December 4, 2012

RED Ends Lens Production, Dragon Sensor Compares to 65mm According to CEO Jim Jannard

Though RED has certainly not been quiet lately, there hasn't been much news about their 'one sensor to rule them all,' also known as the Dragon (though I wonder if this codename will stick as we are about to leave the Year of the Dragon in a few months, and enter the Year of the Snake). We may not have much new information about the sensor, but Mr. Jannard has been making some rather interesting statements regarding the development and why 65mm, not 35mm, should be the benchmark for RED going forward.

Here's a portion of what Jim Jannard said about the new sensor:

The RED Dragon sensor needs to be directly compared to 65mm film.

The Dragon has more resolution than 65mm film when scanned at 4K.

The Dragon has more dynamic range than film... by a lot. 65mm film has about 14.5 stops. The Dragon has an easy 16 stops... without sweating.

The EPIC Dragon will shoot nearly 100fps. 65mm film cameras... not so much.

Cost to shoot the RED Dragon vs. 65mm film... ridiculously not close.

Dragon should never be compared to 35mm film. It should only be spoken in reference to 65mm film from here on out.

The nerd inside me gets excited by things like this, and the filmmaker inside me says, so what? Part of what will make Dragon a success is not about the 6K resolution, but about the overall look that can be achieved. It arguably took RED a few years to really get their color science in a place that looked pleasing to more people (and many still don't like the look), so if RED wants to be a leader again, getting the color science right on day 1 should be a priority. The dynamic range specs are impressive, and if they are anywhere close to the numbers he is claiming, you're going to have a lot to work with, but if it takes a ton of color correction to get pleasing skin tones, the gains made in other areas may be cancelled out.

He also had some interesting things to say about the competition:

How is it that RED could enter the cinema camera market 7 years ago and now about 50% of the released features are "Shot on RED"?

How is it that Canon owned the professional stills market 3 years ago and now Nikon is handing them their @ss?

How did Arri convert all the old-school film guys to the Alexa?

Sensors, baby. Sensors.

Apparently Canon is married to old sensor fab technology. The Nikon D800 scores 95 on the DXO sensor scale. The brand new Canon 5D MKIII… 82. Really? That can't be good.

Arri has a great sensor program… although a bit down on resolution from our point of view. :-)

Enter the RED Dragon. This is sensor technology that makes all the big guys want to put on their helmets.

So how did Canon get so lost? Who are the camera companies that recognize that sensors are 90+% of a digital camera? Who is investing in sensor technology?

In order...

RED
Arri
Sony
the rest…

Of course there are other factors that matter in this highly competitive and fast changing market. Who will upgrade the sensor in your existing camera instead of making you buy a new camera?

No matter what your answers are to these questions… it is all coming down to who has the best sensor program. Sensors matter. Side note... film is officially dead.

The upgradeability factor is one of the things that has set RED apart from the competition. I don't see this changing anytime soon, but Jim has reiterated again on the forum that the upgrade for SCARLET users will most likely be more expensive than the upgrade for EPIC users. It's really going to come down to where owner/operators feel their money is best spent.

There are a lot of options coming out in the near future, and even with Canon's supposed lack of attention to sensor investment, there is a reason a camera like the C300 is going out the rental door a lot more often than a camera like the SCARLET.  A lot of it comes down to ease of use and the look, as I mentioned above. If a camera is easy to use, and gets you most of the way there, it's going to be enticing to more people than a camera that gives you unlimited options but requires a little more care to actually shoot with. That's one of the reasons I also feel the F5 and the F55 are going to appeal to a wide audience, especially a rental audience, because the compressed options are very high quality, and if it gets you most of the way there without much work, it's going to make a lot of productions very happy.

Mr. Jannard says it is all about the sensor, but it's also about a lot of other factors that make up a camera. If Alexa had the same dynamic range, but didn't look great without a ton of grading, I don't think it would have converted people like it has, even with it's incredibly easy ProRes workflow. If there is one topic I would like Jim to have a late-night forum conversation about, it's that.

