Category Archives: Hdtv

Red at Cine Gear

Red logoRed’s planning a demo at CINEGEAR tomorrow. It wouldn’t be a bad place to announce a ship date (or at least an update) as it’s been nearly a month since the Red One camera went on an engineering delay. An early skeptic, I became a believer at NAB. The Peter Jackson short was easily the most stunning demo reel for a camera in industry history.

Now I’m eager to see Red released, though I don’t plan on buying or renting one. I’m a post guy, so I’m very interested in the Red workflow. We’ve heard about Redcode in FCP. How will it work with existing higher end DI systems. How will the codec perform in action? There’s been a lot of excitement (hype) about 4k, but the real story out of the gate will be 2k and HD. That’s where we’re likely to see Red imagery in distribution.

I’m most intrigued by word of Red plans to develop 4k monitors and projectors. I want more details on the professional (prosumer?) pocket camera. We don’t even know if it’s a still or video camera yet. The promise of a complete Red ecosystem is alluring with a single codec for acquisition and post.

Red’s going to happen. There’s the video equivalent of the Manhattan Project team assigned to it. I just wish we knew when it was coming, but I applaud the company’s restraint in not announcing future shipping targets until certain. Previously the company was a little too communicative for my taste. Remember the news of last summer’s break in? But a monthly update on an engineering delay seems about right.

The problem for me is that until Red One ships, all the stuff I’m really interested in remains in radio silence.

The revolution will not be red

There’s a lot of buzz being generated by the RED camera. That happens when a young (by billionaire standards) and charismatic entrepreneur enters a new field. This is an industry that more than occasionally needs shaking up, and Jim Jannard’s a lot more interesting than most most of the pocket protector crowd that usually delivers us innovation.

I’ve been publicly skeptical of the RED camera coming to market on time. I think a 4k camera at $35,000 would be pretty damn cool (that’s what a baseline functioning camera will cost), but not very useful.

It turns out that the December date was simply mentioned by the founder as a date he would hope to be in production, nothing more. It’s hard to fault a founder for optimism. It goes with the territory. Pessimists and cynics don’t launch companies with the stated goal of revolutionizing an industry.

So let’s say this work of stunning industrial design arrives for NAB. I still believe it won’t, but really smart people tell me the team is still on track. If it does show up, so what? It’s cool like having a car that can go 150 MPH is cool. What are most independents going to so with it that a Panasonic HVX-200 can’t do? Seriously. How many of your clients have been clamoring for 4k resolutions? The only venues that can show the RED image in all its glory are cinemas. Are cinemas clamoring for more independent fare? How many films do well at Sundance and never get into theatrical distribution?

At the end of the day this camera will have no significant effect on democratizing the industry. It won’t be because it’s not a technological marvel at an incredible price point. It’s that acquisition isn’t the bottleneck for distribution. IPTV is the revolution, and for the next decade at least there ain’t gonna be no one clogging those pipes with 4k independent films.

Buy an HVX-200. You can be shooting with it next week and have material ready for IP distribution shortly after.

HDTV turns the corner

If a walk down the aisles at BestBuy isn’t enough to convince you, then CNET’s got some hard data on HDTV penetration.

About 16.2 million U.S. homes had at least one [HDTV] at the beginning of 2006, and that tally has likely grown to about 19 million since then, according to Leichtman Research Group.

That rise in popularity is being driven by more affordable models. At Christmastime last year, the average price of an HDTV was $1,600, but people were able to get them for as little as $500. As prices continue to drop and people replace old TVs with newer ones, the number of homes with at least one HDTV set is expected to jump to 65 million by 2010.

65 million households by 2010 seems like a conservative estimate. It’s not often you see many of those in the field of consumer electronics. The article posits HDTV might be the deciding factor in the battle between the telcos and cable companies. If that’s the case, it should be an easy victory for the cable companies. HDTV takes up a decent amount of bandwidth (about 8 Mbps per channel), and the cable companies have more bandwidth going to the home.

Even the the cable companies’ fatter pipes will clog offering more than eight to ten HD channels. The telcos, for the most part, can only offer one or two. They will have to do better than that, and much better than AT&T’s IPTV deployment in San Antonio. No HDTV is currently available there. This could be a marketing nightmare.

People buy new products and services based on anticipated needs, not actual needs. Even consumers yet to purchase an HDTV set are less likely to sign up for a new telelvision service that lacks HD. Remember the VCR. VHS marketed its ability to record up to six hours of material against Betamax’s hour and a half. This was a wildly successful marketing strategy even though almost nobody recorded anything VCRs.

This might get interesting in the context of the net nuetrality debate. If AT&T, Verizon, and company argue that net nuetrality needs to be pushed aside in order to provide HDTV to the masses at a reasonable cost, they stand a very good chance of victory.

“Hello, AT&T. How may I help you?”
“I was wondering how to get more HD channels through your IPTV service.”
“Sir, AT&T is committed to bringing you more HDTV channels, but our hands are tied. Congress won’t pass the legislation we need to build out the network. Please call your congressman and ask him to support the Network Freedom Bill.”

A bit of semantics right up there with the Death Tax.