Competition is good: Life after Red

@MNS1974

Moore’s law is the observation that over the history of computing hardware, the number of transistors on integrated circuits doubles approximately every two years.  I think this law has changed for our market.  At least when it comes to camera technology.  Back in 2007 the Red One camera was released.  For most of us (who did not finance or were not personal friends of Jim Jannard) didn’t actually get the camera into our hands till 2008.  At that time many were still transitioning into HD via Panasonic P2 and Sony SxS based camcorders.  4K was a novelty.  Something only filmmakers would consider using. However most of the film makers I knew in 2008 (including myself) were shooting on S16 and 35mm film.  A lot of the appeal of the Red One was that it had a S35 size sensor. Until that point on the Panavision Genesis, Sony F35, Dalsa Origin and Arri D20 had sensors that size. All were expensive to rent and ownership was out of the question for almost all but rental houses. Around the same time frame the Canon 5D Mark II was released and affordable HD video with a large sensor was all the rage.  Not many people were interested in a $16,000 plus 4K camera when they could shoot 1080p with a Full frame DSLR for under four thousand dollars.  The Canon 5D Mark II was pretty much responsible for killing off the depth of field adapter market as well.  You could get that shallow look and the camera for the price of some of the adapter kits on the market. To be honest at that time so many people were vested in P2, SxS and HDV that it was not practical to invest in a camera that required a completely new way of working.  The costs associated with workflows were too high even for many film producers.  You needed a lot more video storage, there was audio issues with the camera, you needed a very fast workstation, there wasn’t many editing solutions that were affordable, etc, etc, etc.  Everyone I knew that owned a Red One or had used it, including myself, ended up dumping down to a 1080p deliverable  in the end.

Jump to 2010.  The Sony F3 Super 35 Digital Cinema camera comes to market.  The camera is 1080p but does S-Log and has 4:4:4 output for under $16,000.  The camera is a huge success and thousands are sold.  This is also true with every other S35 Digital Cinema camera that comes to market.  The FS100, the C300, and FS700 etc are all selling very well.  It is interesting since the Red Scarlet was released around the same time as the C300.  Interesting in that the Scarlet shoots 4K and the C300 and F3 do not. Yet the two sell in numbers that the Scarlet cannot even compete with.  If 4K is better then why buy a 1080p output camera?  Workflow, highlight handling, ISO, hardware requirements and deliverable. These are all deficiency’s I see in Red and are the most commented to me on shoots, and in consult sessions. In the end its about what its viewed on.  You can shoot 4K for a web video if you want to but 1080p does a fine job. The main benefit of Red of course is recording in Raw. Mind you Arri will have a 4K RAW camera and the C500 will output 4K RAW as well.   If you have the storage, a Red Rocket card (if your a Epic / Scarlet user) and time, you can yield beautiful results which is great for VFX work, feature work, etc.  These require a lot of resources but if you have them at your disposal it is worth it.

What Red needs to do now is focus on their weaknesses rather than continuing to out res everyone.  Resolution only goes so far and like Moore’s law there is an apex eventually (human cognitive resolution on average is limited to around 330ppi) .  Also when you use a Bayer pattern and you de-bayer in the end up loosing a portion of the true resolution you started with.  Maybe its Red’s goal to double up to 8K so in the end you have a true 6K output to work with?   The only problem with that is  that if you increase resolution you also potentially increase moire opportunity depending on the methods used.  Most all high res cameras have a OPL filter (optical low pass filter) on the sensor that basically softens the image.  Graeme at Red claims this is not the issue with Red and they do not need to add a stronger OLP filter as the pixel size remains the same.  Fair enough, but not all companies follow the same practices and I will have to take his word for it.  Regardless of this, resolution does have a cap with the human eye and the brains ability to process that image.  So while the argument for resolution not adding moire may be true, it still doesn’t change the fact of cognitive resolution by humans which means no benefit to the user in the end.   Its best to just avoid Bayer all together or find better ways to arrange patterns to incorporate more green which I think is what most companies are focusing on.  Canon C500, Sony F65 both do not use a standard Bayer pattern and therefore can retain more of their native resolution (not all of it as they are still Bayer pattern but have more green values) .  The Arri Alexa starts with a sensor which is much larger than 1920×1080 knowing that the De-Bayer will yield a nice 2K/1080P output. Ideally in the future 4K versions of cameras coming out should have a goal of Bayer free 4K output with a 1080p output option.

