"It was just a date, she's not my girlfriend yet." After David Battistella spent a weekend with ARRI ALEXA, he ponders whether digital acquisition can overcome the nostalgia of "light hitting silver on a frame, from a roll of 35mm film." Read David's review for details of his experience with this whirlwind romance.
Much has been made, said, debated and discussed over the battle for digital film supremacy. Filmmakers and industry watchers are keenly tracking the key players and wondering which digital camera might emerge as the favorite to one day replace black and white or color negative film as the preferred choice for feature film, commercial, TV series and MOW production.
This is not to say that digital acquisition has had no penetration into these genres, but the relationship has been more of a first date, a short term love affair, maybe not the person you are going to marry. As most any cinematographer will attest, many still prefer the images captured by light hitting silver on a frame, from a roll of 35mm film. Call it nostalgia or specialized perception, but film has a "quality" that every generation of digital camera wishes to claim and "be like".
My most recent date with a camera was with the much anticipated, newest offering from German camera manufacturing legend ARRI.
For the benefit of those of you who need a comparison, ARRI is to filmmaking, cameras and lenses, what the Mercedes is to the automobile. Known for quality, excellence in engineering and -- as it were -- built for drivers.
First, let me say that this is not a head to head test, and this article focus will not be a comparison to other products like: RED One, Genesis, SONY
or any of the many DSLR offerings. It will be rather, thoughts on what the ALEXA
camera is capable of and what the driver (operator) can expect when recording images and using the technology. Movies follow on pages four, five, and six of this article.
It is important also to note that the camera, as tested, did not have all features enabled. This means that the Prores 4444 SxS slots were (although physically installed) not a functioning part of the camera system. We were unable to secure a HDCam SR recorder for the test, so we did something that might give us the true feel of the camera -- we recorded all if the images in LogC color space to an AJA KiPro recording high quality Prores 422 images at 1920x1080 frame size.
This allowed us some portability while remaining tethered and still recording a high quality signal somewhat emulating the onboard Prores mode which is forthcoming. Jack Mosor of PS production services in Toronto secured the camera from ARRI Canada and lent his expertise to all phases of testing.
ALEXA at night with Jack Mosor.
Our test began capturing night time imagery using available light in the streets of Toronto. This is a good real world test because it forces the camera to be a direct comparison to the human eye. (don't worry we shot charts, too) and let's us know how much light the camera will see in fully lit scenes. It's a good indication of visual perceptual noise as well.
While this is a point of aesthetics many of these new digital cameras afford the cinematographer more opportunity to use more natural light and augment scenes with less light than they may often be used to using. I view it as the artist having new tools to work with but not a tool that replaces or eliminates the need for true lighting of dramatic scenes. The digital cameras (as high speed film stocks and lenses before digital came on the scene) have given us new choices, more variables and in some cases more flexibility to create beautifully lit scenes that embody the overall story.
|Related Articles / Tutorials:|
Camera and Lens Round-Up
Gary Adcock explores and reviews many of the high-end cameras, lenses, monitors, and camera support gear introduced at NAB 2010 in this acquisition and display report.
Review, Feature, People / Interview
ARRI Alexa: Love at First Sight!
In one of the world’s first overviews of the new Arri Alexa digital cinema camera, Creative COW Contributing Editor Gary Adcock has been taking an early shipping unit for a ride this week -- and what a ride it has been! Read on for the details of what Gary has learned about the Alexa operation so far, where he sees it going, and why Gary believes that Alexa is a true game changer.
Behind the Lens: The Lone Ranger's Bojan Bazelli
Bojan Bazelli, ASC, working with Director Gore Verbinski, designed and executed a unique look for The Lone Ranger. With a nod to the much-filmed Western genre, they made a uniquely contemporary film with a much more desaturated color palette and a grittier look to the classic locations.
Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
The Lone Ranger: A Contemporary Style for a Classic Genre
When cinematographer Bojan Bazelli, ASC decided to shoot The Lone Ranger with 35mm film, he also realized that some of the scenes might best be served with a digital camera. Choosing the ARRI Alexa Studio for the film's anamorphic look and Codex recorders, Bazelli was able to create a filmic look in digital that seamlessly integrated with the 35mm footage.
Editorial, Feature, People / Interview
NAB 2013: ARRI Upgrades Alexa & Shows Off Anamorphic Lenses
ARRI made good on its promise to plan a long-life path for Alexa; at NAB 2013, the company offered the XR Module and several components of the Alexa XT configuration as upgrades. The first three focal lengths of the ARRI/ZEISS Master Anamorphic lens series are slated to ship next month, and ARRI showed a 10-minute film shot with the 50 mm MA50 lens. Also on tap were Pro Camera Accessories for the Sony F5/F55, new Alura LDS Extenders, lightweight matte box LMB-6, and the new Cage System II.
Codex at IBC 2012
Codex is coming to IBC 2012 with new technology. Although its Onboard S will be shown for the first time at a European tradeshow, the big news is that the company is unveiling its capacity to support Canon Cinema RAW at up to 120 fps at 4K. At an incredibly lightweight and small size, the Onboard S is already being adopted by filmmakers who can benefit from its powerful features and form factor.
A DIT Tells All
You've heard of on-set file-based workflow? That's Von Thomas. Here's an inside look at his gear, and management secrets that can work for you too.
Codex Digital Offers Full Support for ARRI Alexa Studio
Codex Digital now offers full support for ARRI's Alexa Studio with Codex ARRIRAW Plus and the Codex Onboard recorders, which can record up to 48 frames per second of ARRIRAW from the Alexa Studio in 4:3, using Codex' new high speed Data Packs. The company is also readying the debut of the Codex Vault at NAB 2012.