Red Digital Cinema’s History & How To Video Series

Posted Jan. 5th, 2013 by Daniel J. Cox

Red Digital Cinema continues to steam roll the competition and impress the image creation world with phenomenal new technology for still and moving images. I first heard of the Red One several years ago. The Red One was Red Digital Cinema’s first barn storming camera that turned the video creation world on its head. The story of Red is as interesting as the equipment they make. We’ll get to that in a moment. For those not interested in history and this great story you can go directly to Red Digital Cinema’s tutorial page with five great videos on what Red cameras can do. Including a video that highlights grabbing cover quality, still images from Red camera’s video output. It’s mind bending!


Jim Jannard, often referred to as the mad scientist, was the sole inventor, designer, photographer and marketer for Oakley sportswear and sunglass company. He actually shot most, if not all, of Oakley’s promotional images and video. In other words he knew what he wanted as an image creator in both stills and video. Part of the story I can’t corroborate is, Jannard supposedly contacted all the large video camera manufactures, Sony, Panasonic, JVC and others to try and convince them to build the type of camera Red One eventually became. They all told him is wasn’t feasible, nobody would buy it, etc., so as any good, red blooded, American entrepreneur would do – who by the way sold his Oakley sportswear company for 2.1 billion dollars in 2007 – yes, that’s billion – he started his own camera manufacturing company now known as Red Digital Cinema. And, as they say, the rest is history.

Many of you know my new found interest in the world of video production. I’m not doing large projects but I have produced all our own promotional materials and I have to say it’s been extremely fun and satisfying as an artist and story teller. The thing I love about the moving image is there are so many more creative avenues in the world of motion. When I’m working on a still project I’m not dead in the water if the still photograph I was hoping to capture doesn’t present itself. Maybe the sun failed to rise, or the animal migration veered off into another valley, maybe the subject never showed itself in a manner that would arrest the attention of a viewer who turns the page of a book. As a still photographer you have almost no additional creativity once the photo is taken. That’s especially true if you have chosen not to manipulate your images with extreme post-processing.

With moving images it’s so much different. Even if the footage you captured isn’t as good as you hoped, the additional tools of cinematography, sound, narration, music and ability to mix your editing up, are all new avenues for creativity. The final project is always more satisfying than anything I’ve produced exclusively with still photos.

As still photographers we have several advantages over the folks who have never worked in the world of the single image. One benefit is exactly the problem I described above turned around to work for us. That is the need to create an arresting image with just one shot. Creating arresting images is a huge advantage when you put a lot of them together that move. The advantage comes from a still shooter’s need to capture the elements that grab the viewer. With video, motion begets attention even if it’s not all that attractive. A funny quote my past assistant, BJ Kirschhoffer, likes to repeat is, “If you can’t make it interesting make it move”. That’s a family joke he would often nag his little brother with who is a successful cinematographer in L.A. But it’s actually true. I can’t tell you how many BBC nature productions I’ve seen where the cheetah is hunting at high noon, light so crappy it hurts your eyes. Scenes that have made me comment out loud, “how in the heck do these cine guys get away with this crummy photography?” The reason? Because it’s moving, plain and simple. As a still shooter nobody would publish images with light like that. It’s just too unattractive. But in the world of cine, it may be part of the story that has to be told, so it has to go in.

In other words, still photographers can use their long time desire to make beautiful, arresting images to their advantage. Having spent thirty years looking for, though not always obtaining, amazing imagery at least puts me in the right frame of mind for better cinematography. Put a great series of still images together in a movie and you have the advantage of a better quality product.

My reason for sharing all of this is to encourage you to go out and try the Movie mode on your DSLR’s. Buy an external mic since sound is 50% of a good quality production. Start editing with iMovie. I did and was able to master it in very short order. I’ve now moved over to Final Cut Pro X and love it. It’s every bit as easy as iMovie but ten times the power.

One last final thought. For those of you wanting to be a still photographer as a profession, those days are over. You have to think about the moving image. From video you can now pull stills and that’s what clients in the future will demand. You just won’t be marketable if you only know still image capture. Learn video and you can do both. Watch this movie from Red Digital Cinema to see what I mean. The days of still photography as a single line profession are very short indeed.


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