money and just buy a blank Pelican Case or any hard case without their foam and reuse the Redrock packaging.
The swing away component of the mattebox is brilliantly designed. The whole block that attaches the mattebox body to the swing away piece is very solid and robust. Apart from the filter stages, this is the only major moving part of the entire mattebox design. There are no rattling, gaps or anything that doesnt inspire confidence in the design. Instead of just pushing the entire mattebox back into its position, I would rather lift the knob and then push the pin into its sitting position. Not that you will wear down the sitting metal pin, but I like to minimize any metal to metal grinding.
Neoprene Rubber Donut Bellow.
eInstead of having a hard mount bellow, Redrock uses 0.5mm thick rubber neoprene donuts to wrap around your camera's lens to act as a bellow. It is a less than elegant solution but it works pretty well. My nikon 50mm f1.4 fits snug on the 2" donut and my Nikon f2.8mm zooms lenses fit the 2.5" and 3" donuts.
The 2x filter trays that was supplied with the mattebox. The filter tray stock size is 4 x 4.56 and you can use the RedRock 4x4 Matte to use with your 4x4 filter. Depending on the lens that you have on your camera, you might be able to get by with cheaper 4 x 4 filter or you might be forced to use 4 x 5.65 filters which are more expensive. Here lies problem or quirk no 1 for the RedRock Micro Mattebox.
The extremely thin 4x4 plastic matte that was supplied with the MatteBox does not fit right into the filter tray. The plastic matte ws shipped slightly big for the filter tray. As a result, the matte will not sit flat inside the tray and this causes the tray to leak and allowed light to enter. As a result of using a very thin material, the matte also do not have a firm structure therefore, movement may cause the matte to leak and allow stray lights to come enter. I would assume that in order to solve the size problem, you can simply take a siccor and carefully trim along the side of the plastic matte to make it sit evenly on the tray.
Redrock Micro Mattebox French Flag/Top eyebrow.
Good Things Come To Those That Waits.
At $695.00 for the Deluxe Bundle, the RedRock Micro Mattebox is the deal of the century. The mattebox is simply an unreal and fantasic deal. There is talk that RedRock will be increasing the price of the mattebox in the near future. Even at $ 1200.00 this mattebox is worth every penny.
If you are looking for a mattebox, place and order and get inline, you will not be dissapointed. This is the preliminary report on the Redrock Micro Mattebox, more practical application and on the field report to come soon.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
Woot! Today I get to be among the very first to share with you the planet’s newest camera: the much-anticipated Nikon D90. You may have been attuned to all the recent leaks, buzz and rumors of a new Nikon camera coming soon, but I can assure you, this here ain’t no rumor. It’s the real deal and I know so because my crew and I spent several weeks testing and experimenting with this gem months in advance of today’s release, and our efforts make up the launch campaign. Hold onto your chairs for a second while I drop a few nuggets:
- 12.3 megapixels (the same luscious chip that’s in the Nikon D300)And if you’re at all curious to see actual 1000px detail shots of the camera, sample images, technical specs, and hear the backstory behind what a Nikon D3 pro like yours truly was doing with a D90 camera targeted to advanced amateurs, click ‘continue reading’ below.
- D-movie function (that’s right, MOVIE function. 1280x720, .avi format, HD720p)
- High ISO/low-noise performance (Nikon’s ace in the hole. I shot this at 3200 and dug it.)
- 4.5 frames per second
- 3 inch, 920dot LCD with Live View
- Pop up flash with ‘commander’ mode to interface with Nikon's lighting system
- GPS tagging
Ok, so I normally steer clear of too much tech hype, but today I’m right up in there. Why? Because this time it feels different. Different, sure, because I got to play with, hammer on, and test the bejeezus out of the Nikon D90 for weeks-on-end prior to anybody even knowing it existed. (Did I say lucky? Soooo fun.) But this also feels different because, beyond all the specifications, numbers, megapixels and other geeky stuff, my gut is that Nikon have really delivered on this product. After using this camera and pushing it to it’s limits, I can honestly say that it’s a camera that will deliver stunning, emotive pictures--and MOVIES for Pete’s sake! MOVIES!--to an entire spectrum of amateur photographers. And that’s exciting. The world can always use better pictures.
