October 31, 2013

RED Gives DRAGON Even More Dynamic Range with HDR-X & Releases List for Upgrade Priority

We've already got some 6K footage to mess around with, but just as I was mentioning RED's delays along with the positive news from Digital Bolex, RED has given us the order in which they will be shipping out upgrades, along with some new color science work and the development of HDR-X for DRAGON, which will give the sensor even more dynamic range by combining multiple exposures in post. We knew that some people would be way ahead in line because they are considered early adopters, but it wasn't completely clear how things would go after that, and more importantly, when all of these upgrades will actually be happening.

Here is word from Jarred Land in the forum about some of the new developments:

As we continue trickling out Dragons to the world, our engineers continue to push the envelope.. This week we made a pretty major breakthrough in calibration and sensor tweaking ( both hardware and software and color science ) and the improvements are meaningful.

We also got a bit lucky and slipped HDR-X back in as well when nobody was looking, which wasn't due till the end of the year. Dragons out there will need to come back for the upgrade. HDR-X was a tough one.. not just an on/off switch.. so the engineers deserve a bit of love from you hardcore HDR-X guys out there that wanted it back.

Our next round of sensors will be rolling out December 1st. This batch is much bigger than the last one, but unfortunately this does not mean everyone is going to be getting Dragons for Christmas.... The line is long and we can't make them as fast as we wish we could.

The order for which cameras will be shipping out:

  • CARBON DRAGON -New Carbon Dragon orders are manufactured and shipped on their own schedule. 2-3 weeks after order.
  • PRIORITY 1: “EPIC-M DRAGON / Early Adopter / Purchased EPIC-X Within 30 Days of NAB” Upgrades*
  • PRIORITY 2.1:  “EPIC-M DRAGON New Camera Orders: After all owners of “EPIC-M / Early Adopter / Purchased EPIC-X Within 30 Days of NAB” have been notified they are eligible to send in cameras for upgrade*, new EPIC-M DRAGON orders will begin to be processed.
  • PRIORITY 2.2: EPIC-X DRAGON Upgrades:After all owners of “EPIC-M / Early Adopter / Purchased EPIC-X Within 30 Days of NAB” have been notified they are eligible to send in cameras for upgrade*, EPIC-X DRAGON upgrades will begin to be processed.**
  • PRIORITY 3: SCARLET DRAGON Upgrades: After all owners with EPIC-X DRAGON upgrade pre-orders have been notified their cameras are eligible for upgrade, SCARLET DRAGON upgrade orders will begin to be processed.
  • PRIORITY 4: EPIC-X DRAGON New Camera Orders:Date to be able to order is TBD.
  • PRIORITY 5: SCARLET to EPIC-X DRAGON Trade-ins: Will begin being processed once EPIC-X new camera orders are shipping.

The Priority 1 list were only for a select group of people, so if you weren't eligible, you were not able to order within the Monday-Thursday upgrade window during NAB. Everything that follows that is very similar to how things went with the EPIC upgrades, with the Carbon DRAGON acting like the new EPIC-M and shipping out when you order one. That means people who really want to get in on the action, can pay a little more to do so. I would imagine there's a good chance the EPIC-M and early adopters could get their upgrades before the end of the year, but if you are an EPIC-X upgrader (except for a select few), it's going to be well into 2014 before you get your hands on one.

If you ordered (or will order) a SCARLET DRAGON or SCARLET to EPIC DRAGON, it's going to be a long, long time before you see an upgrade. There are thousands and thousands of people who will be taking upgrades before those, so I would think that the SCARLET stuff will probably begin sometime in the Spring, and go well through the Summer, and even Fall, of next year.

I've also been told that RED is now going to be working with Southern California Leasing to give people financing options for anything costing $5,000 or above. This means that if plopping down $10,000 or $20,000 for an upgrade is a tough pill to swallow, you'll be able to work with RED and get special financing. If you are a RED owner, you can either go to SoCal directly or work with your Bomb Squad Rep to get things squared away. I think it will be great for those who want a more specialized company dealing with the financing, rather than going directly to a bank for a loan (though that's always still an option).

