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State of Our Industry

RED epic
photo by James Drake

By Heath Firestone

I’d like to do a quick introduction.  I’m Heath Firestone, and I’ll be doing a regular column for CFVA called “State of Our Industry”.  This column will cover a pretty wide variety of topics, and will be somewhat at the whim of what piques my interest at the moment, or things that I see that are shaping or affecting our industry.   So, in some instances, it will be about new products or technologies, and other times it may focus on trends or other shifts in the way things are being done.  Although it will often be informative, and fact filled, it will very much be an opinion piece.

As a brief background, I am a Contributing Editor for Post Magazine and TV Technology Magazine.  I have taught seven different subjects between The Colorado Film School and The Rocky Mountain College of Art and Design, mostly focused on digital effects, editing, and post production.  I specialize in advanced 2D/3D compositing, and have developed the only 360 degree retroreflective compositing stage with realtime tracking, in the world.  I also own Firestone Studios LLC, and was one of the earliest High Definition adopters in the region.

I’ll keep the content of this edition short, because of my introduction.

One of the more noteworthy announcements in the past couple of months was Red’s price reduction on their Epic Cameras, which dropped about $13,000.  To paraphrase Red’s reason for the price reduction, Jim Jannard said that Red had recouped it’s development costs and had reduced its production costs, so rather than B.S. everyone by releasing a new product, they thought it was time to instead pass on the savings by reducing the cost of their flagship.  For anyone who purchased an Epic in the past year, however, there was bound to be blowback, since they hadn’t necessarily recouped that level of investment, but for pretty much everyone else, especially those on the fence, or considering a purchase, this was very good news.  Personally, I believe that lower costs without compromise benefit the industry as a whole.  I also suspect there were other motivating factors including Sony’s announcement of their upcoming large image sensor 4K cameras, which should be below the Epic’s previous price structure. Add the emergence of much less expensive alternatives like those offered by Black Magic Design and Sony, and from a competitive perspective, it was a good time to lower the cost, as well.

A couple of other things to consider in this mix, is that because of the modular nature of the Epic, and the upcoming 6K Dragon Sensor ($6000) which will be coming out early 2013, and the soon to be released Meizler Module ($13,000), a purchase of an Epic and both upgrades, is effectively the same as purchasing the next generation of a traditional camera with new features and higher resolution for about $6000 more than the prior price point, while dropping the cost of the older technology to make room for the new camera.  The advantage of the modular system is that people can purchase the less expensive camera now, and add the modules, to upgrade to what is effectively the next generation camera.  I don’t like everything Red has done from a marketing and development standpoint, but I think this is a great move which really takes advantage of the benefits of a modular, customizable design.

I can’t broach this topic without also pointing out that they are also now selling “Battle Tested” (a clever way of saying “Used”) Red One cameras for $4000.  But, with Red, you have to remember that the camera body is only a body, and everything else is extra, and the essential accessories which come with most other cameras, are pretty expensive from Red.  But still, it is an amazingly low price for a Red One, and shouldn’t be ignored.

Heath Firestone
Firestone Studios LLC