The Short Backstory: Representatives from Nikon Japan buzzed me to talk about a new camera while I was in Dubai. Two zillion dollars in cell phone bills and a bunch of airline miles later, I’m learning the details. And before I know it, we’ve piggy-backed a Nikon project on top of another commercial shoot I’ve got going back in Seattle in the spring to put this hot little camera to the test. And the best part? I’ve talked them into not only putting the camera in my hands, but it the hands of my staff too. Democracy. Nikon loves the idea. Heck everybody on my staff are advanced amateurs in their own right - so what better way to test this sucker than have everybody shooting - me and the crew...cameras all ‘round.
Speaking of The Camera, how'd you like a handful of snaps of the camera to whet your palette. For an Aperture gallery of twenty 1000px jpgs of each view (even photos of the digital menus...), just click here or an image below:
The Main Event: We had a blast, gaffer taping up the logos, running in stealth mode with all these black beauties so that they wouldn’t be noticed around other crew, cast, and the general public. Secret agent fun. We worked the cameras hard during my piggy-backed commercial shoot for more than a week. We shot them constantly, me--along with the D3--and the crew just with the fleet of D90’s. And funny how this happens, but go figure...our work with the D90 on location soon bled into shooting over dinner, then drinks, and then into the night, then into the next week, and so on. And the more we beat on 'em, the more the crew liked 'em.
Here’s one of my favorite grabs from my time with the D90. The flare is a stylistic thing, but the image really shows a great dynamic range:
Click the image above or, better yet, visit www.chasejarvisandfriends.com for more sample images, behind the scenes shots, and access to the main D90 microsite with all the bells and whistles.
The Wrap: In addition to the myriad of reasons I’ve already listed, there’s another reason to celebrate this launch: it’s cool that Nikon are listening to pro photographers, amateurs, and engineers alike, as a part of testing and adopting new products. This D90 project so nicely whips together many of the needs of aspiring photographers, as well as the photo community at large. Nikon is getting it. And Seth Godin will be happy. I hope other photography brands follow Nikon's lead.
To close this short chapter for me and hopefully open a new one for those of you who might consider rolling with the D90, I’ll wrap with a quick review. Here's 5 reasons this camera is great:
1. The D-movie. HD720 video in an dSLR is really big news. It’s so cool that we’re seeing the merging of high quality still and video pictures into the same camera. Sure, for us pros, we’ve got the RED camera. But for everybody else? This is the future. People: this is an SLR that shoots killer video! It’s the merging of features that the pros are using and it’s made accessible the the amateur at a price point of $1200+ bucks. Trust me, I played with this feature at length...all of us on location did, for that matter. It's going to be a powerful tool. You can control your own depth of field so beautifully using the manual focus ring, the audio capture is solid, the high ISO capabilities in video?! Way cool... Long lenses, fisheyes, zoom lenses...versatility. I’m a BIG fan of the D-Movie.
2. Photo J possibilities. This camera will be a great second body for pro photojournalists. Commercial guys like me will be loyal to the D3 and its future, but for any PJ shooter, all the bells and whistles we’ve discussed already-- especially video and audio capture--make this a no-brainer as a backup body.
3. Image Quality. The sensor is really top tier for a camera targeted at advanced amateurs. The high ISO capabilities are going to be a welcome addition to cameras in this price point. Want to take images of your kid in the rain at his baseball game at 7pm? This is your camera. It’s the D300 sensor with some juice.
4. The ergonomics of this camera are great. As someone who holds a camera for a living, I think camera ergonomics are waaay underrated. This camera (light at only 1lb. 6oz) is a treat in your hand. The menus are great and everything is right where you want it.
