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Alexa As Docco Camera

Published : 2nd February 2011

Last year on a doc there was consideration of using the Red as the main camera.

We shot three days to "assess" its capabilities and pitfalls. For that particular doc, it was deemed more trouble than it was worth, especially with the size of our crew.

There's talk of perhaps using the Alexa on an upcoming doc series, and the idea sounds intriguing. The advantage of using the Alexa on this doc is that there is no "fly on the wall" shooting where we would have only one chance to capture something "and it better be in focus!". The shoot is mainly interviews, scenics and factory shoots.

Before conducting tests and such, I wanted to get a feel from CML members as to their thoughts on this, and if anyone has tried that lately.

Thanks in advance!

Duraid Munajim
Toronto based DP, currently in Amman


>> Before conducting tests and such, I wanted to get a feel from CML members as to their thoughts >>on this, and if anyone has tried that lately.

I have certainly stripped my Alexa down to the MMB1 (lightweight mattebox), LWZ2 and battery with my Sachtler 7+7HD 100mm kit (note payload with larger lens) and it worked well. In a doc the Alura seems problematic for fast changing with MB20, support and bridgeplate. I am considering the Alexa for an upcoming doc series also but like the natural history guys of old I think a lighter weight long conversion may be better for longer lens coverage. The duclos converted 70-200 VR comes to mind for longer work The 70-200 will probably work off a 15mm lightweight support keeping the camera light.

Nick Paton ACS
Cinematographer
ARRI Alexa owner operator
Brisbane Australia
www.npdop.com
+61 (0)411 596 581


>> I have certainly stripped my Alexa down to the MMB1 (lightweight mattebox), LWZ2 and battery >>with my Sachtler 7+7HD 100mm kit (note payload with larger lens) and it worked well.

Thanks Nick, that's what I was looking for mainly - reassurance that it's in the realm of possibility!

I was hoping for more feedback, but I imagine the camera is so new to the market, people are still playing around with its possibilities.

As I understand it, the Alexa was built with an eye towards television production, but it's becoming more popular in theatrical drama work.

One of the big advantages of the Alexa for doc work is that it records straight onto ProRes, which eschews the need for long hours converting the footage into an FCP friendly format. But then again, there is the new KiPro ...

Best,

Duraid Munajim
DP, Toronto based - in Jordan for most of December


I shot the Sky Doc "Story of a Monster" (abot Josef Fritzl - lovely subject matter!) on a pair of Red Ones last year. Had an old Cooke 20-60 on one (bit heavy for HH that one!) and the Red lenses on the other, with small MBs and lightweight FF.

Foot of snow everywhere for the whole shoot, no ACs, just me and another operator plus some runners on camera crew (and a Data Wrangler in the hotel prepping rushes), all worked fine and got great stuff - so, if that's possible, you should be fine with Alex...

Dominic Jones,
CEO.
Director, Cinematographer.

Fractured Films Limited.
Unit 23, Level 6,
New England House,
New England Street,
Brighton, UK.
BN1 4GH.
T: +44 (0)1273 677139


Duraid wrote:

>>One of the big advantages of the Alexa for doc work is that it records straight onto ProRes, which >>eschews the need for long hours converting the footage into an FCP friendly format.

We sold a client an Alexa that he immediately took out for a month for a doc and he loved it. On the camera lived one of a pair of small zooms, a follow focus, mattebox, onboard monitor and a pair of handgrips. Can we stripped down to the built-in lightweight 15mm front rods and mounted to a regular video-style quick-release plate on a Sachtler Video 20 head. Small ans portable, with a bunch of Hytrons for power. And this was for a doc traveling via dog sleds in Alaska. He said the camera performed like a champ and was easy to deal with and lug around. He didn't even bother with the ARRI shoulder pad, preferring the way the camera sat directly onto his shoulder clean.

Mitch Gross
Applications Specialist
Abel Cine Tech



>>He didn't even bother with the ARRI shoulder pad, preferring the way the camera sat directly onto >>his shoulder clean.

I can see why he left the shoulder pad...it's the worst piece of ill conceived accessory I've ever seen...held on by one piece of normal strength velcro..I leave it off also. This is what I'd expect of an ARRI work experience kid's design input. Otherwise the rest of the camera is stellar!

Nick Paton ACS
Cinematographer
ARRI Alexa owner operator
Brisbane Australia


>> The shoot is mainly interviews, scenics and factory shoots.