So with that out of the way, the HDR-X for certain shots is going to be absolutely mind-blowing. While combining frames can mess with motion a little bit, DRAGON with HDR-X could be giving you into the 20 stop range or more, which is simply ludicrous. They haven't actually said how much more you'll be getting with HDR-X with DRAGON, but it's an extremely useful tool for some situations. Here are some samples from Luke Neumann with the original EPIC (you can find full 5K samples on the Vimeo description):

Here is a different sample showing the different shutter of the second exposure:

http://vimeo.com/49614830

HDR-X in certain circumstances can also be used for taking still images from the video, and not affecting the regular motion of the video. Since HDR-X is only a post process (even though you are capturing extra frames while shooting), you can use as much or as little of the effect as you want, and even use the second exposure alone by itself.

It will be interesting to see what the new sensor calibration and color science will be able to do. I'm sure they are going to be able to squeeze even more out of the sensor, but if you want to see a comparison to the MX sensor, Christopher Probst did some tests. Here is a particularly enlightening one, with the rest of them over on REDUser:

With another at 800 where you can see that DRAGON has a bit more detail, and the overexposed area is nicer looking:

As you can see the sample frames are showing what many who have used DRAGON have said, that it's around 1-2 stops more in the highlights, and it also feels like DRAGON blows out much nicer than MX does. Keep in mind this is just using the regular exposure methods, not with HDR-X, so with careful treatment of the material, DRAGON should have plenty of DR for most applications, and when you need a little bit more, you can now use HDR-X. It will be interesting what the team over at RED can keep pulling out of the DRAGON sensor, especially as they have done more calibration.

Check out more over on REDUser.

Links:

Your Comment

40 Comments

I love being an Epic X owner for the past 1.5 years, waiting nearly 2 years for the Dragon upgrade (R1 Owner here as well), ordering minutes within the pre-order starting...and still being told I'm a second class upgrader.

Lovely. Good to know that you can just skip the line by having more money, despite some of us having patiently waited for this thing for 1.5-2 years. I'm glad to know my 18000k+ is rewarded in such a manner.

October 31, 2013 at 7:53PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thom

You're getting an extremely generous offer that no other camera company would give you, isn't the wait worth the savings? Especially since you still have access to an incredible camera in the meantime..

October 31, 2013 at 9:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony

Most professional camera companies of cinema-grade, don't dick their customers around for nearly 2 years.

October 31, 2013 at 10:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thom

...but they do charge 3-4 times as much, thus still catering to people with more money...

November 1, 2013 at 7:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gabe

So, Sony F55 with R5 recorder costs 3-4 times the price of Red Epic ?

Camera that has more DR than standard Red Epic and real, working global shutter. Plus countless other features like robust, automatic proxy support, well working MPEG4 codec support etc.

November 1, 2013 at 6:01PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Juhan-i

Uh huh, so the company that used to sell their cinema cameras for six digits before Red came into the picture and forced their prices down is definitely rooting for the little guys I'm sure...

November 1, 2013 at 8:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gabe

You know it could just be that as a small company working on a thin margin that the money is a priority so that they can keep the doors open to make sure that you will get your camera in the end instead of them having to close the doors man. While sure it's frustrating to wait at least your still not stuck with a DSLR like I am. Consider yourself lucky that at least you still have a good camera to work with and see the positive side. I am still new to the business and learning and I would be happy to have the equipment you're "STUCK WITH". Lighten up and count your blessings instead of bitching about it.

November 7, 2013 at 11:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gary

Thom, you speak with righteous indignation about how paying more money unfairly buys an earlier place in line and then you turn right around and mention the $18K you spent as if you fully expected it to afford you similar benefits. Do you have a problem with Scarlet owners getting their Dragon upgrades after you? I suspect you don't and feel it's right and proper, probably because you spent more money on your Epic. See how that works?

Besides, customers who pay a premium for hand-built-to-order products have historically taken priority over customers who purchase normal production line products in practically every industry that offers the option. It would be different if RED were letting people jump to the front by taking more money for the same camera they're making you wait for, but they're not. Carbon Dragon is made from different, harder to manipulate materials on a different assembly path and costs $20K more. I frankly don't understand why that upsets you.

