Red-dragon-sensor-e1334563324185-224x207Though 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...

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?