I'd think it would work perfectly, particularly in environments without controlled lighting. For the moment there's no better camera at handling highlights.

Art Adams | Director of Photography
San Francisco Bay Area


>> One of the big advantages of the Alexa for doc work is that it records straight onto ProRes, which >>eschews the need for long hours converting the footage into an FCP friendly format.

Isn't it interesting that for years we've wanted digital cinema to move towards RAW files which would give us back some of the flexibility of shooting film....and now we see it as a big advantage to be able to go around the RAW formats and record directly to ProRes....

George Hupka
Director/DP, Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada
Listmum, Cinematography Mailing List


George Hupka wrote:

>>And now we see it as a big advantage to be able to go around the RAW formats and record directly >>to ProRes....

Part of it is that the file sizes have gotten so large that converting can really take forever, sometimes longer than if you were shooting on tape! (or so I hear). But this is doc work, we shoot a ton of footage and the turnaround is tight.

Lat season we were shooting EX3 to nanoflash at 100mb/s iFrame. Each 32gb card held about a half hour's worth of footage.

Some producers are calculating what a 2nd asst editor would cost over the season, and see if they can transfer the costs into a better camera system.
As it stands now the Alexa seems a bit our of the price range of the show, yet it would almost work!

The only other system I know that records onto ProRes is the KiPro.

Perhaps the sony F3 with KPro, combined with an Alura. A different beast altogether, and not out yet!

Duraid Munajim
DP, Toronto based, currently in the holy lands


>>Perhaps the sony F3 with KPro, combined with an Alura. A different beast altogether ... and not out >>yet!

It'll be interesting to see how the F3 is received. Whether the indie audience will go "Thanks, but at that price no thanks, we have HDSLR's" (or $3K Scarlet, perhaps), or the pro audience will go, "Damn, that's cheap for even a downmarket F35. Perfect B-cam."

Tim Sassoon SFD
Santa Monica, CA


>> Lat season we were shooting EX3 to nanoflash at 100mb/s iFrame. Each 32gb card held about a >>half hour's worth of footage.

Beyond the issue of file size there is the alexa power issue. If I recall correctly the alexa is hungry for watts requiring 90 to 100 w which means bigger/ heavier batteries and more of them.

My personal preference for docco cams are ones requiring smaller, lower wattage, lighter batteries that have longer run times on a given camera.

Mark smith
DP NYC


>> Whether the indie audience will go "Thanks, but at that price no thanks, we have HDSLR's" (or >>$3K Scarlet, perhaps)

If someone really wants a no-budget HDSLR then there is little to dissuade him. But for everyone who likes the very popular EX3 and want that large sensor look (not to mention the option for 444, S-log, etc.), then the F3 is manna from heaven.

The $3K Scarlet is a thing of the past. Lots more features but greater price as well. And if they want the large sensor than it goes up as well. Nothing comes free in this world.

Mitch Gross
Applications Specialist
Abel Cine Tech



>>for everyone who likes the very popular EX3 and want that large sensor look (not to mention the >>option for 444, S-log, etc.), then the F3 is manna from heaven

Without disagreeing, won't the F3 be almost twice the price of the EX-3?

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


>> Without disagreeing, won't the F3 be almost twice the price of the EX-3?

---With or without lens package?

Body only is supposed to be $16k, yes?

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


>> Body only is supposed to be $16k, yes?

Google tells me the bottom dollar for an EX-3 is $8,320. So it's considerably MORE than twice the price, no? I'm just saying that on the undie/prosumer end, they may look at the EX-3 being the top end of their budget, full stop. The F3 is basically the same price as a RED One, more or less. And it still comes with a stupid little "pony tail" viewfinder. It's basically the same value proposition that the Sunbeam Tiger used to present; a Ford 289 shoehorned into an MGB body. The problem is, it's still a tin can wrapping a big motor.

Closer to home, this is how and why Kodak got out of the DSLR business; because Nikon would only give them F80 platform bodies to work with, and Canon nada. So their last product was the ProSLR/n, a $5K 14MP full frame sensor (five years ago plus) living in Nikon's crappiest body (or for Canon, Sigma), with all the metering and AF prowess of a $1K prosumer camera. Needless to say, only idiots like myself bought them.

Is Sony about to make the same mistake?

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


>> The F3 is basically the same price as a RED One, more or less.

----Less~!!!

A RED One loaded for bear runs close to sixty or seventy thousand dollars.