November 1, 2013 at 1:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

I wonder if the Carbon Dragon/2-3 week from order thing is starting now or if that's how it's always been. I know someone that ordered one and it's been more than 2-3 weeks.

October 31, 2013 at 8:06PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I imagine it's probably from right now, but as you know with RED, it can always change.

October 31, 2013 at 9:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Luke, you were using an original Epic, correct?

October 31, 2013 at 9:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Yes, that video is about a year old at this point.

November 1, 2013 at 3:18AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Luke,
the Bomb Squad has just notified me today ,that soon it will start shipping the Carbon, so they are perfectly in line. i hope :)

November 1, 2013 at 8:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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luigi valtulini

If you order one then you just get a loaner dragon until you get your carbon, depending on who you are, of course.

November 1, 2013 at 12:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jeem

I won't be happy until I have at least 32 stops of dynamic range. That's the bare minimum that I need to make my super cool movies.

October 31, 2013 at 8:29PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rob Hardy
Founder of Filmmaker Freedom
4498

well... I think you can do it right now with just a R1MX if want a RED.... lol

I guess the camera is not the problem anymore...

October 31, 2013 at 9:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alex Mand

36 would really be ideal - to be honest.

November 1, 2013 at 5:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alex

And anything less than 8k is just a waste of my time.

November 7, 2013 at 5:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Daniel Mimura

I agree. I remember when RED released the Red One and rendered movies like 28 Days Later, Collateral, Primer, and others obsolete and unwatchable.

Much like the advent of CD's rendered the Beatles' recordings obsolete...

I was going to make a movie this year, but... I think I'll wait until 20K sensors with 36 stops of DR come about. Otherwise, it won't be any good.

November 6, 2013 at 1:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Dave N.

I saw many dragon tests on reduser today, i must say i'm disappointed. Basically if you shoot and light like a dick by overexposing by 10 stops you can see a super tiny difference between mx and dragon that could be fixed in a few seconds in post. At 800, with regular lighting I don't see much difference. I hope the new color science will bring something interesting.

October 31, 2013 at 9:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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SteveB

The color in the Dragon shots is already better. The greens in the leaves and the street sign are deeper and purer and less of a muted khaki/pea green. The woman's skin looks more natural and has more life to it (she looks less pale and pink), you can see more variation in skin tone on her chest and near her collarbone and the red of her hair is more prominent. This is using the same color science as in in the MX shot, so there's already a discernible (albeit subtle) improvement coming from the new filter/sensor combo.

The MX has its issues but it's still one of the best overall digital cinema sensors on the market. It's to the point where the improvements we see in Dragon, for the most part, are going to come in the way of noticeable refinements for most shots instead of leaps and bounds in image quality, except at the extremes, where Dragon's biggest gains are. There are no doubt huge improvements under the hood but they're going to be responsible for that last 10-15% that really start to separate the cream of the crop from the rest of the pack. I think the same will be true of Arri's next sensor as well as whatever Sony cooks up. They'll produce a better looking picture without you always actually being able to pinpoint exactly what's better about it without a direct A/B comparison.

November 1, 2013 at 2:13AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brian

There's definitely a difference, but i feel the real question is if the difference is perceivable enough to the everyday Joe & Jane to warrent all the upgrade frustration. RED MX footage today, even at "just 4K", when properly exposed looks gorgeous and is already super clean... I'll prolly stick w/ my upgrade to dragon order, but i think everyone should stop worrying about not having it yet and just keep working on filming w/ what the current epics/scarlets/R1s - when we do finally get our hands on dragons, yes it will be sharper, cleaner, more dynamic... but its more of a bump upgrade.

November 1, 2013 at 11:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kinda strange really...

I remember seeing a official video from NAB 2013 (~ 7 moths ago) where this Red company guy Ted showed how they were installing these Dragon sensors. It was official presentation for industry.

So what they were doing there ? I clearly remember the Ted guy telling that you could get updated for Dragon "in next week" (or something similar).

