ARRI Alexa adds Apple and Avid

The crowds waiting for a date with Alexa at ARRI’s NAB booth were reminiscent of the beginning of the revolution fomented in a Red Tent in South Hall a mere four years ago. What they saw were working models of the entry-level ARRI digital camera: A-EV, to be delivered this June.

Missing was a bouncer at the entrance, although Bill Russell is certainly big and strong enough. (Left to right: Fred Horne, Jeff Reyes, Franz Wieser, Bill Russell.)

A big surprise was revealed behind the traditional-looking camera body door: slots for two SxS cards — familiar to anyone who’s used Sony XDCAM EX cameras. Even more interesting  is how ARRI has wrapped Alexa’s files in Quicktime, so each take is one familiar .mov file. This camera-to-edit convenience was pioneered by JVC last year with the introduction of GY-HM100U and GY-HM700U camcorders whose files could be edited directly in Final Cut Pro.

Alexa records ProRes 422 (HQ) and will soon support ProRes 444), with audio, metadata and Final Cut Pro XML files. She made her pilgrimage to Cupertino for certification and was anointed by Apple. Avid’s NAB announcement of Media Composer 5 with native support for QuickTime video formats, including Apple ProRes and H.264, was timely. The Quicktime files load directly into FCP or Avid Media Composer without the need for transcoding or log-and-transfer.

The menu, display and buttons are simple to use. Remarkably, it only takes about 5 minutes to learn how to use Alexa, and its film camera style controls and layout are logical and as intuitive as a Nokia or Apple menu. My only quibble is the video baseplate, because I prefer the smaller, simpler Sachtler/Ronford/Euro Style Touch and Go plate. But we’ll see…200,000 video camera operators using video baseplates on ENG cameras can’t be wrong.

Alexa’s Super 35 format CMOS sensor is rated at EI 800 — although Bill Bennett, ASC rated it at 1200 in tests.

You can dial in an exposure index from EI 200 to EI 1600.

The sensor’s 3.5K pixels provide HD (1920 X 1080) and 2K files. The first two models (A-EV and A-EV Plus) record 16:9. The OV (Optical Finder) will record the full 4:3 sensor. My guess is that there will be a 4th iteration: an A-EV Plus that also records 4:3.

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