5. Oh ya, did I mention that this thing shoots video?!
And lastly, since I’m a huge music fan and always inundated with emails asking about the great music in our videos, here’s the inside line: the music in this Nikon D90 video is compliments of one of my fav bands going right now: The Blakes. Do yourself (and them) a favor and buy some iTunes music from these guys so you can say you were listening to them before they made it really big. Hurry, your time is running out.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
By John Eggerton -- Broadcasting & Cable, 8/21/2008 4:56:00 PM
The Federal Communications Commission voted unanimously to prohibit the use of wireless microphones and other devices in the 700-megahertz band after the transition to digital.
FCC chairman Kevin Martin proposed the ban earlier this month.
The FCC also wants to prohibit the manufacture, sale, import or shipment of such devices that operate in the 700-MHz band.
The devices have been sharing the spectrum with broadcasters on those channels (52-69), but those channels are being reclaimed for advanced wireless uses by industry and first-responders after the Feb. 17, 2009, transition to DTV.
The FCC said the move affects 156 licenses, but only 30 are not also authorized to operate in other bands that will still be available after the transition, including some DTV-spectrum band.
Effective on release of the order, there will be a freeze on applications for any "low-power auxiliary station," which is the category that includes the wireless mikes, as well as equipment that synchronizes TV-camera signals.
The commission also sought comment on a proposal to authorize current unauthorized users in the 700 mHz band--many wireless mike users are not licensed, in violation of FCC rules--by alowing them to operator on channels below 52-69. It will also look into complaints about the marketing of those microphones.
Harold Feld of Media Access Project, which pushed the proposal and marketing investigation, said MAP was pleased the FCC had made a quick and definitive decision. "It shows that they are taking us seriously," he told B&C. "We certainly hope that this will be resolved before the DTV transition on Feb. 17, and hope the FCC adopts our road map on how to move forward, which protects members of the public, allows for opening the spectrum for all productive wireless devices and punishes only those who illegally marketed the devices in the first place."
David Donovan of the Association for Maximum Service Television has pointed out that the move will reduce the spectrum available for wireless mikes used by news reporters and newsrooms and would "appear to make it more difficult to place unlicensed devices on channels 21-51 since the demand for wireless-mike spectrum will increase on those channels."
The FCC is currently testing those unlicensed devices as it decides how and whether to allow them to share DTV spectrum.
Mark Brunner, Shure’s senior director, public and industry relations, for major mike manufacturer, responded.
“Shure plans to work closely with the FCC during this rulemaking process," he said in an e-mail to B&C. "In anticipation of changes in the 700 MHz band, Shure ceased manufacture, marketing and sale of all wireless microphone products in this frequency range, the last of which was discontinued in 2007," he said.
SO BE AWARE BEFORE YOU BUY THOSE WIRELESS MICS (ESPECIALLY FROM EBAY OR OTHER INDIVIDUALS).
This might also mean that if you do not reside in the USA, you might be able to get GREAT DEALS on 700 Mhz band wireless devices from the USA.e.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Analog Meets Its Match in Red Digital Cinema's Ultrahigh-Res Camerataken from http://www.wired.com/entertainment/hollywood/magazine/16-09/ff_redcamera?currentPage=all
A crowd has gathered in front of the Las Vegas Convention Center, where a security guard is about to unlock the main entrance. It's less than a minute before 9 am, the official opening of the 2008 National Association of Broadcasters Show—typically a sleepy sales and marketing event known more for schmoozing than buzz. But as the glass doors open on this April morning, a hundred people race toward a large crimson tent in the center of the hall.
The tent is home to Red Digital Cinema and its revolutionary motion picture camera, the Red One. Standing nearby is the man who developed it—a handsome guy with a neatly trimmed goatee and a pair of sunglasses perched atop his clean-shaven head. He clutches a can of Diet Coke in his left hand, an unlit Montecristo jutting from between his fingers.
