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10 (+1) Reasons Scarlet Changes the Game in 2009

Don't overlook the impact of RED's entry-level camera, even for pros like you.

By Mark Christiansen | May 07, 2008


RED will not debut Scarlet, its entry-level camera, until early next year, which means that those who are already hype-weary with all things RED are already moving on to a different part of the site. Nontheless, there are solid reasons that Scarlet will change the entire landscape of low-budget digital video, assuming RED can get enough of them into the hands of the public (more about that at the end). Scarlet's impact will be somewhere between that of the Canon 10D when it debuted and that of the iPhone. Here's why.

1) 3K native sensor. It's easy to lose sight of how major a step forward 3,000 pixels of horizontal resolution is for a digital video camera when that camera is debuted alongside an existing 4K camera and a 5K camera due at the same time. So let's try this with the hype language used by the digital still camera manufacturers: 8.5 megapixels. Per frame. And this is not cheating by calling a 1280 native sensor HD (yes I'm talking to you, HVX-200). 3k means you could cut this image down 35% to HD. You could sneak it onto an IMAX screen without anyone seeing pixilation. It will be years before Sony or Panasonic have anything like this at the price. Speaking of which...

2) Under $3K price. The per-pixel price of this camera is approximately 1/10 that of the original RED when you consider that a full kit to operate a RED camera is roughly $40K. Just as RED (the company) is offering a free trade-in to upgrade to the 5K Epic, they could offer a free downgrade to everyone who bought into RED on the cool factor but actually wanted something that would shoot without a full lens kit and scads of dedicated storage. I bet someone would take them up on it.

3)Framerates up to 100 fps (180 fps burst). Day of show, Mike Curtis reported here that Scarlet would do a burst up to 120 frames per second, but later that same day Ted Schilowitz of RED was on record saying that a 180fps burst would likely be possible with the CF cards that will be available in 2009. Again, you can compare it to the marginally faster Epic and be underwhelmed, or you can compare it to the original RED (60 fps burst, 1/3 the throughput) or anything else out there (prosumers burst at way, way smaller resolution) and be properly blown away.

4) Redcode RAW. I mentioned above that RED could call this an 8.5 megapixel camera. The fact that this camera records RAW data means - think about this - you are recording 24 (or 60, or 120) RAW digital stills per second. The soccer mom can choose a digital SLR starting at a few hundred dollars and a digital video camera in the low 4 figures that heavily compresses HD to tape or a P2 card, or for the same money, use one camera that does both, better. That's only one example of someone who won't bat an eyelash about a fixed lens.

5) RGB output. Scarlet is depicted with an HDMI port and Schilowitz indicated that it will generate RGB images - whether to the card or only as output, we shall see.

6) No kit required. Not shown on the prototype is audio (either a mic or input, both of which will be on the camera according to Schilowitz). It has an LCD.

7) Fixed lens custom-designed for the Mysterium sensor. We've come to expect a built-in lens to be a plastic Zeiss or some other inferior, non-depth-of-field capable point-and shoot type of thing, but RED Digital Cinema has its roots in optics and this is the one place they are least likely to cut corners, even at the price. And considering how many great images have been created with plastic lenses simply because the camera was more available and the operator knew how to get the most out of it - for those who aren't DP's invested in lens kits, enough said. Except...

8) Customization. There's more to the story than 6 and 7. Scarlet will work when mom pulls it out of the box, but as this video also shows, it can be kitted out rather extensively and includes intriguing hacker options such as "wifi control." All RED accessories (other than custom lenses) work with Scarlet.

9) Multi-function operation. That ball-shaped thing on the back of the camera is an as-yet-to-be-designed multifunction device for zoom, focus and who knows what else (the prototype shows an intriguing "undo" label).

10) Fearless market position. RED, it should be noted, was not located with any of the other camera companies at NAB; it was in the lower south hall with the software post-production companies, an appropriate place for "the post-production camera." How on earth will Panasonic, Sony and the others respond to a $3k 3k camera? Get your snow shovel ready for next winter.