If you're wondering when we might actually see footage from the Dragon, the answer is a rather vague "soon." Hopefully they are going to give cameras with Dragon to some of the top cinematographers working right now, because with the current schedule, it doesn't seem like most users will be getting these sensors into their cameras until well into next year -- so it would be great to see what the best of the best can do with it.

On another note, it seems like RED is out of the lens-making game, at least for the foreseeable future (which means we won't be getting any RED anamorphics anytime soon). This is what Jarred Land said about the situation:

When we started making lenses there wasn't many options out there, You could count companies making cinema lens on one hand. We came in and shook things up a bit with some great product. Now there are what seems to be 100s of companies offering everything from cheap to spectacular.. it is not a game you need us to be in right now.

We still have a few spectacular things brewing on the back burner that we wont talk about till they are ready, but for right now you guys shouldn't be holding your breath for a new set of RPPs anytime soon.

With how big their sensors are getting, does this mean they've got some full-frame 35mm lenses on the horizon? They had talked a little bit about electronic lenses coming down the pipeline, but I think if they are going to continue making higher resolution sensors, they will probably have to make them bigger at some point, and the next logical step is 36 x 24mm. That's complete speculation, but they did have a roadmap that featured such a sensor, so it's not unrealistic to think they may head in that direction with their lens program. We'll just have to wait and see.

What do you guy think about comparing Dragon to 65mm? What do you think about his comments about film being dead? If Dragon really does surpass film in all respects, do you think it will convert even more of those filmmakers who've clung to film, or do you think if it doesn't have the right "look," that they will still hold on until celluloid no longer exists?

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90 Comments

For Dragon to surpass film in every way, color rendition needs to improve a lot from Mysterium-X.

I don't think that dynamic range and resolution is everything. What would you rather have?
- A hypothetical 6K, 16-stop camera with RED colors
- A hypothetical 4K, 14-stop camera with colors that come out of the box like film or a good still DSLR

Of course, maybe we won't have to choose! If Dragon shoots filmic gorgeousness at 6K with 16 stops, that would be heaven.

December 4, 2012

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Redcolor 3 is fine to my eyes, not amazing, not anywhere near Vision 3, mind you, I guess similar to the Alexa, but with noisier blue channel. It just needs better latitude and tonality. If and when Dragon fixes that, I think it will look at least as good as Arri right now even without new color science. Or maybe there's Redcolor 4 coming to support dragonized epic upgrades?

December 5, 2012

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Natt

It's really all speculation til we get to see some actual footage... If the detail and sharpness are on par with the footage we got from the monochrome camera (which I'm sure it will be) then I think we're going to see some really special stuff coming soon from these guys... That with the added Meizler Module functionality and we're talking about the best of both worlds for the first time from RED. I can't wait to see them roll out all these new features and cameras and see what they can produce up close. All this drama and suspense regarding new specs and supposed new tech (lightfield?) has got me all wound up... I hate having to be patient! :)

Thanks for the update.

December 4, 2012

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Raymond - totally agree! We really just need to wait and see the footage. And even then it may take an iteration or two of color science tweaking...

My only 2c is that light field recording likely requires more pixels than a 6K in order to give cinematic-quality results, so we can rule that out for the 6K sensor for cinema purposes... eg Lytro uses an 11 megapixel sensor to make a 1.2 megapixel image. Of course a future 9K or 28K Red sensor could totally do it!

To be honest, I think it usually takes 3 versions for a system to perfected. It's a bit tricky to quantify with RED but here's my attempt:

Version 1 was RED ONE body and Mysterium sensor, with CF cards.
Then Mysterium-X and audio functionality fix plus SSDs. Call that version 1.5.
Then Epic - big body upgrade plus ASIC upgrade... enough to warrant calling the system version 2.0
Now the Dragon sensor + Meizler + Dragon + Epic = version 2.5?