Jim Jannard, 59, is the billionaire founder of Red. In 1975 he spent $300 to make a batch of custom motocross handlebar grips, which he sold from the back of a van. He named his company Oakley, after his English setter, and eventually expanded into sci-fi-style sunglasses, bags, and shoes. In November of last year he sold the business to Luxottica, the owner of Ray-Ban, for a reported $2.1 billion.
Jannard won't say how much money he has poured into Red, but his target market clearly appreciates the investment. Supplicants swarm the tent, many of them with offerings—fine wine, gourmet coffee, single-malt whiskey—all to thank Jannard for building the Red One. "I guess they just like me," he says with a wry smile.
It's more than that: His team of engineers and scientists have created the first digital movie camera that matches the detail and richness of analog film. The Red One records motion in a whopping 4,096 lines of horizontal resolution—"4K" in filmmaker lingo—and 2,304 of vertical. For comparison, hi-def digital movies like Sin City and the Star Wars prequels top out at 1,920 by 1,080, just like your HDTV. (There's also a slightly higher-resolution option called 2K that reaches 2,048 lines by 1,080.) Film doesn't have pixels, but the industry-standard 35-millimeter stock has a visual resolution roughly equivalent to 4K. And that's what makes the Red so exciting: It delivers all the dazzle of analog, but it's easier to use and cheaper—by orders of magnitude—than a film camera. In other words, Jannard's creation threatens to make 35-mm movie film obsolete.
Two years ago, Jannard brought a spec sheet and a mock-up of a camera—not much more than an aluminum box about the size of a loaf of bread—to NAB 2006. Even though it wasn't a working product, more than 500 people plunked down a $1,000 deposit to get their names on a waiting list. For months, industry watchers wondered if the company was for real. Today, there's no question. The Red One is being used on at least 40 features. Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director, borrowed two prototypes to shoot his Che Guevara biopics, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and later purchased three for his film The Informant. Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings himself, bought four. Director Doug Liman used a Red on Jumper. Peter Hyams used one on his upcoming Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Digital cinema that's all but indistinguishable from film is finally coming to a theater near you.
The Red headquarters is in Lake Forest, California, a sprawling Orange County exurb consisting mainly of strip malls and office parks. The 32,000-square-foot facility, which Jannard recently bought for a reported $7.7 million, has a stark white exterior unbroken by windows except at the entrance, where a winged human skull is painted on the glass. Jannard, wearing blue jeans, black slip-on sandals, and a lime-green short-sleeve shirt, greets me in the lobby and ushers me through a set of gray metal doors. On the way into the workspace, there is a sign:
1) Please knock.
2) Take two steps back.
Since I'm getting a tour from the wizard himself, I'm apparently excused from genuflecting.
Behind the doors, the walls are festooned with camouflage netting—a nod, perhaps, to the postapocalyptic design of the steel-clad Oakley headquarters half a mile away.
"I had been thinking about this project for a long time," Jannard says. "As a camera fanatic and a product builder, this was something I seemed destined to do." When businesspeople talk destiny, it can sound like bullshit. But at Oakley, Jannard not only ran the company, he personally shot one of its two TV spots and all of its print ads from 1975 to 1995. He owns more than 1,000 cameras, both still and motion picture, several dating back almost a century. "I have a Bolex, Aaton, Arriflex, Eyemo, Filmo, Mitchell, Photosonic, Beaulieu, Keystone—just about every movie camera you can think of."
Why The Red Rocks, Part I
| C |
| Film |
| 2K and HD Digital |
(Example: Sony F23)
| 4K Digital |
(Example: Red One)
| R M |
|Film||Tape deck or disk|| CompactFlash and |
| I C |
| Silver halide emulsion |
| 3 sensors with |
colors split by prism
|1 propietary sensor|
| L R |
| No lines, but |
comparable to 4k
| HD: 1,920(h) x 1,080(v) |
2K: 2.048(h) x 1,080(v)
|4,096(h) x 2,304(v)|
| R N |
| || || |
Icons by Jason Lee
In 2004, Jannard bought a Sony HDR-FX1—the first hi-def videocam for consumers. When he found he couldn't use the files it produced without translation software from a company called Lumiere, he telephoned Lumiere's owner, filmmaker Frederic Haubrich. "I told Frederic that I couldn't even view my footage on a Mac and that this had pissed me off enough that I wanted to build my own camera. And he said, 'Jim, I know guys in the industry who can help.'" Haubrich introduced Jannard to interface designer Ted Schilowitz.
