Yesterday was a day of firsts. While the first production Sony F65 was presented in Hawaii, New Yorkers got to see the first ARRI Alexa Studio demo at AbelCine’s newly redesigned headquarters.
Moe Shore made the introductions. He pointed out that the majority of TV shows this year have been shot with Alexa. The reasons are probably image performance, efficient workflow, reliability and simple operation. Alexa Studio joins ARRI Alexa, Plus, and M siblings.
Next, ARRI Inc’s Guenter Noesner went over the key features that differentiate the flagship Alexa Studio model from the rest of the line (mirror shutter, optical viewfinder with anamorphic de-squeeze, 4:3 sensor, behind the lens ND and clear filter).
AbelCine’s Professor of All Things Cinematic Mitch Gross gave an in-depth look at how the camera works, with helpful hints on how to use it. His lively presentation was peppered with practical advice, perceptive comparisons, and interesting hands-on how-to demos. It was like getting a graduate degree in Alexaology.
Alexa’s Super 35 4:3 sensor is the equivalent of a 4-perf film gate. Each frame from the 2880 x 2160 active pixels produces a 6.5 Megapixel image. Rec 709 is about 8 stops, Alexa is about 14 stops. Sweet spot is 800 EI.
Mitch mounted four strips of black tape and showcard on a household fan to show how Alexa’s mechanical shutter eliminates jello effect.
Next class was Anamorphic 101, because that is where Alexa Studio is probably going to the top of the class. The 4:3 sensor for anamorphic format is roughly 80% larger than a cropped 4:3 composition within a 16:9 sensor’s frame. Mitch demonstrated oval bokehs and anamorphic look with a Hawk anamorphic prime lens.
AbelCine’s Professor of Post Workflows Andy Shipshides showed the seamless integration of the CODEX ARRIRAW Recorder and post production. Alexa Studio 4:3 12-bit images are 12 MB each (16:9 frames are 6.8 MB each). The elegant thing about Codex is that it records ARRIRAW as virtual files that can be output in almost any flavor you desire: DPX, ARI, AVI, MOV, MXF, etc. At the moment, Alexa 4:3 RAW will not record to SxS cards–only Codex.
Note: Cartoni’s new Maxima head was an excellent match for Alexa Studio. Balance is brilliant, moves are smooth, pan and tilt locks are intuitively located, and thoughtful touches like oversize locking levers make using it a breeze.
The well-attended class was dismissed. It was snack time in AbelCine’s bountiful kitchen/café, followed by more hands-on time with the equipment and Q&A with the instructors.