Now that the new “true 4K” ARRI Alexa LF digital cinema camera is shipping to rental houses and production companies we are starting to see some tests and footage shot with the newest “large format” beast that ARRI unveiled earlier in the year at the BSC Expo in London. Mandated by increased pressure from customers for a true 4K (non-upscaled) ALEXA camera and the ironclad demands of streaming giant Netflix, the ALEXA LF is ARRI delivering on the promise of a 4K camera by doing what they do best – deliver outstanding imagery with the most established/accepted/praised (benchmark) sensor technology they have all neatly packed in a sealed, bullet-proof tank of a body ready for the rugged demands of top-end cinema and TV/streaming production.
This way everyone is happy – Netflix producers can tick a box, while DPs, directors, editors, and colourists can work with the same ARRI colour science and workflow they’ve been used to.
Most of you hopefully recall that ALEXA LF camera test that Phoenix, Arizona based film production and rental company VISION5, Inc. did with their ARRI Alexa LF and the latest full-frame Cooke S7i cine primes and for those of you that don’t you can catch up with my previous post here and see the test.
Recently they published a promo piece called The Journey, focusing on images that represent the sacrifice one makes to achieve his or her goals. Shot on the ALEXA LF and Cooke S7/i large format cine primes.
They shot in the 110 F degree heat and not surprisingly the ALEXA LF performed without a hiccup.
Due to the limited availability of the new large format ARRI Signature Primes and other LPL mount lenses Vision5 used a PL adapter and chose the Cooke S7i lenses for their full frame coverage and unique look. Since the aim was to go for an overall warmer look for the majority of the shoot, the Cooke S7/i cine primes made sense due to their excellent contrast and organic colour rendition.
Our overall experience with the Cooke full frame lenses was no different than with any other camera as ARRI made the PL adapter incredibly easy to use. During this shoot, we didn’t utilize ARRI’s internal ND solution, but we are looking forward to testing them on future shoots – Vision5 Inc
Powering the ALEXA LF outside of a studio using regular V-mount or AB batteries and avoiding tethering to a block battery or AC power proved to be a challenge due to the LF’s high power draw requirement of 19.5-34 volts.
With limited battery options, on the day before the shoot the team at Vision5 ended using a custom Hawk-Woods 24v Shark Fin V-Mount battery solution made specifically for an older ARRIFLEX SR3 16mm film camera. While not made specifically for the LF, this dual battery solution surprisingly worked without a problem, with the only drawback of adding significant bulk to the back of the rig, but at least they got a mobile power solution.
For wireless lens control, they used the Tilta Nucleus-M wireless follow focus/lens control system, which has been very popular due to its affordable price and dependable performance. Vision5 were really impressed with the build quality and dependability of the Nucleus-M unit.
We did not experience any problems that seemed somewhat common, such as calibration issues or interference. In the end, it worked without a hitch. Other accessories used were SmallHD monitors and Teradek wireless video.
The Journey was shot in LF 2.39:1 mode (4448 x 1856) in 12bit ProRes 4444XQ for maximum flexibility in post-production. The Codex 1TB cards provided plenty of recording time and space apparently never became an issue. For 2 days of shooting, with 4 locations they ended with about 1TB of footage, which is very manageable. Assuming you have fast storage, it’s possible to edit straight from camera in full resolution.
Interestingly enough, the edit of The Journey was done on a midrange Mac Pro 2013, which is no surprise given how well ProRes is optimized to run on MacOS.
Head on over to Vision5’s website to read more about their experience with the ALEXA LF on the shoot of The Journey.
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