Sep 8, 2008

A great article at on a new
HD Movie camera being developed by the
former founder/owner of Oakley.

"Red" (Has Analog met its match?)

It's more than that: His team of engineers and scientists have created the first digital movie camera that matches the detail and richness of analog film. The Red One records motion in a whopping 4,096 lines of horizontal resolution—"4K" in filmmaker lingo—and 2,304 of vertical. For comparison, hi-def digital movies like Sin City and the Star Wars prequels top out at 1,920 by 1,080, just like your HDTV. (There's also a slightly higher-resolution option called 2K that reaches 2,048 lines by 1,080.) Film doesn't have pixels, but the industry-standard 35-millimeter stock has a visual resolution roughly equivalent to 4K. And that's what makes the Red so exciting: It delivers all the dazzle of analog, but it's easier to use and cheaper—by orders of magnitude—than a film camera. In other words, Jannard's creation threatens to make 35-mm movie film obsolete.

Two years ago, Jannard brought a spec sheet and a mock-up of a camera—not much more than an aluminum box about the size of a loaf of bread—to NAB 2006. Even though it wasn't a working product, more than 500 people plunked down a $1,000 deposit to get their names on a waiting list. For months, industry watchers wondered if the company was for real. Today, there's no question. The Red One is being used on at least 40 features. Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar-winning director, borrowed two prototypes to shoot his Che Guevara biopics, which premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in May, and later purchased three for his film The Informant. Peter Jackson, the Lord of the Rings himself, bought four. Director Doug Liman used a Red on Jumper. Peter Hyams used one on his upcoming Beyond a Reasonable Doubt. Digital cinema that's all but indistinguishable from film is finally coming to a theater near you.

Jim Jannard, 59, is the billionaire founder of Red. In 1975 he spent $300 to make a batch of custom motocross handlebar grips, which he sold from the back of a van. He named his company Oakley, after his English setter, and eventually expanded into sci-fi-style sunglasses, bags, and shoes. In November of last year he sold the business to Luxottica, the owner of Ray-Ban, for a reported $2.1 billion.

skate - shot on red - 120 fps from opus magnum prod. on Vimeo.

Watch the embedded clip in HD

In 2004, Jannard bought a Sony HDR-FX1—the first hi-def videocam for consumers. When he found he couldn't use the files it produced without translation software from a company called Lumiere, he telephoned Lumiere's owner, filmmaker Frederic Haubrich. "I told Frederic that I couldn't even view my footage on a Mac and that this had pissed me off enough that I wanted to build my own camera. And he said, 'Jim, I know guys in the industry who can help.'" Haubrich introduced Jannard to interface designer Ted Schilowitz.

Schilowitz, Haubrich, and Jannard spent a year trying to design that dream camera, one that would combine the practical advantages of digital moviemaking with the image quality of analog film. They recruited mathematicians, programmers, digital imaging experts, hardware engineers, and physicists. "We needed a bunch of guys who were inventors to come up with entirely new ways of getting to the finish line," Jannard says. He kept the project quiet until his team could determine whether building the device was even feasible, but rumors swirled through Hollywood about some kind of mysterious supercamera in the works. "I didn't know who Jim was," Soderbergh says. "But I heard about Red because they were canvassing filmmakers and cinematographers, asking, 'If you could wave a magic wand, what camera would you design?'"

Most of the work took place in what employees call Jim's garage, a 20,000-square-foot warehouse across the street from Red's massive headquarters. The team quickly concluded that existing technology was inadequate. The guts of the camera—the image sensor and all the accompanying circuitry—would have to be created from scratch. It was a daunting challenge, but the fact that Jannard's management style falls somewhere between Mr. T and Steve Jobs on the autocracy scale helped. "What separates us from other camera companies is that the vision guy is the decisionmaker," he says. "That was one of my biggest advantages at Oakley, and it's the same at Red—I'm in the trenches, in the product development, and I make the final call. Red is a benevolent dictatorship."

The tune used in the embedded
video is here:

1 comment:

chollaball said...

wired is one of the coolest magazines out there - thanks for the reminder that they are online!