I read the whole thread linked above, and not a single Red user mentioned anything about that installation demonstration.

October 31, 2013 at 9:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Juhan-i

They were not upgrading user cameras but ones that are made to order. More needed to be done to the cameras anyway before they were fully functioning, but I imagine those cameras that were upgraded will be available for sale at some point.

October 31, 2013 at 9:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Smoke and mirrors.

October 31, 2013 at 10:05PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thom

It was essentially useless, don't disagree with that. Simply explaining what was actually going on.

October 31, 2013 at 11:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

Well considering there've been a couple Dragon shot music videos out there for a couple months, I'm going to go out on a limb and guess they did actually upgrade some Epics then...

November 1, 2013 at 7:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gabe

Red loaned those people cameras. I worked on one of those videos.

November 1, 2013 at 12:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jeem

Right, but they were still Dragon Epics, yes? They never said they were upgrading customer cameras.

November 1, 2013 at 5:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gabe

Well like I wrote above, the Red guy Ted stated clearly that user upgrades were starting few weeks after NAB 2013.

There were no noubt about what was said.

So basically the Red as a company lied to all the industry professionals about the state of Dragon cameras. They are lucky that they are private company, because as a publicly traded company they would be in court for those kind of lies.

November 1, 2013 at 6:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Juhan-i

Source?

November 1, 2013 at 8:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Gabe

Actually Magic Motion can deal with +1 or maybe up to +3 HDRx second track fine without adding motion blur. With dragon it's not so much for nicer highlights (the rolloff is bloody good), but for exposure compensation, getting more out of harsh contrast situations with blazing sun, for example. Or if you want some tonemapping and painterly look.

November 1, 2013 at 1:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

Back in the c300 vs. Scarlet days, Red pushed me away with their militarist marketing, unnecessarily unwieldy footage, battery life and noisy low light. I didn't understand why people wanted to pain themselves with a Scarlet workflow for the diminishing returns of "better" quality that is pretty much imperceptible to the audience. But then came this. Now I've got a raging boner with at least 6 years of future proofing, regardless of consumer technology innovations. Looks like film folks, but better. It's a Cadillac. Less than half what the Alexa costs. A lotta great movies are going to happen because of this.

November 1, 2013 at 2:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Derek

:( I'm one of those Priority 5, Scarlet to Epic-X Dragon people. It's going to be a long winter. But still happy that Red allows me to trade-in a 1.5 year old camera for a new model!

November 1, 2013 at 5:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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vanlazarus

The footage of that lady waving her hand in front of the window made me NOT want HDR-x. The double-exposure and lack of motion blur on her hands were really disturbing.

November 1, 2013 at 12:24PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Robert Thorpe

+1

November 2, 2013 at 7:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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RobW

+2

November 2, 2013 at 6:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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RED is just too pricey for me to even care about it these days. I'd always loved them for their innovation and the promise of an affordable Pro cine cam. But that promise is long gone - sure, they don't cost as much as an ARRI, but they might as well - not even a Scarlet is affordable - although it almost was, before RED saw the oncoming DSLR revolution and opted (chickened) out. Frankly, "Black" is the new RED - as in Blackmagic - that's where my money's going.

November 1, 2013 at 8:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ed Wright

Cool story bro, thanks for your input!

November 1, 2013 at 10:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tom

The hardware is not responsible for things like "stops in the highlights" or "nice blowing out", so regarding this it doesn't matter whether you shoot with a red dragon, mysterium or mx. A nice blowing out is created by a soft roll-off in the highlights of the transfer-curve in post-processing, hence just a freely choosable software-thing (when shooting raw). The "stops in the highlights" respectively the clipping-point is only a matter of the exposure-settings while shooting (when shooting raw). The real question about the dynamic range of the hardware is, how much can you push the shadows until the noise becomes too distracting. A high dynamic range just gives you the opportunity to more aggressively expose for the highlights than a low one. But it's up to you to actually do it.
The red cameras are amazing tools. But if you are not able to properly use them because of a lag of technical comprehension, you can't blame red for it.

May 30, 2014 at 11:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Dominik