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RED Abandons the Prosumer Market Because of DSLRs

10.4.10 @ 8:53AM Tags : , , , , ,

In 2006, RED announced the RED ONE, their first camera. In 2008, RED announced that the successors to that first camera would fall into two categories: EPIC and SCARLET. EPIC, as the name would suggest, was the big-boy camera for large Hollywood productions, and it was going to carry a matching price tag. SCARLET was for indies and prosumers. They originally targeted the $2,500 price point with the cheapest version of SCARLET, a 2/3″ chip camera with a fixed lens. But then the HDSLR revolution happened. Canon added 24p to their 5d Mark II and, despite the lack of pro audio options and infamous problems like aliasing and compression issues, the idea of SCARLET lost a lot of its sheen. As a result, RED is not abandoning SCARLET wholly, but they are moving it up-market and repositioning it as a “pro” tool — effectively abandoning the prosumer and DSLR market.

This is a slightly oversimplified version of events — RED has been in a bind ever since the global economy collapsed (thus wrecking havoc with their projected sales and corresponding economies of scale), and their manufacturing prices went up thanks to a lost partnership with “not a sweatshop” manufacturing partner Foxconn. But the primary reason for this repositioning of SCARLET is undeniably the HDSLR. In Jim Jannard’s words, here’s their take:

The concept of RED was to build a camera with as much capability as possible… for the professional market. Then we thought we could extend it down a bit to the prosumer level. Apparently, that was a mistake. We recently came to the conclusion that, indeed, we cater to the professional market. That’s it. A pro camera company. We want to build the best tools possible for those that want to “man up”. There are plenty of companies dedicated to selling prosumer (short for “almost right”) cameras. We aren’t going to be one of them. If you want a serious tool to use for professional projects… think RED. No more “soccer mom” thinking. Pros only. Life is short and the clock is ticking. We have decided who we are.

Basically: RED is not going to try to compete in the DSLR space, because they can’t. It’s a race to the bottom, as demonstrated by the speed with which new cameras come out from Canon that ape featuresets from Canon’s own more expensive cameras — see the Rebel T2i as an example of a camera that broke through a price/performance barrier that RED could simply not compete with. Canon sells millions of cameras and can crank them out in larger quantities than RED could, and there is no way RED could make much money on a $700 camera. Beyond just DSLRs, however, the larger camera manufacturers have also come around to putting large CMOS sensors in real videocamera bodies, and thus the Panasonic AF100 and forthcoming unnamed Sony (which I described as “gunning for RED”) further encroach on SCARLET’s planned market space. So it’s probably a smart move for RED to position themselves as a pro-only camera company.

I say this with a few caveats:

  1. It all depends on their “new” price points for SCARLET — they already announced that they’ve bumped the price up $1k in order to include HDRx,1 but a $7,000 camera is a different proposition from a $12k one.
  2. I still expect them to go after the lower-end market, just at a later date — as their technology matures and they perfect their manufacturing process, it will be too easy to go after the larger mass market to stay away forever.
  3. They don’t need to be dicks about it. Saying that spending more money on a camera is “manning up” is the kind of attitude that turns a lot of people off of RED. What are you saying, if you release a cheaper camera in the future, will you call it PINK? “Manning up” is making a film — no matter what the hell camera you shoot it on. And what does a soccer mom have to do with any of this? I would say that passing multiple children through your birth canal requires a lot more “manning up” than selecting a camera…

Anyway, in October 2006, before the first RED camera was ever shipped, I wrote at DVguru (in a post otherwise full of flawed logic):

It’s named the RED “One.” It wouldn’t shock me to see a RED Two camera announced in a few years with a Mysterium sensor — and price tag — cut in half.

I was exactly right about the announcement part — only “Red Two” ended up being known as SCARLET. However, I still feel that RED will go after the prosumer $3k-$6k price point — because of HDSLRs, however, they’ve decided to sit this round out.

My personal plan was to get one of the least-expensive SCARLETs in order to get comfortable with the RED workflow, and then rent an EPIC for important shoots. Now, I’m not so sure how that will work. What about you, were you planning on getting a SCARLET? How about after this announcement?

  1. Re: HDRx, check out RED’s new HDRx Magic Motion footage, which is being lauded as having a more filmic motion rendering. []


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Description image 24 COMMENTS

  • Mike Collins on 10.4.10 @ 9:20AM

    We had been planning for a while to buy a Scarlet. Rich feature set, insane image quality, fantastic price point. Then it hit delay after delay and we moved to DSLR. Now that I shoot my A cam as 5D Scarlet isn’t such a must have for me. Depending on the new pricing we may still get one though.

    I agree completely on the childish attitude. This is the second time Jannard has insulted DSLR users because he can’t compete with the market. Lashing out like this makes Red look bad. You won’t see Canon or Panasonic’s top guns mouthing off like this.

  • I don’t think that the HDSLRs are killing RED so much as the new generation of 35mm video cameras. When you can hook an Aja Ki Pro recorder up to a Panasonic AF100 and record ProRes 422 files directly to a harddrive, for a total price of under $10K (and that’s the FIRST GENERATION of this technology), RED is in trouble.

    Ultimately, the advantage of RED is the capability of heavy postproduction to RAW files. For heavy effects work, that’s important. The rest of us can just “man up” by white balancing and exposing our footage properly, so that we don’t need to pay 80% more money for 20% more flexibility in post.

  • I was defiantly looking forward to checking out the scarlet to possibly add it to my bigger projects and to also get used to the system but I’m not so sure now I may just go with an xh-a1s to add to my 60D and t2i. Hmmm they seem alittle too cocky over at red but they’ve already shown how threatened they are haha

  • I laughed out loud at the comment about childbirth. Hilarious!

