October 11, 2016

RED 8K Helium Sensor Cameras Are Now Shipping

RED has announced that it is now shipping two HELIUM S35 8K sensor brains: the Epic-W for $29K and the Weapon for $49K.

Back in July, RED announced its new 8k camera sensor, Helium, and showed off some impressive first footage from Jonny Mass and a very cool neon green edition custom built for Michael Bay. Today, that sensor is available to the rest of us, as two of the Helium brains are live for order on the RED site and ready to ship.

To promote the release, RED has created a promo video for the Epic-W that shows off some of the benefits of 8K image capture, especially when finishing to 1080p for the internet. The video shows the tremendous level of detail that can be preserved even with a very dramatic post zoom in.

Both camera bodies are built around the DSMC2 platform, which is short for Digital Stills and Motion Camera, 2. This is the platform that RED first established with the release of the EPIC way back in 2010: the camera is divided into a "brain" with the sensor, a lens mount, and a wide variety of accessories covering power, monitoring, I/O, and more. This makes the camera highly customizable and easy to build into a high-end stills camera or fully functional studio motion picture capture. You can also strip it down to bare bones for action work.

A lot of things that come in a kit with simpler cameras must be purchased separately with the RED line, and these two brains are no different.

The camera's flexibility has helped make it extremely popular, but it also disguises some of the price inherent in buying into the system, since you'll need more than just the body to get shooting. Lenses, viewfinder, batteries—a lot of things that come in a kit with simpler cameras must be purchased separately with the RED line, and these two brains are no different. However, if you already have invested in the RED infrastructure, the purchase price is very reasonable, considering the tremendous benefits of 8K capture. And, of course, there is also an upgrade path for current owners.

RED Helium SensorCredit: RED

Since both brains have identical sensors with identical specifications, it's reasonable to wonder why the EPIC-W comes in at a full $20,000 cheaper than the WEAPON. The biggest difference is that the WEAPON shoots more than twice as fast; that processing power costs money, especially considering the camera manages to weigh slightly less than the EPIC-W. The weight savings are .05lbs fewer, to be exact, due to lighter weight carbon fiber used in the body, which also adds to the cost difference.

In terms of speed, while the EPIC-W is capable of 8K 2.40x1 at up to 30fps, the WEAPON 8K S35 is capable of 8K 2.40x1 recording at up to 75fps. That is a big deal. If you are finishing at 24fps, the ability to capture up to 75fps at full resolution without having to crop your image on the sensor and shoot a lower resolution for the higher framerate is very exciting, particularly for sports and action work.

In terms of speed, there are many productions for which the extra expense of the Weapon is a no-brainer, despite the added cost.

However, we don't always finish to 24 or 30fps these days. The Hobbit ushered us into the world of 48fps workflow, and while it wasn't popular with everyone, it's a format that others are continuing to pursue; Ang Lee chose to go all the way to 120fps for his new film. In terms of speed, there are many productions for which the extra expense of the Weapon is a no-brainer, despite the added cost.

RED EPIC-W 8K S35 KittedCredit: RED

The Weapon also allows for a future upgrade to the 8K VV sensor, which will appeal to users with lenses designed to cover the larger image circle, who also want the added benefits of the larger sensor. However, for most of us, $20,000 is a lot of money, and the EPIC-W comes in at a price point that stills allows 8K capture for the majority of your footage—allowing for faster speeds with a cropped sensor, which is a compromise many RED owners have accepted over time.

The brains are available directly from the RED website. Anyone already ordered one, or think they will soon? We'd love to hear your first impressions when you have them in the field.

