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Monday, November 14, 2011

The Real Cost of RED


As much as RED would like you to buy into their $9750 Scarlet is $15K shootable out the door, you'd be hard pressed to really have a production ready package. Lets say you already have glass, but which kind ?
If you have PL glass and want to use some EOS / EF mount lenses, thats an extra $2K. Now why would you do that ? well maybe because there's some great EF mount lenses you can't get in PL.
How about media ? RED is getting $995 for a 64G SSD card. Add in 2 or 3 cards, $2-3K
Even though you may already have some rails and matte box, you'll probably want either a cage to protect the camera and mount all those extra bits I haven't gotten to on, or some other 3rd party gear. RED's is $1200.
Are you editing RED material yet ? if you want to edit the material natively, add on a $5K RedRocket card. If you can live with the time to transcode RED 4K to 2K or 1080 ProRes…. well, ya, that'll just last so long before you plunk down for a RedRocket card. Honestly the RedRocket card looks like an ATI GPU of some sort that's probably worth a few hundred bucks at best. So far though, no one has hacked it.
So we're at about $26K and running. I'm sure there are some other bits I've missed, maybe there are some cheaper accessories you can use, or not. However, its pretty clear that unless you already own a RED ONE you can borrow bits from, a Scarlet isn't a $10K camera and the C300 doesn't look so bad right now. 
Sure the Scarlet is 4K, but until you've tried editing and working with that material you may not realize that you need a maxed out NLE box to work with it. Its like when your machine worked great with SD and then along came 1080 and you bogged down to nothing in speed, drive space, render times, ect. It wasn't pretty. 
I'm  not knocking 4K, its just that how many productions really need it ? How many productions have future life of 5 or 10 years ? no many. In fact very good 1080 may well work just fine into 4K anyway when its all said and done. There are too many factors that go into making an image to say that 1080 won't hold up ok if its well shot, sharp and not too noisy.
Its an interesting time to be in production to say the least. What will be more interesting is a few years down the road when Canon has pushed out another generation of product and C300's become boat anchors. Will we be 4K in 5 years ? I have no doubt because we'll finally have computers that can push the bits thru fast enough to make it tolerable to work again. 
I can't emphasize the speed factor enough. Today I had to re edit a project because everything had been changed. New VO, new on camera shots. Premiere Pro on CUDA just let me play thru stuff including a bunch of multilayer segments with 3 layers of live video. I was done in an hour and a half because I could make changes and just hit play. If working with 4K meant rendering rendering rendering rendering I'd pass on it. I don't have the time or tolerance to do stuff like proxy edits, then replace with the real stuff because most of my work has turn around times that just don't permit this. Its silly to work this way anyway, well at least if you can afford the biggest and badest hardware you can. So for now 1080 and 2K are just fine. I'm over it, it works for me and most importantly I'm making money with it.