10+1) Apple partnership. The question came up, how will a tiny company like RED reach their goal of getting it "in as many hands as possible"? The answer, and you heard it here first (with absolutly no hint of confirmation from anyone at RED - speculation only for the bonus point): the Apple Store. Two companies dedicated to changing the game of entire industries; it's a match made in California.

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stephen v2: | May, 07, 2008

I certainly hope so. I’m still hanging onto my old DVX100a as it uprezzes fine to 720p and none of low-cost HD cams are either good enough or cheap enough that I want to buy one (though I do rent/borrow them as needed).

However, #6 and #10 are the keys (assuming the camera arrives, functional, in decent volumes). If you have to buy $1000 or more dollars of extras to get started i.e. follow the Red ratio of roughly double the price for a basic shooting kit, then it’s in EX1 etc. price range. Panny, Canon and Sony have sold a ton of prosumer cams because they are priced in the 2K - 3K market with enough included to get started.

And the Apple Partnership… Red did not handle the post situation on Red One at all. I am just posting commercials shot on a Red and it’s a big pain if you have FCP and real grief for PC users like me. Of course, a Scratch system costing more than Red will solve your issues but that’s not a real solution for non millionaires.

Scarlet will need to roll out to market ready to capture and edit not in FCP, but in iMovie, Windows MovieMaker, Premiere, Vegas, etc. if Red wants wide, broad adoption, especially by Soccer moms, most of which (probably 80% or more) do not own Mac and those that do, don’t have FCP.

The genius Red has shown in developing cameras does not exist yet in post workflow. That will be the real test of Red - interesting niche camera or revolution.

Rob: | May, 07, 2008

Can you set the permissions on this so that we can see the video, please.

When I click on the “view movie” link I’m asked to log in even though I’m already logged in. When I try to log in it says “You are not authorized to perform this action”.

glennser: | May, 07, 2008

I can’t see the video either, also I agree with Stephen above that I don’t really consider a partnership with apple as a plus, Red have come a million miles on their own and I’d be afraid of Apple locking us into their hardware/software to get the most out of the cameras, I want to post in Premiere, Vegas, Avid, Final Cut Pro or damn it MS Movie Maker if I want too, I’m afraid of becoming a second class citizen for not buy apple.

Scott Gentry: | May, 07, 2008

Sorry guys, looks like it was a link posting error.  Should be working correctly now.

Mark Christiansen: | May, 07, 2008

The advantage of Apple could be (highly speculative here) distribution; regardless, RED has to work this out if they’re not to be a niche player.

Post-production becomes less of an issue for a RED camera that can also output RGB (although details are yet to be worked out). It will be like the Digital Rebel - pros will appreciate RAW support, soccer moms will leave it shooting compressed RGB.

Mike Curtis: | May, 07, 2008

Redcode RGB has always been on the agenda for Red cameras, 120 fps recording solidly, with 180 burst is what I recall for Scarlet. Red One can do 4K@30p, the sensor is capable of 60 but no recording tech can do that at this point in time. MAYBE later, the same way they got tricky with 120fps at 2K RAW.

Apple Store? Be cool, but I don’t see it - Apple would want a pretty hefty cut, and..hmm….how much margin could Red share at that point? But direct sales model doesn’t seem likely at this price point, so dunno.


J. Matthew: | May, 08, 2008

Apple already sells drives and accessories from other manufacturers, so I don’t see a problem in Apple selling the camera on their site or in the stores.  They would want a wholesale price, but if they feel it will drive traffic into the store and drive sales of Apple products, then they will jump on it.  The question is how it would be set up.  A Red store within a store wouldn’t fly with Apple.

As for post with Red, in Final Cut, it’s mostly painless.  Having worked on both Jaguar and Old Navy spots that stayed in Final Cut from ingest to output (using Apple Color for grading), it was relatively simple and quick.  My only suggestion is to not use the proxies to cut with, as that is slow and you must preview in low quality.  The trick is to use the proxies and Compressor to create self-contained quicktimes to use for the edit (we prefer 720p).  We usually have these created on set by the Camera Tech, but even if we create this back at the facility, it’s still faster than real time ingest from tape.

Since our outputs are HD, we online with the 2k proxies, grade in HD, and output to D5.  And with upcoming support for the raw Red files in Apple Color (and possibly FCP itself), this process will get only easier.