Tech specs

  • 35.4 megapixel CMOS
  • Pixels: 8192x4320
  • Size: 29.90mm x 15.77mm
  • 16.5+ stops dynamic range
  • Epic-W: 8K 2.40x1 30fps, Weapon 8K 2.40x1 75fps
  • Epic-W: 275mb/s, Weapon 300mb/s
  • Simultaneous recording, Recode Raw and ProRes or DNxHD
  • 80db signal to noise ratio
  • Epic-W: 30fps 8k recording, 240fps 2k, 
  • 3.35 lbs Magnesium and Aluminum body (with Carbon Fiber on the Epic, and .05lbs less weight)
  • Integrated REDLINK wifi

Your Comment

24 Comments

Epic-W is no-doubt a great camera, and makes a lot of sense for those buying additional new camera bodies, or for those that absolutely need 8K.

The full Weapon Helium 8K (8K up to 60fps) is a monster.
It's fantastic RED keeps pushing the bleeding edge of camera tech further and further.

And It's awesome RED offers upgrade options - but they are just that, options.

I'm completely content with Epic-D 6K 2:1 @ 4:1 compression.
For me it doesn't make sense to upgrade to Epic-W.

Remember, creating ProRes/DNxHD in-camera increases RAW compression.
For Helium to get a similar FOV as 6K dragon @ 4:1 compression requires 8K acquisition at 6:1 compression (possibly w/out in-camera ProRes at that compression rate).

Remember, 8K is nearly double the data of 6K - think about edit/grade/render times.

Remember Epic-W is limited to 30fps @ 7:1 compression at 8K
For high FPS/overcrank requires Epic-W Helium to window down to the same 6K as Epic Dragon with a much smaller FOV/higher crop at similar compression ratios.

Sure, resolution has been said by some to trump compression, but only to a certain point. I suspect the differences will be negligible between Dragon 6K @ 4:1 and Helium 8K at 6:1 when shrunk to 4K DCP deliverables. Helium will double render times for what may be a minor perceivable difference in quality. The difference between MX and Dragon is "Yuge"(3 stops, color science, signal-to-noise); I don't feel the same about Helium. For big studios, sure, whatever the best is they'll use. For them, they'll most likely pass on Epic-W and choose the full Weapon Helium.

For indie and small budget productions (and even for big budget films), no one in an audience will say, "man, that movie would have been great, a masterpiece even, if only it was shot in 8K instead of 6K"

October 11, 2016 at 6:28PM, Edited October 11, 6:45PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1224

I once performed a licenced screening to a paying audience from a standard definition dvd, viewed at 720p through an external scaler (either DVDO or Crystalio, can't quite remember). Afterwards, one of the "knowing" customers said, "It's great to see it on digital cinema projection".
In other words, I totally agree with you.

October 11, 2016 at 7:09PM

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Saied M.
1092

"For big studios, sure, whatever the best is they'll use. For them, they'll most likely pass on Epic-W and choose the full Weapon Helium."

I agree. And for visual fx heavy films the extra acquisition resolution does make a huge difference for the fx guys. They want high resolution files with minimum compression.

Forgetting about the resolution jump, I think the step forward Red have made with the helium sensor is in low light which has always been a weaker point for Red. Color we'll have to wait on the new science I suppose but it's already looking nice.

Personally I'm just hoping more people upgrade their scarlet-w pre-orders to the epic-w or weapon so I can get my Scarlet-w earlier.

"For indie and small budget productions (and even for big budget films), no one in an audience will say, "man, that movie would have been great, a masterpiece even, if only it was shot in 8K instead of 6K"

Damn straight. I think that says a bit about how well priced the scarlet-w is for its feature set and why it is in such high demand.

I've been keeping track on reduser and have been pretty blown away by their commitment to their customers and their customer service. Genuinely impressed where previously I cringed a bit on reduser sometimes (not at Red themselves but some discussions and blind fanboyism)

October 11, 2016 at 9:31PM, Edited October 11, 9:33PM

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Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
634

For the "RED haters" out there, think about this for a second.

You could have purchased a RED One MX, used, for around $3,000-$4,000 and they just gave you a $10,000 credit towards the new camera. I, for one, received $15,000 for my Scarlet Dragon brain (I can keep the side SSD and sell it for $1,000 or so).

Say what you want, but that's pretty insane.

It would be like Canon offering you $4,000 for your 5D Mark III if you want to go to the 5D Mark IV, just on a bigger scale. Again, it's insane. It makes no business sense whatsoever, but at the same time...it totally does.

Color me happy. With the current rate of depreciation on cameras, it's a breath of EXTREMELY fresh air. Better than a company like BM or DJI where they announce a new system every year and your current camera crashes in resale value.

8K and whether it's necessary now or not is a moot point, from a customers perspective, this is pretty neat. No one is forcing us to upgrade and the current cameras are just as valuable as they were yesterday. RED puts the customer first and they can because they are still a small company (comparatively). Not sure how anyone could hate on that.

October 11, 2016 at 8:55PM, Edited October 11, 8:58PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
1712

*looks around* Where are all the RED Haters? Is RED hating just a thing of the past?

October 12, 2016 at 1:48PM

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(sniffs the air)

Naw. They are still out there.

October 12, 2016 at 3:41PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
1712

Not a hater I love the Dragon sensor... but i am confused. Is the Dragon sensor out of stock? Seems like the Helium is a rush job at a new sensor. Are they buying back dragon sensors to repurpose them for Scarlet W and Ravens?

For my work and I believe many others feel the same, that 6k is more than enough... even for a 4k finish. Its a bummer on a 30,000 camera you can only shoot 30p at S35 FOV.

October 14, 2016 at 1:38AM

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That could very well be the case. I'm sure those sensors/bodies will go somewhere.

October 14, 2016 at 4:02PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
1712

The is just my 2 pence/cents.

I think the character of Reduser changed when JJ stopped posting, and some of the hate may have been a misunderstanding of sorts. Is it fair of me to suggest the original Red 4K was way more disruptive than the new 8K Helium ? Naturally JJ was proud of that and kept posting things in a loud and clear tone which reflected the pride and a "can't sit still" attitude. A whole wave of people literally bought in to a new ownership dream and many saw their own loyalty as somehow protecting the brand.

I think one perception issue which emerged was that some Redusers taking a pop at other cameras were unwittingly also taking a pop at the professional industry DPs who were using them (!), and it became apparent that many DPs are actually a conservative breed who do like previously established workflows. I think this caused a certain backlash.

But I think it has now all gone full circle, and Reduser is a good forum with some really decent people in it. Incidentally, JJ has recently posted that a new very disruptive project is about to be announced, and I don't think that has to do with Helium. Should be really exciting to see.

However, my favourite Reduser quote of all time still remains:-
"You live by the sword, you die by the sword. You are the leader Jim. We are the soldiers. Bring it on!"

October 12, 2016 at 4:09PM, Edited October 12, 4:38PM

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Saied M.
1092

The reality is every RED camera ever sold is still a competitive option for filmmaking.

And every motion picture camera has issues - including those that run film!

October 13, 2016 at 1:56PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1224

Don't you work for RED?

October 14, 2016 at 12:17AM

1
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Nope, my thoughts come as a paying customer only.

October 14, 2016 at 4:03PM

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Luke Neumann
Cinematographer/Composer/Editor
1712

Hmm so you could buy a used DSMC1 right now, transfer ownership, and have the upgrade path available...

October 16, 2016 at 5:58PM, Edited October 16, 5:58PM

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Matthew Devapiriam Emmanuel
Camera Operator
434

For me, I had REALLY missed the insane tweak-ability RED gives me in post. And I do a lot of pickups by myself or establishing shots without a crew, so having a personal RED again is going to be a godsend. Especially one with totally jacked zoom-in ability in post with 8K. That said, it's way more expensive than you think, and generally speaking nobody cares about 8K, and SONY is way better for most of the corporate stuff most of us do because they give you good images and great battery life and super ISO. I say Epic is probably going to win for narrative and commercials (R3D), and possibly tv/web series with the ProRes options. But I won't be bringing it to a corporate gig, I think. It's a tool, suited for certain things very, very well it seems.

October 11, 2016 at 9:15PM, Edited October 11, 9:15PM

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Patrick Ortman
I tell stories. Sometimes for money. Sometimes, not.
400

I've been taking mine on corporates because I sold all my other gear. With the LLO going to 1080p web, I've had no problems with low light stuff, pushed up to 4000 with minimal NR.
What I've seen out of the Helium I think 6400-10000 could totally feasible for the same type work.

October 12, 2016 at 11:25AM

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Josh Wilkinson
Music Video Director/DP
291

I've been using Scarlet-MX as an A-cam for almost 4 years. Shorts, corporates, TVC and music vidz. Have an A7s for when I really need a clean image at high iso's. Just ordered a Scarlet-W. TBH I don't need the extra K (4k mx - 5k w) except for clients that want stills... but the improved DR, IR filtration and color under non daylight sources will be great. But biggest step forward for me is having a Red camera where I can shoot full frame 50 fps without cropping the sensor. That's going to be spectacular!

October 13, 2016 at 9:37PM

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Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
634

Let's not be misleading with the phrase "now shipping", as I purchased a Scarlet-W back in December of last year and have not yet received. Actually my understanding practically no one from the release date that ordered, December 10th have received a camera. Red seems to be notorious for send out press releases like this. They need to keep up with supply and demand. It is a bit ridiculous.

October 12, 2016 at 2:48PM

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Robert Spaniolo
filmmaker/ vfx artist
9

To be fair, Epic-W models "are" shipping. This may be the first time RED has made an official announcement for a new product and shipped it the same/next day.

An Epic-W in Switzerland, # 1240, was received yesterday, only 1 day after the announcement:
http://www.reduser.net/forum/attachment.php?attachmentid=88273&d=1476372739

Here's another received today:
https://paulrobinsonclimbs.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/screen-shot-2016-...
https://paulrobinsonclimbs.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/img_7768.jpg?w=1352
https://paulrobinsonclimbs.files.wordpress.com/2016/10/img_7767.jpg?w=1352

In terms of the long wait for Scar-W & Raven buyers:
RED's apology offer to take $10,000 off the cost of an Epic-W (33% off) is unheard of - truly remarkable!

October 13, 2016 at 1:34PM, Edited October 13, 1:46PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1224

I could shoot the same video with my C100 and putting them side by side a typical movie viewer wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
Secondly- Just purchased a 4K television and it make all the network comedy and drama shows look like they are all shot on a video camera. (obviously which they are) It's just that the sharpness and depth of field is too much and takes away the magic of the small screen and less resolution. 8K for the studios is fine but other than for sports and editing advantages it is over kill. Would like to hear the positives of such a camera.

October 12, 2016 at 3:15PM, Edited October 12, 3:18PM

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William Scherer
Producer, Writer, Director, Aerial Photography
267

"Depth of field" (out of focus background) is produced by the lens aperture, focal length, and camera sensor size; it has nothing to do with your 4k television. On the other hand things like TruMotion and ClearMotion create new frames by interpolation and make drama shows and movies look like soap operas and news.

October 13, 2016 at 11:04AM

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Sounds great but I have to agree with Daniel. For epic-w the excitement stops immediately when you go in over crank mode. Window cropping and s35 sensor suddenly such a small FOV that it becomes very un-cinematic. Otherwise it sounds look a cool deal, but I guess I will be enjoying my red dragon 6k for some more time.

October 12, 2016 at 3:57PM, Edited October 12, 3:58PM

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Drazen Stader
Director, director of photography
209

Another thought many should consider who are interested in creating their own narrative features.

Unless you have a script and everything ready to go, don't buy a camera.
In the time it takes to prep a feature, new camera options will be released - including those by RED.

October 13, 2016 at 2:02PM, Edited October 13, 2:05PM

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Daniel Reed
Hat Collector
1224

That's true to a point. But a lot of independent filmmakers nowadays make a living shooting corporate, advertising and music videos (myself included). I use the camera on those jobs, really get to know it then use it on shorts etc.

October 13, 2016 at 8:54PM

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Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
634

October 13, 2016 at 2:31AM

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JoachimV
231