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Red Digital Cinema Camera: Ted Schilowitz, Part 2

We talk with the "Leader of the Rebellion" about whether the Red Camera exists or not By Charlie White

Missed part 1 of this interview? Find it here.

Part 2: The Red Digital Cinema Camera Company made its debut at NAB 2006 with a model of a camcorder it says can shoot 4K digital footage at a bargain-basement price. Showing neither a working prototype nor footage from this camera, the company's booth was still packed with curious onlookers, wondering if Red, led by Oakley founder Jim Jannard, could actually do what it clamed. DMN's Charlie White talked with Jannard's right-hand man Ted Shilowitz, whose title in the company is "Leader of the Rebellion" in this two-part interview.

DMN: Some of the same people are designing this are designing Oakley products?

Schilowitz: I wouldn't say that. They're two separate companies. But here's a good example. Jim [Jannard], who is the founder of Oakley, was the only designer at Oakley for the first 15 years of that company's existence. He was <i>the</i> guy. And now he's <i>the</i> guy at Red. He actually has a job on the project. Yet, if you know him, he has kind of a reputation, he's "that guy from Oakley." He's done pretty well for himself. And Jim is actually working for living on this project. He and I work together, we sit side-by-side, we get our little PowerBooks together, and we have work to do. He's in charge of industrial design. He has his people, his department, he has deliverables, he has deadlines. There's a lot of drama, and we get stuff done. It's exciting. By no means is he a figurehead in this. He's part of the working group -- maybe the hardest-working guy working on the whole project. So that's exciting. It's exciting for me personally, and I think it's exciting for the industry at large. This guy's really working, and you see the end result of that very quickly. And we're nowhere near done. You're just seeing step one. It's going to change a lot by the time we're done. The only thing I can guarantee you is that we'll change a little more. But this is where we are today, and it's pretty evolved as we are. You can look at it and go, "OK, these guys are actually thinking about how I might use this, as opposed to building a box and sticking a lens on it, because they could've done that, too." A lot of other companies are doing that. That's one piece of the triangle.

DMN: And the second piece of the triangle?

Schilowitz: The second piece is the sensor. The first thing to note is that we did a lot of investigation in the development of this, to look at the landscape of sensors that are on the market that can be used by different companies. Could these existing sensors work for us? There was nothing near what we needed, not even close. So we said, what we do now? Well, we had to build our own sensor. So we put together our own sensor team. Now that doesn't mean we own our own foundry. That's a whole different story.

DMN: You can design these things separately, and have them built in a fab somewhere.

Schilowitz: Yes. This is our sensor, it doesn't exist in any other camera, and it will not exist in another camera unless we choose to put it in another camera that we build, or give it to somebody else because we're nice guys.

DMN: You must have spent a lot on R&D.

Schilowitz: We're spending some money. It takes a little bit of money to build a camera it's more than what I have in my pocket. So we're going for it. 

DMN: So it's in development. Can you tell us how far along it is and how much farther you have to go before it's actually a working prototype?

Schilowitz: I can give you targets, and I will not insult your intelligence or any of your crew's intelligence by saying these are ship dates. I'll give you targets, because the last thing I want to do is quote you a ship date and then miss it. There are plenty of other companies who have done that. I don't want that legacy -- we're changing rules here, we're not following. But what I will tell you, with as much candor as I can, is that we're on target and on track. Our engineering targets were probably four to five months into really hard-core large teamwork on multiple fronts. Our goal is to have the first cameras shipping -- how many we don't know yet -- by the end of this calendar year. That's a target. Now I have to keep all my stars in line for a long time to make sure that happens. I'm working hard. Things change, things move around; you have to be honest with people. That's what I've discovered. People are really excited about what we're doing. I have a lot of people who came up to the booth, came up to me, came up to Jim, and said, "Thanks. Thanks for what you're doing, you're changing things. Thanks. This is really good."

DMN: Some of our readers might say, "How do we know this is not vaporware?" What do you say to them?

Schilowitz: What I would say to them is, you can believe us now, or you can believe us later. We don't want to convince you of anything. We have a lot of people that believe what we're doing, believe in the spirit what we're doing, and want to see it succeed, and that's really  exciting. There are some people who aren't interested. You know, there are plenty of other camera choices out there, so buy one of them. There are plenty of other cameras.

DMN: Now you're taking orders, you lined up quite a few people. How does that work?

Schilowitz: Let me tell you the story where we sit. Jim and I decided about two months ago that we should have a booth at NAB. That's all, just two months ago. We were getting to a point in the "revolution," where we looked at the camera bodies as we were working and reworking them every day, and we said, "I think we might want to show this to somebody, see some reaction, start really building this." The buzz is building organically through a lot of the forums. People are talking about the stuff, and now Jim's involved, and he's got some of the successful stuff, and the chops to pull it off. OK, great. We're watching, watching closely. There are a lot of naysayers. And we're good with that, whatever. We would rather the naysayers come and talk directly to us rather than talking behind our backs. If you don't think we can do it, come tell us. We'll tell you where we think you're wrong. So that's where things stand. 

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Related Keywords:Camcorder, Red Digital Cinema Camera Company, NAB 2006, 4K, digital footage, working prototype, Oakley, Jim Jannard, Ted Schilowitz, interview

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