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:

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.