To get to version 3.0 of the full system, I'd vote for a body upgrade:
Upgraded Epic body with less fan issues, fully standard audio, integrated Meizler functionality (or at least the proxy module), less power use, non-temperamental genlock, etc. To me, trying to solve everything by adding modules is silly and adds too much weight and bulk. Just make a good, compact body that does most things.

December 4, 2012

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speculation about upcoming tech is a full-time job now. Thank you internet.
I guess its not horrible. I just sometimes wonder how much time I end up wasting during the year reading about "new stuff" that isn't going to hit the ground for ages. I ought to be out shooting or editing the mass of photos and videos I've collected, or working on writing some new material... Instead I'm getting briefed on what's coming out "soon" from RED.
I think its all very exciting stuff. He really has a chip on his shoulder about Canon. Its an interesting time to live in, but sometimes I feel like I waste too much time thinking about how great its going to be a few months down the road when all my favorite companies release their new crap. Why don't I just enjoy right now. I've got a great camera. I enjoy shooting. I make stuff I like. Life is good. Someday it'll probably be even better. No rush though. More lens flares please!

December 4, 2012

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Ched Stevens

"65mm film has about 14.5 stops"

I don't understand what Jannard's getting at here. 65mm film has a size. It shouldn't have a different dynamic range than the same film stock cut to 35mm, 16mm, etc. Comparisons to 65mm's resolution make sense, but to compare to its dynamic range is the same thing as comparing to the dynamic range of that same stock cut to other sizes.

Maybe 65mm film is so rare that there are only a couple of stocks available and both have 14.5 stops? I know it's available as Kodak 5201, or special ordered from Fuji as something.

December 4, 2012

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If he didn't say 65mm then he would be making this statement:

"The RED Dragon sensor needs to be directly compared to 65mm film"

He isn't dumb enough to say that size = DR. If he had said anything but 65mm he would be hypocritical.

Also, it kinda points out that of an 'equal medium' (per say) the sensor>film equivalent.

December 4, 2012

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Tyler

That's not true...shadows become unusable at a certain point because of grain/noise. Larger film sizes have less visible grain, so shadows are more usable than smaller film sizes. Thus, more DR in the shadows.

In a similar way, Red increased the DR of their sensor from the original M sensor to the MX sensor. The MX has more usable DR because its shadows are cleaner.

December 4, 2012

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Gabe

I think the biggest misconception here is that the Dragon sensor will have the same characteristics of 65mm film, which is much larger. Sure, it might be sharper and have more dynamic range (and even comparable color), but the sensor will still be much smaller. The new GoPro shoots 4k, and a dslr shoots 1080p, but the image you get from the two is completely different. You can't really compare the two like that. 65mm has different depth and compression than the Dragon sensor will have (due to using longer lenses to acheive the same field of view). The Dragon sensor may be able to replicate or exceed everything else about 65mm, but that is one thing it's physically incapable of replicating.

December 4, 2012

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Dustin

Thank you. It's a ridiculous claim. Frame/sensor size matters, and a 1080p authentic medium format/645 sensor may well look and work better than a 6k Dragon.

It will be interesting to see what this Dragon thing ends up looking like, I have a feeling it may end up "TMI" both for the post people and the viewer. I do hope they make a monochrome version, that may end up a collector's item.

December 5, 2012

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Peter

Current Epic Monochrome owners get free Dragon Monochrome upgrade, so yes.

December 5, 2012

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Natt

Spot on comment Dustin.

December 5, 2012

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Adr

He's referring to resolution, and tonality.

You can really only fill an "IMAX" screen on film with 70mm, maybe vista vision 35. I'm not talking image size projected, I'm referring to saturating the giant screen with enough detail to make it worth it to watch on a big screen.. The point being you can shoot for the ultra big screen and get the resolution that makes it look good.

The d/r reference is just that, most film has around 14-15 stops, depending on the type of negative.

