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Why Red causes conflict, and the future of filmmaking


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#1 Chris Kenny

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 01:06 PM

I think we've all noticed there's quite a bit of conflict over Red. The conflict itself is fairly boring, but the reasons behind it are fascinating, at least to me. I've always taken an interest in how technology shapes society, and this is sort of the same thing on a small scale.

People with a significant background in the traditional film/video industry tend to think RED can't possibly deliver at that price, finishing 4K on a reasonably priced workstation will be impossible, etc. This makes sense. These markets have traditionally moved fairly slowly.

People who have backgrounds in digital media or technology, on the other hand, aren't really too surprised by or skeptical about what RED is claiming. We've been seeing rapid innovation for years, small companies that upset industries, dramatic price shifts, etc. It's just the way the industry works.

The traditional film industry is about to intersect (better word might be 'collide') with technology emerging from a much larger, richer, more dynamic market. People coming from these two very different markets are used to thinking in very different ways. And while some people coming from a digital/tech background are no doubt in for some nasty surprises about the challenges involved with making movies, I think people from the traditional film production industry are in for some even bigger surprises about where things are headed.

I'll give the short version, though: This market is on computer industry time now. Things in the digital cinematography market are actually going to advance even faster than in the consumer video market, because there's no need for pro cinematography cameras to restrict themselves to shooting video that can be displayed on consumer TVs, recored to standard tape formats, etc. A lot of people in the traditional cinematography world want to focus on proven technologies on the market right now. That's quite understandable. But when things change so fast, you have to always be thinking about the future, because it's not that far away.

Even if Red fails horribly and never brings anything to market (not the way I'd bet right now), someone else will do something substantially similar within a relatively short period of time, and they won't fail.

High-end digital acquisition is already close enough to film that there's serious disagreement about which is better. 10 years from now, it'll be possible to make 4K digital cinema cameras smaller than today's digital SLRs, with 20-something stops of latitude, that record hours of footage onto memory cards the size of postage stamps, for under $10K. Maybe under $5K. Maybe under $2K.... And it'll be possible to edit and grade that footage at home, at 4K, in real-time on mid-range computers (probably costing well under $1000), on large, cheap, accurate high dynamic range monitors.

If you don't believe me, consider what has happened with digital still cameras in the last 10 years. Or consider that the cost of hard drive space was 20 cents a megabyte in late 1996, and is 0.4 cents per megabyte today -- 50 times cheaper.

This is all going to cause radical changes in the industry. All sorts of new people are going to show up, and a lot of them are going to ignore the old rules. Many will get burned, because some of those old rules are there for good reasons. But to some extent, different rules will apply, and those who aren't willing to be out on the cutting edge discovering those new rules the hard way will be at a disadvantage. The newbies are going to have to accept that maybe the old film pros aren't just a bunch of stuffy outmoded elitists; they have immense amounts of valuable knowledge. But at the same time, the old film pros are going to have to come to terms with change, and learn whole new skill sets related to new technologies.

Odds are, this revolution is going to lead to a lot of garbage being created. But it's also going to give us a lot of amazing stuff we'd never have had otherwise. Such is always the case when barriers comes down.
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#2 Stephen Williams

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 02:56 PM

I think we've all noticed there's quite a bit of conflict over Red. The conflict itself is fairly boring, but the reasons behind it are fascinating, at least to me. I've always taken an interest in how technology shapes society, and this is sort of the same thing on a small scale.

People with a significant background in the traditional film/video industry tend to think RED can't possibly deliver at that price, finishing 4K on a reasonably priced workstation will be impossible, etc. This makes sense. These markets have traditionally moved fairly slowly.

People who have backgrounds in digital media or technology, on the other hand, aren't really too surprised by or skeptical about what RED is claiming. We've been seeing rapid innovation for years, small companies that upset industries, dramatic price shifts, etc. It's just the way the industry works.

The traditional film industry is about to intersect (better word might be 'collide') with technology emerging from a much larger, richer, more dynamic market. People coming from these two very different markets are used to thinking in very different ways. And while some people coming from a digital/tech background are no doubt in for some nasty surprises about the challenges involved with making movies, I think people from the traditional film production industry are in for some even bigger surprises about where things are headed.

