The news of RED suing Nikon for patent infringement was to be expected, as was the army of drooling idiots infesting the forums and comments sections of the leading websites devoted to photography and video. What the haters fail to realize is how RED completely transformed cinema. At the time the RED ONE was released, most, if not all, cinema cameras shot HD on tiny sensors that could not reproduce the shallow depth of field characteristic of film; the three separate chips cinema cameras used at the time softened the image, which then had to be processed, resulting in a sharper image but which also created ugly artifacts. Cameras at the time shot interlaced video, whereas the RED ONE recorded progressive video. Foreseeing that filmmakers shooting 4K would want to see beyond the frame, RED designed their first sensor, the Mysterium, 10% larger than the image area. Another important feature of the RED sensor was how it recreated the texture of film with noise that is very organic, something that still distinguishes RED from many other cameras to this day. RED was the very first company to allow owners to upgrade their sensor – to the new Dragon 6K sensor – right on the showroom floor at NAB! RED also anticipated HDR, the greatest change in cinema since the talkies, years before other manufacturers hopped on board. On top of all that, the RED ONE was easily one-third the cost of the least expensive cinema camera of its day.
RED may not have been the first to offer 4K video, but they were the first practical solution. DALSA, a Canadian digital imaging and semiconductor business with an annual revenue of three to four billion dollars, introduced a 4K camera years before RED, but it recorded uncompressed raw, file sizes were ginormous, rental was a whopping $3,000/day and their cameras never gained widespread popularity. DALSA also fabricated the CCD chips that were used in the two Mars Rovers, based on a NASA design. As of 2004, they were still photographing the surface of Mars. If a compressed RAW solution like REDCODE had been obvious, it would most certainly have occurred to a team of engineers as brilliant as those working at DALSA.
RED had invested so much and made so many innovations that it’s only natural that they’d want to protect their IP. As it turned out, their fears weren’t unwarranted. A former VP of Market Development for Digital Camera Products at ARRI turned out to be involved in corporate espionage, pleading guilty to hacking RED emails and allegedly sharing information about RED’s EPIC with the German rival. Michael Bravin “pleaded guilty to using the name and password of [Band Pro] CEO and president Amnon Band to access files used in interstate commerce. Emails from several industry firms were accessed during the hacking, including those of Red Digital Cinema founder Jim Jannard. The hacking occurred between December 2009 and June 2010.” He also apparently spread false information and disparaged RED’s products on the company’s own forum, reduser.net, under a pseudonym.
As for unfounded claims that RED is somehow stifling innovation, industry giants like Sony and Canon have only themselves to blame. Remember how many years it took for Sony to offer 10-bit in their mirrorless cameras (shutter angle, scopes, 24p, DCI: the list of omissions is endless…) and Canon to start producing cameras that weren’t weirdly crippled to protect their cinema lineup, and on and on? If anyone’s guilty of a failure to innovate, point the finger at their own dimwitted marketing departments.
Concerning the dispute between Geoff Boyle and Jim Jannard: it’s not just that Boyle accused RED of being charlatans, claiming the project was vaporware, but that he was able to convince an army of followers of the same (much like we see today over in the Blackmagic forums). Nevertheless, unlike shills like John Brawley and the filmmakers who run immensely lucrative websites devoted to video who published the story of RED vs Nikon but who failed in their responsibility to correct the falsehoods spread by their vitriolic readers in the comments sections for fear of alienating them and losing out on the substantial revenue generated by the massive amount of advertising on their sites, folks like Andrew Reid over at EOSHD (who is under an NDA) and Art Adams of Arri, who has had his own run-ins with Jannard, still give RED (and Graeme Nattress) credit for their immense contributions and don’t stoop to taking cheap shots at the brand.
As a footnote, even though the RED ONE signalled the ascendancy of digital cinema, the first features shot on the RED ONE had to be transferred to film as theaters did not yet have digital projectors.