So the rush is on to come out with 4K cameras that will output a nice usable true 1080p/2K deliverable for 90% of the market we are in and a nice 4K output for the feature film market.  Canon, Sony, Arri and others are going full steam ahead with plans to accomplish this without requiring proprietary software and massive amounts of storage.

Red owned the 4K market.  Some would arguably say they created it.  Those of us who have had the opportunity to have used the Dalsa Origin (now defunct and sold to Teledyne), know this isn’t the case.  Red did not create 4K but it absolutely started the ball rolling getting 4K marketed properly.  Dalsa couldn’t have done what Red did.  Sony, Canon and Arri probably still consider 1080p as a standard for highend delivery. Red has had a lock on the market for a while in ultra high resolution Digital Cinema.  That of course is changing.  Its changing fast.  Moore’s Law is in full effect.  Three big company’s are hard at work getting their 4K cameras ready for NAB 2013 announcements.  All three have something Red currently does not deliver on.  There is also a growing amount of contempt in the Red community with business practices, policies, attitudes, etc. I won’t talk about specifics here for fear that Jared Abrams will ban me from the forum (joke).

The Scarlet was a good start but its marketing was dishonest.  This was a camera that was to be originally 3K for $3K, then it was to be 4K at  $10,000.  When all was said in done I think every Scarlet owner I know (and there is a lot, due to ideological pie in the sky ideas of renting it out etc) has spent at least $20k to properly outfit their camera.  Many of them are in the process of selling or have sold their camera to trade up / saving up for an Epic, Alexa, C500 or EOS-1D C.  Others are keeping their Scarlet and using it to shoot video with 1080p deliverables. Mind you you have to outfit any camera you get. The difference is some are more practical than others and hidden costs like needing a Red Rocket card (to be effective with delivery time frames, etc), proprietary SSDs, modules, docking stations, a computer with enough horsepower and a good GPU, all cost money.  Lots of it.  I also know a lot of C300 and F3 owners.  Most of these guys and girls are constantly working.  Almost all of them like the fact that the codecs in the camera are reasonable in regards to storage and that the cards are inexpensive.  Another point of interest and something I noticed is that many of them did not buy a whole new workstation to post with there new cameras.  They used what they had.  Archiving R3D files take up a lot of space.  Mind you it will depend on what Sony, Arri and Canon end up using for a codec but I am sure it will be well thought out and fairly space conservative.

The best part of Arri, Sony, Canon and others bringing real 4K competitive cameras to market is that it will make Red make changes.  Just as Red forced change in the industry by setting the bar higher, these other companies are going to force change on Red to improve its products and the way its deals with its customers.  I will not get into the details of why many Red users are unhappy as I think we have all heard the stories or know people personally who have been affected.  Sony will never deny you support or ban you if you criticize them.  Canon would never go on a tirade slamming everyone else in the business.  Arri will not preach 4K if there camera really only outputs 2K.  There is a lot of change that needs to happen.  Jim Jannard asked for competition and now he will have it.  Hopefully not to the detriment of the company.  I personally like using the Epic (as long as I have enough lights).  I hope this competition makes everyone better industry players.  I hope it opens up more products and makes them available to more levels of the market.

Sony, Canon, Panasonic, Arri and others need 4K and Red needs an attitude adjustment.  The ride is over. The puck has been dropped.  Game on. Ready for fanboy attack mode as always.

Mike Sutton

Follow me on Twitter: MNS1974

p.s. Note of disclosure.  I use and like: Arri, Vision Research, Fastec, Photron, Red, Silicon Imaging, Aaton, Weiscam, P+S Technik, Sony and Canon

p.s.s there is a very defensive group on www.reduser.net discussing this post.  Most clearly have not read the core context and do not seem to get that we all want a better camera and a better camera company.  Competition helps this on all fronts.  That is the point.

