Gadgets – The Scarlet and Playing the Long Game

Panasonic should write Jim Jannard a nice thank-you letter: they just got a Lumix sale from me due to the Scarlet delays.

I’m still buying a Scarlet, just later than I need a new camera, so…yeah. At least with the Lumix I can collect c-mount glass. But I did want to address some of the criticisms from the Red haters, and explain exactly what Red is up to, because they clearly do not get it.

“The Scarlet is vaporware!” – Leaving aside for a moment that Red’s a company that didn’t exist three years ago, and has managed to release a camera nobody said could possibly exist already, the fact of the matter is: we’ve seen test footage, we’ve seen models, odds are pretty good the higher-end Epic is hitting beta testing before Christmas. Red’s shown they can release the products they say they’re going to. And there are rather compelling reasons they want to get this camera out.

“Red’s not going to take over!” – What, the mainstream semi-pro market? No, probably not. The Scarlet, in the end, is a pro camera. It’s a fairly cheap and accessible pro camera as these things go, but it’s a pro camera. The Scarlet is aimed squarely at indie filmmakers, wedding and corporate videographers, the kind of people who don’t blink at a $4k price tag, hell, the kind of people who welcome one.

But at the same time, it’s worth asking where the rest of the market will go. Canon just does not have its shit together; there’s no excuse for the 5D’s video performance, and recent cameras aren’t much of an improvement. Nikon hasn’t even put out a camera with 1080p or even 1080i yet. The only company that seems to have an eye on the prosumer camcorder market is Panasonic, and they’re in the same space as Red: using an experimental format with not a lot of support at the moment. But they also seem to be the only people genuinely taking Red seriously.

“RED will never deliver. It’s just Jim Jannard’s hobby.” – This, by far, is the funniest thing I’ve ever heard. Anybody who thinks this basically doesn’t understand business, or how businessmen think.

Sure, Jannard loves cameras. He’s basically said he owns every camera on the planet and uses them regularly. But let’s not forget Jannard became a billionaire selling sports gear out of his trunk. Jannard is first and foremost a businessman, and RED is nothing less than an attempt to corner a huge and profitable chunk of the camera market.

It’s worth understanding what the Red One was and why it was a big hairy deal, and still is. Compared to the other options for professional cinema cameras, the Red One is dirt, dirt cheap at $17,500. Throw in all the goodies Red has to offer and you still have a powerful camera at less than half the price of the rest of the market. There’s a reason the Red One has caught on.

Now consider this: in the pro and prosumer market, for years the story has been: buy the camera. Buy the accessories. Throw them all out when a new camera comes along.

The DSMC system is: buy the camera and accessories, and swap out for upgrades of the individual parts. Meaning instead of shelling out $5000 for a new camera, you shell out $2500 for a new “brain”. New recording format? No need for a new camera, just buy the module.

Combine this with high performance and what you have is something exceptionally powerful in the minds of the consumer. And don’t think, for a second, Jannard ever intended anything else.

The end game of Red isn’t to get you to buy one camera and all the goodies: the goal is to get you to buy a starter kit and then keep buying and upgrading for your entire career. Jannard wants to lock in customers by undercutting the competition up front, and then consistently undercutting them.

In other words, Red is focused, almost entirely, on the long game. They want customer loyalty. And if the Red One is any indication: they’re going to get it.

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