Schilowitz, Haubrich, and Jannard spent a year trying to design that dream camera, one that would combine the practical advantages of digital moviemaking with the image quality of analog film. They recruited mathematicians, programmers, digital imaging experts, hardware engineers, and physicists. "We needed a bunch of guys who were inventors to come up with entirely new ways of getting to the finish line," Jannard says. He kept the project quiet until his team could determine whether building the device was even feasible, but rumors swirled through Hollywood about some kind of mysterious supercamera in the works. "I didn't know who Jim was," Soderbergh says. "But I heard about Red because they were canvassing filmmakers and cinematographers, asking, 'If you could wave a magic wand, what camera would you design?'"
Most of the work took place in what employees call Jim's garage, a 20,000-square-foot warehouse across the street from Red's massive headquarters. The team quickly concluded that existing technology was inadequate. The guts of the camera—the image sensor and all the accompanying circuitry—would have to be created from scratch. It was a daunting challenge, but the fact that Jannard's management style falls somewhere between Mr. T and Steve Jobs on the autocracy scale helped. "What separates us from other camera companies is that the vision guy is the decisionmaker," he says. "That was one of my biggest advantages at Oakley, and it's the same at Red—I'm in the trenches, in the product development, and I make the final call. Red is a benevolent dictatorship."
The video revolution has been on pause in Hollywood. Just as digital still cameras now rule the photography market, hi-def digital movie cameras were supposed to replace film. But moviemakers never fully bought in. Typical digital videocams use prisms to split incoming light by color and send it to three separate sensors, which tends to soften images. Onboard software sharpens the footage but also introduces halos and exaggerated edges. Worse, the small sensors put too much of the picture in focus, giving it a canned look. Cinematographers hate that; the ability to guide the viewer's eye by selectively blurring focal planes is one of their favorite techniques. "That's a storytelling tool," says Pierre de Lespinois, a producer and director who spent three weeks in April filming a feature in the Mojave Desert with two Red Ones. "In HD, what's right in front of the lens and what's 20 feet away are both sharp, so the image looks flat."
To compete with celluloid, a digital cine-camera would need an image sensor identical in size and shape to a single frame of 35-mm motion picture film. Without that, the Red couldn't give filmmakers the control over depth of field, color saturation, tonality, and a half dozen other factors that 35-mm film provides.
Why The Red Rocks, Part II
| C |
| Film |
| 2K and HD Digital |
(Example: Sony F23)
| 4K Digital |
(Example: Red One)
| C |
| Rents for about |
| L |
| Proprietary or |
|Proprietary mount||Standard mount|
| C D |
|$300,000 and up||$0 (already digital)||$0 (already digital)|
| E S |
Icons by Jason Lee
You'll find that kind of full-frame sensor at the core of any high-end digital single-lens reflex camera. But they're designed to shoot no more than 10 frames per second. That's warp speed for still photographers but barely first gear for filmmakers. Movies are shot at a minimum of 24 frames per second, with some scenes topping out at 120 fps for slow-motion effects. The Red's sensor would have to do everything a DSLR sensor does—and do it significantly faster.
The camera also had to be able to record in the same bulky file format that DSLRs use—called raw. The format preserves picture data in essentially unprocessed form, which gives photographers more latitude to tweak images with software the way they once did in a darkroom. (Cinematographers do the same thing with 35-mm film, but it's a complicated, expensive process: The film must be scanned into digital to be manipulated, then converted back to analog for projection.) Since a movie is just a long sequence of still pictures, using the raw format presented bandwidth and data-storage problems. A two-hour feature could run up to 7 terabytes. The Red engineers built a workaround, a lossless compression codec they call Redcode Raw.
