Hot of the presses, RED has just announced -- as they said they would -- their REDRAY 4K playback system, a 6-pound, DVD Player-sized playback device for $1,450. It has built-in 3D capabilities, offers 802.11N wireless connectivity/playback, is DCI-compliant, and debuts with it new security and file formats to make 4K distribution a reality -- along with a brand new delivery network to debut at Sundance in January. The player itself is scheduled to ship in December "early 2013."

One of the biggest arguments against shooting in 4K to date has been the lack of 4K distribution, and REDRAY is the beginning of RED's transition to an electronics company with its own 4K ecosystem (as opposed to just a camera company).

To go with the new device, there's a new file format, .RED (as opposed to the camera-native .R3D files RED shooters are used to), which is a 4K resolution file format that is compressed to just 2.5MB/sec. That's 150MB per minute, or 9GB per hour of footage; a full 4K movie should therefore fit on a 32GB USB drive (if it's short, it would even fit on a 16GB stick). Features should fall in the 13-25GB range at these data rates. To compress files to this format, there's a new RRencoder plugin for REDCINE-X, which allows .R3Ds and external footage to convert to the new .RED files.

There is wireless connectivity not just for media streaming but also to connect to the cloud for analytics and digital rights management. The player also supports HFR (High Frame Rate) video playback -- the likes of which will be seen in the forthcoming The Hobbit -- of up to 60FPS.

Previously we had mentioned separate pro and consumer versions of REDRAY, but from what we're seeing today it looks like they have been folded into one unit. A lot has changed since I did that hands-on at NAB!


Above you'll notice the SD and USB ports in the front of the unit, placed there for easy plug-and-play. Here are the ports around back:


Here are the specifications, note the 1TB internal hard drive (that's 50 features assuming a 20GB average size):

DIMENSIONS316 × 61mm x 260 mm ( 12.4 × 2.4 × 10.2″ )
NOTABLE FEATURESNetwork based 4K 3D Playback System.
ADDITIONAL NOTESUnique to RED, this product is the only available 4K resolution signal source for Ultra HD flat panel dispays and 4K projectors, may also be used for digital signage applcations to drive up to four 1080p displays.
RESOLUTIONUp to 4096 × 2160 pixels, 2D or 3D
BIT-DEPTH (COLOR)YCbCr 12-bit 4:2:2 or RGB 8-bit 4:4:4
PROGRAM OUTPUT4K DCI, UltraHD, 1080p, 720p
MEDIA SECURITYREDCrypt™ digital media encryption
DRM OPTIONSODEMAX™ digital rights management
REMOTE CONTROLIR, 802.11n, Ethernet
GENLOCKRS170A Tri-level Sync
PLAYBACK FRAME RATES24, 25, 30, 48, 50, 60 fps
DIGITAL MEDIAInternet download, SDCard or USB-2 flash media
VIDEO FILE FORMAT.RED (4K), .MP4 (1080p, 720p)
AUDIO FILE FORMAT.RED (up to 7.1 Ch) .MP4 (Stereo)
AUDIO OUTPUTUp to 7.1 channel LPCM, 24-bit 48Khz
OUTPUT CONNECTORS4 x HDMI 1.4 (Program), 2 x HDMI 1.3 (Preview and Audio)
POWER120 – 240V 50 – 60Hz A.C.

For video signage, each REDRAY player will reportedly be able to drive four 1080p displays simultaneously, or two 4K displays. RED's mantra has always been that "1080p is not enough," so this "big fish eats the little fish" image is right in line with their philosophy:


There will also be an iOS controller app (Android "on the way"), as pictured:


Odemax-224x150For security they're debuting a new file encryption called REDCrypt and also offer ODEMAX digital rights management -- I believe there's no mandatory encryption but rights holders and distributors will certainly want the option. According to the ODEMAX website, it is designed for "distributors, home viewers, film festivals, independents, producers, and directors." ODEMAX is a Content Delivery Network distributed geographically across the US and reportedly with servers in Europe and Asia as well. This could be a big deal, as independents know that the cost of digital delivery with traditional DCP systems can be prohibitively expensive:

ODEMAX delivers the only comprehensive distribution platform for 4K movies. Designed to exclusively support the REDRAY Player and REDRAY Projection systems from RED Digital Cinema, ODEMAX.COM is an all-inclusive environment for home and theatrical delivery of feature films, with built-in digital rights management, sales, marketing and analytics tools. ODEMAX provides filmmakers, production companies and independent distributors, direct channel access to the new cloud enabled REDRAY 4K home players.

If you look at these shots of the yet-to-launch ODEMAX site, you can see it's aiming to be a full-fledged direct-to-audience storefront (see the "$18 BUY" screenshot at the bottom), offering a backend with analytics for content creators/distributors. I'm not sure what the on-screen interface of REDRAY will look like and if it will offer the possibility of browsing ODEMAX directly. This really seems like a device that is very focused on playing back high-resolution files; I wonder if a more consumer-friendly, Apple TV-esque REDRAY will ever come along.

Redray_978x513_02-224x154However, regardless of what their plans are for the mass consumer space, RED is not just content to disrupt the camera space, as they are now is trying to democratize theatrical distribution with these new formats and hardware. Next will be their 4K laser projector, now apparently going by the name of which will get a bigger brother for theaters named CRIMSON (what's next, ROUGE?). I think whether you're rooting for or against RED, as independents we are all rooting for what they stand for -- lowering costs, increasing image quality, and standing up to/breaking down industry norms that hurt the little guy. Even if you don't like RED's cameras, you have to appreciate what they have done for the industry -- all of the recent Arri, Canon, and Sony cameras would certainly be more expensive and less feature-rich if RED did not exist.

Digital acquisition has arrived. Today what's standing in the way of quality independent films finding an audience is the existing distribution infrastructure. As smaller independent theaters struggle with the high cost of upgrading to digital projection and playback systems, if REDRAY, CRIMSON, and ODEMAX succeed, they could do as much for independent film as RED's cameras already have.

I've been harping on this for years, so what do you think -- am I overstating things? Are you excited about REDRAY and a new alternate distribution platform for 4K exhibition?