I'll give the short version, though: This market is on computer industry time now. Things in the digital cinematography market are actually going to advance even faster than in the consumer video market, because there's no need for pro cinematography cameras to restrict themselves to shooting video that can be displayed on consumer TVs, recored to standard tape formats, etc. A lot of people in the traditional cinematography world want to focus on proven technologies on the market right now. That's quite understandable. But when things change so fast, you have to always be thinking about the future, because it's not that far away.

Even if Red fails horribly and never brings anything to market (not the way I'd bet right now), someone else will do something substantially similar within a relatively short period of time, and they won't fail.

High-end digital acquisition is already close enough to film that there's serious disagreement about which is better. 10 years from now, it'll be possible to make 4K digital cinema cameras smaller than today's digital SLRs, with 20-something stops of latitude, that record hours of footage onto memory cards the size of postage stamps, for under $10K. Maybe under $5K. Maybe under $2K.... And it'll be possible to edit and grade that footage at home, at 4K, in real-time on mid-range computers (probably costing well under $1000), on large, cheap, accurate high dynamic range monitors.

If you don't believe me, consider what has happened with digital still cameras in the last 10 years. Or consider that the cost of hard drive space was 20 cents a megabyte in late 1996, and is 0.4 cents per megabyte today -- 50 times cheaper.

This is all going to cause radical changes in the industry. All sorts of new people are going to show up, and a lot of them are going to ignore the old rules. Many will get burned, because some of those old rules are there for good reasons. But to some extent, different rules will apply, and those who aren't willing to be out on the cutting edge discovering those new rules the hard way will be at a disadvantage. The newbies are going to have to accept that maybe the old film pros aren't just a bunch of stuffy outmoded elitists; they have immense amounts of valuable knowledge. But at the same time, the old film pros are going to have to come to terms with change, and learn whole new skill sets related to new technologies.

Odds are, this revolution is going to lead to a lot of garbage being created. But it's also going to give us a lot of amazing stuff we'd never have had otherwise. Such is always the case when barriers comes down.


Hi Chris,

What is your connection (if any) with Red.

I am patiently waiting to see images that are better than film. They may or may not deliver this for the price in the time frame they have set.

FWIW DLSR's have also failed do this so far, try a back to back test if you dont believe me! however Jim's sensor is different so I will wait and see.

Stephen
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#3 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 03:01 PM

Hi,


> People with a significant background in the traditional film/video industry tend to think RED can't
> possibly deliver at that price, finishing 4K on a reasonably priced workstation will be impossible,

Actually people with a "significant background" know it's entirely possible; we're just cautious about the details. These details include, but are not limited to:

- The timeframe they've claimed for aspects of production such as sensor fabrication are known to be at best optimistic and incomplete; we don't like being lied to.
- Their reps lie at press events. One claimed 15 stops of dynamic range, which is impossible.
- They perpetrate obvious untruths, such as "this image doesn't have any clipping". This is both condescending, as it assumes we aren't smart enough to spot the lie, and deceitful.
- It isn't a 4K camera. It's a 2K camera. It's a Bayer sensor. Calling it a 4K camera is like calling a DSR-570 HD. This is also lying.
- What's the dynamic range? Given the evasiveness of the manufacturer on this topic, the only possible assumption can be that it's fairly poor.
- This might still be OK for the money, but the evasiveness is unnecessary and unwelcome.

> The traditional film industry is about to intersect (better word might be 'collide') with technology
> emerging from a much larger, richer, more dynamic market.

That's been happening for years and will continue with or without Red. Red is not unusual, revolutionary, or particularly clever. Sony have had good HD camera heads of similar quality out for some time.

Red could have done their memetic online marketing in a much more considerate way and still had it work; they could have been upfront and realistic with their achievements and expectations, and still done well. They could without question have easily made the requested tests available such that the camera could be robustly characterised; the default assumption, given that they haven't, is that they're hiding something.