December 5, 2012

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Agreed. An APS-H size sensor is never going to have the DoF characteristics of 65mm film! I think they should have gone with 36x24 sized sensor or pretty damn close, lens coverage is an issue but I guess people can suck it up with an EF or Nikkor mount until more Cine glass for 36x24 is made, we already have Zeiss Compact Primes and Compact Zooms that will cover 36x24 and oh yeah 65mm and other large format glass as well. Maybe I'm a nostalgic VistaVision fanboy but nothing quite compares to 36x24 8-perf...

December 11, 2012

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Nate O

Totally false, not buying it for one moment. Film has more than 14.5 stops and 64mm is DENSE. You can pull 8k from it and more. From 35mm photography film, you can pull around 17 MP of detail before mush. My 22 MP RAW still frame from the Canon 5dmkII starts to overtake sharpness detail of 35mm, but 65mm? No way.

And I beg to differ, but still images from RED @ 4k are not gonna beat 22MP still images from the 5dmkII.

December 4, 2012

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"You can pull 8K from it and more" -- in what world are we talking? You're not going to project in 8K. You're not going to do VFX work in 8K. By the time you make prints there is no way there's anything close to 8K resolution, so I'm not sure how that's even a viable argument. I saw The Master in 70mm. I don't buy that there's some other world where film is incredibly sharp as compared to the actual real world experiences I've had all my life in real theaters.

Film, 14.5 stops:
http://nofilmschool.com/2011/05/numbers-single-chip-camera-evaluation-co...

December 5, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

"in what world are we talking?"

Jim Jannard's world. In the article he stated that Dragon surpasses 65mm when it's scanned at 4k. Since you'd probably need to scan 65mm at 16k to get most of the available information, that's not too surprising.

The comment above seemed mainly about still photography, so I don't see what's incorrect about it.

December 5, 2012

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Daniel

We're talking about movies. A world in which they are watched. Who cares if there is 16k of "available information" somewhere in the negative? You're never going to see it in the theater in a real world projection scenario (which is digital today anyway).

December 5, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Hi Ryan, Sorry but nobody does VFX in 8k footage and there will be a long time until the are prepared , too huge to handle, some people say its good for tracking, I can tell you its too heavy for tracking, tracking is all about contrast points and decent amount of motion blur and having the right camera info. Also, currently 95% (estimation) of vfx studios are working under their 2K pipeline and complaining at the same time about render times and disks spaces.

December 5, 2012

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Marcus

Ops, sorry I miss read your comment you are right 8k is not for vfx work:)

December 5, 2012

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Marcus

In the motion picture world, I guess 6K could be better than 65mm film.

In the still photo world, 6K is quite laughable compared to medium format film that's been scanned on a drum scanner. The comparison would be quite sad, actually.

And then there's the look that the large image area gives you...

December 5, 2012

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Robert

"We’re talking about movies. A world in which they are watched. Who cares if there is 16k of “available information” somewhere in the negative? You’re never going to see it in the theater in a real world projection scenario (which is digital today anyway)."

Ryan, I have a feeling you won't be singing the same tune when Red announces their 16K sensor. On the flip side, I could say the same thing: "Who cares if the Dragon produces a 6K image? We'll only see it in 4K!"

The fact is, Jim Jannard is begging a comparison that doesn't hold up. The Epic's 5K sensor doesn't even compare to 35mm in resolution or color depth and BARELY matches it in dynamic range (not talking about HDR here). To say that the Dragon sensor should "only ever be compared to 65mm film" is just silly.

Also, in case you didn't know, film is a sequence of still frames being projected at a high rate. Everything that can be said about still photography applies in some way to cinema.

December 6, 2012

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Kenneth

This is rapidly becoming an unproductive argument no matter the side you're on. However:

-re: Dragon and 6K, there's 20% loss of "real" resolution from debayering. So to get every bit of 4K resolution you need 5K. The extra K is gravy and can be used for reframing -- these things all apply to an image projected at "only" 4K.

