NAB 2012: RED Announces Epic New 6K Upgrade (Scarlet Too)

By James DeRuvo (doddleNEWS)

One of the cool features of RED cameras that largely goes unnoticed is they’re upgrade-ability.  Being able to keep the rest of your camera the same and just swap out the brain chip could be a tremendous benefit in the long run for filmmakers who run afoul of Moore’s Law.  That’s why today’s announcement that RED will hava a 6K upgrade for both the EPIC and SCARLET platforms is so huge.

“The camera is arguably one of the most important of all inventions… it is the single tool that has the ability to stop time, record history, generate art, tell stories, and communicate messages that transcend language like nothing else ever conceived.” – Jim Jennard, via RED User Forums

Codenamed DRAGON, the upgrade takes advantage of RED’s modular design.  It will not only take the EPIC and Scarlet platforms to a native video resolution of 6,000 x 4,000, but it will also offer 15 stops of native dynamic range as well as the ability to record 5K at 120fps.   Design wise, the Dragon sensor slightly larger than the current Mysterium-X sensor (Sensor size is 30×15.8mm), but Jennard says that the pixel size is slightly smaller (5 microns).  Will this have an impact on existing lenses that camera users employ?  Jennard says no.  “Most all of your current lenses will work,” says Jennard. “And the good news is that if you have a lens with limited coverage… you just might be limited to 5.5K… :-)”

Jennard also confidently states that low light performance is greatly improved over the Mysterium-X, and that noise levels are reduced “incredibly low,” which is good news for shooters.   And although Jennard says the EPIC hasn’t really had an issue with rolling shutters, the Dragon upgrade will give read-reset a faster performance.

Cost for the 6K upgrade will be $6,000 for the Epic (and according to the RED Store, any collection or group of items placed as a single order that includes 1x EPIC brain and totals over $50,000 in invoiced value will receive the DRAGON sensor upgrade at no charge ), with Scarlet pricing still TBD.  Jennard also said that 6K upgrades will be available late in 2012 with focus being on the EPIC platform primarily, with Scarlet upgrades not beginning until 2013.

And based on the response at the RED User forums, most are completely on board with the new upgrade.  “120 FPS @ 5K. Sold!,” said one user.  “Please have my Bomb Squad pre-bill my card and email me service instructions. Thank you!”  But others were worried that such an upgrade that leaves the RED One out of the mix renders their cameras “worthless.  But Jennard disagrees.

“There is no path for Dragon to the RED ONE. That upgrade path was RED ONE to EPIC,” said Jennard.  Then he added:  “David Fincher shot “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” on RED ONE M-X. So your RED ONE is worth nothing?”

Members were also echoing our thoughts that Canon C300 owners were a bit screwed when the C500 announcement was made.  Jennard said that the C300 was obsolete when it was announced – pointing to his belief that Canon was deep into C500 development when they released the C300.  And that’s why he thinks the upgrade-ability of the RED platform add value.

“Everything you buy in technology goes down in value the minute you buy it,” says Jennard. “We have provided a way to mitigate that loss with upgrade programs. The real way to win this game is to put your tools to work.”

About James DeRuvo

James has a multi-faceted career that spans radio, film and publishing. A writer about the technology in the video industry for nearly 20 years, James is also an award winning film director, having garnered a Telly Award for his short film Searching for Inspiration. He's also worked as a producer of many talk radio programs in Los Angeles with topics ranging from entertainment to travel to technology.