This is nothing to do with some vive-la-revolution destruction of a technophobic autocracy; it's about truth and transparency. It is not reasonable, no matter who you are, to perpetrate falsehoods then show offence when called out. The heat will go off Red when they stop being evasive and deceitful and start answering questions with real facts.

Phil
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#4 Miguel Bunster

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 03:07 PM

- Their reps lie at press events. One claimed 15 stops of dynamic range, which is impossible.
why??
M
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#5 Stephen Williams

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 03:17 PM

- Their reps lie at press events. One claimed 15 stops of dynamic range, which is impossible.
why??
M


Hi,

I thought the highlight was 15 stops over exposed, implying nearer 30 stops of range wow I want one!

Stephen
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#6 Nate Downes

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 03:59 PM

- Their reps lie at press events. One claimed 15 stops of dynamic range, which is impossible.
why??
M


Because CMOS cannot register that many levels of brightness/shadow using any known technologies. Revolutionary or not, the RED must be manufactured somehow.

The best CMOS can do is 8 levels, and doing so also produces INCREDIBLE amounts of digital noise at these resoltuions. That's why you get blowouts and crushed shadows with digital.

I may note, I come from originally a computer engineering background. I know how these chips are made, and even have dabbled in their design myself. The technological hurdles to deliver upon the promises are beyond physics using modern technologies.
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#7 Chris Kenny

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 04:02 PM

Hi Chris,

What is your connection (if any) with Red.

I am patiently waiting to see images that are better than film. They may or may not deliver this for the price in the time frame they have set.

FWIW DLSR's have also failed do this so far, try a back to back test if you dont believe me! however Jim's sensor is different so I will wait and see.

Stephen


I have a reservation. It seemed like a good bet; if it doesn't pan out to my liking, I'll cancel, get my money back, and wait until someone tries again.

As far as RED vs. film... to be successful, RED's stuff needs to look good on large screens, and needs to allow skilled operators to achieve their artistic goals. If they meet their specification targets, it's very likely that whether the quality is better or worse than film will basically be subjective. For instance, it's probable RED won't handle highlights as smoothly, but will deliver images with less grain. Does this make it better or worse than film? Depends what matters more to you.

For my part, I'd be fairly happy with high-end dSLR performance, at 24 fps. It's looking like maybe I'll get something a little better at up to 60 fps. I was at the 4K screening in New York last week, and yes, while the shot selection left something to be desired, what was shown was quite impressive from where I was sitting in the front row. If RED does fall short on some characteristics, resolution sure won't be one of them.
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#8 Chris Kenny

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 04:28 PM

The purpose of this tread was not to re-hash the same nit picking all over again. Personally, I feel RED has managed to accomplish a lot in a small amount of time, and therefore deserves the benefit of the doubt, for now, with respect to the rest of the schedule. I also don't think RED's decision to share some information about the camera, at a much earlier stage than most developers would but not necessarily everything, can be reasonably construed as "evasive". RED has certainly been handling information release in a way designed to generate buzz, but this is hardly unusual.

There are much more interesting discussions to have here.
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#9 jan von krogh

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 05:37 PM

There are much more interesting discussions to have here.


very good posts mr. kenny.

my company is a hybrid of both worlds if you want so. we have film and we have digital. 35mm and HDCAM. we are used to all the different techniques.

over 15 years ago, for the first time, we had to blend both worlds. we coproduced an animation short with a, lets say rather improvised, motion control. we shot PAL, with a tuned hitachi betacam (the hitachi rep was quite confused why we wanted to have the camerahead transformed to 25p camera back then), as it was meant for television anyhow and we wanted some digital touch ups (claymotion). we recorded the animations to a discrecorder.

then, ~75% of the job done (2 months of shooting) it turns out that we have to shoot on film due to some contracts nobody was aware of. telephone. later on we then decided to shoot the 20´monitor with a 35mm stopmotioncamera....

premiere. one of the finance guys congratulates and tells me "i have heard you guys planned to shoot on beta, see, was good that we did it on 35mm. interesting look by the way, its so rough!". i will never forget that moment, it really opened my eyes. years later i confessed to the main producer... and he laughed as he already knew.

