In a first for RED, they've given a media outlet exclusive access before a product launch. With SCARLET-W, they've worked with No Film School. I was invited to come and see the SCARLET-W in person, and also ask RED's President Jarred Land a number of important questions about the camera and how it fits in with their entire lineup.
SCARLET-W & SCARLET-W Monochrome
In addition to the RAVEN announced in September, the SCARLET-W rounds out the lower-end of RED's newer DSMC² line (built-in wireless, 3D LUTs, ProRes) with 5K up to 60fps at 2.40:1, 5K up to 48fps using the entire frame, 4K 2.40:1 up to 150fps, interchangeable mounts and OLPFs, and RAW + 2K Scaled (not cropped) ProRes HQ recording up to 60fps — all starting under $10,000.
The SCARLET-W shares a very similar body as the other DSMC² cameras, which all include cable-less monitor and EVF attachments, as well compatibility with all of the same modules (1st or 3rd party). While it would be nice to have 4K ProRes, apparently it's just not possible at this price and body size, so the SCARLET-W, just like RAVEN and WEAPON Magnesium, tops out at 2K ProRes internally, which can be recorded at the same time as REDCODE RAW.
The SCARLET-W fits more neatly between the RAVEN and the far more expensive WEAPON Magnesium, with a max of 48fps using the entire frame of the 5K sensor. SCARLET-W and RAVEN share the same speeds internally (140MB/s), though RAVEN is limited as it has a physically smaller sensor. Both cameras, however, can ultimately top out at 150fps at resolutions below 5K. SCARLET-W is also twice as fast as the current SCARLET DRAGON, and thus is capable of 4:1 compression at 24fps, half that of the 8:1 minimum on the SCARLET DRAGON.
Beyond the image specs, there is much more versatility with this camera over RAVEN since you can change the mounts and the OLPFs, something that's not possible on RAVEN. By placing SCARLET-W next to RAVEN, I was able to see just how small RAVEN actually is, though SCARLET-W (and the rest of the DSMC² line), isn't much bigger. Even though both models are made of an aluminum alloy, and not fancy metals like Magnesium or something like Carbon Fiber, it's pretty impressive how light they are. There's no question it's quite a feat that RED has been able to squeeze even more high-end tech into such tiny spaces.
For the full specs, check out the SCARLET-W page here.
- 5120 x 2700, 13.8 Megapixel RED DRAGON Sensor
- Sensor Size: 25.6mm (h) x 13.5mm (v) x 28.9mm (d)
- Interchangeable Mounts & OLPFs
- MINI-MAG Media Bay, Record RAW & ProRes Simultaneously
- Dynamic Range: Same as Other DRAGON Sensors (Listed at 16.5+)
- Range of Aspect Ratios Including 2:1, 2.40:1, 16:9, 3:2, 4:3, 2X Anamorphic and 1.3X Anamorphic
- 48 fps at 5K Full Frame (5120 x 2700) and 8:1 REDCODE
- 60 fps at 5K 2.4:1 (5120 x 2160) and 8:1 REDCODE
- 100 fps at 4.5K Full Frame (4608 x 2412) and 14:1 REDCODE
- 120 fps at 4.5K 2.4:1 (4608 x 1944) and 13:1 REDCODE
- 120 fps at 4K Full Frame (4096 x 2160) and 13:1 REDCODE
- 150 fps at 4K 2.4:1 (4096 x 1728) and 13:1 REDCODE
- 160 fps at 3K Full Frame (3072 x 1620) and 10:1 REDCODE
- 200 fps at 3K 2.4:1 (3072 x 1296) and 10:1 REDCODE
- 240 fps at 2K Full Frame (2048 x 1080) and 7:1 REDCODE
- 300 fps at 2K 2.4:1 (2048 x 864) and 7:1 REDCODE
- Minimum REDCODE Compression: 5K/24fps/4:1, 5K/48fps/8:1, 4K/24fps/3:1, 4K/60fps/7:1
- ProRes 2K (2048×1080): 422 HQ, 422, or LT up to 60 fps (Not cropped — this uses the entire frame of a given resolution)
- 17x17x17 3D LUTs
- Audio: Integrated Dual Channel Stereo Microphones (Uncompressed, 24-bit 48 kHz
- Remote control via Wireless, Ethernet, RS232, GPI Trigger with Expander Module
- Auto Black Calibration
- Compatibility with All DSMC² Modules
- Body type: Alluminum Alloy
- Weight: 3.5 lbs. Brain with Media Bay
- Availability: February 2016 for Brain, March 2016 for Package
- Price New: $9950 Body Only for SCARLET-W and SCARLET-W Monochrome, Packages starting at $14,500
- Price for SCARLET DRAGON Owners: $9950 Body Only, Packages Starting at Only $12,000
The SCARLET-W is going to start at $9,950 for the brain only with media bay and AC adapter (no lens mount), and will include your choice of RED's three OLPFs (which are interchangeable in this model).
