After hours at NAB: A closer look at Red's Dragon upgrade operation (video)

Zach Honig
Z. Honig|04.09.13

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Zach Honig
April 9, 2013 3:07 PM
After hours at NAB: A closer look at Red's Dragon upgrade operation (video)

Red's clean room on the NAB show floor is typically no place for camera crews, but after adding a bit of protection, Red President Jarred Land gave us the green light to step inside the company's sacred space for a closer look at operation Dragon upgrade. (The $8,500+ sensor swap gives Epic cams the gift of 6K shooting.) The view from behind the glass wall separating spectators from technicians isn't significantly different, but we were able to get quite a bit more insight into how the process goes down, including stops at each of the workstations.

The temporary assembly center that Red built at the Las Vegas Convention Center is a miniature version of the company's primary facility in Irvine, California -- while Dragon upgrades are underway in Las Vegas, a structure that's estimated to be 20 times the size of the one here in Nevada is processing the updates remotely, though admittedly with far less fanfare. Join us past the break for an exclusive look at the process, live from Red's booth at NAB.%Gallery-185072%

We were able to step inside Red's all-white sanctuary while the show floor was closed to attendees -- as industry insiders gambled their life savings at casinos or dined on the Strip, we hung out at club Red in the South Hall. The room we visited was divided into several workstations, representing the upgrade process from start to finish.

The process begins with a functional check, where techs verify that the camera is working correctly before it's modified in any way. At the second station, the camera is disassembled -- components that are set to be reused are joined by new parts. Then, they move on to clean rooms, where the Dragon sensor and new optical low-pass filter are installed. Next, the kit heads through a sealed passthrough to the next assembly point, where additional chips join the mix, before the front and back halves of the camera are joined together. After that's all set, the device leaves the clean-room environment and moves on to the general facility.

After the Dragon-equipped Red is fully assembled, it heads on to a battery of tests. Image quality is checked, along with other functions, before the camera heads to temperature and vibration testing in a sealed chamber. Then, it hits the burn-in rack, where the cameras are tested time and again. After all that's done comes another functional test, just to make sure the cam is still performing as expected. One of the final steps is a visit to the custom laser engraver, where the serial number is permanently affixed. Last but not least is a trip to a QA expert, who signs off on the camera before it's shipped back to the owner. The entire process is something to behold, but our favorite component was quite possibly the laser-engraving station. You can see the company's 27th Dragon-upgraded camera get tattooed just below.

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