NAB and Thoughts on RED

Ok, now that NAB is really underway, it’s high time I posted something about it. I’ve also gotten lots of emails asking my opinion of the RED camera, and so I’ll mention that first. As usual, Mike Curtis has the best in-depth info, and even worked at their booth for a while. He has posted details on the full specs, various shooting modes, and of course, the pricing. You can also check out Studio Daily’s interview with Jim Jannard, which has lots of interesting information about individual components and the pieces that they haven’t finalized yet.

The camera bodies on display at NAB are mockups, not even prototypes, so we’re still waiting on a few things, at least until the end of the year. However, we now have the initial specs, and this camera sounds fantastic. It will shoot 720-4k res, 1-120fps, has numerous lens and recording options, and comes in a small, customizable package for under $20,000. However, the lack of an optical viewfinder is quite disappointing, and the end of the year is a long way away. I predict that this camera will be to digital cinema what the original Video Toaster was to broadcast video: an inexpensive but powerful tool that was in many ways technically superior to most of its more professional counterparts.

Like the Toaster, RED One is highly advanced because it takes advantage of new technology that its larger competitors have been slower to adopt, but is an unproven device from a new company with no track record created by enthusiastic but eccentric inventors. In the Toaster’s case, by the time it had built its track record and overcome the startup stigma, it had lost much of its lead. Fortunately for RED, these are very different times. At the moment the indie film community is thriving, and enthusiastic eccentric rebels are canonized, and so all Mr. Jannard needs to do is maintain the hype, and deliver his camera on time.

As usual, more NAB coverage can be found in all the usual places, and Digital Content Producer gets special mention because of the many podcast interviews with exhibitors and attendees. Other announcements of note would include JVC’s two new cameras, Panasonic’s new cameras, Avid’s software-only Media Composer and other goodies, and in closing… I want really one of these.

The Texas HD Shootout

It’s been yet another too-busy-to-write week (or two), and there’s been a lot of interesting news that I’ve missed. At the moment I’ve been almost exclusively covering camera tech, which isn’t the total purpose of this site, but it is something I’m very interested in at present since I need to buy a camera very soon. Not until after NAB, of course… and I’m still not finished with my research. However, very shortly we will have the results of The Definitive HDV Camera Test of the Year. In addition to the 24 tests, and DV.com’s camera lineup, Chris Hurd, Mike Curtis, and Adam Wilt and others all got together last week to put on the Texas HD Shootout.

In short, it was a grueling three day test of the Canon XL H1, Panasonic HVX200, JVC GY-HD100U, Sony Z1U, Sony F350 (XDCAM), using the Panasonic Varicam as a pro HD benchmark. For three days with five cameras, it was, to put it mildly, extremely thorough. There were indoor tests and outdoor tests, still tests, chart tests, tone tests and motion tests. All cameras recorded images to their own native media while computers simultaneously captured uncompressed files of whatever HD output each camera had. In short, the whole deal has generated a mountain of data, so there aren’t really any comprehensive analysis reports yet.

However, many of the participants have been writing as they go; Zane Rutledge posted his thoughts on his blog, there’s the DVinfo.net thread, and Mike Curtis put up a whole list of impressions. Actually, HDforIndies is the best place to go for info, with extensive articles and notes from day one, day two, day three, and theteardown. How Mike manages to write and post so much good info while working such long hours, I’ll never know. Obviously it’s a skill I should be working on…

To summarize, the initial reactions for all involved seem to match up with the reviews and info that we’ve been hearing for the past few months; the cameras are all very good; each possessing its own strengths and weaknesses. The Canon produces the best overall image, while the most agree that the Panasonic captures the most film-like color, with the JVC coming close behind, etc, etc… However, there were a few surprises, and I’m sure we’ll have a better idea of the inner workings of each camera once comparisons between the footage can be properly made. Still. I am leaning towards the XL H1, since it offers the most features and flexibility… Unless, of course, anything might come up at NAB.