Not wanting to leave Alexa owners out in the cold after last week’s 4k Amira announcement, Arri have unveiled plans for an Alexa firmware update in early 2015 that will enable 3.2k ProRes recording.
This 3.2k footage can then be easily upscaled to 4k using the same technology that was developed to work with the ARRIRAW Open Gate sensor mode for the Alexa XT earlier this year.
I have to ask though whether filmmakers will see this as a useable solution? There’s no doubting the quality of Alexa footage, and I’m sure that up-scaled 3.2k footage will look wonderful, but much of the Alexa’s industry following has come from the simplicity of shooting straight to edit-ready ProRes. Adding in the extra step of up-scaling the footage afterwards really seems to negate one of the main things that made the Alexa so popular. With these firmware updates for the Amira and the Alexa is seems to me that Arri is scrambling to band-aid their lack of a true 4k solution because widespread adoption of UHD is coming faster than they expected. At least with the Amira, the up-scaling is done in-camera and saved to the C-Fast 2.0 cards. I can’t help feeling that Alexa owners would like to have seen that internal option as well though? Perhaps the processing power simply isn’t there in the Alexa to accomplish this.
What are your thoughts? Would you use an Alexa with the intention of upscaling it? Or would you simply go for a cheaper option like the F55, or even the F5 now we can enable 4k internal XAVC recoding on that?
(September 2014, Munich) – ARRI today announces ProRes 3.2K, a new recording format for its ARRI ALEXA cameras that will become available through a software update scheduled for release early next year. ProRes 3.2K allows the same easy up-sampling in post to UHD deliverables as ARRIRAW Open Gate does to 4K. These formats, combined with ALEXA’s unsurpassed dynamic range, make the camera suitable for any type of production with any distribution requirements.
ALEXA is Future Proof
The majority of digital film and television productions continue to capture, postproduce and distribute in HD or 2K, formats for which ALEXA provides an unmatched solution. Widespread adoption of UHD/4K post workflows, as well as availability of UHD displays in consumer homes and 4K projection in movie theaters is at least one to two years away – even in the most progressive markets. However, some film and program makers are already concerned about protecting their work for future developments. The ongoing debate regarding high dynamic range (HDR) displays, which have an even greater effect on viewing experience than higher spatial resolution, only adds to these concerns.
ALEXA Product Manager Marc Shipman-Mueller comments, “Designed from the outset to be adaptable and future-proof, ALEXA can easily accommodate productions that choose to follow a UHD or 4K workflow. The camera's stellar overall image quality in combination with ProRes 3.2K or ARRIRAW Open Gate allows for simple up-sampling to UHD or 4K in a quality at least as good as other contenders. And because of their unequalled exposure latitude and highlight handling, ALEXA images are already uniquely HDR-compatible. Put simply, ALEXA remains the safest available capture tool for asset longevity, no matter what future standards come to fruition.”
Capture with ALEXA, Deliver UHD for Television
For TV productions looking for a UHD deliverable, ALEXA XT cameras and ALEXA Classic cameras with the XR Module upgrade offer the new and cost-efficient ProRes 3.2K recording option. At data rates far below uncompressed ARRIRAW, ProRes 3.2K provides the benefits of the well-established and efficient ProRes workflow. As an additional benefit, most lenses fully cover the 3.2K image circle that results from the 16:9 ProRes 3.2K image. A straightforward up-sample from ProRes 3.2K using standard post tools delivers UHD images of the highest quality for broadband and broadcast.
Capture with ALEXA, Deliver 4K for Feature Films
Many high-profile movies have been shot in ARRIRAW 2.8K and up-sampled to a 4K DCP with spectacular results, an example being the last James Bond film, Skyfall. To further improve upon this option, ARRI introduced the ARRIRAW Open Gate recording format for ALEXA XT cameras earlier this year. Open Gate records the full 3.4K ALEXA XT sensor area for an optimal up-sample in post to a 4K DCP.
Open Gate has been enthusiastically received by the feature film industry and is in use on numerous productions already, including Warcraft, San Andreas, Pixels, Goosebumps and Sicario, the latest movie lensed by Roger Deakins, ASC, BSC. Other feature films are shooting ARRIRAW 16:9 or ARRIRAW 4:3 and using Open Gate selectively for VFX shots, including Terminator: Genesis, Fantastic 4, Agent 47 and Deus Ex Machina.
Capture with ALEXA, Protect for HDR
Recent demonstrations of high dynamic range (HDR) displays have shown the extraordinary visual impact of increased dynamic range and sparked a debate over how and when they will be introduced. ARRI has been working with Dolby at major trade shows to help showcase Dolby® Vision™ display technology, which is capable of 100 times more brightness than a conventional TV. This has contributed to a spreading awareness in the industry that dynamic range is an even more important factor than spatial resolution in creating a superior visual experience. Recognizing this, other companies such as Thomson, Philips and the BBC are working on their own HDR solutions.
ALEXA's unrivalled exposure latitude, highlight handling and color science already result in images beyond the capabilities of current display technologies. The Dolby Vision presentations have revealed how much better ALEXA images look when displayed with extended dynamic range, proving the enormous and as-yet untapped potential of ALEXA-originated material to be remastered for future HDR display standards.
With headquarters located in Munich, Germany, Arnold and Richter Cine Technik (A&R) was founded in 1917 and is the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of motion picture camera, digital intermediate (DI) and lighting equipment. The ARRI Group comprises a global network of subsidiaries and partners that covers every facet of the film industry, including worldwide camera, grip and lighting equipment rental through ARRI Rental; turnkey lighting solutions through the ARRI System Group; lab services, postproduction and visual effects through ARRI Film & TV; and film distribution through ARRI Worldsales. Manufactured products include the ALEXA camera system and AMIRA documentary-style camera; Master Anamorphic lenses; L-Series LED and M-Series HMI lights; Pro Camera Accessories; and ARRISCAN archive technologies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized ARRI’s engineers and their technical contributions with 18 Scientific and Engineering Awards.