-re: your comparison of RED to 35mm film, you're wrong -- it does NOT match it in dynamic range, but does in resolution (if you think 35mm film is more than 4K then we're once again talking about some world other than this one... Go watch a 35mm print projected anywhere in this country (if you can still find one)... It is not very sharp in the real world >90% of the time).

-"Everything that can be said about still photography applies in some way to cinema" -- okay, go shoot with a 200 megapixel Hasselblad and let me know how it works for making a movie.

December 7, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Ryan,

So agree you agree with Jim Jannard's claims or not? IMO the Dragon chip is not
comparable to 65mm. Jim is talking out of his behind...again.

December 7, 2012

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Sounds like you don't think 8k is worthwhile Ryan? Have you seen the restorarion of Baraka mastered at 8k? The detail on that blu ray is mind blowing.

December 5, 2012

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Nick

The detail on a 1080p Blu-ray is an argument for 8K? You don't think you could get the same level of detail on a 1080p output from a 6K sensor? ...

December 5, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I'm not making a case for 8k being a standard, and yes 6k i'm sure would yield a pretty similar result. All i'm saying is having seen the quality of the remastered Baraka compared to another blu-ray production that was scanned at 2k from 35mm, there is a stark difference in the image. So for certain productions I think it is worthwhile. I suspect when 4k TV's become standard we will see a few more restorations of classic productions that were shot on 65mm. Please check out the Baraka blu-ray I'd really like to know what you think....

December 5, 2012

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Nick

Right and the problem with all these arguments is that Jim is claiming that his sensor has more resoultion thatn 65mm scanned at 4K. Of course it does. Isn't it a 6K sensor (I know there is a hell of a lot more to resolution than # of pixels). It's not a fair comparison. What if you scanned 65mm at 6K or 8K. Which has more resolution then? And all of it's moot, because most of the finishing is done in 2K so whether or not you scan you 65mm in 4K, 8K, or 14K it doesn't really matter, cause you are down res-ing to 2K to do any VFX. and you are doing the same for your 6K footage you get off the Dragon sensor. All he's doing is saying things to get attention. That's really all he ever does. Yes RED makes good cameras. Jim likes to say things to get people excited. Those are two mutually exclusive things. and unless the dragon sensor is 65mm frame size. it's nothing like 65mm film. It's just not.

December 5, 2012

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Fair enough Ryan - my thought when I hear "comparable and beats 65mm" is to compare film / digital stills that have tested much more thoroughly than cinema / digital comparisons. Drum scanning 65mm film produces crazy detail. But, if one is only pulling out 2k from 65mm or 4k then projecting in 2k (like the workflow of current projection), then I suppose you are correct.

However, I still stand by my notion as well: the detail harnessed within the negative itself is much higher than any cinema camera sensor. Again, on the still photography end, many comparisons have been done.

And on dynamic range, we should discuss the middle point of which we compare and how far it can be pushed. Simple 35mm can be pushed 7stops over exposed in the highs. So add that to whatever 14.5 or 16 (like I've seen) stops to begin with.

Like everyone else has said, let's see the tests and results ourselves when it all comes out.

December 5, 2012

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Plenty of DPs feel that the Alexa already has more DR than film. Not on some chart but as far as real-world usage goes. And yes there's an 8K scan of Baraka, but... is it being projected in 8K? What % of people are EVER going to see it in 8K?

Here is my thinking on it: if Dragon (and future Alexa, Sony, etc. sensors) can resolve 5K+ of real resolution and 16 stops of DR at ISO 2000, we're talking a real-world image quality from acquisition to distribution greater than 35mm film for a fraction of the cost (unless your film was donated by someone which isn't a long-term sustainable shooting strategy). It could approach 65mm film and IMAX. If it falls short, that's fine considering the size/noise/impracticalities of shooting IMAX and large formats (this is a filmmaking site, we're not talking about stills). Basically: 66% of the result of IMAX at 5% the cost. How's that sound? Are you really going to complain about some spec sheet/ideal world comparison if that's the case?

