Has RED Become What It Set Out to Defeat?

In the world of cinema camera technology, RED has established itself as a major player. Starting off as the underdog, they have pushed industry stalwarts to innovate or die. However, a recent revelation has sparked concern among competitors and consumers alike. RED is preventing other camera manufacturers like Sony, Nikon, and DJI from innovating by enforcing its broad patent for on-camera compressed raw video.

In this rant video, Theo Browne from the appropriately named channel Theo Rants explains that RED holds a patent for compression on a camera of raw video, which means that other companies are unable to compete in this area without RED's blessing and without paying them a license fee. This has led to a near-monopoly on cameras with proper onboard raw compression, with only RED and Blackmagic currently able to sell such cameras.

This patent has also caused issues for companies like DJI, who were forced to remove raw compression from their revolutionary cinema camera after RED threatened to pull their license for drones. This has resulted in a camera that is unable to record raw footage, despite its advanced features and relatively affordable price point.

Many in the industry have expressed frustration at RED's use of patents to limit competition and stifle innovation. While RED's cameras have undoubtedly raised the bar in the world of camera technology, the company's use of patents to limit competition is cause for concern. As consumers, it is important to be aware of these practices and make informed decisions when choosing which cameras to support.

So, what do you think of RED's patent policy? Are they using an excessively broad patent to stifle innovation, or do you think that they hold a legitimately innovative patent that should be enforced? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Susheel Chandradhas's picture

Susheel Chandradhas is a professional photographer and filmmaker based out of Chennai, India. He has a background in advertising and graphic design.

Log in or register to post comments

The nature of patent is to protect not to be fair to others. That can be an issue at time, especially regarding innovations that could benefit everyone. The Rino, a one wheel bike is a great idea for many cities and has been build in a very safe manner, but the production was halted due to patent infringement.
The owner of RED himself was put out of business by the eyeglasses industry when mergers that turned to nearly a monopoly left his company, Oakley, without a glass provider.

[The nature of patent is to protect not to be fair to others]
Patents are to protect the innovator, yes - not to prevent innovation from others. This patent does exactly that - Prevent future innovation = a standstill.

What RED patented was something that others had already done years before for 2K raw compression, and they just tacked on "but at 4K or higher" and got a patent for that. Their raw format is JPEG2000 in an Apple Quicktime container. That is a combination, not an innovation. The videos from Jinni.tech do a far better job of explaining it than Theo did.

It is interesting that a patent can be granted for such a general concept rather than a specific implementation. It takes away the incentive to innovate and encourages patent trolling.

I'm sure it has been considered already, but I wonder if the patent can be sidestepped through semantics. Instead of a camera saving in 4K RAW, what if it saved as 4 separate 2K RAW files which are then recompiled in post-production software.

What I don't understand about this is RAW files for stills are so proprietary I assume because they use different algorithms and are patented to the respected camera manufacturer? Perhaps I'm wrong in this thinking. If it is true, then why can't every camera company have it's own proprietary raw video format too? Is it the "4k and higher" clause that prevents them from doing this? Was RED actually the first to make 4k video over say Arri?

Raw file formats for stills are not patented. They do not use unique compression algorithms, but neither does RED. RED's patent is for a horizontal resolution of at least 2K, at greater than 23 frames per second. The first 4K camera was the Dalsa Origin, released four years before RED announced the RED ONE, however it output uncompressed data.

Patents are a grant of monopoly. They are ostensibly intended to promote innovation, but studies show that is generally the opposite of the effect they actually have.

That's too broad of a patent...