Located in central Hollywood, I was given the opportunity to visit Red Studios for an exciting firsthand look at the brand new flagship of the Red armada, the Red Weapon 8K VV camera. With a new 8K VV sensor, the Monstro replaces the previous Dragon 8K VV sensor with enhanced pixel construction and improved light gathering characteristics. Prior to a breakdown on the camera’s new features, I was shown ISO comparisons at full resolution projection in Red’s Studios Stage 4 theater. Red is claiming testing to more than 17 stops of dynamic range, quite the feat for a full-frame sensor with 8K resolution. Even before I saw the side-by-side noise-floor comparisons, it was immediately impressive how the camera handles shadow detail and highlight rolloff from the test footage I was shown.
Included with Helium and Monstro sensors going forward, and also as an update, an improved color processing pipeline, IPP2, has increased color fidelity while simplifying the workflow. IPP2 (for Image Processing Pipeline) features a complete engineering redesign from the ground-up, so it will produce better results from previous sensor systems during post processing, though it will not be available in-camera to prior systems. It’s also available for REDCINE-X PRO software users, however, for updating legacy content.
After the side-by-sides, several key members of the Red team stepped me through the new features and enhancements over the previous Dragon VV 8K sensor. (“VV” is informally a callback to the 35mm format VistaVision.) Starting at $79,500, with upgrade pricing at $29,500 for carbon-fiber Weapon owners, the Weapon camera bodies, or “the brain,” as Red refers to them, are designed to house three available sensors, which culminates in this new Monstro 8K VV. Also available for the Weapon, the Helium 8K S35 offers Super35 coverage at diagonal of 33.8 mm. At a Super 35 diagonal of 34.5 mm, the Dragon 6K S35 sensor captures at up to 75 fps.
Both Weapon systems start at $49,500. Red has announced that sensors within the Weapon will even be exchangeable, up to one sensor swap a year, through the Red Armor-W membership, which also increases warranty. At 46.31mm diagonal (40.96 x 21.6mm), the Weapon Monstro 8K VV can utilize full frame lens coverage, and is capable of up 60 fps at 8K. (Canon EF/EF-S, Nikon F, and Leica-M mounts are available directly from Red. PL is supported, too.) At a wider 2.4:1 aspect ratio, you can achieve 75 fps at 8K.
With all Red camera systems, there are several Redcode Raw compression choices, and for ProRes and Avid codecs, as well. With 8192 x 4320 pixel resolution, that’s also a 35.4 megapixel still grab, which surpasses the resolution of most major still camera systems short of medium format. The sensor size and pixel pitch is exactly the same as Dragon VV, but the pixels and some of the circuitry have been redesigned. To prevent ordering backups, the company is planning to produce Monstro sensors in bulk, a construction pathway that proved successful with their Helium release. They’ve also built on the lessons they learned with both the Dragon and Helium sensors, which has resulted in wider dynamic range at the base of the exposure over previous models.
In addition to the new Monstro sensor design, the modular Weapon camera housing channels up to a 300 MB/s data rate, enough to stream Redcode Raw as well as either Apple’s ProRes or Avid’s DNxHD/HR for edit-ready files right from cam. Keep in mind that Red Mini-Mag drives start at an extra $850. Similarly, ins and outs are available at additional cost through Red’s DSMC2 interfaces.
“Red’s internal sensor program continues to push the boundaries of pixel design and Monstro is the materialization of our relentless pursuit to make the absolute best image sensors on the planet,” says Jarred Land, president of Red Digital Cinema, via the press release. “The full-frame 8K VV Monstro provides unprecedented dynamic range and breathtaking color accuracy with full support for our IPP2 pipeline.”
While very few productions are asking for 8K resolutions yet, Red points out that the downres results in a much cleaner image thanks to the enhanced signal-to-noise ratio you get by supersampling from the higher resolution. Also, they call their modular camera program Obsolescence Obsolete, which is a nice nod not only to their dedicated fans, but to the many manufacturers out there making peripherals. The brain dimensions will stay the same over the course of future upgrades, so that gear can continue to be used. Manufacturers get a guarantee that their equipment designs will continue to be supported, as well.
Remote control is available on the Monstro through integrated R.C.P. WiFi antenna, or through Ethernet, RS232, and GPI Trigger if using the optional DSMC2 expander module. There is 3G-SDI (HD-SDI) and HDMI with the DSMC2 expander module for monitoring at up to 1080p RGB or 4:2:2. Red offers a number of monitors with touchscreen operations in addition to many other peripherals. The Red Weapon Monstro 8K VV is planned to ship in early 2018.