As part of the Chicago South Asian Film Festival, I am one of the princeple speakers at an extended Arri Alexa Training session to be held this Sunday Oct 2nd from 2pm- 6pm.
My next speaking engagements after this will be announced shortly, but note I will be in Mumbai for Broadcast India Oct 19th-22nd make sure to say hello if you are at the show.
So this alexa thingy is really gaining ground, and I have been bombarded by questions about Log vs Lin and how the signals actually look on screen and on a scope, so I did test shoot with my wife working away on her glass jewelry.
So lets look at arri's LogC vs Rec709 of the same content.
This image is showing the visual differences between the logC version on the Right and the Rec709 Linear example on the Left.
We all can see that the LogC image is much flatter, gray and muddy compared to the same image on the Right which has been processed in hardware to match the Rec 709 color space that is used as the default for HD signal and is used on all production monitors.
LOG was developed as a process that would allow a longer tonal range in post to be extracted from film negatives, as film negatives have a base layer that includes color masking that has to be extracted prior to making a positive image or Reversal Print.
This masking was done to offset the impurity of the dyes being used in the silver matrix to record the images. It is hard to make all of the colors respond the same way when colors of light operate at differing wavelengths. So when Arri Started making the ArriScan to convert film to digital, they offered the users a digital file that acted more like a film negative rather than giving these highend post house an image that looked and acted like video.
The first film scanners only created digital from film in a frame by frame process when capturing the files, they were usually converted to DPX ( digital picture exchange) frames that were designed to handle the longer film style latitude and lower contrast range that finishing on FILM required.
This is the same image- only here I am just showing the difference between Log and Rec709 on FCP's waveform display.
You can clearly see that while the REC 709 Image fills the waveform with a longer tonal range, there is not any loss associated with conversion of log gamma to linear that the REC 709 space entails.
The Rec 709 on the left clearly is clamping the whites at 100 IRE and have extended the blacks all the way down to 0 IRE.
Where the LogC image- which is the recorded format of original content for BOTH IMAGES has all of the luma weighted in the middle of the IRE scale, allowing the most amount of "correction" to extract information out of the shadows.
I cannot stress to everyone enough that the Rec 709 file is output of LogC master. These are the same image, I am just using the power of the logarithmic acquisition to offer me a much greater range of control in post.
I have said many times that changing cameras often time forces one to change everything in their production lifestyle, the movement to tapeless has been wrought with issues and concepts that had to change with the times. Arri has brought back an oldy but a goody, and chances are most of the readers here do not even know about a post color space called LogC.
LogC is Arri's versioning of the Kodak Cineon Format, developed to be able to allow film scanners to more accurately represent the original camera negative when going into DI. Arri has used this as the matrix for the D21 for 5 years now and on their film scanners for over 10 years, so while it might be new to all of you, people on the film side have seen it all before.
Here is a 3 Sec Clip out the window of the van captured as ProRes 4444, Asa 800 with a Cooke 28mm i4 lens this is straight out of the camera and compressed into the default HQ Iphone compression for delivery here
Here is the same clip,using a default LogC conversion matrix for the D21 via Iridas Speedgrade, with the LUT applied and output from Apple Color. ( An Amazing COLOR trick for the LogC format -I got almost exactly the same result by choosing the "auto balance" button in the Primary room, then running the saturation slider up to about 1.4 or so.)
The only lights in these shots are the streetlights, nothing more beyond the practicals that you see in the shot, there is not any additional lighting or processing of the content.
So not only is this camera a new level, it carries with it the best of the legacy formatting. RED required us to all change to fit their acquisition model, Arri is choosing to stick to one that has worked, at the high level, for a fairly long time, It is not required to re-invent the wheel, but changing the materials to get what you want is not such a bad thing
Here is the first look at the menus and a camera walkthrough.
IF the Cow video is still playing a little "bouncy" here is a link to the content in HD on Vimeo.
the battle lines seem to be drawn between the Red Owners and the people anxious to see and use Arri's Alexa. The issues range from "quoted" prices, each cameras capabilities, to the quality of the outputs, even comments here on the Cow about how expensive these tools are.
Simply it gets down to a old axiom, " horses for courses" meaning that there are different needs for every task. Even on a alternate day of the week the needs can change and it has been my task is to evaluate all of those variables. So to answer the 80 some- people that emailed me offline to ask (or blast) me about the RED vs Alexa debate.
There is not one in my mind. I like shooting with RED in spite of the forever in beta camera and conversion software, often times random complexities, the whole fanboy thing (I am going to hear it for that line). Someone once told me that RED was made for 'credit card" productions, you know the ones that are financed by the skin of your teeth. It is an interesting concept and not wholly untrue. The best RED production workflows are with people that throw time and / or money at the problem, and that is very true. I have seen entire production days lost in the early days of the 4K revolution when an owner/operator blew his camera only camera up on set, some thing that could have been prevented by proper prep and a backup plan. (who in their right mind goes into 2 day, talent + 85person shoot without backup?)
Alexa sets a new standard, but why does that have to replace the existing one? I see a place in the world for lots of cameras, as I have said before I like to be acquisition agnostic. I just stopped buying cameras a long time ago, since the costs and needs are constantly changing why try to keep up.