Michael Sutton
Mike specializes in high-speed, 4K, MoVI, Steadicam as a freelancer and offers consulting services and training to individuals and companies nationwide. His vast experience as a shooter/editor combined with his extensive technical and hands on knowledge of cameras, lensing, support, accessories and workflows provides a comprehensive understanding of production and post-production solutions.
  • http://www.rescuethecows.com/ Loren Nelson

    Great article! I don’t have anything to add, I just wanted to add a comment before they get wind of this over at reduser.net and all the fanboys attack.

  • http://wideopencamera.com/ Michael Sutton

    ha. Thanks. Following you on twitter now.

  • Petri

    Epic owner here. Good article and I wholly agree with the “competition is good” aspect. It has forced Sony & co. into creating better and more affordable products, and is now about to work its magic on RED. But I don’t quite agree with your claim of the de-bayer process losing half of the original resolution. As far as I know, the loss is nowhere near 50%.

  • Hakobus

    The writer of the article might like to check out Graeme’s post on Reduser and then correct all the technical inaccuracies in the post.

    http://www.reduser.net/forum/showthread.php?82286-Life-after-Red&p=1035898&viewfull=1#post1035898

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Merlin/1277071487 Brian Merlin

    If anything other companies need to make sensors that are upgradable.  Enjoy buying a camera that depreciates immediately for 20k?  50k?  100k?  One that you need to buy a whole new everything for when its time for the next model?  No thanks I’ll stick to Red bro, they don’t depreciate for anything compared to your dead camera bodies that are worthless when they come outta the wrapper.  Say all the inaccurate things you want about Red, there reps are already responding to your completely inaccurate article, lets see another company do that?  As for storage costs, go shoot raw on your Alexa and tell me how much storage you need.  This article is complete BS and anyone that uses these cameras can see that

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     The fact that I like and use Red, yet I openly critique it (and other cameras) drives fanboys mad.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     I did, and I responded.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     True its not 50% but its significant. Shooting 4K on Epic or 8K on F65 does not yield 4K and 8K output respectively.  Just isn’t the true measured resolution. The  point of the article however wasn’t numbers or to slam Red, it was to point out that Red pushed for 4K adoption (a deficiency of resolution). Now that its coming in the competition, Red needs to step up its game on its deficiencies (ISO, Highlight handling, dynamic range, attitude, etc)

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     Facts about highlight
    handling, resolution cognition capping out past 4K, dynamic range and
    ISO don’t seem to matter however to fanboys for some reason.  Not
    all Bayer patterns are the same regardless of what you read on Red User
    and avoiding the subject of how many green vs red vs blue pixels on the Bayer pattern
    and how they are arranged does matter.

     Why is it so difficult to admit some
    companies do certain things better than others, and that competition is
    good.  Is every fanboy really that scared about what is coming?  Its
    just a camera.  Your a DP right?  Why entrench with and protect a piece of gear?  Shoot
    with what makes sense for the job at hand. Sometimes that’s Epic, some
    times its Alexa, sometimes its a Go Pro.  Lets be real. 

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Merlin/1277071487 Brian Merlin

    Your perpetuating false technical information, you have no credibility because of this.  Calling me a fanboy won’t change any of this…

  • Brian

    Some really good points. With Red there is a large investment and you need many additional parts to make it work the way you want. Put much of the investment is for parts you will not need to buy again. Your tone is somewhat confrontational and you are actively trying to stir up negative responses but then act surprised by them. It is a great time to be a camera operator and I own many cameras that I still use depending on the job. Yes, you do have spend for Red, but you get great value in a small package, one that you can comfortably shoot handheld all day long. Today there is nothing on the market that comes close. Other camera’s you are going to need a separate recoding device which is an extra pain and expense. Reds recorder bolts right onto the camera and was included in the price when I bought mine. Tomorrow if there is a camera that shoots 4k and is smaller and lighter I certainly would consider getting it.

