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RED Announces 8K Weapon at NAB: Here’s Why It’s Impressive…and Disappointing

RED Announces 8K Weapon at NAB: Here's Why It's Impressive...and Disappointing

READ MORE: Attention, Filmmakers: 5 Panels You Won’t Want to Miss at NAB

Award-winning Los Angeles-based filmmaker Noam Kroll is reporting daily from NAB 2015 for his blog. Here’s his latest report:

I’ve had a love/hate relationship with RED for a long time. My first proper narrative film was shot on the RED One, and since, then I’ve shot countless projects on the Scarlet, Epic and Dragon – usually having a solid experience with their gear. That said, in recent years I have been less impressed with their offerings and yesterday’s Weapon announcement has followed that trend.

WEAPON Revealed

RED announced last night that the new RED Weapon brain will start at $49,500 for the 6K carbon fiber version, and for an optional $10,000 upgrade fee you can an 8K Vista Vision (full frame) version of the camera. Unfortunately, the $10,000 upgrade fee will jump up to $20,000 after NAB, meaning that the new flagship 8K RED Weapon will retail for nearly $70,000 for the brain only…

It’s worth noting that if you opt to buy the magnesium version of the 6K weapon (as opposed to carbon fiber), the base model starts at $34,500. This is more affordable for some, but the specs differ from the carbon fiber version in certain aspects which are detailed below.

Below I’ll get into some of my thoughts on the Weapon, but first let’s take a look at some of the specs for both the carbon fiber and magnesium versions. Thanks to 4KShooters for posting these specs:

WEAPON 6K Carbon Fiber – $49,500

– Simultaneous R3D and Apple Prores recording in-camera
– Records R3D and scaled version of same footage as ProRes. For example 6K master, and 2K ProRes up to 120fps.
– Files recorded simultaneously to same media
– Consistent naming and internally accurate timecode (easier workflow than external recorder)
– Apple ProRes 444XQ, 444, 422HQ, 422 or 422LT
– As well as tethered streaming ProRes – ProRes recorded proxy can be sent to Ethernet, while R3D master sent to media
– 33x33x33 3D LUTs
– Faster Data throughput. Up to 50% higher data rates to card. Existing RED MINI-MAG 512GB cards are already ready for transfer speed increase
– Dual monitor ports on Brain for EVF/LCDs.
– Automatic sensor calibration. Select exposure times from 1/8000s to 1/8s without calibrating. Wider operating band for sensor temperature
– Better thermal management, Lower fan noise with no front fans and more stable operating temperature
– Integrated top-plate
– Integrated wireless control connectivity
– Interchangeable and removable I/O options with accessible port placement.
– Interchangeable OLPFs with smart detection of which OLPF is installed.
– Monitor flip and mirror on all outputs, including SDI.
– Integrated dual digital front microphones

WEAPON 6K Magnesium – $34,500 Brain 

– Simultaneous R3D and Pro-res recording in-camera
– Records R3D and scaled version of same footage as ProRes. For example 6K master, and 2K ProRes up to 60fps.
– Files recorded simultaneously to same media
– Consistent naming and internally accurate timecode (easier workflow than external recorder)
– Apple ProRes 4444XQ, 4444, 422HQ, 422 or 422LT
– Tethered streaming ProRes – ProRes recorded proxy can be sent to Ethernet, while R3D master sent to media
– 17x17x17 3D LUTs
– Faster Data throughput. Up to 50% higher data rates to card. Existing RED MINI-MAG 512GB cards are already ready for transfer speed increase
– Dual monitor ports on Brain for EVF/LCDs.
– Automatic sensor calibration. Select exposure times from 1/8000s to 1/8s without calibrating. Wider operating band for sensor temperature
– Better thermal management, Lower fan noise with no front fans and more stable operating temperature
– Integrated top-plate
– Integrated wireless control connectivity
– Interchangeable and removable I/O options with accessible port placement.
– Interchangeable OLPFs with smart detection of which OLPF is installed.
– Monitor flip and mirror on all outputs, including SDI.
– Integrated dual digital front microphones
– The 8K Weapon is also able to shoot at 75fps which is certainly impressive, but overkill for many productions.

My Thoughts

There is no doubt that many of the features and specs on the list have been needed for some time – notably, the ability to record ProRes. The fact that you can shoot in 6K RAW and ProRes at the same time (to the same card), is probably the biggest asset that the Weapon has to offer in terms of day to day functionality. The rest of the specs are certainly a notable improvement from RED’s previous camera lineup, but I’m not sure they are what I’m looking for.

RED seems to be going in a very interesting direction. From my perspective, their priority seems to be resolution above all else, which is great for certain types of projects but not necessarily a priority for most of my work. Their camera bodies have become quite standardized, and ultimately, the ergonomics haven’t really changed since the original RED Epic. That’s not to say the Weapon body is identical to the Epic, because it certainly has some obvious improvements – but the general size, shape, and feel of it is pretty close. This isn’t in itself problematic as the original Epic was well designed and works beautifully as a modular solution, but I would love to see RED diversify their offerings a bit more.

There are two issues that I have with RED right now. The first is their pricing… Purchasing a 6K carbon fiber Weapon (which I believe will be the most popular model) will run you $50,000 just to start. Price-wise that is very much in Alexa/Amira territory, and while RED and Arri offer very different cameras there is no denying that the majority of the highest end productions are very content with the Alexa… Can RED make a bigger dent in the Alexa user base with their Weapon? Maybe, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

The second issue is that I want to see RED invent more – not just innovate. The Weapon is an excellent upgrade to the Dragon (cost aside), but RED isn’t offering anything new or different outside of maxing out their specs. I would love to see RED taking more risks like Blackmagic is doing with their Micro Cinema Camera.

In the end, RED will continue to have a user base and the Weapon will be used on many professional productions. But for the company to compete with other manufacturers in the future I think they need to get their cost down and add some new cameras to their lineup that serve different types of shooters.

Check out RED Digital Cinema’s official announcement video below:

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles-based filmmaker, and founder of the boutique production company Creative Rebellion. This article was originally published on his blog, where he is reporting daily from NAB 2015.

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