That being said, for a large amount of the production work that I do the RED required more work. Like so many others, I have clients that just do not understand RAW formats and while they want to play buzz word camera ordering
but do not want to pay for the additional time or tools needed. So that's why there are any number of tools and technologies built up and around simplifying RED workflow, I know I have made good money designing and supporting those systems along with training people on how to use them.
For my future, I expect to see a lot more of Arri's Alexa, as it was designed specifically for MY production needs directly. So whatever your client wants; ProRes, great. Shoot Raw, edit with ProRes Proxy, no- problem. If your production needs HDSR tape, Log files, ProRes, DnxHD or DPX's, Alexa can deliver all of these onset, in real time, without transcoding.
That does not mean that I am going to give up on RED, in fact I am staging a 3Ds shoot with RED's for the last week of this month because it is the right camera for the client I am working with.
Horses for Courses
As I delve into more and more with Alexa and the more the word gets out, I am being inundated with email.
Please, Please,Please ask your questions publicly either here on in the Arri Forum - I have had over 100 emails with questions directed at me since early this morning, I will not be able to answer everyone (for the record, I charge for access to my knowledge, it is my job).
I am going to answer some of the most common or the most unique here on the blog for now.
Yaron in Israel:
Yes - you do have the ability to add a conventional quick release plate like those used on Sony or Panasonic cameras. The cameras and support I use are geared around using dovetails or bridge plates, but there is provision to use an industry standard quick release, it even has an arri part number.
Kim in Montreal
If I was going to test the Alexa's Digital shutter against the mechanical shutter on a film camera, this is valid as Arri has announced that they will be making an Optical VF version of the camera. SO-Kim, I will be now, as I had not thought about that specific test- but I will add it to the mix, it is a really great idea for a large number of people this camera is being marketed too.
As for Handheld- ummmm - both RED and Alexa weigh in about the same amount when you get them fully rigged, so I am not sure, but know that I will be asking my steadicam buddies to see what they think.
Yes Steve, I was drooling so much I had to pull out the keyboard cover for my laptop.
Nick from Australia, Adrian from Austria, Jens from Belgium.
Testing of the recording capabilities has not started yet. I am waiting as long as I can so that we can show a true comparison between both flavors of ProRes in-camera , HDSR, DPX and ArriRaw of the same content, for now that is waiting for ArriRaw capture devices. You can see on the blog that I have been testing with Stwo's OB1 and of course my KiPros, I am waiting for a Cinedeck unit and something I cannot talk about until "later".
So after shooting with Alexa one thing is really standing out. This is the most light sensitive professional camera I have ever worked with, I think that it may even surpass the MX Red's for low noise and clean image.
This is available window light- on a overcast day, the camera is rated at ASA 800, shot with an Arri 100mm Macro lens.
yeah anybody can shoot like that but my light source is a 60"x90" window 18.5 ft away (roughly 6 meters), this is what the set looked like, I only used the window light and a white fill card to light the shot.
the image here shows the camera setup from the shot in yesterday's blog post.
So now you can shoot in what can truly be called available light. That does not mean No light, just considerably less than you are used too. Yet that could become an issue with daylight outdoors shoots, where adding .9 ND might become the norm with a camera this sensitive.
As I write this the camera is setting on the table, and I am getting f5.6+ under office florescent lights and Alexa set to 1600 asa.
Back to the capture testing
here is Alexa with an Stwo OB1 onboard recorder set for dual link capture of a DCS Combi chart.
Thats how it goes some days.
we got rained out last night trying to test the Low light and sensitivity of the Alexa
Fletcher's Mike Sippel and I on the Chicago LakeFront (photo by Terry Maday) prepping the Alexa before the rain set in.
Later today I am still going to talk about sensitivity.
Lastly special thanks to Kari Hess from Abel Cine Chicago, DP Alan Thatcher, Lawrence Daufenbach, my audio guy Matt Mayer, Craig Leffel and my wife for pitching in when the rain started.
Fletcher's Dana Hill and Arri's Michael Bravin through the camera's eye
Ok, for me camera testing is not just fun and games just going out to shoot pretty pictures in my world it is often the really boring testing that shows me something cool. I was doing what I call Runtime tests, where you shoot a slate running for the length of a record to check for any discrepancies between formats and capture modes.
My first surprise?
Short of pulling the SxS card out of the camera while recording, I was not able to corrupt the ProRes content on the SxS media.I tried everything I could think of that happens with P2 or the EX formats that cause corruption and I was not able to corrupt the content, however note that there is no card to card or spanning of the recording across 2 cards in the camera at this time.
The various flavors of ProRes and their recording times on the 32G SxS media listed below should only be used as a guide, the ProRes workflow is still being tested and is labeled as beta by Arri. All SxS recordings are using standard 1920x1080 frame rasters.
ProRes 4444 15min
ProRes HQ 22min
The other frame rates were removed at Arri's request. I jumped the gun a little.
Fletcher's Mike Sippel and I discuss Alexa
I am not going to be shy about saying that all cameras at this production level consume quantities of power, and while Alexa is nowhere near the needs of Sony's f23 and f35 with Onboard SR recording, where you can literally watch the batteries drain in real time.