Am I wrong in thinking it is possible to spec out an F3 with a three piece basic prime kit, rods, matte box, filters and what not for around $30k?

Add another $10k for a Cinedeck if you so desire.

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX


>> Google tells me the bottom dollar for an EX-3 is $8,320. So it's considerably MORE than twice the >>price, no?

No. Don't confuse street sale price with MSRP. Let's see where the F3 actual price lands.

Also, how much does it cost to stick a 35 lens adapter like a Letus on the front of an EX3? People pay to do s every day.

Mitch Gross
Applications Specialist
Abel Cine Tech


>> Isn't it interesting that for years we've wanted digital cinema to move towards RAW files which >>would give us back some of the flexibility of shooting film....

Perhaps one of the greatest benefits of the Alexa is that it does both! You can potentially record to a RAW format, maximizing flexibility in the online, while at the same time recording ProRes dailies in Rec. 709 for the offline, allowing editors to hit the ground running with no transcoding necessary (post-syncing of audio notwithstanding). No one likes waiting for transcodes. But that doesn't mean RAW formats aren't still highly desirable. The Alexa produces great looking dailies with no fuss, even when shooting in RAW.

I haven't personally been on an Alexa shoot yet that's shooting RAW + ProRes at the same time; so far all of my clients have been satisfied with recording to the SxS cards in ProRes 4444 w/ Log-C for both offline and finishing. However, the fact that, if desired, one can record both ARRI RAW and ProRes simultaneously has got to be one of the most attractive aspects of the Alexa / ARRI RAW workflow.

Best,

Jordan Livingston
Digital Imaging Technician
San Francisco Bay Area
www.DIGILOID.com


>> The F3 is basically the same price as a RED One, more or less.

An F3 is MUCH cheapeqr than a Red One, which is $24,500 (more if you actually want to record something on-board, even more if you want to do something with your footage later Red Rocket, Red Station, etc.).

An F3 is much easier to edit and post than the Red for someone who doesn't spend their days hanging out on RedUser.

An F3 is easily worth the additional cost over the EX3 for filmmakers wanting the Super35mm sensor size. (That's most of us, BTW.)

Full disclosure: I've got a deposit down on an Epic-X, but the next best alternative is not the Red One MX, it's the F3.

Best, Erich

Erich Ocean
Filmmaker
CA & WA


>> Google tells me the bottom dollar for an EX-3 is $8,320. So it's considerably MORE than twice the >>price, no?


Sony set the U.S. street price awhile ago at $13300 for the body and
$18950 with a 35, 50 and 85.

Dave Williams
________________________

www.davidwilliams.com.au
Freelance Cinematographer
Steadicam Operator
Camera Operator
Melbourne, Australia
0403 962 907
A.C.S. Vic Secretary


ArriRAW is not available yet as of last week and is currently in Beta.

Just a FYI,

Dane Brehm
DIT : HiSpeed
Honolulu, HI


>>An F3 is MUCH cheapeqr than a Red One, which is $24,500 (more if you actually want to record >>something on-board

I'm actually surprised; I thought they were $17,500 for the body. Didn't  they used to be, or was that just preorders? Red.com just quoted me $25K, so maybe they're appreciating while new. Should've researched that first.

Don't get me wrong - I find the F3 very attractive, viewfinder apart, for my own projects and for VFX plate shoots (though a higher RAW file size and HS would be very useful); for the 10-bit SDI if nothing else. But I haven't always been my own best friend when it comes to buying equipment, so I'm
playing devil's advocate with it.

"Sony set the U.S. street price awhile ago at $13300 for the body and $18950 with a 35, 50 and 85."

Who's building the primes? Presumably either Cosina Zeiss or Fujinon? And any skinny on a zoom package? I bet the F3 is at least $16K with a kit zoom (a penny less and I'd be thinking it's crap), which would make the package double the cost of an EX-3.

Tim Sassoon
SFD
Santa Monica, CA


Interesting discussion this has morphed into (maybe we should change the subject line?)

So to review, the major disadvantages with an Alexa for a mid range budgeted shoot are:

- cost (around $80k for body alone, possibly around $120K for basic full package)

- high power consumption, as Mark Smith pointed out

The Alexa's latitude, light sensitivity, low noise threshold and workflow are all positives, as well as its robust build.

The Sony F3 has yet to come out, but preliminary tests look very positive.

Held against the Red, the F3 has its size and weight, (5lbs body alone), low power consumption (no fans!) and workflow all going for it.

