After years of development, and plenty of changes along the way, RED's first foray into the 4K display/distribution market is finally arriving. When it was announced (for real this time) back in November, it seemed like it would be shipping in just a matter of months, but like with anything RED -- as they themselves admit -- sometimes things can take a few detours along the way before finally getting into the hands of buyers. In the meantime, we've seen had announcements for 4K-capable consoles retailing for $500 and under, so where does this $1,750 hard drive and network-based device fit in?

Casey Green, who recently received his REDRAY, posted a video of an encoding playing in the new .RED format:

Having received what we believe is the first REDRAY 4K Player released in the wild from RED Digital Cinema, here we show some footage run through the RREncode plugin (using REDCINE-X PRO Build 19) and playing back from a 4K file.

The original clip was shot on RED EPIC 4KHD, 23.98fps@8:1 compression, and encoded using the RREncode Premium (18Mbps) option at 4K. Other settings available are Standard (9Mbps) and Cinema (36Mbps).

The panel used to test here is a Samsung 7500 Series 55" 1080p with future tests coming soon on Seiki and Sony 4K displays.

While the REDRAY player includes a controller, it will have a phone or tablet controller option -- as Jarred mentions in the forum:

Originally Posted by Chase M. Wrenn

Any chance of controlling RedRay with a phone or tablet? This is my first time seeing that remote.

Yup.. app is just sitting waiting to get approved by Apple in the apple store.

Where does this device fit in? We've got 4K acquisition -- in fact we've had it for years. What has lagged behind is the distribution and display of 4K and UHD. Those options are slowly starting to appear, with Sony now offering a special 4K distribution service and $700 player, and the PS4 and Xbox One being the first mass-market consumer-oriented standalone devices capable of 4K. The TVs and displays are also coming, but it will be at least another year until we see more affordable options -- with the sole exception being the 50" Seiki UHD TV, which has been on sale for as low as $1,000. With anything tech, it's a race to the bottom, so I actually think we'll see cheaper 4K TVs sooner than we saw cheaper 1080p TVs. By this time next year, it would not be surprising to have multiple options under $2,000 with good upscaling technology (something the Seiki TV lacks).

So the REDRAY player is in a bit of a strange position at the moment. I think it will be very useful connected to a display showing clients their work in glorious 4K (assuming you've shot it that way, of course). This could include anything from commercials, to music videos, to features, but I think for bigger-scale productions the box is cheap enough to just leave connected to a 4K TV when you want a separate and more comfortable client-viewing area -- and you can bring over high-quality and low bitrate .RED encodes at any point very easily.

Even with 4K distribution coming down the pipeline from ODEMAX tailor-made for the REDRAY Player, it's a bit obscure and high-priced for most consumers, but it could be an option for filmmakers who want to display their work in 4K on a TV or a 4K projector -- and they can just bring the REDRAY player along and do that. While a computer could certainly do all of those things (for probably the same money), REDRAY should make it much simpler and cleaner -- and nearly foolproof -- to play 4K footage on any 4K or UHD-capable screen.

We'll see how things shape up -- but if you've got one on order, you may get a surprise in the coming days and weeks.