Alexa does consume her fair share of power- I get about 90 -100 Minutes on an standard Anton Bauer Hytron 140 gold mount, I was surprised that the smaller Dionic 90 gave me nearly an hour of runtime, this is amazing when you take into account that Alexa is native 24V power and it is doing live 12v to 24v internally to power the camera and accessory ports ( the camera has both 24v and 12v power output ports)
Yet there is no need to be nervous about the power consumption, Arri has done done something I have not seen so far in a digital cinema camera, truly intelligent power management. If you are recording when your batteries start dying, the camera closes out the record, saving the file completely before fully shutting the camera down. You have the ability to change the remaining percentage of available, but Arri has the percentages close enough that I would leave them where they are. This was a big surprise, I have been one of the many people burned when not using RED Batteries during a shoot and the camera died without first closing out the file, loosing 20mins on the "A" camera during a concert shoot.
Tomorrow I will be talking about Speed and Sensitivity, I am going to leave you with this image, shot with available window light on the kitchen island in my loft on a partly cloudy day. That would not be a big deal, except for the fact that counter I am shooting on is nearly 20ft from the windows. This was shot at 800 asa @ f8 using Arri 100mm Macro, the partially open shades on the windows gave me light level at about 5 foot candles
Here she is.
I am not different from anyone else here on the Cow, so when there is a new toy in town I am really glad when I get to be one of the first inline. Stay tuned for the next week while I share my thoughts on a camera that is as much of a game changer as RED or the DSLRs have been.
First off, it is not my camera. Tom and the crew at Fletcher Camera are allowing me the first few days of bliss with their new toy this weekend and I am very thankful to be here, so lets take a look at what I have seen so far.
I am not the only tourist shooting the unboxing here is Tom taking the shot I posted yesterday.
Lets get to my first impressions.
Because Alexa is being released in limited numbers, there are only a very few of these cameras even available (maybe a couple of dozen worldwide) and Arri is the careful and cautious company that they have always been. There are a number of functions not yet enabled, but I will get to those that I am able to talk about publicly later in the week.
Alexa has a base ASA of 800, with what appears to be over 13 stops of latitude at that setting, but a range from 160-1600 in the menu.
She so quiet that you have look to be sure that it is on, easily accomplished by the bright and clear LCD on the side of the camera (that changes to green when recording).
The mechanical design is awesome, built in the manner that one would expect from Arnold and Richter, a company that has been building THE professional film camera for 90 years. Like the film cameras before it, Alexa is designed with both the DP and an assistant in mind, with buttons, knobs and mounting points that further define this as a truly professional camera system, designed to accept 99.5% of the existing Arri or other accessories and matte boxes. As an example - there is even an “O”ring around the external access to the SxS cards, these are used as seals underwater or in environments where dust or dirt could be an issue.
The menu structure of Alexa is going to put a lot of guys like me out of business. It is a simple, concise structure that is not a great leap from the early iPod, even having a wheel to make adjustments with. Creating a useable, functioning tree structure that accounts for the current state of the camera as well as placeholders for future additions to the architecture is not something I have ever seen on ANY professional camera but exactly the attention to detail that Arri has put into their digital flagship.
Recording options offer the user access to ProRes capture internally on Sony’s 32GB SxS media cards that offer 19+min of ProRes 422 HQ(@ 10bits) and 15 mins of ProRes 4444 (up to12bits). This camera has been configured so that I am able to test some of the features that have been announced but not yet ready to be publicly released, including the ability to capture of all 5 flavors of ProRes, test the ability to capture externally capture uncompressed or the full 2880 x1620 raster to be available in ArriRaw.
Arri’s Raw format is not anything new, actually over 5 years old, starting on the D20 then later modified on the upgraded D21, a magnificent camera that was not popular until the last year or so, with FOX’s “Lie To Me” being one of the few episodic series that embraced it.
Michael Bravin and Fletcher Director of Engineering Mike Sippel with Alexa.
Later I will cover the menus, recording, monitoring and output modes along with some of the hidden things that make you understand why this just might be the biggest leap in digital filmmaking since RED One was released.
That's all for today - I'm going back to playing with the camera.
Fletcher Camera and Lens is showing the un-boxing of the Arri Alexa on Facebook.
Mike Sippel, Fletcher's director of engineering gets the honor of the paperwork.
My world changed yesterday, One of the first Alexa's was hand delivered to Chicago yesterday. I was limo driver, messenger and suprised when the camera slipped into O'Hare hidden stealthily in a Cinealta backpack.
It was related to me by the courier that precautions were taken when the camera had to be exposed during a security screening at an unnammed airport and said courier was pursued by a DP wanting to know if fit was "a real Alexa?", "working", "where is it going" and the best one " ARE YOU MICHAEL BRAVIN.!!"
So Arri really has started delivery on the next new thing. I am fortunate to be one of the lucky people to be able to work with this, the crown jewel of Arri's camera line, so stay tuned to the Cow over the next week while I blog and write about the hottest shipping camera currently on the market.
Photos and videos start later today.