For years, filmmakers have been anticipating the evolution of moving from film to digital. The reality has always been that 35mm and even Super 16mm film looks better on the big screen – bar none. The most recent HD cameras have made great inroads in that field with the 2K Sony/Panavision Genesis and Thompson Viper cameras. The films shot with these cameras (Superman Returns, Zodiac – respectively) did look great in the theaters, but these cameras are not cheap. I am not sure what a new Viper costs (I saw one on eBay for $48,000) and the Genesis is owned by Panavision – so you can only rent it.
No one will deny the cost savings that come from not using film. For most independent filmmakers that has always been the deciding factor in choosing video versus film. Now, the RED ONE camera promises to tilt that pendulum towards the digital world by leap-frogging over the top of the line industry standard digital protocols. And most importantly, its price: $17,500 for the basic camera (without accessories).
Is the RED ONE camera the one that will finally replace film? Let’s look at this one detail: It’s the only camera to reach a 4K resolution (see the Red One forum for a detailed explanation). Compare that to the aforementioned 2K Genesis and Viper cameras. The difference is four times the resolution (see chart below). It’s supposed to be the closest endeavor to reach the quality of 35mm film with convenience of pure digital.
The RED ONE camera has been one of the most anticipated filmmaking products since the company’s founder, Jim Jannard (also the founder of the Oakley sunglasses company) announced it’s ambitious specs in 2005. In fact, some people couldn’t wait to see it and the company was a victim of “corporate espionage” last year.
One of the first real field tests came from recruiting veteran filmmaker, Peter Jackson [IMDB info] to test two RED camera prototypes named “Boris” and “Natasha.” The result was a film called Crossing the Line. Here’s a clip:
[youtube cZT23V07w4Q nolink]
The RED ONE is still not fully developed. Even though it has shipped it first 25 models on August 31st, it is still growing and its owners will receive software updates from the company. One of the most unique features of this camera is that it is built to evolve with time. Here’s what the company’s founder Jim Jannard, had to say about this feature in an interview –
Well, ideally this one camera will last somebody for decades. But in a world of fast-changing electronics, the more practical idea is to make this camera capable of accepting upgrades. Our goal is not to come out with a replacement model that has a completely new feature set, and that leaves the buyer of this first camera behind. The idea is that this camera is upgradeable as much as possible.” [excerpt from an interview published in studiodaily.com]