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Red Digital Cinema Camera: Ted Schilowitz, Part 1

We talk with the "Leader of the Rebellion" about whether the Red Camera exists or not By Charlie White

The Red Digital Cinema Camera Company made its debut at NAB 2006 with a model of a camcorder it says can shoot 4K digital footage at a bargain-basement price. Showing neither a working prototype nor footage from this camera, the company's booth was still packed with curious onlookers, wondering if Red, led by Oakley founder Jim Jannard, could actually do what it clamed. DMN's Charlie White talked with Jannard's right-hand man Ted Schilowitz, whose title in the company is "Leader of the Rebellion" in this two-part interview.

DMN: There's a lot of buzz about this camera. For the uninitiated, what is the big deal about this? Why should we be so excited about it?

Schilowitz: The big deal is, you should be excited because we're excited. There's a passion and a spirit here that I think is unmatched. From my understanding of the landscape of what other companies are doing, of what other people are attempting, we are setting the bar high, and we're going to achieve what we say we're going to achieve.

DMN: What are you saying you're going to achieve?

Schilowitz: 4K, 2K, 1080p, 720p, large-format S35, super 35, film-sized sensors, 4K sensor, PL mount lenses. It's a cinematography tool that will push downstream really nicely into broadcast -- downstream to all different types of workflows and scenarios and users. It's a product for sale, to be used by people who really want the best possible image and image acquisition and best system they can get. We're breaking a lot of rules; we're tearing down a lot of walls. We're doing our best to change the landscape of an industry in one fell swoop.

DMN: One way you're doing that is with the price, right? What is the price of this unit?

Schilowitz: Well, price is certainly part of it. I would actually say it's not the most important part of it.

DMN: What is the most important part of it?

Schilowitz: The most important part of it is what we're trying to do. What we're trying try to do is, say, it's time to make something that everyone is telling you is completely inaccessible -- accessible. Don't believe that hype. You know, we've got some hype, too, as you can see by our booth. Right now, a 4K digital cinema camera is only for a select group of people that can afford to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars. Most cameras like that on the landscape today can't even be bought if you wanted to buy them. You can rent them for a lot of money, deal with some sort of workflow that they've worked out. But they're essentially exclusionary products. They're not designed for everybody, they're designed to include almost nobody. What we're designing is something that says, "Everybody come to the party. We want to hear from you, we want to try to build something that's for you, and you, and you and you, as opposed to just that guy over there."

DMN: What is the price?

Schilowitz: The price for the body, the camera itself is $17,500. That's the actual body. And then there will be lenses, PL mount lenses where you can use cinema-grade PL mount lenses. We're showing Cook lenses in our Red booth. And, you'll be able to use cinema-grade lenses that we're also building, our own Red lenses. We have our first one showing which happens to be a 300mm prime -- it was just the first one we had ready to show. It's under $5,000, and you can extrapolate where the rest of that is going in terms of a full range of lenses including a zoom, maybe more than one zoom, primes. We're on it. We're on the case. DMN: You used to work with AJA, right?

Schilowitz: Yes, I did. Right.

DMN: So, you're talking about making this accessible to everyone. How is that part of it going to happen? There's a lot of data coming out if you're shooting 4K. What do you do with it after that? What's the next step that you would recommend? How does that work?

Schilowitz: You're correct. The last five years of my life, at AJA video I was a Mac guy, I was working with Kona. We also had the opportunity to do a very similar thing on a different orientation, that changed the landscape of an industry. Before we came onto the landscape, the desktop video world was a bit troublesome. You could kind of do it, sort of in HD, but the tools weren't really there from the right companies, and the CPUs needed to be more evolved, the software needed to get more evolved. We happened to just be lucky and smart at the same time. We stepped in at the right time, we made the right choice to go with the new OS, OS X. And before you knew it, we are actually doing something, and people were paying attention and they were saying, you know, this stuff is not in a nonworking category anymore, it's kind of working. And I was very close to Apple and still am, and spent pretty much every other week of my life at Apple doing something with them. We started out, we built a product. This came from broadcast pedigree guys. These are not computer guys. These are guys who know television, and know broadcast. And before you know it, a few years later, we have a Kona card which is very cost-effective and a Mac with Final Cut Pro working on little insignificant events like the Super Bowl, the World Series, NASCAR, Tour de France, a lot of big feature films. You name it. It's a quantum leap. Things changed, the landscape changed. Now here's another opportunity. Different stage, now I get to be in the front end instead of the backend. Now I'm helping change the landscape again.

DMN: So 4K acquisition is all messed up? So you want to fix that, and make it more accessible to everyone? It's too expensive?

Schilowitz: I wouldn't say it's messed up, I would say it's inaccessible. But again, there's a development curve here. And with all due respect, with the highest level of respect for everyone who's come before us, they are terrific products in their own right. Take price point and accessibility out of the equation, and they're all creating marvelous images, they don't have to use film any more. But they are a bit like science fair projects. They were done for specific reasons, to prove certain scenarios, to see if you could do it. A couple of them are sort of for sale. Sort of. They're all, as far as I know, well over $100,000. Most of them don't include any recording device with that price. Now you're talking, well, it's another $100,000 if you want to record, just for nothing beyond HD dual link. So that's kind of where we came from. We're watching that landscape, being frustrated with that landscape, saying, "Now it's time to change the rules. Now it's time for a different company with a hell-bent, maverick attitude to get out there and say, it's time to go for it."

DMN: So where are you going? You've been developing this camera for how long? Do you have a prototype, or is there footage we can see?

Schilowitz: The camera's been in development for quite some time.

DMN: How long is that?

Schilowitz: Quite some time.

DMN: Since 1999?

Schilowitz: Since 1999 is a good number. That's a long time. It's a while. But the difference is that the hard-core engineering task of, "Hey, it's time to go build a camera" -- we're on the order of months, not years. 

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Related Keywords:Red Digital Cinema Camera Company, NAB 2006, camcorder, 4K, digital footage, working prototype, Oakley, Jim Jannard, Ted Schilowitz, interview

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