its all about art and business - the tools are just tools, what counts is a strong vision, a good story, how you archieve this is secondary. and i have seen the digital/analogue transition 3 times now... graphics, music and still photo are already converted here. its an interesting "deja vu".
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#10 Douglas Hunter

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 09:23 PM

Actually, I think the reason for the conflict is pretty simple, any time you have a ton of revoultionary hype and no actual product there is going to be conflict.

red just needs to put their money where their mouth is; produce a camera, we'll all try it, it will find its place. End of story. But until they actually have a camera it would be great if the hype machiene would quiet down a bit.

"I'm holding a magic box behind by back, it will solve all your problems and make the world a better place"

"cool, can I see it?"

"No, silly rabbit, but if you give me a few thousand dollars now, maybe in a couple of years you can see it. Until then you can listen to me tell you how great it is. This magic box is sooo cool, boy is it great, its like the 8th wonder, there is nothing this cool anywhere, I mean if you could see it, WOW! would you would love it, its the best . . ."
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#11 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 10:16 PM

- Their reps lie at press events. One claimed 15 stops of dynamic range, which is impossible.
why??
M


No wonder you guys hate RED so much. I've never heard any claims like that. The highest claim I've heard from RED was 11 stops of total latitude.

If someone was trying to claim bullshit like that to me I would be a little more militant. Although did you hear this first hand or was this rumors on the wind? I would be willing to believe it, I've heard more idiotic, nonsensical and stupid claims from industry reps for just about every company on earth. If they only knew the damage their PR guys were doing. "Why yes, this computer has 10 Gigabytes of processing power."

Instead I'm happily hoping for a 24FPS Canon 5D:
Canon 5D:
Around 10 stops of Latitude
2400 lines of vertical resolution (Which is coincidentally both the resolving power of the 5D chip and also about the same as Graeme's claim of a 70% of native resolution bayer image.)
An extremely clean picture
and good color reproduction.

Jim Jannard claimed he isn't looking to emulate or replace film, they're just trying to create a great image. That sounds like a solid and attainable goal that I'm willing to subscribe to. I think it's the people on both sides of the debate that are inflating it into the theological Armageddon of film vs video.
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#12 Häakon

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 10:35 PM

I think the reason for the conflict is pretty simple, any time you have a ton of revoultionary hype and no actual product there is going to be conflict.

red just needs to put their money where their mouth is; produce a camera, we'll all try it, it will find its place.

Red has said that their projection for engineering targets is late December from day one. They haven't promised a thing that they haven't lived up to. Reservations were a way to gague customer demand for initial production, are completely refundable, and completely voluntary.

Red will "put their money where their mouth is and produce a camera" around March or April, again, as they have said from day one. It's really not that difficult! Many people like to talk about and offer their suggestions to a company who is actually listening to those suggestions - something that's rare in this industry. But no one is forcing you to participate or add to the "conflict." If you'd rather wait until the camera is completely finished and has a barcode on the side, you are more than welcome to remove yourself from the discussion until that time. I don't think anyone here would mind very much.

Edited by Häakon, 01 November 2006 - 10:36 PM.

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#13 Richard Boddington

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 10:41 PM

Actually, I think the reason for the conflict is pretty simple, any time you have a ton of revoultionary hype and no actual product there is going to be conflict.

red just needs to put their money where their mouth is; produce a camera, we'll all try it, it will find its place. End of story. But until they actually have a camera it would be great if the hype machiene would quiet down a bit.

"I'm holding a magic box behind by back, it will solve all your problems and make the world a better place"

"cool, can I see it?"

"No, silly rabbit, but if you give me a few thousand dollars now, maybe in a couple of years you can see it. Until then you can listen to me tell you how great it is. This magic box is sooo cool, boy is it great, its like the 8th wonder, there is nothing this cool anywhere, I mean if you could see it, WOW! would you would love it, its the best . . ."


Douglas,

I have to get some pointers from you...you can make a post like this and no one says "boo."

