RED is now taking preorders at $1,450 for their potentially market disrupting new 4K Ultra HD, high frame rate video player. This is the beginning of the format war with Sony over 4K and the possible beginning of the end of optical media being used to distribute movies for people interested in Ultra HD.
For those who are unfamiliar with RED Digital Cinema Camera Company they started life in 1999 and were founded by Oakley founder Jim Jannard. They released their first camera in 2007 and quickly garnered the admiration and support of a vast number of people in the film industry because of their product quality and value. They have also announced a 4K laser based projector for use in the home or your neighborhood cinema that they plan to release starting at around $10,000. A product like this could revolutionize projector performance as they have with their relatively low cost and high performance cinema cameras.
The REDRAY player is usable with this new projector or any DCI or UltraHD display. It can receive content wirelessly over a built-in 802.11n receiver or over a gigabit port from RED’s distribution network Odemax.com. External USB and SD card inputs are also included as content sources. The Redray player will start shipping at the end of December. Odemax is scheduled to come online in March for consumers.
ODEMAX in itself is potentially revolutionary. It will allow independent filmmakers and producers to bypass the major studios as a link in the distribution system for films. Since this distribution system should be capable of delivering very high quality films at a relatively low data rate, it may make low cost digital distribution of better than Blu-Ray films a reality for the home viewer and the commercial theatrical presentation market.
The REDRAY player beats Blu-ray in more than resolution by supporting greater bit depth and color precision for both smoother and sharper video reproduction. Having seen Ultra HD on a Sony VPL-VW1000ES in both 2D and 3D I can say these improvements are visible when viewed on a very large screen. The player will output either 4K DCI, UltraHD, 1080p or 720p formats. On the audio side, the player output supports 24-bit data like Blu-Ray up to 7.1 channels at 48 kHz. This is a downgrade from Blu-Ray, which can support 7.1 channels at 96 kHz or 5.1 channels at 196 kHz. Since most films are mastered at 48 kHz, I suspect this will only be a problem with concert videos that are at sometimes available at higher sampling rates.
REDRAY includes 1TB of storage in the unit that may prove to be more than adequate since their proprietary 4K encodes in as little as 2.5MB/s making internet downloads of 4K material very viable. Control of the unit is made possible by an IR remote, iPad app, or by IP with home automation equipment.
You will connect this to your system in a variety of ways. The most common will be a HDMI 1.4 connection going to the display and a separate HDMI 1.3 connection going to the receiver or preamp processor with the audio. The player can also drive up to 4 HDMI outputs with program material simultaneously.
This video player uses several proprietary components. The .RED formats are for audio and video and are the only supported methods for 4K video and multi-channel audio. ODEMAX™ is for digital rights management to support the internet distribution model for this product. REDCrypt™ is used to encrypt the digital media. These proprietary methods of distribution are where the format wars are likely to occur between RED and Sony.
It will be interesting to see if RED can leverage their success in the film production arena to the home and local cinema. This player is too expensive for most consumers, but it is not out of line for many with dedicated home theaters. When coupled with their new projector or one of the other new 4K products this should be a compelling product for those with very large screens who want the best in image reproduction.
UPDATE: ODEMAX™ failed to come to market with any products 8/9/14.