High Schooler Buys $20,000 RED Scarlet-W

I don’t know about you, but I'm not personally acquainted with anybody who could afford, or even want, to buy a RED Scarlet before their twenties. That’s a serious commitment to your career, and it’s exactly what Kansas teenager Thad Swift did.

According to his vlog regarding his new camera, he wasn’t shooting professionally just two years ago. This appears to be a bump up from his Sony a6300 — quite the leap in spec! He was originally gunning for the RED Raven, a cheaper option.

Imagine graduating high school with this much determination, with no real fear of losing. “It’s a lot easier to achieve something if it’s been done before” admits Swift. While I don’t think many high schoolers will be picking up cinema cameras any time soon, there’s nothing wrong with trying to get ahead of the curve. Personally, I was creating broadcast graphics and filming for YouTubers before I was 18. Recently I interviewed Christian Tierney who’s been filming with major label artists when we was just leaving high school. There's nothing wrong with starting as early as you can.

But for Swift’s endeavors, there was a lot of money behind it. When an unsettling number of Americans don’t have serious savings in place for emergencies, it’s astonishing to think that a freelancing teen could accumulate this kind of wealth. Not only that, but Swift was saving that money during his final year of high school! Most teens can barely save up for a nicer car.

[Swift's line up of cameras]


Should buying a RED constitute as a goal? Last week we posted an article claiming that it was, for director Jakob Owens who would normally hire DPs to take care of the camera. Now though? It’s easy to hate on Swift because of an obvious lack of experience. Like a “Super Sweet Sixteen” kid getting an open top Mercedes. I mean, would an URSA Mini Pro have been just as effective for him? At least that way he could have afforded more media storage, and lenses.

In saying that, his content doesn’t look too shabby, and who are we to judge? If it’s music video directing he’s after, I can only hope that the Scarlet-W delivers what he needs and more. He’s been throwing it on to a glidecam and DJI Ronin-MX, so he can’t be that inexperienced. If anything, he’ll be a dab hand at coloring raw footage before he even hits college (assuming he wants to go). I wish Swift the best in the future and can’t wait to see what he shoots on his new setup.

If anybody would like to check out more from Swift, he has an unboxing of the RED Scarlet-W as well as a YouTube channel filled with the content he shot on it.

Stephen Kampff's picture

Working in broadcasting and digital media, Stephen Kampff brings key advice to shoots and works hard to stay on top of what's going to be important to the industry.

Log in or register to post comments

Really, are we jealous or what? I have a friend who was in his teens and his parents lent him the money to get his Red Epic camera and now is highly successful and paid his parents back within months. When I was still in high school, I bought my first brand new Porsche with money I had earned with no parental help other than giving me the best education possible.

Bravo to that teen.

Congratts to him. Many teens and adults could learn how to work hard towards a goal to achieve it.


At my nephew's homecoming game last year, I saw a kid who was no more than 16 years old walking around with a 1D X II. He was the school newspaper photographer. If you, or your parents, can afford it, why not?

Just a drop in the bucket compared to what a college education costs these days. Maybe he's got the right idea. I hope he puts it to good use.

I saw a similar article weighing the pros and cons to buying a RED camera and (since I have never used one) I was blown away by the amount of staggering REQUIRED PROPRIETARY extras that are needed just to run it which cost almost as much as the entire camera it self. For example, PROPRIETARY SSD cards, that cost almost a $1,000 PROPRIETARY media card reader that costs almost $300, a PROPRIETARY CABLE to connect the PROPRIETARY MONITOR (together which cost over $1,000) the cable alone I think was like $250.....JUST INSANE

....im sorry but unless you have a budget that calls for this, or as the guy says in the video I watched....he rents his out A LOT and makes a ton of money on that alone. Then this camera is 100% overkill to OWN period, let alone for an 18 year old. Most companies or studios would just rent these for the project.....pretty sure Shane Hulbert or Spielberg dont actually OWN a RED camera....they rent them and why?? Because it will be obsolete in less then two years.

I would NEVER EVER spend that much money on a camera body.....spending that much money on a lens??....ALL DAY....the Fujinon 19-90 would be a way better investment IMO. You could rent it out and still do so in 10 years and still use it in 10 years maybe even 20 years. Shit people are using GLASS that was made over 50 years ago....but camera bodies??? no sir!

The author of the article said exactly what I was thinking....wouldn't an URSA MINI 4k serve you almost as well and then you could replace the $800 Sigma lens you have on the RED SCARLET in the pic (which is a GREAT lens, I OWN one, but I would definitely up the glass on that 50,000 camera!) with maybe the new FUJINON cinema lens they just announced...you could get BOTH of the new lens for less then the cost of the Media/Card Reader/Cables/battery of the RED Camera.

My philosophy is always bargain bin without sacrificing quality. There are not many situations where a camera body of that value can justify what you are doing....meaning your money could have been way better spent. If you are talking about major motion pictures, again, you are renting that camera. If you are talking almost anything else, you are border line firing up a rocket ship to go to the supermarket. Unless of you rent it out and make money for that.

Shane owns one so your argument is kinda of mute. He is passionate about film making and made the money from film making. He is ambitious and the URSA Mini has many limitations compared to the Red. With the Red ecosystem he can move up at a later date.

For you it is insane but why do so many film makers choice Red?

It great not to have to pay rent and bills.

i know right. good for him but i think it's a bit overkill.

There so much truth to this comment though. When your not paying bills you can devote 100% or your funds to your gear which allows you to operate at a higher level earlier on. Yes experience comes first but 20k is a lot easier to save for when you don't have an apartment and food to worry about.

I guess the take away here is to set goals and work towards that. Should he be getting that camera though? Probably not. There's so much more than just owning an expensive camera in a production. When you are young and starting up everything cost little, but that won't last long. LOL

Well done to him, I'm very pleased for him. This goes to show how it's important to have targets and then work towards them.

My advice would have been to use that money to finance a cinema production.