    I’m sad about the Scarlet. Had they been the first on the market, the revolution would have been theirs and the video market would have loved them for it. But one year (or more) late in this market is a decade in tech.

  • RED needs to “MAN up” and deliver the products they promise. They are quick to tell you what they are building and sllllllllooooooooow to market.

  • I also take major issue with the classification of prosumer as “almost right”. Jannard has most definitely let his fame and fortune define him as a businessman and, more importantly, as a publicity rep. It’s ridiculous to try and classify those in the lower income bracket (people who love storytelling just as much as the rest) as lesser-than. Maybe when he actually delivers on all these promises, he can adopt the diva attitude, but he’s in no place to do it beforehand.

    Here’s the deal: I get that they’re a small company; as a result, production takes longer. But the attitude problem is what really puts people off. Ironic that he calls prosumer cams “almost right”, then turns around and says Scarlet is “almost done”. And now a caveat: it’s going to cost more.

  • I was not going to buy one of their cameras to begin with. I have a Nizo S800 Super8, a modified Super 16 K3 and a CP-16. I also have a Pentax KX DSLR 24 fps. Red will never get anywhere with that type of attitude. Before video cameras, there was the great film cameras that brought us some of the greatest films ever made. And still is. Anytime you speak ill-will of another product and try and set yourself higher and better than another person or product, you will find yourself losing a battle every time. Good luck RED, I’ll stick with film and my Pentax KX DSLR 24P.

  • I have been having a debate with my editing teacher on this. I kept calling the Scarlet ‘vaporware’, she kept calling me crazy! Red may very well eventually release the Scarlet, but by that time DSLR’s may be good enough to render the Scarlet useless (we might be making films on our phones by then!). I agree that “manning up” is not about spending money to prove you’re any good – I’ve seen awesome work on 16 mm recently. Insulting the audience is the sign of a bad director Jim, maybe you just need to change the company name to GREEN (eyed monster)! Now if only a company could knock Mr. Jobs down a notch – I’d buy ten of their computers!!!

  • One of the best posts on the situation.

    I’m still going to try to get the best camera option out there for the money, which I expect to be Scarlet sometime next year. But there is no question that RED has a consistent problem of a contentious relationship with its public.

    I love the level headed take on things. And yes, birthing small humans is more man than my camera adventures will ever be.

    • I believe when Mr Jannard referred to “soccer moms” he was talking about the cliche idea of some fanatical mother documenting her children with a big prosumer camcorder, (anyone remember the vx1000?) >

  • Alexander Miller on 10.5.10 @ 2:47PM

    I find it ironic that there is an advertisement for Full Sail University on this website. lulz

  • Yes, Google takes the “film school” keyword and runs lots of film school ads, ignoring the “no” part. I get a kick out of it too.

  • CEOs like Jim should be seen and not heard. What a dumb ass idiot! He has squandered any chance at getting respect in the film industry. He came out hard with the RED but this isn’t 2006 anymore. Hell, this isn’t even the same as 2009 anymore. Look how much the DSLR industry has grown in just under 2 years. The RED industry is a lonely industry now. All those guys blowing Jim on are guys who have the RED camera and are hoping that clients still want to use the RED. But trust me, not many want to anymore. It’s too expensive to shoot. And if you are going to shell out all that money, why not shoot on something better than DSLR and RED – FILM! And another thing, Jim, may refuse to deal with people with a bad attitude as his signature says, but he has the worst attitude of everyone. Has anyone read his posts or sees how he responds to people on there? He’s a complete ass.

  • Insulting your potential customers is never a good business strategy. You would think that the people over at RED would learn from past mistakes and restrain from sounding like bratty, whining pre-teens.
    If we are not considered to be professionals because we use HDSLR’S, what does that say about professionals like Shane Hurlburt and Greg Yaitanes?

  • Nigel Thompson on 10.8.10 @ 12:04AM

    Still Plan on getting a Scarlet S35.

    My friend is trading in his RED ONE for an EPIC so when we have 2 camera filmic shoots we will have both. Im getting a nikon d7000 this month to start my HDSLR adventures. Have a ton of Nikkor lenses which is why i was waiting. depending on the quality the DSLR will be a B or C camera on our shoots. The raw data in RED cannot be denied.
    but the minute Nikon or canon figure it out, all hell is gong to break loose.

  • “Help, I’ve fallen and I can’t get up!” CEO-Jimbo with his tough talk is living life as if he’s wearing the darkest shade Oakleys, believing himself invisible and invincible because nobody can see his eyes. Personally, I manned up enough to ditch my $30,000 camera and $30,000 lens in favor of a Canon 5D2 and a set of Zeiss Primes. My latest doc ,on California’s Proposition 19, debuted yesterday to a global audience. Entirely filmed on this “prosumer” kit, I did not need any additional time when compared with the larger, more established formats.
    RED’s DEAD, Jim.

  • By no means am I trying to suggest with this post that “RED is DEAD.” In fact, I just posted about how great the EPIC is shaping up to be. I understand why they’re changing their plans for SCARLET as well; the attitude of Jannard’s post is really the only thing that I find off-putting.

  • I see that a fightback has started here:

  • I think this further shows Jannard’s agility and business savvy. I totally respect his decision. The fixed lens Scarlet goes against the modular future-proof message anyway and did not fit from the beginning (although I definitely wanted one and wasn’t complaining). Hard decision and harder still for those counting on this camera, but this market shows no signs of slowing down.