Eyes-On the Red Camera: Real and Beautiful, But 4K Launch Support in Question

Eyes-On the Red Camera: Real and Beautiful, But 4K Launch Support in Question

For awhile, Gizmodo had been wondering if the $17K Red On 4K camcorder was genuine or just another piece of vaporware. Which is why we’re glad to see the camera at NAB 07 in front of our faces, with support from Apple, Peter Jackson, and others. We had a chance to talk with Red One “Leader of the Rebellion” Ted Schilowitz, allowing him to calm our worries about the historically problematic shipping dates and 4k support that may or may not be available at launch.

We had a chance to see three working Red One cameras in the company booth. One was connected to a 720p monitor to show the live output. The other two had working LCD viewfinders as well as film-style video eyepiece finders that potential fan boys could get all touchy-feely with, and there were plenty of those wonks getting their mitts on the camera.

With all the talk of 4K, we were very surprised the live video was only being shown on a 720p monitor. The response? There aren’t any 4K monitors to show the full output.

According to Schilowitz the first batch of cameras that go out may indeed be lacking certain features and functions, but he didn’t know (i.e. wouldn’t say) what features those might be.

When asked if 4K works, he said yes, but didn’t know if 4K would be available in the first cameras.

Will early adopters be screwed? Schilowitz did say that when the camera starts shipping, owners can follow two option paths; take the camera as-is and get a free upgrade when all of the features have been enabled, or simply wait until the features are ready and pick up the camera then. If they can upgrade a camera from non 4k to 4k for free, more power to em.

When asked when the camera would ship, Schilowitz emphasized the company’s spin on shipping. In his words, Red is an engineering company that would rather rely on “target dates” than ship dates. When asked the “target date,” he responded the Red One camera has a target range between the end of April and the middle part of May of 2007.

Even if the company makes this target, those eager to purchase one may still have to wait as the company has been able to convince 1500 individuals and companies to plunk down a hefty down payment to reserve one of these beauties.

In an effort to put to rest the doubt that this camera is actually working or simply a pyramid scheme to bilk old ladies from their fortune, Jim Jannard ushered visitors into a small movie theatre to show them an 11-minute film shot entirely with two Red One alpha prototypes he named “Boris” and “Natasha”.

Sure anyone can crank out 11 minutes of beauty shots and call it a film, but it is an entirely different matter when that 11-minute film is an original narrative piece, written and directed by Peter Jackson. Yes, that Peter Jackson. Jackson invited the Red crew to Masterton, New Zealand for a two day shoot to capture a WWI story involving a doughboy on the ground, an ace pilot, a picture of a loved one, a teddy bear, and those accursed Nazis.

We were able to learn the two cameras only had Run/Stop triggers, 180-degree shutters running at 24fps, recorded to a Red Drive at 27Mbps and encoded in Red Raw. Not a lot of fancy schmancy at all. The short was projected using Sony’s 4K projector, but as previously announced, Red is working on its own line of 4K projectors and monitors. Jackson decided to skip using the Red lenses in favor of the Cooke S4 24-90mm lenses with which he was more familiar.

This film was full of action and drama as only Jackson can deliver, and throughout the piece, we watched closely for telltale signs of artifacting, blown highlights, or false colors. While a lot of the story takes place on bare dirt, scenes in the air presented a full range of colors that proved this camera can capture some very dynamic images.

We noticed some jumpiness during some of the high-action fast-moving shots, but didn’t know if that was a fault of the camera, the digital projection, or our hypersensitivity to digital projection. Regardless, those instances were very few, and after, we had a chance to talk for a moment with two cinematographers sitting next to us who were accustomed to shooting on Viper and Genesis cameras. They were both impressed with the results and had no complaints with the technology.

So for now, the Red One camera has moved from vaporware to reality, but with the “target date” still a month off and the long line for delivery, you aren’t going to be able to pick one up anytime soon, let alone at the local Best Buy. But good tech always trickles down, and we’re moving in the right direction with these cameras.