If we took the exact post above and put my name after it, I have 50 Redites screaming up the driveway with pitchforks and torches yelling "KILL HIM! KILL HIM!!"

Oh well I must have a knack :D And of course you are 100% correct.

Douglas, as an experiment stick this on the DVX forum, just make sure there's no way they can find your physical address. To be safe, do what they do on there, use an alias.

R,
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#14 Chris Kenny

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 11:26 PM

My understanding that that other people at the IBC screening said 15 stops (and various other numbers). RED has explicitly disclaimed this on various message boards and stated that because actual dynamic range is difficult to objectively measure, all they're willing to give at the moment is the 66 dB S/N ratio.

As far as the hype... I really don't think much of the excitement over RED is artificially created. People are genuinely interested in this product. Maybe people who regularly work on projects with the budget to shoot 35mm don't quite get it, but this camera, if things pan out, really will be revolutionary. It will enable of lot of people to do a lot of things they couldn't have done otherwise.

Also, remember, prosumer digital video has been around for a while, and in the last few years, people have started to take it more seriously. A lot of people have come up that path, and are now ready for a more serious camera. Many of these people are serious pros with significant experience... just not with film. They're comfortable with desktop digital workflow, etc. and find the idea that they could get the same quality they see in theaters with a toolset that leverages their existing digital video experience is very exciting.
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#15 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 11:32 PM

If you'd rather wait until the camera is completely finished and has a barcode on the side, you are more than welcome to remove yourself from the discussion until that time. I don't think anyone here would mind very much.


Personally I think healthy criticism at all stages can be helpful. Best to catch problems *now*. Or at least in December.

I know how the RED team feels though, when I'm working on a project I don't like giving people unlimited access until I'm a little more confortable with the what I present to them. Until you've ironed out 90% of the bugs you know about, it's often not practical to hear 10,000 other people tell you about them as well. "Yes Yes I know that's broken I'm working on it..." The RED camera is clearly in an alpha stage right now, and by the Dev's timeline they'll hit beta in December. December will be the really exciting time as I expect an abundance of uncompressed and REDCode compressed frames to analyze. Not to mention a gaggle of prototypes to be shaken down.
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#16 Häakon

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Posted 01 November 2006 - 11:55 PM

Personally I think healthy criticism at all stages can be helpful. Best to catch problems *now*.

Oh sure, no question about it. I know the Red team has already implemented lots of suggestions they received - they're definitely listening. My response was to those on the critical side who keep retorting with the "the camera doesn't exist yet" mantra. For those who can't appreciate anything until it's in a retail box, that's their perogative - but the timeline has been well established for months and they shouldn't be expecting production-level sample images from a camera which is not yet ready for production.
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#17 Stephen Williams

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 03:13 AM

No wonder you guys hate RED so much. I've never heard any claims like that. The highest claim I've heard from RED was 11 stops of total latitude.


Hi,

Whilst waiting on the Red stand to meet Jim in person, I overheard people being told the highlight was overexposed by 15 stops. I also heard 66db's of dynymic range.

Stephen
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#18 Häakon

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 04:16 AM

I also heard 66db's of dynymic range.

66db of dynamic range is part of their published spec.

You can see the page here:

http://red.com/techspecs.htm

I realize that means nothing to you until you can hold the camera in your hands, but I thought I would at least clarify that this is where the information is coming from. No one on the RED team has published a claim of "15 stops of latitude."
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#19 Gavin Greenwalt

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 04:19 AM

The highlight was clipping in the image you refer to, so that might have been an accurate benchmark. "You'll get really badly clipped luminance at 15 stops over." Although without hearing the whole conversation in context that could still be pretty slimey.
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#20 Stephen Williams

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Posted 02 November 2006 - 04:56 AM

The highlight was clipping in the image you refer to, so that might have been an accurate benchmark. "You'll get really badly clipped luminance at 15 stops over." Although without hearing the whole conversation in context that could still be pretty slimey.


Hi Gavin,

I have an email from Jim just after IBC:- "Our guys made a mistake (which I acknowledged) quoting the people exiting the screening."

Stephen
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