Jarred Land talks about the new RED RANGER Camera, available exclusively to Rental Houses.
JON: At your RED Studios Hollywood gathering during Cine Gear, you floated the idea of a custom camera for rental houses.
JARRED: We had a rental house event here in our theater at RED Studios. The Panavision DXL2 was just launching at that time and some of the other rental houses wish they could be part of that program. But of course that was a Panavison exclusive camera so they couldn’t. I reminded them of what I tell everyone, that we can make custom cameras for anybody as long as they buy enough of them :) Enough hands went up publicly and later privately to make the project viable. Hence, the RANGER is a special camera that we will sell only to authorized rental houses. They will get this camera that hopefully addresses some features and requests that are unique to rental houses.
JON: What is the background for the evolution of its design?
JARRED: Matt Tremblay, our chief designer, and I love building these custom cameras. After we built David Fincher’s custom Xenomorph camera, and of course what the Panavision DXL became, we designed a more condensed version with NASA in mind that benefited from everything we learned with the Xeno. Michael Bay saw that original RANGER and wanted his own version, and that evolved into his Bayhem camera.
The new RANGER is a unified camera that integrates what you’d get if you bought a MONSTRO and a DSMC2 PRODUCTION MODULE, and then added a few things on top of that. It’s really a production camera for features, TV movies and commercials where being modular isn’t as important as having everything integrated.
Brian Henderson (RED’s VP of Business Development) and his team have been spearheading this project and have been doing a great job building up our connections at rental houses a little bit further than we had in the past. He’s going to start showing the camera mid-January and then we are launching it properly in March.
The RANGER really is a focused rental house-only camera. We won’t make too many of them, but enough for everybody in our authorized rental program to have something special.
JON: Will you sell RANGER to DPs who would like it as well?
JARRED: Probably not, and it’s not going to dealers either. Basically, this is our offer to the rental houses and to have them guide us where it goes. The RANGER is expensive to make because the quantity is small. Also, the rental houses are absolutely the best ones to support a camera like the RANGER on larger productions.
JON: Same MONSTRO sensor?
JARRED: Yes, it is the same MONSTRO sensor inside RANGER as our DSMC2 camera body. It’s not modular, so we make 2 versions , one with an integrated V-Lock and one with an integrated Anton/Bauer battery plate. It accepts 24 Volt external power which is one of the biggest things that we’ve had requests for over the years. And, with everything integrated within one larger body, we have more space so the fan is bigger and quieter. That was the other big request we have always had from Rental houses. Also, stability is improved because you’re not adding various modules and risking failure of connections through the pogo pins.
Our third-party program was great for everybody to make modules and it’s awesome that people are starting to make some really cool stuff, but a lot of rental houses and their customers don’t really want to have to learn how to support every single module that comes out.
I think it’s safe to say that everybody appreciates the modular aspects and the small size of the DSMC2. But, when you see these large productions taking our little camera , it ends up looking like a big Medusa. They have all these wires and connectors added on, so then size becomes less important. Also, when you are on a production that travels and involves getting cameras from multiple rental houses, it is also beneficial to be able to replicate the configuration exactly from rental house to rental house. When you ask for a RANGER you will get a RANGER ready to shoot and that helps reduce some of the unknowns that can happen with the modules.
That said, RANGER is not a camera for everybody. But I think the rental houses are going to like it a lot. It’s their kind of camera. We’d like them to drive the program. There have been a lot of changes over the last couple of years in the rental business and RANGER offers them something that is unique. Most rental houses have, to various degrees, offered custom solutions for their customers in other ways. This gives them the opportunity to again have something special that sets them apart from everybody else.
JON: How have rental houses changed over the last few years?
JARRED: Well, we are probably responsible for some of that change. When we started in this industry, a professional cinema camera was well over $100,000. It wasn’t really an owner-operator world. The price was high, but that was ok because the return on investment was very long. You could buy an Arriflex 235, 435, 535 or any of the other film cameras and have them last for 10 or 20 years. So, after purchasing a camera, you could be pretty confident that you’d eventually make that investment back. And then we came along and so did pretty much everybody else with a whole new generation of cameras, at a much more affordable price point, at much quicker cycles, which is not the best way for the market to move if you are a rental house.
The bright side of this explosion of cameras is that there also has been an explosion of the amount of content and there are a lot more productions thanks to streaming like Netflix and YouTube and Amazon and others that really didn’t exist 10 years ago.
JON: RANGER might make the rental houses happy because I can imagine they are also concerned about the large percentage of income they have to share with crews who have their own cameras, lenses and accessories. I’ve heard numbers as high as 80% sub-rentals on some productions.
