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Will the ARRI Alexa finally kill film?

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March 17, 2010

ARRI Alexa platform is a new generation of high-end digital movie cameras

ARRI Alexa platform is a new generation of high-end digital movie cameras

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Motion picture equipment manufacturer ARRI is set to release its new high-end digital movie camera, known as the Alexa, and some people in the industry are calling it the final nail in film cinematography’s coffin. Sure, we’ve heard that prediction before but early hands-on reports of the Alexa seem to back it up. Final details have not been officially released, but so far we know the Alexa platform will have a 35mm-size 3.5k pixel sensor with 800ASA sensitivity, onboard HD recording, and shooting speeds up to 60fps.

ARRI held the “world premiere” of the Alexa prototype in February at the AFC (Association of French Cinematographers) event held in Paris. More than 200 professional Directors of Photography had the opportunity to get a hands-on demonstration of the new digital camera system.

ARRI is certainly no stranger to the motion picture industry. The Munich, Germany, based company already offers another digital camera, the Arriflex D-21. The company also makes film cameras, lighting fixtures, and digital image processing systems.

ARRI is releasing three Alexa cameras over the course of 2010. The base model is the A-EV, which will shoot from 1 to 60fps and features a 16:9 aspect ratio, electronic viewfinder, and onboard HD recording. The A-EV Plus model adds uncompressed onboard HD recording as well as wireless remote control capability. The A-OV Plus has all that, but adds an optical viewfinder and shoots with a 4:3 aspect ratio.

All three models will feature the same ARRI Alev III CMOS sensor, which is a full-frame 35mm size and has a 3.5K pixel count. ARRI claims the chip’s sensitivity is 800EI (exposure index; comparable to an ASA or ISO speed rating). The low-noise sensor uses a dual-gain architecture (DGA) for extended range (up to 13 stops). ARRI’s electronic viewfinder is an LED-lit F-LCOS micro display with automatic calibration and high-quality coated glass optics.

Hands-on reports say the Alexa’s controls are similar to a film camera and include FPS, shutter, EI, and WB (white balance). Buttons control the functions and an LCD display shows all the camera settings at once.

The ARRI Alexa platform is aimed squarely at the RED ONE digital camera, itself already well established in the movie industry. RED digital cameras have been used by directors such as Steven Soderbergh, and on feature movies including Angels & Demons. ARRI has designed the Alexa for shooting feature movies, television dramas, and commercials.

The ARRI Alexa cameras will be officially launched at the NAB show in April 2010, and complete details are expected then. The A-EV will be available in June 2010, with the A-EV Plus available in September, and the A-OV Plus due in December. Prices are expected to start at US$69000.

For more information visit www.arridigital.com.

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11 Comments

Are you sure you don't mean 3.5Mpixel? 3.5Kpixel would be about 230x500 resolution which probably doesn't cut it for professional cinematography, even at 60fps =0)

Drew__1
17th March, 2010 @ 07:26 pm PDT

Just a question: how's the "pixel count" in this case calculated? I'm guessing the camera does not have 3'500 pixels in all, so what is the 3.5K? The width? Height?

Gavrilo Bozovic
18th March, 2010 @ 12:01 am PDT

Cinematographers speak a different language than we poor consumers do. ARRI lists the Alexa's "sensor pixel count" as 3.5K. In digital cinema terms this indicates an image that is 3500 pixels wide. At an aspect ratio of 16:9, this would indicate an image of about 6.2MP. ARRI says they chose 3.5K to provide enough oversampling to create a quality 2K final image. 2K is considered comparable to a 35mm film projection print.

Alan Brandon
18th March, 2010 @ 07:47 am PDT

I loved reading the article. Thank you.

Amir Daniel
20th March, 2010 @ 01:31 pm PDT

For the ARRI ALEXA Camera Test "World Cup" with Behind the Scenes and Testimonials please visit :

www.stargatestudios.net/channel

Jennie Shope
14th April, 2010 @ 11:29 am PDT

I don't think it will kill film at all. Unfortunately, despite the specifications and technical capabilities of this digital camera - it will still never convey the same emotion or feel that film does.

Andrew Kirkby
12th August, 2010 @ 05:56 pm PDT

Hi, I was at the Alexa DCS presentation in San Francisco, CA 2 weeks ago where Arri presented this short among others. If I recall correctly, the camera was set to 800 ISO (which is the native ISO). We also saw some amazing night exterior footage at 1600 ISO, looked very clean even in the isolated blue channel. The pics must be available on the web pdf news at http://www.pdfok.com/arri-alexa I guess. But let's hope that we can still enjoy good quality movies shot on a film.

Ludmila Kovalenko
27th August, 2010 @ 04:26 am PDT

Sorry Andrew, that's exactly what they said about film based SLR cameras. Ten years from now, film will be dead and buried. Ultimately, digital has a much wider gamut of capabilities than analogue film, and any perceived analogue feel or "warmth" can be digitally placed so that even an expert can't tell.

Jason Catterall
26th July, 2011 @ 01:46 pm PDT

@Jason Catterall

Film will probably be used less in 10 years, but saying it will die is quite a statement.

There are still plenty of folks who use film, including amateurs and professionals.

In the professional photography area, few examples are (out of many): Chris Weeks, Ryan Muirhead and Damaso Reyes. As for cinema, there are plenty that still use it.

I don't know about "warmth", but I prefer the way analogue handles/renders highlights and shadows. Not saying film is better at it, but no matter how much things are "placed digitally", it never looks quite like film. No matter how much I slave away in PS/Lightroom or use programs like Silver Efex.

Grubriella
21st September, 2011 @ 05:30 am PDT

Come again.... Professionals shooting on 35mm film are merely nostalgic.

Professionals shooting on medium (lots) or large format (not a lot) have a reason to still use film.. but then again, it is a specialty niche. oh, my mum still uses a film camera, as she likes it, and it is cheaper than going and buying a new dSLR. that sort of amateur still uses film.... and as I said of the pros, the nostalgic kind...

Of course lits of cinematography is still using film, as digital equipment is borderline as good, with no real advantage, and higher cost (set-up) and directors like cutting rushes..... can't litter the floor with feet of digital duds.

MD
17th October, 2011 @ 12:28 am PDT

I think "The Middle" is the best looking show on television, and it is shot on film. I also think Modern Family would gain at least a full point in the ratings if they were shooting on film.

Alessandro Machi
16th February, 2012 @ 08:39 pm PST
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