Now, compared to the AF-100, the sensor is slightly bigger (not a big deal), PL mount as standard, and 10 bit SDI out (versus 8 bit on the Panny). As well as the option of being able to go full RGB 4:4:4 in future upgrade.

Is it worth it for a $10K price difference? I think so, but I'd really have to take a look at the image the F3 renders before deciding.

If I were to throw general numbers out there for camera packages, here's what I see:

AF-100 - $25K

F3 - $40K

Red one - $50K +

Alexa - $120K

I'm throwing these numbers around very loosely, Adam Wilt did a better job of categorizing the Red's costs, but it would be in that ballpark.

As to the Ikonoskop, they would really need to prove themselves in the professional market. The super 16 A-cam was a great idea, and the reflex conversion by Du-all turned it into a very sweet capture device, but it was still finicky, prone to scratches, and customer support was .... ummm, let's leave it at that :-) I'm willing to concede that perhaps they've learned from all that and provide more support for their new camera.

And the Ikonoskop is a S16 sensor. Fine with me, but the producers out there are lusting over the larger sized sensors more than DPs, it seems. And for doc work, I think ProRes is the way to go these days.

Cheers,

Duraid Munajim
Toronto based DP


Alexa - $120K

And yet the Alexa is approaching 1,000 units delivered or ordered. It's quite a hit already considering it took Arri quite a few years to sell 2,000 435's. The factory is building these at an amazing speed (up to 30/day?!) considering that for along time they were building something like one 435/day. I know a couple of RED owners that have taken out loans to buy Alexa's.

My friend's two Alexa's are working constantly. For my shoot today I had to pick up a body at midnight last night after a shoot wrapped, and return it in time for two shots starting Monday. We called around to see if there was a back up body in town and weren't able to located on. I didn't have to extend a Discount on the rental. :-)

Two weeks ago I spent two days prepping one Alexa in Hollywood that was shipped off for a show in London, because they couldn't find one there. Their "B" body came from Florida.

I wouldn't want to shoot a doc with an Alexa. They are surprisingly dense and heavy.

We had the new 60 fps firmware, however we shot everything at 25 fps ... it's being edited in Germany, but then shown at the Detroit car show?

http://images12.fotki.com/v240/fileN6e6/68a31/4/43793/4909192/MercedesAlexa.jpg

I went through 6 of those clip on batteries in about 6 hours, mounted on a double battery mount, shooting about 80 minutes of 444 plus powering a TransVideo on-board powered off of the 12 volt accessory out and the PanaTape off of a 24 V. out.

http://images116.fotki.com/v695/photos/4/43793/4909192/SideShow-vi.jpg

Mako, Makofoto, Alexa Aficionado, S. Pasadena, CA


Mitch Gross writes:

>>But for everyone who likes the very popular EX3 and want that large sensor look (not to mention the >>option for 444, S-log, etc.), then the F3 is manna from heaven.

The NXCam 35 will also appeal to some of that clientele, albeit at a less-lofty quality level. .. and at a commensurately less-lofty price. Any word on promised delivery dates? ...and maybe an EVF?

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>>The NXCam 35 will also appeal to some of that clientele, albeit at a less-lofty quality level. .. and at >>a commensurately less-lofty price. Any word on promised delivery dates? ...and maybe an EVF?

I must say that to me NXCam is the most exciting offering. Not constrained by any form factor infinitely configurable. Sensor, lens mount , some onboard recording provision- I like the built in ND wheels especially with the latest hi sensitivity sensors. Onboard LCD is a plus but not necessary.

Two three months from now aftrmarket hi rez EVFs will be plentiful and cheap- I know of about 10 companies working on these plus the camera should work very nicely on my DSLR rig- I'm excited
needles to say...

Jacek Zakowicz, Optitek.org, Thousand Oaks, CA.


>> Don't get me wrong - I find the F3 very attractive, viewfinder apart,

---Who was it that said "pony tail viewfinder"....spot on.


Can't those things be banned on anything that weighs more than two pounds
just on general principle? :-P

I wonder if the RedRock MicroEVF would work on the HDMI output of the
PMW-F3? Looks like it should !

How big is my bear?


Any bear is big enough to want a matte box, rails, follow focus and a decent side EVF of some kind. Personally I would love to have some kind of PL mount zoom and a Heden zoom motor and controller to go with it.

I see that it doesn't have any rosettes on the body.

Oh well...

Jeffery Haas
camera-edit
Mansfield TX