JARRED: This sub-rental trend has benefits and negatives. It helps the rental house by moving that increasingly frequent short-cycle investment away to the owner-operator. But then the rental house has to share the revenue. Kitsplit, Sharegrid and other Internet services are proliferating. Which is awesome for the renters, but hard on the traditional Rental houses.
For 50 years, the camera rental industry has been pretty predictable. And then about 10 years ago it seemed like the entire world changed. Digital became a real choice and cameras became cheaper and many more shooters became owner-operators. Some other manufacturers actually chose to become rental houses themselves to compete with their own customers. Rental houses, of course, again adapted. You started seeing some rental houses doing post and finding other ways to diversify.
Rental houses have a certain kind of support and knowledge that nobody else can do and that knowledge became even more valuable. There was also a lot of consolidation. It was gloomy for a little while there, but now I think it is a very interesting time for rental houses with a ton of opportunity.
All we want to do is just make the best cameras we can for everyone, and we are happy to help enable all of our rental house partners to succeed in their own way. RANGER is what they asked for, so we made it. Pretty simple.
JON: How did you arrive at the camera’s shape? It looks nicely 435-ish.
JARRED: I’m going to give credit to Christopher Probst and Fincher for the part of the shape I think you are talking about. There are also, of course, a lot more ports, proper full-size XLR connectors, multiple BNC, SDI outputs and everything that you would have to add a module on with our regular DSMC2 cameras, plus a big fan and 24 volt input and output power. We have 24 volt accessory output in the front of the camera for lens control and so on. That’s something that people have been asking us for years. It kind of looks as if you took one of our DSMC2 cameras and added the PRODUCTION MODULE that we added to the line-up last month. It’s all integrated so there’s no confusion.
The modular system is great, but as I mentioned before, when you’re a customer and go to a rental house looking for a MONSTRO or any of our cameras, you sometimes get surprises and need to piece everything together. That is sometimes an asset, but it also creates uncertainty. With RANGER you have a really great foundation to start your build with and you know what you’re going to get every single time.
JON: How does it compare in size to the DXL2?
JARRED: It’s smaller than the DXL2, so it’s somewhere in between a MONSTRO with the PRODUCTION MODULE and a DXL in terms of size.
JON: What kind of wireless control is in RANGER?
JARRED: We have an antenna and increased Wi-Fi range for foolcontrol, which has now become pretty much the standard. Mikael Lubtchansky does a really awesome job with that. Wi-Fi is built into the camera so you can control it just like you do with the DSMC2 camera.
JON: How much more expensive is RANGER than a regular MONSTRO 8K camera?
JARRED: It’s not much, much more. But it’s definitely more expensive because of the integration and low volumes.
JON: But the rental house will probably still be able to pay it off on one 6-month series. Now we get into my favorite part of discussions with you. Philosophically, what does this mean as to where the industry is going? Does this give the rental houses more influence? And where do cameras in general go from here?
JARRED: Those are great questions. Our normal cameras are obviously going to evolve. We can do a lot more things as technology improves and we learn different ways to integrate. We are committed heavily to our Sensor and ASIC program and that remains where our core focus is. You will see more improvement in sensors, and then doing some mechanically and electrically different variations where you can leverage all that technology to do something special, like we did with the RANGER. And certainly some surprises.
JON: Do you think users prefer an “SUV” style of camera where everything is together like you did with the DXL2, or do they prefer a modular approach like the DSMC2?
JARRED: I think the answer is both ways. The DP can find a reason to shoot both. A lot of them love the small DSMC2 brain. They can just put a handle on it and shoot in a corner or run and gun. The bigger question is what camera assistants prefer and I think they would prefer something like RANGER that is integrated that has higher reliability, not just from a functional point of view, but also in knowing exactly what they have from show to show. The good thing is that we can provide solutions for all of the above, which is the best of both worlds. If you’re a car company and you have a great platform, you can make a great sports car, and also make a great SUV and sometimes if the need arises you can even make a really great station wagon.
JON: Is Panavision OK with the new RANGER camera after you’ve built the DXL with them?
JARRED: They’ve known about it for a while and it will be interesting to watch Panavision because I wouldn’t be surprised if they make a Panavised version of this camera as well, at some point. That goes back to an important part of their history of Panavising all kinds of cameras and accessories for their customers. So the DXL2 does a lot more things than this camera and it is definitely their workhorse camera. I don’t think the DXL is threatened by the RANGER in any way.
JON: This makes good sense for the rental houses economically.
JARRED: RANGER is another tool that the rental house can hopefully use to be successful and to help them support their customers in a way that only they know how. I think RANGER is something that I think the rental houses need and, quite honestly, deserve. Rental houses are just as important to the success of RED as our individual customers.