January 16, 2019

A 'Rental-Only' RED Camera Body? Meet RANGER

On REDUSER, RED announces a rental-only body, a dramatic shift for the traditionally "User" focused company.

RED is a fascinating company, constantly willing to break with tradition and make whatever it wants. The company also has a long habit of teasing and releasing info on its popular user forum, REDUSER. 

While REDUSER is sometimes frustrating (their culture is very conversational, which sometimes leaves really insightful, useful information buried several pages into the comments), it's a wonderful place where you get a lot of honest feedback from dedicated owners who have a lot of insight into the platform.

Thus it makes sense as a platform for releasing the new RED RANGER, a custom body RED camera built specifically for RED certified rental houses. While tech specs aren't deep yet (since RED just simplified its offering to three sensors), it seems likely that all three sensors will be available in RANGER form.

The current RED DSMC2 offering.Credit: RED

Unfortunately, we only have the photo to go on, but the one thing that is very obvious with the photo is that it is designed to be a single unit that doesn't require accessories for many basic tasks.

The entire concept of DSMC (and the current version, DSMC2) has always been maximum flexibility: build a camera that you can easily reconfigure for stills or motion (the S and M in DMSC), or build into "studio mode" for normal shooting, or "flying" mode for gimbal/steadicam work (or pair together for strereography rigs). What's clear with the RANGER is that it's customizing the body for one specific use, that of traditional main camera body, with all the I/O, attachments and interfaces you need for that. 

There is probably some inspiration from the Xenomorph in this thing, along with the desire of many users for a camera you can just "pop on your shoulder and go."  While probably still small enough to "fly" in a Ronin 2, we suspect that bigger productions will take out a few RANGERs for "A-Camera/B-camera" type work and then a normal DMSC2 body for special rigging situations where saving every possible ounce of weight is worth it.

The other rental-only RED body, the Panavision DXLCredit: Panavision

The most famous "rental only" item in the film industry has always been Panavision cameras. While there are urban legends about Panavision cameras you could buy (one recovered by a diver, one sold as a prop to Universal Studios, one from the 1960s), the vast majority of the Panavision camera body and glass catalog is rental only. The company makes it, it owns it, you want to use it, you have to rent it.

One of the pluses of this system is that it can continually upgrade systems. 30 years after the release of the Gold II camera, the company was still upgrading electronics inside, so the Gold II you rented in 2005 would be different than the one shooting Rockford Files in the 1970s. But of course, you can do that with RED.

Famously original RED ONE owners could upgrade to Mysterium-X sensor's and every generational improvement for RED has offered an upgrade path.  Of course, the current Panavision flagship is the DXL2, which is built on a RED body that incorporates some similar ideas to the RANGER in terms of "all in one" thinking.

Why make the RANGER rental only then?  We have a few guesses, first among them being that RED wants to drive more rental houses to become "RED authorized." One method for encouraging people to join a program is to have something exclusive for them, and this certainly works for that and will probably have some rental houses considering joining.

Additionally, we wonder if there was such heavy involvement of a few key rental houses that it was part of the deal. A big rental house might have said something like "We'd love to use our knowledge of how our customers configure RED bodies to design the perfect camera body for our clients, but we don't want to then compete with owner/operators for that business if we're going to give you a lot of manhours of design input." 

To be clear, we know nothing of RED internal business dealings or any such specific deal, but that kind of collaboration would be a compelling reason to make this a dealer-only model.  

Check out REDUSER for more. While we understand the frustration of some owners that they won't be able to buy this themselves, we also wonder how long exclusivity might last.     

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