Turning 70, RED Digital Cinema founder Jim Jannard just announced that he is retiring and shutting down the HYDROGEN project. It is starting to look like there is not going to be a new HYDROGEN phone and the first generation will not be further developed. Jim said the HYDROGEN One will continue to be supported in the future.
On October 24, 2019, at 6:48pm PDT Jim Jannard posted the following message titled “Everything changes” on H4Vuser.net:
I have spent the past 45 years building “inventions wrapped in art”.
Just now turning 70 and having a few health issues, it is now time for me to retire.
I will be shutting down the HYDROGEN project, ending a career that has included Oakley, RED Digital Cinema and HYDROGEN. I am very proud to have worked with many great people over the years who have signed on to the vision.
RED Digital Cinema will continue stronger than ever with Jarred, Tommy and Jamin at the controls. Komodo is about to be launched… and the HYDROGEN One will continue to be supported in the future.
I want to thank everyone for the support I have felt over the years…
Jim’s Story of Success
Jim Jannard (born June 8, 1949) is an American designer and businessman. In 1975, he started a small company called Oakley. He started to design and produce motorcycle accessories and later on moved to sunglasses. The company became very successful and Oakley sunglasses are still fairly popular worldwide. Jim sold Oakley in November 2007 for $2.1 billion and moved on to his new pet project – RED Digital Cinema Company. All his life, he has been a camera geek collecting cameras.
RED changed the cinema industry with its first camera, the RED ONE. At that time, digital cinema cameras were not very good and VERY expensive. Jim came with the idea to democratize high-quality image acquisition and release an affordable cinema camera for a wider filmmaker community. Released in 2007, RED ONE was capable to record at 4K resolution in up to 60fps in Redcode RAW. Those are impressive specs even until today. RED’s disruptive introduction of the RED ONE definitely built up pressure for the competition to try harder and also come up with more affordable and higher-quality digital cinematography cameras.
Over the years, RED definitely always pushed the limits of what is possible in terms of resolution and other aspects of filmmaking. Even though there were some controversial topics lately, and they’ve often announced products that never saw the light of day, Jim remains to be a true visionary in the world of cinema cameras.
In last years, Jim hasn’t been very active in RED anymore. RED Digital Cinema has been fully managed by Jarred Land for a couple of years now. Jim’s main focus for the last years has been the HYDROGEN project – RED’s first cinema-oriented smartphone.
Initially announced in July 2017, RED HYDROGEN was supposed to focus on high quality image capture. The phone (or how RED calls it “the media machine”) was equipped with a holographic 3D display, in both aluminum and titanium versions. Many people paid a deposit and waited for their HYDROGEN One phones.
During the development of the phones, Jim and RED had to face more challenges than they expected and their release was postponed several times. Especially with the titanium version. Soon after the phones eventually got released, many users were not very satisfied. Because the release got postponed so much, the HYDROGEN One’s hardware was not the latest generation anymore.
The phones have their early problems. It is the first generation after all. As an example, one of the most significant problems was the constantly failing fingerprint sensor. One of the biggest letdowns, however, was the absence of promised modules. The modules (like the cinema module) were supposed to be THE unique selling point for RED’s phones.
After dealing with so many issues with the first generation, in July 2019 Jim announced that his team is already working on the second generation of HYDROGEN phone and this time the promised cinema camera module really will come.
The End of HYDROGEN
Jim’s message has, of course, left many HYDROGEN fans and users sad. Many people were eagerly waiting for new updates, new modules, and most significantly, new HYDROGEN Two. The second generation phone was supposed to fix the reputation of the first generation. Now it seems that it will never come.
Jim said, that the first HYDROGEN phones will continue to be supported in the future. They will most likely keep getting bug fixes, but no more significant firmware updates with new features. The initial plan to include HYDROGEN phones in the new RED Komodo system will probably have to be reconsidered.
After the disappointment with the first generation, I saw many people selling their HYDROGEN One phones for way under their retail price. Now, I can imagine this phone becoming a collector’s item and maybe the value might even rise with time. For RED, however, I think this project has been an economic loss and they simply didn’t see the point of investing more and more funds in it.
What do you think of Jim’s message? Do you own a HYDROGEN ONE? Have you been waiting for the second generation? Let us know in the comments underneath the article.