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Red Digital Cinema Intros Red One 4K Camcorder

Non-working models cause stir at NAB 2006 By Charlie White

Red Digital Cinema caused quite a buzz NAB 2006 with its Red Camera System, which the company says will be shipping by the end of this year. Started in 1999 by Oakley founder Jim Jannard and former AJA ace Ted Schilowitz, the company introduced a digital cinema camera that's said to be capable of 4K (4,520 x 2540 pixels) image acquisition using a specialized custom-made 12-megapixel sensor whimsically called Mysterium. We got pictures of a non-working prototype of the new camera nestled beneath reinforced glass, and talked with the company's founders about this innovative technology.

When we talked with Ted Schilowitz, whose business card states his title with the company as ?Leader of the Rebellion, he wouldn't say how long this camera has been in development, nor how many employees his company has. But his excitement about the upcoming release of Red One, the first product of the Orange County, California-based Red Digital Cinema Camera Company, was palpable. At $17,500 for the body only, if the company can deliver on the specs that it's stating for this camera, it will be truly groundbreaking.

What are those specs? How about a 11.4 million pixel sensor that can shoot at up to 60 frames per second, recording in RAW format, 2x-oversampled HD in 4:4:4 or 4:2:2? The company says this will be the first camera with quality comparable to 35mm film with the convenience of a camcorder, where instead of lugging around a refrigerator-sized hard disk array to record its output, it will be as easy to use as a camcorder with its internal RedFlash or Red-Drive.

Filmmakers will like its ability to use any super 35mm or super 16 mm PL mount lens. The company also showed a prototype of its first lens made specifically for the Red camera system, a 300mm F2.8 unit with a PL mount.

The modular form factor of the camera itself is quite unusual, where it's scarcely larger than an HDV camcorder and weighs less than 7 pounds, but can be configured with a variety of accessories. It's shown in the picture below with a special steel cage around it with numerous mounting holes, where a variety of accessories can be attached to such as a viewfinder, focus and lens controls, microphones and more. The camera body itself is made of magnesium alloy, and looks like a cross between some kind of futuristic diving bell and an interstellar supply ship from Star Wars.

Perhaps the most mysterious component of this new system is its aptly-named Mysterium sensor. A CMOS sensor, it is super 35mm-sized at 24.4mm wide by 13.7mm high, and the company says it has a dynamic range of more than 66dB. It's highly configurable as well, with acquisition formats from 2540p (what the company calls 4K+, allowing cinematographers to see outside the actual 4K frame), to 4K, 2K, 1080p, 1080i, and 720p. Its also capable of variable frame rates, where with the higher resolutions, 60 frames per second is the maximum, but with 2K and 720p, 120 frames per second can be cranked. 

The products designers haven't forgotten audio, either, with four channels of uncompressed 16/24-bit 48 kHz audio, and there's also a built-in high-rez LCD with an on-screen display. Other accessories that are in development include an odd rifle-like shoulder mount (pictured below), where the camera can be shot like a gun. There are also various storage devices proposed, but none were shown at the demo. The company has also developed a variable bit rate wavelet codec to record all of this information more efficiently, called Red Code.

When we asked Schilowitz if there was any footage that was shot by this camera, or if we could actually hold the camera, he declined, indicating that the camera in its final form had not been built yet. He did say that test footage has been shot with the Mysterium sensor, but declined to show any of that footage to us.

The effort appears to be extremely well-financed, and the companys image and press materials show the design expertise of Oakley accessories designer and founder Jim Jannard, who has built a burgeoning empire out of stylish motorcycle accessories, sunglasses and other brightly-colored and exquisitely-designed products. Stay tuned to Digital Media Net for a full interview with Ted Schilowitz, where he explains more about the camera and gives a few tantalizing additional hints about its impending release.

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Related Keywords:Red Digital Cinema, NAB 2006, Red Camera System, Oakley, Jim Jannard, Ted Schilowitz, digital cinema camera, 4K, image acquisition, Mysterium, non-working prototype, innovative technology


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