ARRI’s Alexa camera system, which only recently started distributing, looks like it’s already a top contender for high-end professional production. It’s getting kudos for its quality output and a production-friendly systems approach.
There’s lots to like: the camera’s compact form factor, extremely wide f-stop range (a claimed 13 ½ stops dynamic range), hi-res viewfinder, 800 EI exposure range, and low noise output are just some of the specifics that lifts it over competition such as Sony’s F35, now a bit long in the tooth. Sony’s F35, however, is an accepted partner in high-end production, so that situation won’t change anytime soon.
One good move: the Munich-based company didn’t pretend it had all the answers, but decided to bring the camera out as part of a production and postproduction ecosystem, a viable strategic approach for any new camera system that hopes to become popular enough to make its investment back. Of course Arri doesn’t have the deep pockets or broad product line that a Sony does, so they have to make this work.
Of course Arri products already have a great reputation. Founded in 1917, they turn out gear DPs are familiar and comfortable with, and have a few years of experience over newbies like RED.
Building in Apple ProRes encoding as native, for example, acknowledges upfront that the camcorder fits within a post environment. Too bad so many high-end commercial and feature editors use Avid and not Apple’s Final Cut Pro; transcoding between ProRes and Avid’s native DnXHD is possible, though slow, dulling some of that advantage.
Arri’s partners include Apple (ProRes encoding), Sony (via its small-as-a-stick-of gum SxS storage), and other top names such as Panavision, Avid, Iridas, DVS, Digital Vision, Filmlight, and MTI.
Vince Pace, who designed the 3-D rigs used in Avatar among other projects, is sending Alexa-based 3-D rigs to Martin Scorsese for use in his next project Hugo Cabret.
While Arri will handle most sales through its own show rooms and dealers as well as established rental houses, it selected Abel Cine as an authorized reseller, tapping into that company’s status among indie’s and smaller productions. Pricing is said to hover around $60k, although that’s a variable with add-on options and deals.