Wednesday, December 03, 2008

What Just Happened...Redux

New RED announcements have come down the pipe, but first a brief update.

I have been incredibly busy, as usual. "Hella" busy, as I believe the kids are saying these days. NaNoWriMo didn't happen this year, again, because it seems like November is one of my busiest months.

Several projects that seemed to be languishing in development suddenly picked up new momentum, and I've been working on a new script of which I enjoy the idea and want to see how well I can execute it. Prioritizing these projects -- as well as juggling the ever-present Sandrima Rising -- is very difficult, especially for a relatively disorganized person like myself. The first thing I will do when I get money is hire an assistant. Not because I want to feel important, but because I seriously need someone else to keep track of my schedule for me. I'm hopeless with it.

Even though only two weeks have gone by since my last post, it's already been enough time for RED to announce that "everything had changed again," and gave a date to unveil these new announcements, December 3. The November 13 announcements, Jim Jannard assured us, were "insignificant" relative to the new announcements.

This declaration was greeted with more groans and rolled eyes than anything, I think. I tweeted a comment that's gotten some air-time in several podcasts, that "RED is the first company to have proven themselves legitimate only to then turn themselves into a vaporware company." It's all well and good that RED continues to innovate and add value to their product line, but if they don't BUILD anything then it's all academic.

It's only just December 3, but the announcements actually came out yesterday afternoon (it was Dec. 3 somewhere).

And did these announcements knock our socks off and render that long, impassioned blowjob I gave the modular DSMC system "insignificant"?

Well, no. Not really. They announced some updated specs to the current product line, and added a new upgrade path just for the true believers (i.e. RED ONE owners) in the crowd...but that was it. Don't get me wrong, the news was good, I like the new specs, and I like the new upgrade path, but this was not an announcement that needed its own pre-announcement.

Jannard and the RED team acted surprised when they weren't fellated anew by the worshipful throngs who had gathered to hear their new decrees. And it's because today's announcements weren't such a big deal that they warranted a week and a half's hype of the "it's coming" variety. My suggestion to RED: if you've got an announcement to make, make it. If you're not ready to make it, hold off. But unless you're going to do a live keynote a la Apple, stick a fork in the whole "announcing when you will make an announcement" thing (and even then, save that for NAB and/or IBC).

You've got people patrolling RedUser 24/7 as it is -- just announce something without forewarning, I promise you it will spread almost as fast. And the excitement and appreciation will be greater, because the hoi polloi won't have had weeks or months to get emotionally attached to what they think you're going to offer, only to be disappointed.

I think RED has made a great camera and, if they follow through on their promises, will make even greater ones. But if they continue drinking their own Kool-Aid as much as they are, there won't be much left for their fans.

As for the updated specs, the pre-DSMC Scarlet has more or less made a comeback. You can get a ready-to-shoot camera with a fixed lens, shooting 3K RAW footage, for just under $4000. Not quite the "3K for $3K" mantra from NAB (though they do offer the camera and lens combo for that, so they will still be able to use the slogan), but still not only an HVX-killer, but a market-segment killer. Pretty much every camera in the $3000-$10,000 range will be wiped out by the coming of Scarlet, which will offer higher resolution and higher quality than cameras even twice its price. It'll shoot up to 120fps and generally be pretty awesome.

The Full-Frame 35 Scarlet brain has dropped in price, from $12K to $9,750; the FF35 Epic likewise dropped from $35K to $33K. Instead of Redcode 42, the S35 and FF35 Scarlets now record Redcode 80 and 100, respectively. Still unclear what those numbers mean, but hey, there's MORE of them. That's got to be good, right?1

The new spec sheet basically delineates all of the available internal shooting modes -- resolution, aspect ratio, framerate, etc. -- of each brain. And 350fps at 2K is damned impressive, I have to say. But that's something you rent for anyway.

Of everything, most significant was the announcement of the Epic X package. Basically, the Epic X package takes an Epic S35 brain, packages it with everything you need to make it a functional camera system (CF, battery, and I/O modules), gives it a slightly higher-quality data rate (Redcode 250 instead of 225), and prices it the same as the Epic S35 brain alone -- $28,000. With the RED ONE full trade-in value, that's a springboard to the next generation for $10,000.

In the big pond, that's a steal.

Tempting though the package is, however, my next move as a RED owner will be dictated by the price of the accessories.

An Epic brain -- even an Epic X -- is more than I see myself needing as a general rule. I won't need the higher framerates since I don't generally go for slow motion, I won't need the higher data rates because frankly Redcode 36 is brilliant already, I won't need an anamorphic mode because I can't afford to shoot anamorphic. And if I CAN afford to shoot anamorphic, I can no doubt afford to rent an Epic.

It'd be NICE to have all those things at the flick of a switch and turn of a dial, but consider: if I'm already sanguine with raising another $10K to rise to the next level, then if the accessories necessary to make the "brains" into useful camera equipment cost $5K or so per-camera, we could get TWO Scarlet S35s for less than the price of ONE Epic X. Did somebody say stereoscopic?2

Like I said, it all depends on how much the accessories go for; and even given that, I inherited something of a gadget fetish from my dad, and having something that is "latest and greatest," "limited edition," AND "heavily discounted just for me" might be too much to resist if I can afford to not resist it.

It's more than six months until their target date, likely more than a year until their real date, so I'll have plenty of time to mull it over. And they'll have plenty of time to change it yet again.

  1. Though the numbers may not directly correlate to filesize anymore, I think it's a safe bet that Redcode 80, 100, and up will take up significantly more space than Redcode 36. We're just going to have to put our faith in Moore's Law on this one and hope that affordable digital storage keeps pace.

  2. I know the RED ONE full-value trade-in doesn't apply to the Scarlet brains, but I've thought of a way to make it work.


Anonymous said...

I agree - their PR has gone way off-track and they need to re-think how they are doing things.

Since I did comment on Scarletuser that that TBD for the fixed lens meant the price had gone up, it was confirmed, although right now it's not nearly as much as I thought. But, we are well over year away (my guess) from seeing this camera and a lot of things can change.

I do think this what the original announcement should have been all along. I also think Red should worry - it's now Sony, Canon, Nikon, Panasonic's game to win or lose.

If Panasonic's Feb 2009 G1 Lumix 1080p shooter does okay, 2/3" Scarlet is already in trouble since it will be priced at half or less of Scarlet.

Also, 2/3" debayered 3k is functionally equivalent to a good 1/2" 1080p (in my testing with based on Red One shooting at 3k). So Sony could drop prices on their EX line and Red would not have much room to raise the 2/3" Scarlets (which I still expect a ready-to-shoot kit comparable to a EX1/HVX kit to be well over $4k for fixed and $7k for interchangeable with a usable zoom when they ship).

Then, there's Canon and Nikon (as well as Sony etc.) that have FF DSLR sensors with live video and video options. They are some shutter, DSP and codec baby steps away from nearly putting low and mid range Red cams in serious hot water.

2009 will be an interesting year, for sure.

Brandon Miletta said...

Hey Man,

This is the only way I could see how to reach you, but wanted to pass the word that I am a big fan and it wasn't until after the Feast 3 post prod that I found out you were ALSO doing VFX on the project. I worked via FTP from Oregon.. Feel free to drop me a line man!

-Brandon Miletta

Have a great one