December 5, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Hahaha. I can feel a wager here. Ok Ryan I'll make a bet, lets say for say $100? that at some point people will watch Baraka or another 8k production on a 8k display. Panasonic already have an 8k Television....it may be a while off, but the masses will get it at some point.

December 5, 2012

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Nick

Well, with all this data to store I hope they lower their SSD's prices. Anyway I still think most of the people are not prepared to deal with 4K post and they are talking 6k, insane.

December 4, 2012

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Marcus

Re: 4K post... agreed. I see a lot of people already wincing at the 2.5K raw of the BMCC.

December 4, 2012

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Razor

2.5K RAW of the BMCC is uncompressed RAW, it's a totally different ballgame...

December 5, 2012

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I really don't think people are giving Red Color 3 a fair shake. To me it fixed the redskin tone problem almost completely

December 4, 2012

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it helped. Its still 'odd'.

December 4, 2012

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marklondon

People having trouble with skin tones need to try using the RED like an Alexa, in REDLOGFILM. Not rg3.

I've been getting stellar results doing so:

http://www.negativespaces.com/blog/2012/10/21/a-video-workflow-for-the-r...

December 5, 2012

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Exactly! Red color 3 is a huge step in terms of skin tones and a necessary one... So far I'm loving it!

December 5, 2012

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Alex Mand

I'm glad Canon got called out on their bullshit!

December 4, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

SPECS SPECS SPECS
THATS ALL WE CARE ABOUT
BECAUSE WHO LIKE ACTUALLY MAKES FILMS? I DONT, LOL

December 4, 2012

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john jeffreys

Just out of pure curiosity, what camera do you mainly use for paid work?
I'm sure it varies from job to job.

December 5, 2012

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Bob Harris

i have a 5D and some leica r stuff just to have around for spontaneous shooting but for bigger projects i rent a package that gives the look and feel i need

December 5, 2012

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john jeffreys

I want a 6d with a global shutter. Keep your auto focus points and wifi. That would rule for me.

December 4, 2012

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Neil

this makes me curious about 4K distribution in general. in the last year i've seen the legit IMAX presentation of the Dark Knight Rises, and The Master in 70mm. but with all the DCP's going on, REDray, and DMR IMAX- could Red Dragon and 4K develop their own delivery system that is somewhere between DMR IMAX and a 65mm presentation? what theaters would do it? which filmmakers would do it? sign me up.

December 5, 2012

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65 mm film can be transported in camera not only vertically, but also horizontally, making frame which is 50mm wide and 70mm long. This is 65mm in 15 perforations, it is used in IMAX. I believe Jim was comparing dragon to 65mm in 5 perforations which has lower quality.

December 5, 2012

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Andrey Valentsov

Holding your breath for new RPPs...interesting, seeing as how anyone currently holding their breath could just call up uniQoptics and see what their latest offerings are. They were behind the RPPs anyway. Fact.

December 5, 2012

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Booby

Ok, now someone has to develop a new kind of cheaper storage technology. This is getting ridiculous... fast.

December 5, 2012

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Daniel

There is really no need to spit on Canon.
C300 low light performance is nothing near anything that ever existed. So this means that the sensor was upgraded and thought of. Jannard is again being provocative, and it's not the first time he's promising "fried air". 65mm is 65mm RED is 35mm size fullstop. Canon is alive and even the cheap C100 performs with the hated AVCHD codec. In this test it looks as efficient as Prores: https://vimeo.com/groups/c100/videos/54114875
Personally I do not have any film like "Baraka" in sight anyways...

December 5, 2012

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Enrico

Cannon is good for Doc work.
But it looks like garbage for cinema. The skin tones are waxy. The colors just not legit for cinematic imitation.

December 5, 2012

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VINCEGORTHO

And what do you use, oh Vince? Out with it so we can let people know how you are disabled imagewise with equal agitation.

December 5, 2012

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Peter

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