  • Petri

     Absolutely. I’m the first to admit I’m less than 100% happy with some aspects of M-X performance. It’s not sensitive enough and gets too noisy when starved for light. Can’t really use Tungsten without CTB which kills the light output. I love natural light, especially during twilight/dusk/dawn, and M-X leaves room for improvement there. Attitude… yeah, I don’t disagree with ya.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

    Brian, if you think that Epic handles highlights and dynamic range better than Alexa or that Epic has a better native ISO rating than an F3 then you simple haven’t used them and truly are a fanboy of the highest order.  Not even a debate.  

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     I appreciate your honest candor.  You clearly get it.  Thank you.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Brian-Merlin/1277071487 Brian Merlin

    Ironically nothing from any of the brands you list worries me at all actually, they are all over priced and non upgradable (plus they depreciate quickly like I was saying earlier).  I would say the BMC camera is what might end up screwing us all over.  Its going to be the new 5D, but a lot better and I can totally see it eating the Red/Alexa/C500/F65 lunch until 4k is mainstream enough to be the new standard.  Plus unlike all these other high end models it shoots on a non proprietary card…

  • Hakobus

    No, you didn’t respond. You claimed that people calling you out on technical errors were full of shit and didn’t comment at all on the facts of the matter.

  • http://twitter.com/SamuelCowden Samuel Cowden

    Thanks for the post Mike-I’ve always enjoyed your opinion and technical knowledge. My company chose to buy a Scarlet when it came out and we’ve been extremely happy with it. While I can’t wait for the day when we can use an Alexa on a shoot, we’re also extremely happy with the performance of our Scarlet.  Yes, it doesn’t resolve at true 4K, but like you said, most of our deliverables are 1080p anyway.  We didn’t buy the camera because it was 4K (thought it was a contributing factor), we bought it because we loved the image of the camera and that hasn’t changed. We’re artists and just like a painter chooses the paints that he prefers, we choose that camera image that we prefer. The FS700 is a gorgeous camera and it’s slow-motion capabilities are incredible, but it doesn’t deliver the image that RED delivers.  Before anybody jumps on me and starts beating me up, I completely understand that that’s an opinion.  You’re post is wonderful and I’m never-endingly exciting for the competition that is taking place in the camera market, but in the end we chose RED because we love the aesthetic of the image (along with some other considerations like size, usability, features).

    I’m glad you posted and it just makes me more excited to use other cameras on the market, but for the time being we are also extremely satisfied with our RED.

  • http://twitter.com/v_bobok Vadim Bobkovsky

     Fanboys or just honest people?

  • http://www.rescuethecows.com/ Loren Nelson

    I’m happy to see some objective commenters here. I understand someone might be afraid to criticize the Epic or Scarlet over at reduser.net but here it’s okay to admit that they’re not perfect. I’m genuinely interested to see what camera comes next from Red (projector? yawn.) or even what the next sensor will do for Scarlet and Epic. I’m also interested to see what direction they take when (not if) 4K and raw become more of an industry standard.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     Thank you for your honest feedback.  The Scarlet and Epic render an amazing image quality without doubt.  This post wasn’t about bashing Scarlet. I am glad that as a Scarlet owner you could see it for what it was. 
    Thank you.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     I did respond. Mentioned Bayer pattern arrangement, etc. Not playing into over defensiveness, etc.

  • Hakobus

    If you have no response to the technical inaccuracies in your article, then why don’t you correct them? Why does your article still say that the Alexa has a 3.5K sensor when it is in fact 2.8K? Why does it still say that the C500 doesn’t use a standard bayer pattern when it does? Why does it still say that the C500 and and F65 can “retain their native resolution” when both are bayer pattern cameras and therefore can’t? Why does it still say that the resolution loss from using a bayer pattern is half when it’s 80%? Why does it still say that increased resolution increases moire when it’s actually the other way around? Why does it still say that increased resolution requires a softer OLPF when again the truth is the exact opposite?

  • Hakobus

    I seem to have made an error in my comment there and written 80% when I meant 20%. There was also an additional “and” in a sentence there. See how easy it is to make a correction when one makes a mistake?

