Hot on the heels of RED’s announcement of the Meizler Module digital camera—and being asked to shoot Felix Baumgartner free falling from space at 120,000 feet—TREATS! sits down with Jarred Land, the president of RED Digital Camera, to talk about Inez and Vinoodh using his cameras, what a “horse clicker” is, flying down to New Zealand with RED prototypes to show Peter Jackson and being met at the airport by 100 actors, 50 crewmembers, tanks, planes and helicopters—and how gigantic spiders in the jungles of Spain tried to hijack RED cameras during the filming of Steven Soderbergh’s Che. by Rob Hill
Hey, Jarred, what’s new at RED?
We just announced a black and white version of our EPIC camera with a new dedicated monochrome sensor that everyone who loves Black and White needs to try. David Fincher is out shooting with the prototypes as we speak.
The Felix jump was captured by a RED camera. Congrats, Jarred….
Congratulations to Felix! One very big leap from a man with even bigger balls. We are very proud that RED cameras captured the journey.
Let’s go back really quickly to move forward. The first camera you guys did was the RED ONE in 2006. How did that come about?
It all started with my business partner and best friend, Jim Jannard. Jim is the only one man I can think of who started 2 completely separate, world-known brands from scratch: Oakley and RED. He invented and designed all Oakley products plus shot all the commercials and ads for Oakley for close to 20 years; I swear he has enough vision to cure cataracts. As digital motion cameras started to come about there was a trend of companies releasing “good enough” cameras that came nowhere near representing 35mm film’s capabilities. And the sad thing was that 35mm was starting to die…and these half-ass cameras were standing happily by ready replace it. Jim woke up one morning and decides to give the legacy of film something to be proud of. He called up a few of his buddies and we went to work.
Was anyone else doing anything like this in 2006?
Nobody. There were a few companies that took a few swings at something but everything was a compromise.
What was the initial reaction of filmmakers and Hollywood?
Before we had anything to show…we were a scam. Snake oil salesman. People couldn’t believe we could do what we said we would do. After we had something to show, Peter Jackson was the first one to call. He asked us if we wanted to fly down to New Zealand and do a “camera test.” All the other camera tests that we had been involved in consisted of spending an hour in a dark closet shooting a bunch of charts, which seemed safe enough. Our prototypes didn’t even have a power button at that time. You literally hot wired a battery to them and they turned on but the images coming off of them were so incredible we felt confident they could stand up to a few hours on a tripod not moving pointing at a wall. So we packed up our prototypes and flew down. When we landed 100 actors, 50 crewmembers, tanks, planes and helicopters were there to greet us…we almost had a heart attack. Over the next 4 days we shot a short. Amazingly, the cameras never skipped a beat. Crossing the Line came out of it.
In simple terms: What was the revolutionary aspect of this launch. What could RED ONE do that no other digital camera could do?
The RED ONE was the first camera you could buy that recorded 4k resolution; a resolution similar to what 35mm could be scanned at. Everything else was shooting 1080p, which has 1/4 the resolution.
Steven Soderbergh used the camera for his movie Che. What was his reaction?
Soderbergh has the biggest balls of anyone I know. Che was shot in the jungles of Spain in the worst conditions on the planet and the prototypes we could give him at that time wasn’t much further along than the cameras Peter Jackson used. We told Steven he should probably bring some backup cameras in case something happened and he politely said, “no thanks.” I didn’t sleep much during that shoot. Our head engineer at that time, Deanan Dasilva, was on the ground in Spain and he discovered that a certain species of spider liked to sneak into the air vents of the camera during the early morning and start nesting, so every night he would need to completely disassemble the cameras and clean them out.
In 2009, I remember seeing the Megan Fox video for Esquire shot by a RED camera and was blown away. What kind of reaction did you guys get?
That was a great time. Greg Williams really gets a lot of credit for the guy that invented the “MOCO” or moving cover. He let me shoot side by side with him on a lot of those Esquire shoots and it helped me learn the nuances of shooting stills for motion. Stills from motion is when you pull stills out of a motion clip for print—The RED CAMERA can do it because we have such high resolution. We were shooting Kate Beckinsale for the cover around that time and he told his assistant to go out and buy a horse clicker, a little device you press and it makes a sound. I had no idea what the hell he was up to but it turned out to be brilliant. He noticed that when models or actresses where posing for “a still” they would be constantly waiting for the sound of the shutter to advance to the next pose. Since our cameras where just shooting all the time with no shutter sound, he needed something to signal them to move, hence the horse clicker. I later put that in as on option on the camera where you can press a button and the camera makes a shutter sound even though it continues to record. Out of those Esquire shoots a lot of icons started picking up our cameras: Steven Meisel, Steven Klein, Inez and Vinoodh, Bruce Weber, Annie, Greg Kadel, etc.
The next two cameras were EPIC and SCARLET. How were those different and how did they evolve the medium?
EPIC was taking the RED ONE to a whole new level: more resolution, faster frame rates, in a small package. It is almost the exact same size as a RZ67, one of my favorite medium format cameras of all time. Epic was years ahead of everything else once again, and in such a small package it lent itself to being the first real camera you could put in a 3D rig and shoot handheld with. The first thing we ever shot with EPIC was a piece with Inez and Vinoodh in Paris called “girls on film” for French Vogue. Those two are incredible. Again, they let me shoot side by side with them and again I learned a ton. Right after that Spiderman 4 and The Hobbit began shooting with prototype Epics.
The original SCARLET was a more “pro-consumer” camera that was set to record 3K and have a fixed lens. Seemed like a great idea. A day after the prototypes came out of the oven, I shot a little camera test. Jim and I sat down and looked at the footage and we realized 3K just weren’t enough. We like to build stuff we would want to shoot ourselves, and we knew we would never use this camera as it was. So we burned all the molds, put the hundred or so of them that were already made in a vault, and retooled SCARLET into EPIC’s little sister which could shoot 4K motion and 5K stills and output footage we were proud of.
TREATS! has thousands of photographers and filmmakers as readers. When you were growing up did you want to be a filmmaker or photographer?
I actually didn’t until I was 18 or 19. I owned a bicycle messenger company in Vancouver and one of my customers was the wife of one of the Shaw Brothers who suggest that to me that it would be a great idea to film a documentary on what we were doing, as it was such a hidden community. So I bought a video camera and fell in love. In the planning stages of the documentary I got interrupted by a call to go out and shoot a feature film, which I accepted, even though I had no idea what the hell I was doing, and the rest is history. That documentary never got made.
Any future RED plans you wanna announce right here and now?
Okay, the lightning round…. You live in California, surfing or snowboarding?
Snowboarding for sure. But coming from Vancouver I became incredibly spoiled having Whistler as my home mountain. When I hit the hills here I can’t help to walk away disappointed.
The Beatles or the Stones?
What’s the first thing you do when you get to work?
I’m always at work… there really is no “getting there.”
Spielberg or Scorsese?
David Fincher. Wait, was he on the list?
Top few favorite movies?
True Romance, Fight Club, Bad Boys.
Who is your most loved movie character?
The cheeseburger crackhead from Menace II Society.
Favorite place in LA?
Best place to see a movie in the world?
Ross Theater on the lot at Warner Brothers.
You can go anywhere you want in the world right now…
Peter Jackson is…
50 going on 13.
What’s the first thing you think of when I say the word red?
Right now…. something that I can’t tell you. I am looking at something monumental.
The first time you went to a movie theatre you saw?
What’s one movie you’d like to see a modern remake of?
Clooney or Pitt?
Facebook or Twitter?
Both are equally evil.
Finally, what’s your favorite treat?