Finally, in August 2006, Jannard's team flipped the switch on Red's first prototype, codenamed Frankie. It wasn't really a camera at all, just a mechanical test bed containing the new sensor. "Our whole business was predicated on this sensor," Jannard says. "If it didn't work, we'd be cooked. When it did, it was like giving birth and counting all the fingers and toes to make sure everything was there. It was phenomenal. Everybody went nuts." Schilowitz remembers that moment, which camera makers call first light, as mind-blowing: "Everyone started screaming like little kids, 'First light! First light! It's alive!' The thing actually worked."
Two weeks later, at an industry event in Amsterdam, Jannard showed test footage taken with Frankie—a clip of two perky women in '50s garb chugging milk from glass bottles—on a 60-foot screen. "People were stunned," Schilowitz says. "They were standing around scratching their heads. That moment made a lot of people into believers." Filmmakers didn't care how the Red One worked, but they liked what they saw. "The Red camera is the closest thing to film I've seen," says Tristan Whitman, a cinematography lecturer at USC.
The Analog Advantage
By March 2007, Red had assembled two additional prototypes, named Boris and Natasha. But now, with three weeks to go before NAB 2007, Jannard wanted new footage to show what the camera could do. He emailed Jackson, asking if the director could recommend a good cinematographer in Los Angeles to help create a Red promo spot. Not long after, Jackson telephoned. "Jim, why don't you fly down here to New Zealand, and I'll shoot the footage for you," he said.
"Don't tease me," Jannard replied.
"No, I'm serious," Jackson said. "Bring the cameras down."
Jannard packed up Boris and Natasha, still crude machines with no features other than a run/stop button and a shutter, and headed south. When he got to Wellington, Jackson was ready. "Peter had put together an army," Jannard says. "He was going to shoot a mini-movie to put the cameras through their paces, using them on helicopters and Steadicams, crawling on the ground with them—and I'm thinking, 'Oh my gosh, I just hope they keep working through the weekend.'" Boris and Natasha performed flawlessly. "We stayed at Peter's house, and he was just beaming because he was having so much fun." Jackson delivered his 12-minute featurette, titled Crossing the Line, the night before the NAB Show opened.
Jannard shows me the film at Red headquarters. His desk is in an open workspace that he shares with six staffers and his puppy. Next to his computer there's a box of the Montecristos he favors and a pinewood crate from Napa Valley Reserve, the world's most exclusive wine club. Members reportedly pay up to $145,000 to join, in exchange for which they can partake in grape harvests and create their own blends. There's something oddly honorable about a billionaire with insanely expensive taste in wine but no office.
I watch Crossing the Line on Jannard's 30-inch HD display while he stands behind me. The film, set on the front lines of World War I, alternates between aerial dogfights and bloody ground combat. The screen resolution is about half what it would be in a theater. Nevertheless, it's like looking through a window onto a battlefield. I can barely discern a single pixel. The detail is stupefying; the colors are rich and sensual.
After NAB 2007, Jannard showed Crossing the Line at the Directors Guild in LA. "I rearranged my travel plans to be there," Soderbergh says. After he saw the film, he called Jannard.
"Jim, I'm all in. I have to shoot with this."
"OK, great," Jannard said. "But what does that mean?"
"I'm making two movies with Benicio del Toro. Come to my house, and we'll do a test. If it looks as good as what I saw in Peter's film, I want these cameras for my movies."
Soderbergh took two prototypes into the Spanish wilderness. "It felt like someone crawled inside my head when they designed the Red," he says. What impressed him most was the cameras' sturdiness. Movie sets are often a flurry of crashes and explosions, which can vibrate sensitive electronics, introducing visual noise known as microphonics into images. "A lot of cameras with electronics in them, if you fired a 50-caliber automatic weapon a few inches away—which we did—you'd get microphonics all over the place," Soderbergh says. "We beat the shit out of the Reds on the Che films, and they never skipped a beat."