A $14,500 package will be available that gets you started shooting (without batteries, of course). Though these packages include a V-Lock adapter, Element Technica is producing a $900 Anton Bauer/Gold Mount module for the original Base Expander. Right now the $14.5K package includes (current SCARLET DRAGON owners get this package for $12K, $2,500):
- SCARLET-W BRAIN w/ Media Bay
- AL Canon Mount
- DSMC2 Base I/O V-Lock Expander (costs $1,900 separately)
- 1x RED MINI-MAG - 120GB
- DSMC² RED Touch 4.7" LCD
- DSMC2 Universal Handle (Brand new "dumb" handle without Start/Stop, costs $150 separately)
- DSMC AC POWER ADAPTOR
- Your Choice of 1 of RED's 3 OLPFs (Low-Light, Standard, or Skintone-Highlight)
In addition to the SCARLET-W, RED is also introducing a SCARLET-W Monochrome. This camera will feature all of the same specs, except contains a 5K black and white DRAGON sensor. While I've tried explaining a number of times how Monochrome sensors actually have better image quality, here's an explanation from RED themselves that might help.
As far as new products, here is a look at the V-Lock expander, as well as the new $550 Outrigger Handle, which sits on the side of the camera and can control Start/Stop:
SCARLET DRAGON Owners
As I mentioned in previous posts, SCARLET DRAGON owners were in a strange spot with the RAVEN coming in so much less expensive and boasting much higher maximum frame rates (though no 5K), and a lot more internal features like ProRes. While the current SCARLET DRAGON is capable of 6K at low frame rates suitable for time lapse or still images, SCARLET-W essentially beats it in every other category in terms of both frame rates, features, and lower compression. They're identical at 5K, but everything below goes to the SCARLET-W, which also gets a much improved and lighter body.
It's unfortunate for SD owners who haven't had their cameras very long, but this is often the case with technology getting cheaper and faster. RED won't be doing a trade-in, but they will have a $2,500 package discount for current SCARLET DRAGON owners. Body only price remains the same, but for only $12,000, you'll get the same items as the $14.5K package above. Part of the reason they've decided not to do a trade-in program is that the economics don't really make sense. One thing RED did want me to emphasize, however, is the fact that this discount lets you keep your camera, so you can either have two cameras, or ideally the SCARLET DRAGON you already own would be worth more used than it ever would be as a trade-in.
Where SCARLET-W Fits In (Price and Performance)
Though RAVEN is the least expensive camera in RED's lineup, it's really more designed as a drone and gimbal camera, something that was reiterated to me a number of times by Jarred Land. This is an important point, because it helps explain the mindset of developing a camera like SCARLET-W.
The SCARLET-W is the true budget cinema camera in RED's lineup — with the word budget being used in the context of a line of cameras that reaches into the $70K range. It's less than half the price of the nearest DSMC2 camera, WEAPON Magnesium, and though that camera boasts higher frame rates at 6K and 5K, the rest of the feature set very similar. It's worth noting, however, that all of RED's cameras require some investment beyond the body, and your SCARLET-W package could very easily go into the $20K range fully kitted out. This is not to scare future potential owners, but as a RED owner myself, it's just the reality of RED's ecosystem. That's no different than any of the other cameras, and it's the price you pay for modularity — the body is cheap but to get it working means you have to invest a little bit more.
Since the SCARLET-W does not come with any external outputs, if you wanted to send a signal to an SDI or HDMI monitor, you'll have to spring for the package deal or add a module with outputs separately.
If you don't need 6K, or the highest frame rates, or the highest 2K ProRes codec, SCARLET-W makes a lot more sense. It's also an easier pill to swallow jumping into RED's new DSMC² ecosystem. All of the same modules will work, so if you get SCARLET-W now for financial reasons, and want to move to a different DSMC² camera in the future (like WEAPON), all the accessories you've already purchased will work.
That's All for M-X, But Other DRAGON Cameras Hang On
Current M-X cameras will stop being sold for good, but any camera with a DRAGON sensor inside will continue on. That includes the SCARLET DRAGON and the EPIC DRAGON, though you'll have to decide for yourself what matters most in terms of price and specs, as the newer DSMC² line of RAVEN, SCARLET-W, and WEAPON cameras generally have better specs and higher frame rates.
Talking with Jarred Land
I was able to speak with RED's Jarred Land, who answered some questions about this camera and their current lineup:
No Film School: Why the SCARLET-W name over SCARLET WEAPON?
Jarred Land: SCARLET-W is to WEAPON just like SCARLET is to EPIC. You can’t have a SCARLET EPIC, Just like you can’t have a SCARLET WEAPON. The –W is not just an evolutionary amendment, it is also an indicator that you can use all the same bits from the new DSMC2 accessory and module line as is shared by the WEAPON, including interchangeable mounts, interchangeable OLPFs, etc.
NFS: Why the grey color instead of the black that RAVEN and other WEAPON cameras have?
JL: Since SCARLETs are often used in very high end productions alongside its bigger brothers, and since the body style across them are physically the same, it is important to have a visual distinction. It is something both rental houses and on set camera crews have requested and it makes a lot of sense.
NFS: Who is SCARLET-W designed for and why did you build it? How does it fit in with RAVEN and the other WEAPON models? Does it share similar image quality since it’s the same sensor technology?
