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Arri Alexa - look out Red!

Records ProRes4444, RAW, or HD-SDI out; killer looking footage, WOW

By Mike Curtis | April 07, 2010

I went to the Arri Alexa rollout - quickie summary - AMAZING looking footage, ProRes to SxS cards onboard! ProRes4444 (w/out alpha) for 4:4:4, and ProResHQ for 4:2:2. Also 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 HD-SDI, also ArriRAW raw bayer data at 3.5K resolution - LOTS of choices. More later, here below are my raw (haha) notes. Will update with pics and more tomorrow.

Oddly enough, on the same day I picked up my Red from consignment (wasn't get checks in a timely fashion, about to upgrade to MX), I went to Arri's presentation on their new Alexa camera, and frankly, was blown away. Red has some REAL competition here in a lot of ways, especially in terms of workflow. More details when I can stop and write up analysis, but here's my notes:
PRORES444 AND HQ TO SxS cards, uptop 2K@60fps

$60K codex onboard recorder

40 min uncompressed RAW to codex ssd gadget

t-link for raw

codex - 4:1 to 10-1 jp2k

cmos sensor, non-bayer,

2048x1152 or 1556 (???) for 4:3 - either way, ProRes422HQ for 4:2:2, or ProRes 4444 (empty last channel) for 4:4:4 recording

DNxHD potential in the future, but nothing official

this is BIG that Arri is LEADING with ProRes - definitely where the industry is headed overall, but it has been interesting the more I work with high end commercials and narrative TV....they tend to cut Avid. You COULD transcode ProRes==>DNxHD, but would be slow. Better would be to record Codex, and there is probably a live playout option, or ARRIRAW to DNxHD transcode in Codex

The Codex onboard is TINY, and looks entirely viable to hang off the back of a camera as compared to a tape mechanism (smaller by notable amounts).

This really is the future style - tape is DRT - "Dead Right There"

================================
QUESTIONS:

(what about 1080 - crop or scale?) - not answered

is the motion a little funny/clippy? yes? No? UNDETERMINED

can you shoot faster than sixty fps by windowing? NO

totally unsubstantiated gossip/rumor overheard - Red's MX and Alexa sensor made at same fab in Israel

ALL the owners of rental houses were there, all seemed impressed


=============================

Bill ???? from Arri, introducing the Alexa

Managing Director, Dr. Martin Pearlman (sp????)

President & CEO, Volker Bonononoonoeonsomething

20 yrs ago intro'd the 535, significant development for Arri & the industry

new line of motion picture cameras for digital cinematography

Alexa was originally a codename to become a naming committee, liked it so much stayed with it

"don't propose to plug digital tech into analog biz model, changing ourselves"

continue to support film products, restructuring globally to meet challenges/opportunities of digital media landscape

speed of tech and process change, gotta focus on core capabilities and resources, augmented with strategic partnerships

with Zeiss, a new strategic relationship, Arri/Zeiss/Fujinon - (2 new lenses - 45-250)

a complete imaging system includes optics in front of sensor, also include storage and efficient management of image data. Alexa DTE function - Direct To Edit - picture, sound, metadata using ProRes codec (HQ & 4444). Revolutionary technologies, in solid, reliable, robust packages - always was, always will be. Deliver beyond uncompromising competent images, reducing cost in production and post.

(earlier Direct To Edit solutions kinda sucked for high end work - the codecs weren't there. Now they are there in terms of res and quality and speed)

Mark Mueller will talk about the tech - (just completed short film by Sam Nicholson of Stargate Studios) - short film plays
available liht is the new subway short

Alexa -

PHILOSOPHY

toolmakers - make tools that work the way you do, function within the infrastructure, NOT do custom proprietary stuff that makes you change the way you work (ahem, Red)

-made a long list of criteria from users

4 criteria:
-image performance
-workflow
-open/futureproof architecture
-Arri product quality

IMAGE PERFORMANCE:
-more to image performance than the # of pixels
-artifact free, exposure lattitude, color separation, sensitivity, etc.
-organic, film-like image
-ASA of about 800 ASA base, crank to 2580 if you want
-13.5 stops of lattitude
-very good color separation (good for greenscreen)
-Anonymous (life of Shakespeare) Roland Emerich in Europe, shooting for last couple of weeks
-Bill Bennet Honda shot 35mm commercial, van Ostrum shot Alexa in parallel, Honda clip shown
-shot side by side with film, looks DAMN good

WORKFLOWS:
-can fit into a number of workflows

-uncompressed HD-SDI
-uncompressed ARRIRAW
-can record onboard SxS cards into ProRes422HQ and ProRes4444

What slows xfer from set to post? The ingest, the transcode, the cross conversion
-not locked to a tape or legacy workflow
-best solution was to record to the same file format as the editing software uses
-working with Apple for some time (locked in last week rumor was)
-shoot with Alexa, take out the card, pop it into the laptop, start editing IMMEDIATELY
-talk to Adrian Videra about workflow