Then there's the economics: The Red One sells for $17,500—almost 90 percent less than its nearest HD competitor. The savings are even greater relative to a conventional film camera. Not that anyone buys those; filmmakers rent them, usually from Panavision, an industry stalwart in Woodland Hills, California. Panavision doesn't publicize its rates, but a Panavision New Zealand rental catalog quotes $25,296 for a four-week shoot—more than the cost of purchasing a Red. "It's clearly the future of cinematography," Peter Hyams says. "You can buy this camera. You can own it. That's why people are excited."
Even so, traditionalists cling to film's reliability. Film is tangible. Hard drives crash; files get corrupted. "You put film in a can and stick it on a shelf, and it costs $1,000 a year to store," says Stephen Lighthill, who teaches cinematography at the American Film Institute. "With a project that starts as data, you have it on a hard drive, which has to be nursed and upgraded. It's an electronic, mechanical device that can't be left unplugged." Preserving a 4K digital master of a feature film would cost $12,000 a year, according to a report by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. And that doesn't address the reliability of the camera itself. "In the slammin', jammin' world of production, you want a really tough machine that takes very simple approaches to problems," Lighthill says. "I'm not sure Red is the way to go. It's a supercomputer with a lens on it."
Proponents dismiss such criticism as Luddite drivel. "Hollywood is just used to shooting on film," says Bengt Jan Jönsson, cinematographer on the Fox TV show Bones. "Honestly, if you proposed the film work-flow today, you'd be taken to the city square and hung. Imagine I told you we're going to shoot on superexpensive cameras, using rolls of celluloid made in China that are a one-time-use product susceptible to scratches and that can't be exposed to light. And you can't even be sure you got the image until they're developed. And you have to dip them in a special fluid that can ruin them if it's mixed wrong. People would think I was crazy."
As Reds infiltrate Hollywood, the typical filmgoer might not notice much difference at first. After all, once they're projected onto a cineplex screen, movies shot with Jannard's camera will look like the analog movies audiences are used to. But the camera's ease of use and lower cost are sure to change the industry. "There's talent on the streets, kids with ideas who have stories to tell and never get a chance," Jannard says. "Up to now, they've been limited to tools that confine their stories to YouTube." Access to this kind of tech will make it easier for aspiring auteurs to break in and could ultimately expand the range and variety of films that get made.
Of course, most theaters still show movies the old-fashioned way, running analog film in front of a bright light. For now, pictures shot with the Red must be transferred to celluloid for distribution. It's a cumbersome system: A full-length feature might take as many as five (heavy, expensive to print) reels. A major release goes to at least 3,500 theaters. Plus, the celluloid stock gets damaged and dirty and has to be sent in for cleaning and repair after every few dozen screenings.
Luckily, analog projection seems to be on the way out. In March, four big Hollywood studios announced plans to retrofit 10,000 screens—about a quarter of the US total—for digital projection at 2K. Movies shot with Red's 4K camera will look every bit as good as those shot on film, and they'll all be ads for the company's next camera, the Epic, with more than 5,000 lines of resolution. That's a knockout pixel punch. I ask Jannard if Red plans to develop a 4K projector or perhaps even a 5K that it would market to theater owners. He's cagey. "I will say that the future of motion-capture will be digital," he says, "and I think you can extend that to say the future of presentation will be digital."
Jannard is doing his best to fulfill that prophecy. He spends nights on the company's Internet user forums sifting through customer feedback, answering technical questions, and addressing rumors about upcoming products. "I'm passionate about this because I'm building the camera I've always wanted to shoot with," he says. "When my grandkids and great-grandkids look back, they're going to say I was a camera builder. I did handgrips and then goggles and then sunglasses to prepare myself. But cameras are magic."
Michael Behar (firstname.lastname@example.org) wrote about computer graphics guru Jos Stam in issue 16.01.