And it’s really up to the other NLE’s to adapt to Red.  If you want native support of Red in Vegas or Avid (or whatever flavor of NLE), then get on the phone with support or sales and convince them you’ll switch to FCP if they don’t.

Rob: | May, 09, 2008

@J. Matthew ... Thanks for posting your real-world experience. That tells me more than all the usual speculation about how post will work.

I was confused on a couple of points. For example you said not to “not use proxies” but then you said “we online with the 2k proxies”.

Can you delineate the work flow in a bit more detail? Perhaps like this.

1. Red Raw -> RedCine -> file.???
2. file.??? -> Compressor -> (720p)

I’d like to know each file format transformation, what codec at which settings. Not ever little detail but at least the resolutions at each point in the process. For example, did you use ProRes anywhere along the way?



J. Matthew: | May, 12, 2008


    We don’t use the proxies to offline, but we do use the proxies to create self-contained quicktimes through Compressor (it’s important to use Compressor, otherwise you can end up with QT’s that don’t have matching timecode to the proxies).  We use the quicktimes to edit with.
    Once the cut is locked, I will conform the project, reconnecting the self-contained quicktimes to the 2K proxies.  Occasionally, if we feel the exposure was too bright in the proxies, I will create new proxies with a lower exposure out of RedAlert (my experience with RedCine has been buggy at best).  As we are using the 2k proxies, I will resize the clips as necessary.
    This conform is then exported to Color for Grading in HD.  We’ve done one 2k conform and color on a PSA, but only to test the workflow as we always ship for HD broadcast. For the 2K conform, I created a FCP sequence with custom 2k settings (this has become the biggest reason for us to use Final Cut, we often have to cut spots for tradeshow projections at weird aspect ratio’s, i.e. 1152x640, 3450x640, and FCP makes it easy to create these odd sequences).

    Now the Red workflow does have some kinks and it’s definitely not trouble free.  But it feels like the workflow of the future, one that will definitely save time and open up new arenas of creativity (having access to 2k-4k frames without having to go back to negative is a big time and budget saver).  No one said working on the bleeding edge would be all unicorns and rainbows, but it sure is fun.  (Of course how big a geek does that make me, I find creating workflows fun.)

Always happy to answer any questions or comments (jmjacobatgmaildotcom)

J. Matthew: | May, 13, 2008

Just a note on my previous post about Red workflows.  There are other workflows out there, this is one that we feel works for us in quality, budget and schedule.  Some people won’t want to use the proxies because you can get a higher quality image exported out of RedCine (has to do with the debayer downscaling).  We’ve found that currently the quality we get with using the proxies and the time saved by not re-exporting through RedCine (which can be extremely slow even on the latest and fastest) gets us where we want to be in a timely manner.  On some projects we do go back to Redcine or Redalert (mainly to get a flatter picture with lower exposure) so we can give the colorist more information to work with.

Many of our spots are also mixed format with 35mm D5 footage mixed with Red footage, some HDV and a butt load of DSLR stills (check out any Jag spot and you will see all those formats with quite a few cuts per second, creating a lengthy conform).  Less difficult spots allow for alternate workflows.

I’m looking forward to testing out the new FCP Log and Transfer plugin for Red footage as well as giving Crimson a run through (  Just like the introduction of DV, HDV, and P2, cutting with Red offers some amazing advantages while also requiring a little ingenuity until the bugs are worked out and the applications updated with new features.  This will happen in time.

Tim Sassoon: | May, 24, 2008

IMHO they’re far more likely to go Dell than Apple and rely on web-based direct sales rather than a retail presence, where you get into displays and returns, and all that crap.

Their product doesn’t need to be compared in person, I doubt they want to give up that much retail, and they don’t have a true high-volume product, by which I mean something that retails in the millions of units for $300. But if they did go into Apple Stores, would they do Oakley-style product cabinets?

chucksav: | August, 13, 2008

Anyone have any idea what the sensitivity of Scarlet will be? Hopefully, it will have at least the low light capability of the EX1. Even more hopefully, it will be a stop [or, maybe, two smile] faster.

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