Unleashing the Titan
A sneak peek at Red’s new super-camera ☛
Following the release of Red’s ground-breaking Epic Dragon camera earlier this month, I decided to talk to someone from the company to see if I could get an insight into what might be coming next from this most revolutionary of camera companies. I pitched up at their corporate headquarters, known only as The Ziggurat, a massive stepped pyramid in downtown LA. I later discovered that it is an exact copy of the Tyrell Corporation building in Blade Runner, except this one isn’t a scale model.
The first thing you notice when entering The Ziggurat is the music. Company policy is to play power rock ballads at all times to a volume just within human tolerance. This is designed to get Red employees in the correct mental focus to enact the company mission statement: “Let’s kick some butt”.
Bradley Mensch, VP in charge of blue skies thinking – 6’ 4” of chilled Californian in an artfully distressed baseball cap – shakes my hand with genial, merciless force. He says something that I can’t hear for the Santana and shows me to the staff social area, the Holodeck, where we sit down with a refreshing glass of wheatmilk. We chat about what the future holds for Red, with the help of the megaphones conveniently provided on the table. It’s entirely possible that I misheard much of what follows.
“Remember when the tanning salon and the movie theatre used to be two different places? Not any more!” – Bradley Mensch, Red Cameras
“The Epic Dragon is just the beginning” Bradley bellows at me, “You wait till you see the Titan – man, that baby rocks!” At a whopping 24k resolution, the Titan certainly out-performs any previous digital camera body. Resolution is not the only improvement though, the Titan also captures the full light spectrum, from Ultraviolet to Infrared. “We’ve shot some test footage down in Malibu which you can actually use for sun-bathing purposes. Remember when the tanning salon and the movie theatre used to be two different places? Not any more!”
Despite these advances, rumours are circulating that the Titan has had teething problems. I put to Bradley the reports that it’s been struggling to capture faithful human skin-tones. He seems unconcerned by this tittle-tattle: “We had bought a Maclaren F1 – just as something to shoot for camera tests – and had calibrated the camera to capture that. Right now, the footage of that car looks more like the car than the experience of looking at it with the naked eye. Totally awesome. As for skin-tones, we’re working with Max Factor on a carbon-fibre make-up that will give actors’ skin a texture the camera can resolve.”
But it’s even been suggested that women don’t show up on Titanic footage at all. A grin creases the pristine lawn of Bradley’s designer stubble, “If you want to shoot women, use an Alexa. They didn’t give it a girl’s name for nothing!”
I ask about the workflow. Given that at 24k RAW by the time you’ve put on a clapperboard you’ve shot about 1 terabyte of material, data management is likely to be an issue. Bradley tells me that they’d looked into the possibility of on-board drives, but that clearly wasn’t going to be realistic. Instead the Titan needs to be tethered to a portable data-centre contained within a shipping container and hauled by a monster truck. “At the end of a day’s filming the truck can drive to… wherever it goes, in order for the digital negative to be downloaded, backed-up and transcoded.” He smiles, “Those guys are going to hate us!”
Having created such a high-resolution camera, Red are now diversifying in order to find ways to optimise the footage it can capture. “Camera technology has reached a level whereby it’s rendered the human eye obsolete. Essentially you’ll need your eyes upgraded if you’re going to get the full value from this camera. Given our background, we looked into high resolution eye-wear, but we think it might be better just to replace both units [eyes] with Red cameras hooked up to the brain.” I gently wonder how practical this will be? When I’ve finished yelling over Springsteen, Bradley nods and smiles: “Way ahead of you buddy – we’ve got a modular neck-brace allowing you to hand-hold your own head.”
While such developments might be still a little way off, Red does have an impressive launch planned for the camera. “We were working on developing a screen big enough to really show off the image quality, when we realised that the perfect projection platform is just sitting there for all to see…” He makes the ‘Tom Cruise framing gesture’. “The moon!”
Following a collaboration with Texas Instruments, Red will be projecting onto the lunar surface in November for a fully global product launch. I was curious to know what they’d choose to show, given the reach of this screening. “We wanted to show something for the benefit of all mankind, and the Fox Corporation, something that would bring together all humanity for the first truly global movie experience. We’ve not decided whether it should be a preview of Transformers 4 or the Daytona 500.” Bradley beams at the thought.
As I dab the blood from my ear, I realise it might be time to leave, but I have just one thing left to ask. “Personally I’m still getting over the quality of Blu-Ray, and that’s only HD. Do we really need more than 4k of resolution?”
Bradley freezes and smiles a hollow smile. I can’t tell what’s happening behind his fire-iridium sports shades, but he’s shaking slightly. Eventually he raises his bullhorn and says: “I’m sorry, I don’t understand the question.”
Copyright © Guy Ducker 2013
Edited by Dr Sara Lodge
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