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Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Wired Notices Red

Wired has a nice piece about the development of the Red One, the first camera from Red Digital Cinema. It's the sort of story that Wired probably should have run in 2007, when Peter Jackson used Red cameras to make a short film (first endorsement by a major directeor), or in May, when Steven Soderbergh's 'Che' played at Cannes, but better late than never.

Michael Behar writes:

    ...[Jannard's] team of engineers and scientists have created the first digital movie camera that matches the detail and richness of analog film. The Red One records motion in a whopping 4,096 lines of horizontal resolution—"4K" in filmmaker lingo—and 2,304 of vertical. For comparison, hi-def digital movies like Sin City and the Star Wars prequels top out at 1,920 by 1,080, just like your HDTV. (There's also a slightly higher-resolution option called 2K that reaches 2,048 lines by 1,080.) Film doesn't have pixels, but the industry-standard 35-millimeter stock has a visual resolution roughly equivalent to 4K. And that's what makes the Red so exciting: It delivers all the dazzle of analog, but it's easier to use and cheaper—by orders of magnitude—than a film camera. In other words, Jannard's creation threatens to make 35-mm movie film obsolete.

Two quotes later on in the article neatly encapsulate the debate about digital cinematography that has been simmering in Hollywood for about a decade now:

    "In the slammin', jammin' world of production, you want a really tough machine that takes very simple approaches to problems," [Steven] Lighthill [of the American Film Institute] says. "I'm not sure Red is the way to go. It's a supercomputer with a lens on it."

    Proponents dismiss such criticism as Luddite drivel. "Hollywood is just used to shooting on film," says Bengt Jan Jönsson, cinematographer on the Fox TV show Bones. "Honestly, if you proposed the film work-flow today, you'd be taken to the city square and hung. Imagine I told you we're going to shoot on superexpensive cameras, using rolls of celluloid made in China that are a one-time-use product susceptible to scratches and that can't be exposed to light. And you can't even be sure you got the image until they're developed. And you have to dip them in a special fluid that can ruin them if it's mixed wrong. People would think I was crazy."

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