I was under the impression that the RED Scarlett had been put on hold, and likely cancelled, because the RED Epic was going to be…well, epic, and there would be no need for something like the Scarlett. Today RED actually released the Scarlett-X, and so that is clearly untrue.
The Scarlett-X, like the RED One, seemed too good to be true. It boasted giant performance in a midget body: resolution at 3k, simultaneous video and still image capture, high burst-rate image capture, brain-based construction, which allowed for impossibly simple versatility, a low price, and a host of other features straight out of a cinematographer and photographer’s wet-dream. Today, RED made that dream come true. In fact, like the RED One, the reality is actually better than the dream.
The Scarlett-X exceeded expectations with, “burst modes up to 12 fps at 5K resolution and 4K video from 1-30 fps, it enables users to capture motion footage and still content simultaneously.” The base price for the Scarlett-X is $9,750.
Only a handful of hours apart, Canon announced its first dedicated digital cinema camera:
The Canon C300 is a worthy contender in the new battle for small, comparably cheap, and high-definition digital cinema cameras. Rather than dig into the specifications, it is best to say that it is on-par with the Scarlett-X, if just shy, but still more than the majority of filmmakers will require.
Also, rather than talk tech, here is the first short to be shot on the new camera:
Stylistic choices aside, it looks good. It is a step past the likes of the 7D, and the 5D MK II. It’s a good entry, for now, and it’ll work, for now.
That said, the Scarlett-X is not RED’s most advanced camera, thus Canon’s first entry already a step behind. The RED Epic (48 of which are being used to shoot The Hobbit in 3D,) is a marvel of the modern digital cinema. The RED Epic is capable of 5k resolution (with some Wikipedia speculation of 28k,) moving-image capture-rate of 1-120 fps, and the same promise of versatility and brain-based interchangeable parts, which is supposed to make the camera infinitely upgradeable. It’s price is roughly three times that of the Scarlett-X, but its potential is exponentially more grand.
Here is Peter Jackson playing with his new RED Epic 3D camera system, which, I must say, has done more to pique my curiosity in 3D cinema than anything I have ever seen:
In film school, I fought against the digital revolution. I edited digitally, but I scorned shooting on digital. At that time it was not unreasonable to believe that film was a better medium. Digital was in its incipient stages and it looked like cheap hell. Digital enthusiasts pointed to hack-experimental filmmakers, 28 Days Later, and portions of The Phantom Menace, as examples of its promise. Digital Cinema was the dorky kid on the playground who claimed he could play as well as anyone else. We laughed at him because at the time he couldn’t compete, and he didn’t show any promise. Until the RED One was announced, I didn’t think digital had a shot.
Upon the release of the RED One, it became obvious that digital had more than a chance to replace celluloid. The RED One promised more than could be believed, in terms of resolution, size, features, and price; and then the camera delivered everything it promised, and more. It handed every filmmaker an opportunity to shoot film-grade digital images, at a fraction of the price and bulk of Sony, Panavision, and Arri. Panavision may have had their Genesis 2 camera, and its full 35mm sensor ready, but RED had the courage to take the extra step and be more than just an invisible and comparable film replacement. RED wanted to be better than film, and they went for its throat – immediately.
The RED company has done the majority of the leg-work to legitimize digital cinema. George Lucas, and Sony’s CineAlta helped, but the poor artistic quality of the Star Wars prequels undermined what Lucas has known since Laserdisc: digital is the next medium, and its victory is close at hand.
Recently, Roger Ebert wrote about the death of film, in his online journal. He admits defeat, but laments the loss of a beloved medium, which has served, dutifully, for over 100 years. Film processing plants have closed. Arri has stopped making film cameras. Many camera companies only make film cameras on demand; the market has become saturated with used film cameras. The workflow of every modern filmmaker has become so digital, the unique aesthetics of film, once its strongest selling points, no longer outweigh the comparable picture quality and convenience of a $9,000 digital camera.
Though I credit RED with this transition, in truth, it was the final blow in long battle. The dream of high-definition video replacing film is as old as video, with modern specifications appearing at some point in the 70s. However, digital cinema, comparable to film, was not viable until the last 5 years, with the release of the RED One.
Today, we see the release of two digital cinema cameras, which should count as the next generation of digital cinema. If my memory serves, in his book, In the Blink of an Eye, Walter Murch estimated that a digital image would have to be about 10 mega-pixels before it could be compared to a frame of film. The RED Scarlett-X is capable of shooting moving images at 4K, and still images at 5K, which amount to roughly 12-13 megapixels, per frame.
Here’s a graph:
Just so you know, the first digital cinema projectors were 2K projectors. Many have been updated to 4K, and soon they will have to be updated again. A film enthusiast would argue that a 35mm print of an early German Expressionist silent film would play on a modern 35mm projector with absolutely no need to upgrade.
Here’s Soderbergh and his crew discussing the first days of the RED One. Maybe he had more to do with the success of the RED One: