RED's long-awaited follow-up to their RED ONE, the 14-megapixel-per-frame, 120 frames-per-second-shooting RED EPIC supercam, is now shipping to those lucky enough to have a low reservation number (and the cash to cover it). This is the same camera that will be used to shoot Steven Soderbergh's Contagion, the new Spiderman reboot (so soon?), David Fincher's American version of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Underworld 4, Peter Jackson's The Hobbit, and many more Hollywood superblockbusterfests. Yet the release of EPIC also concerns those of us with less storied resumes and smaller budgets, because the same underlying technology will soon be available for us as well.

While the hand-machined brain-only price of $58k for an EPIC-M is a bit steep for most of us, the factory-produced version, the EPIC-X, will cut that price in half. The EPIC-S will again half that price, though as with all things RED, the brain-only price is far less than the amount you should expect to spend on outfitting a camera with lenses, power sources, shoulder mounts, and monitoring options. The RED SCARLET, with its 2/3" sensor and fixed lens, should come in at half the price of the EPIC-S (which, if you're keeping track, pegs the SCARLET at around $6k), but it will actually ship with a lens (and presumably some basic accessories), bringing it close to the price of a high-end DSLR like the Canon 1D Mark IV.

However, the next generation of RED technology, as with most launches, starts at the high-end. The first few EPIC-Ms are now in the wild, with user reports starting to trickle in. Here's what it look like to unbox over $80k of camera equipment:

As you can see in the video, this was EPIC #008. Meanwhile Mark Pederson of Offhollywood received #007, aka BOND, and after a quick shoot posted a 96FPS clip shot on his EPIC. To view this .R3D clip on a Mac or PC, you can download REDCINE-X, RED's free (currently in beta) post-processing and initial color correcting tool for RED footage. If you're on a Mac, you can also try The Foundry's Storm for free until March 1, when it comes out of Public Beta and will cost $375.

REDCINE-X is for "pre-editorial image manipulation," which seems like a strange concept -- what, color correcting before editing? -- until you remember that RED footage is RAW and the changes that REDCINE-X makes to files are non-destructive. It's also not really "color correction" in the sense that many of us think of it, in that you're not processing an actual video file, but you're in fact setting white balance, gamma, black level, and other settings that a normal video camera applies during the shoot. For photographers, this is similar to shooting RAW stills as opposed to manipulating JPEGs after the fact. In terms of workflow, REDCINE-X processes the native .R3D files, allows you to do basic image processing, and outputs your shots in the editing format of your choice (whatever codec and resolution your NLE prefers). Then, after you've finished your edit, you can do your color correction in earnest, returning to the full-resolution, camera original files.

Brief tangents on workflow aside, here's what it looks like to put the modular camera together, from the same #008-owning Ketch Rossi Studios:

When it comes down to it, the EPIC module is absurdly small, considering how much processing power is crammed into that box (the "nuclear reactor in a matchbox" quote originated from RED's Jim Jannard). As such, all EPICs have internal fans for temperature control, to avoid the overheating issues we DSLR shooters have come to know and hate.

Both EPIC owners have promised more clips in the days to come, so stay tuned to both threads below (there are separate discussion threads, but these two are limited to posts from the shooters themselves).

Watching the EPIC in action, what are you thoughts on the future of RED?