-gotta work!
-won't break, works reliably
-small, light, well balanced for shoulder/steadicam
-small size/weight and sensitivit makes it good for 3D productions
-controls easy to find/understand
-takes minutes to learn
-robust and reliable - a true Arri camera
-most cameras suck in air and run it over the boards, and everything that is in the boards
-sealed compartment with the boards, there's a heat shaft to draw the heat back, there's a big radiator in the back that cools the unit and keeps the sensor cool at all times
-splash and dust proof design

Alexa isn't just a camera, is a camera system

-Alexa compatible with HD-SDI, Pro-Res, SxS, gold mount or V-lock batteries
-3 differeing onboard recorders - mechanical interface and signals, attach and record HD-SDI and ArriRAW
-ArriRAW partner program - 3rd parties to make sure software and post production tools understand the ArriRaw footage to process it
-can upgrade camera and add new features
-left side is removable, includes the SxS recording module
-when a better, faster recording module comes along, can replace the module
-other side - modular, upgradeable way
-front - PL mount default, options for PL, Canon, Nikon
-software system - designed to be upgradeable - have some things working on will be able to release end of year/middle of next year to add new features
-5 clips to show - 800 ASA fashion shoot, then a violin shop, 2x100 watt desk lamps used
-800ASA for that too
-3rd clip - Anonymous - camera tests - first 2 at 800 ASA, last @ 1280 - pushing the camera and underexposed
-4th clip from Berlin, - 3-4 day run 'n gun shoot
new Fuji Alura - 18-80mm zoom
-could see more through viewfinder than he could with naked eye (!!)
-5th shoot done with macros
-
The catalog as important as the camera: lenses:

-PL mount is one option, so compatible with all existing Arri Zeiss master and ultra primes and other PLs

new Master Prime - 12mm, T1.3, Master prime quality, wide angle of view, T1.3,

new modern PL mount cine-zooms -

Fujinon president intros - Hayashi

Arri Alura Zoom18-80 and 45-250 zooms, Alura zooms 18-80 T2.6, 45-250 T2.6

-practical size/weight, affordable (audience audibly chuckles)

-has discharged last major responsibiilty - Glenn ?? is new CEO of Arri

-HERE AND NOW - they are showing some comments from interviews done in the lobby at this event - edited, and now shown for us (probably straight from Mac) - WOW

BRAVIN QUESTIONS [

no windowing

SxS - 32GB cards are fast enough, 16 & 8 arently

record times:

20 min 422hq
15 min 444

alura lenses -$18k for small, low $20s for bigun

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Comments

WestwoodCreek: | April, 08, 2010

Thanks for the writeup.

Did they give you any idea of the cost of a workable kit? In other words, camera body cost?  Options regarding a usable recording device—would that be the $60k figure you list above?

Plus the $18k lens, say?

Stephen Gagne

Mike Curtis: | April, 09, 2010

Camera body cost for the base model is 50K Euros, I _think_ that US pricing is around $70K ballpark. Ah, but what all does that include? Magic question? I’d bet the color viewfinder isn’t included, and what additional kit is needed? Red’s model of total modularity is highly flexible, but can also be viewed as “Oh, you want tires and a steering wheel with the car?”

The interesting question to me, now that I’ve only mostly kitted out my Red (still need GOOD sticks/head, as well as matte box/follow focus/filters) and I’m about $60K into it, is what the total package cost will be - I’d bet Alexa will be 50-100% more expensive, fully kitted, than a Red One - NOT the roughly 5x difference that the camera bodies are. Some components will be the same - you’ll have the same PL mount lenses, sticks, heads, follow focus, etc. to pick from, so that’s a wash in the 35mm sized sensor, PL mount camera category.

So it’ll be bodies and vendor speicific accessories that will determine total price.

I’d also think it is worth looking at total cost of production issues - Red Rocket is great to convert to ProRes quickly, for instance, but Alexa does it STRAIGHT OFF THE CAMERA. WOW.

Ball’s in your court, Red - how much for a ProRes module bolt-on for Epic? DNxHD?

Mike Curtis: | April, 09, 2010

oops, bad math - I was thinking of Red’s $17,500 base price on Red One, not Epic. $30K-ish for the Epic brain, plus required accesssories to make it useful, vs $60-$70K or so for Alexa A-EV.

But the majority of cost is likely to be in the “everything else”, including glass, fluid head, filters, etc.

-mike

IEBA: | April, 17, 2010

Should note that the NAB Avid announcement was the ability to handle ProRes & QuickTime. That means no transcoding of Alexa ProRes for Avid edit.

r1108: | April, 17, 2010

It would be more “Look out Red” if the shooting price tag on the camera wasn’t $130K.  Although I do like the features as a rental.  More or less expensive than a 35mm camera rental package?

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