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     Hi Hakobus, I made some changes in the article but I assume you did not re-read it before you posted this.  The C500 doesn’t use a standard Bayer pattern regardless of what Graeme told you.  I addressed how Red handled OLP filters based on what Graeme said.  Not every company does that.  Again, this isn’t about slamming Red its about progress which is why I adjusted my post.  The over defensiveness doesn’t look good or help however, The fact that I can make changes and corrections shows I am not biased.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     again, I have made corrections already, please read it before you comment for a third time as the adjustments have been made.

  • Hakobus

    I did actually refresh and re-read the article as I was writing my comments, and the corrections had not yet appeared. In any case, good on you for making them. The only issue I have left with the article is a different view on the “dishonesty” of Scarlet marketing. Red was quite clear and vocal whenever their plans for the Scarlet changed (and the plans did change multiple times). If they’d sold preorders for $3K and then demanded $7K more to actually get the camera it would have been dishonest. As it stands the marketing was merely botched.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     Fair enough

  • Thomas Jacobs

    I’m not going to get into all the technical stuff or go through the list of what I think is wrong with RED camera and RED the company. But let’s put it like this, there attitude is so bad that I will do anything to avoid working with them, however they are the best tool for some jobs, but they are simply terrible for others. The image is good, sometimes great, but it’s by no means perfect. There are simply better cameras out there.

    They need to stop the bad attitude and gorilla style marketing. It might work with the guys over at REDUSER who drive their EPIC around in their Porsche’s, but never actually shoot anything. But here in the real world, on real film sets, no one gives a damn if you’re shooting on RED or Arri etc. They just care that the right camera has been chosen for the job.

    All of your points above are valid. The camera is good, the management are bullies and the fanboys are detrimental to the company.

    They have a long way to go.

  • http://misagarcia.com Misa Garcia

    ha.

  • http://twitter.com/MNS1974 Michael N Sutton

     Well said.

  • Newbie

    Holy hell. Everyone PLEASE learn the difference between their, there and they’re. …please.

  • Steven

    Spell Check &  Grammar Check

  • http://misagarcia.com Misa Garcia

    Haha… I agree.

  • TS Naylor

    I own an Epic and love the image. I was also banned on Reduser for all eternity and announced by the great Oz (JJannard) he’d never let me own an Epic – all for pointing out legit design flaws (before they shipped) on Red Loser. These design flaws, one EVF out, one SDI out and a less that versatile yoke for the touch screen, still plague the Epic today. Red’s solution, a monstrous i/o box that when attached to their battery module makes for a far more unwieldy beast than an Alexa. 

    The strength of the camera is its size and image. The weakness are its lack of ergonomic design and proper in/outs. Even though I’m an owner, I use all flavors of camera for different gigs. An Alexa on my shoulder doesn’t require all the hand held rigging as an Epic. I can throw it on my shoulder with just one handgrip and it rides considerably lower. These things matter to me more than 4k, considering all my TV deliverables are 1080. Mike is dead on that Red should solve their weaknesses. They’ve lost considerable market share because of them. I wouldn’t be surprised if the ratio  of Alexa to Red TV shows is perhaps 10 to 1 or more. Here are the weaknesses they need to address asap:- Create a smaller i/o module with two sdi, one extra evf lemo.- Pro rez / DNX module- Integrated V mount or AB battery system.- A simple and fast switching hand held approach- Faster turn around and response from customer service- A forum that doesn’t ban valid criticism- Reduser, with its cult like aura is perhaps a detriment than a benefit. A more objective and less rabid forum would be more useful and alienate fewer.
    - Lose the “Change, you can count it” mantra if you ban people for suggesting it.

  • KevinKelley

    Just bought a Sony FS700. It is so easy to use and looks great! I decided to put the money in glass in front of the camera with Zeiss cine lenses instead of all the computer stuff involved in the back in. It just feels a lot more organic like the old days with my Arri BL.

  • Bob Loblaw

    “No thanks I’ll stick to Red bro,”

    The 1980′s called and want their comment back.