JL: Yes, all of our DSMC2 line of cameras have the DRAGON sensor in common, so intercutting footage between the entire line is pretty seamless. RAVEN was designed to be an entry point to the RED ecosystem and, just as importantly, be as light as possible for gimbal and drone work. The SCARLET-W was designed with a filmmaker in mind, borrowing a lot of technology from our top shelf cameras at a very disruptive price point.
NFS: The RED line seems to now be following a defined path of higher resolutions and higher frame rates equaling higher cost. For example, we now have 4.5K, 5K, and 6K cameras in the DSMC2 bodies that are all in their own price brackets. Is the goal affordability, or is it more that you guys figure out where the needs are and work out how to offer a compelling camera at the lowest price possible (rather than price being the first objective)?
JL: The ultimate goal is to put the best image possible in the hands of filmmakers that are serious about what they do. Image quality is always our top priority, and that is the foundation of all of our cameras at all our price points.
NFS: You’ve mentioned that RAVEN is a physically smaller (4.5K) cut of the DRAGON sensor, is that the same with SCARLET-W, or is it similar to the original SCARLET that had 5K M-X sensors that weren’t up to the highest spec but worked for 4K and lower resolutions?
JL: SCARLET-W uses the same sensor as the 6K DRAGON, but only has an active 5K image area. We are the only company other than Sony in this market that designs both our own ASICs and sensors, so we can leverage yields in the manufacturing process to accommodate an array of products in different price points that all share the same DNA.
NFS: How do you see this model stacking up against cameras from other manufacturers like Sony, Canon, and Blackmagic? What makes RED different from these other offerings?
JL: We see the SCARLET-W to be the perfect camera for a lot of people. At this price point I honestly don’t think there is really anything to compare it to.
NFS: Will there be any upgrade options to SCARLET-W or will you consider any sort of trade-in discount for current SCARLET DRAGON owners (or even owners of other cameras)?
JL: SCARLET DRAGON owners get to purchase the SCARLET-W BASE I/O V-LOCK PACKAGE for $2500 less than non-SCARLET DRAGON owners. We promised we had some love for those guys coming, and getting that package at $12,000 gets them running right out of the gate. Not a trade in, mind you, just a little thank you.
And, yes, you are able to upgrade from SCARLET-W to the WEAPON class…
NFS: This camera, just like RAVEN and WEAPON Magnesium, is limited to 2K ProRes. With so many productions looking for a 4K ProRes solution, what prevented these other models from getting 4K ProRes and what factored into this decision?
JL: We believe strongly that REDCODE is the best solution for acquisition. We do understand the need for ProRes and other RGB outputs for quick reference material that is often a requirement during a shooting day and that is why we now supply RGB codecs alongside REDCODE in camera.
NFS: With heat/size/price being a factor in offering better ProRes resolutions or frame rates, will RED consider a larger body in the future that has everything, or will the technology soon be at a point that everything can be done in the DSMC2 body?
JL: Neither of those answers are wrong. [Laughing]
NFS: Will SCARLET-W also have better black calibration like the other DSMC2 models? Essentially black shading won't need to be thought about like it is now on current SCARLET and EPIC cameras?
JL: Correct, SCARLET-W shares the same Auto Black Balance as the rest of the DSMC2 line.
NFS: What sorts of packages will you be offering with SCARLET-W? You mentioned some people might want to switch out the V-Lock Expander for the REDVOLT Module.
JL: Being a modular system, it's possible to have a million different packages. We have base packages for what we think most people will choose, and people can build their own to suit them if that doesn’t work.
NFS: Will there be an Anton Bauer version of the DSMC2 Base I/O V-Lock Expander, or V-Lock only?
JL: V-lock is the option we are manufacturing since we also manufacture V-lock batteries. Element Technica makes an AB plate for the normal Base Expander, and since we opened our system up to approved 3rd parties, I am sure if the demand is there, there will be a solution.
NFS: What’s happening with the M-X sensor cameras now that we’ve got replacement models?
JL: We no longer are manufacturing nor selling M-X cameras, but that doesn’t mean that they are not just as capable of capturing world class images today as they were when they were released over 5 years ago.
NFS: What would you say to those people who dislike RED because of the marketing and camera names? Are we going to see a more toned-down RED in future years? What do you think is most misunderstood about RED as a company and the people that work there?
JL: We are who we are. We have personalities, and we don’t hide them. The images you get out of our cameras should ultimately be the only thing that really matters.
We want to thank Jarred Land and Brent Carter for taking the time to sit down and talk with No Film School, and also give us an early look at the SCARLET-W.
SCARLET-W and SCARLET-W Monochrome are currently available for pre-order from the links below with a $1,000 deposit. In addition, SCARLET DRAGON owners can also put down $1,000 deposit at this time for their special $12K package. The brain only is expected to be available in February, with the full Base I/O V-Lock package rolling out in March. As always with RED, expect high demand, so these shipping dates may change. If you had a RAVEN on order, and want to switch to SCARLET-W, just contact your Bomb Squad rep.