The Red

In Japan, heroes often come in bunches. Take Power Rangers, for instance. Five heroes (almost always five, it seems, though I don’t watch those shows much) dressed in colorful costumes, working together to fight evil across the world (or at least the part of the world that matters). In these groups, one of them is the leader. You can tell at a glance which one it is, even if you’ve never seen the show before, because the leader wears red. When kids play, they argue over which one is “The Red.”

In the film world, when you say “Red” you conjure a different image, but the same feeling of awe. The Red is a camera. I’d heard people talking about it in the past, but as we head toward shooting I’ve heard that name from all sorts of people. The Red is one of those products that Changes Things. Specifically it means that people with budgets only somewhat larger than ours can shoot digital video at cinema quality.

The reasons this camera is so great are mired in technical details at which I generally nod and rub my chin in feigned understanding. “His is one of the older 4K ones,” one person told me while pimping a buddy’s Red. There’s stuff about dynamic range (one of the things that really differentiates film and video, apparently), and a host of other specs. In the end, it comes down to “there’s never been anything that can match this quality for anywhere near the price.” The fact that the Red still seems to be without peer indicates just what sort of breakthrough it represents.

“I know a guy with a Red,” I’ve heard more than once. “Maybe he can give you a deal on the price.” Unfortunately, although the Red represents a breakthrough in price/performance, renting one through normal channels for three days (along with all the gear and tech that goes with it – this thing produces an enormous amount of data) would equal our entire budget. Even getting a price break, it would still take up a lot of cash I’d rather spend on actors and musicians. We’ll use less expensive technology, and it will still exceed the abilities of HD television monitors.

Still, there’s a little part of me that pauses. Might I be saying, a year from now, “That came out so well. The lighting was awesome, the acting was great, the sound full and rich; it’s a pity we didn’t shoot it on a cinema-quality camera.” I answer myself, “when they pay us to do the next one, we’ll use the Red.”

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