Arri has refreshed its digital cinema camera range with the new Alexa XT (Xtended Technology), which will offer: a compact, built-in Raw recorder capable of recording up to 120 frames per second at high quality; a built-in neutral density filter; a 4:3 sensor that can be used with anamorphic lenses; full support for lens data; a new, stronger viewfinder mounting bracket; and an even quieter fan.
The Alexa XT, Alexa XT M, Alexa XT Plus and Alexa XT Studio cameras will replace all previous models except for the original Alexa. Owners of existing Alexa cameras will be able to purchase individual upgrades that deliver most of the features of the XT configuration, including the XR recording module, ND filter module, viewfinder mounting bracket, viewfinder extension bracket, XT Fan and the anamorphic de-squeeze and high speed licenses.
Feature films often record Arriraw to capture uncompressed, unencrypted image data so that they have maximum flexibility in post. Recent movies that recorded in Arriraw include Skyfall, Life of Pi, Marvel’s The Avengers, Hugo, Zero Dark Thirty and Amour.
However, recording in Arriraw has previously involved using an external recorder, such as the Codex Onboard, but a lot of users have asked for built-in Arriraw recording, which is why Arri decided to work with Codex to develop the new XR Module. The camera’s modular design means that existing Alexa owners will also be able to quickly swap in the new module for the existing SxS card module.
The result is a smaller, lighter, more affordable, cable-free camera package that records Arriraw inside the camera, at up to 120fps. It uses fast, rugged 512GB XR drives that can also be used to record Apple’s ProRes or Avid’s DNxHD formats, including ProRes 4444 at 120fps. At 6.7Gbps the solid-state XR Capture Drive is claimed to be the fastest digital magazine available. With an SxS Adapter it is possible to record ProRes or DNxHD to a single SxS PRO card, so you can still use existing cards.
For post production the XR Capture Drive offers several different workflows familiar to anyone who has used Codex recorders. First, a small, affordable USB3 Single Dock allows quick, safe copying of data onto a laptop. Second, the Dual Dock can make clones of XR Capture Drives and connect to a Mac Pro via a high-speed SAS interface for speedy copying, archiving or dailies creation. And third, the Codex Vault is a modular and rugged all-in-one system for fast, easy copying, archiving, reporting or dailies creation on or near set.
The new In-camera Filter Module IFM-1 allows Alexa XT models to be rated at the base sensitivity of EI 800 without the need for external ND filters, even in bright sunlight. Filtering behind the lens rather than in front is quicker and simpler and reduces weight and reflections. The IFM-1 offers eight densities, from ND 0.3 to ND 2.4.
True anamorphic sensor
A lot of moviemakers prefer using anamorphic lenses, to give the CinemaScope look. These squeeze the wider aspect ratio on to the 4:3 sensor that is now standard on the XT cameras (it was previously only available on high-end Alexas). The sensor is the same size and shape as a Super 35mm film frame, so it is also useful for HD productions as it permits significant reframing of the image in post, similar to shooting 4-perforation 35mm film. An anamorphic de-squeeze license is included with all XT cameras, as is a high-speed license for filming at up to 120fps.
If you are doing anything complex in post, particularly visual effects, it is very useful to have access to lens metadata (which will record what iris, focus and zoom settings you are using for every shot). All the XT models are equipped with an LDS lens mount. The Arri Lens Data System reads the position of all lens rings and writes them into metadata in every format Alexa can record. More than 41 lens models have LDS built-in, including the Arri/Zeiss Master Anamorphic, Master Prime and LDS Ultra Prime series, the Master Macro 100 and the Arri/Fujinon Alura Lightweight Zooms. For all other lenses it is possible to store the lens table inside the Alexa by using the Lens Data Archive feature.
To make the camera a little easier and more comfortable to use, there is a new Viewfinder Mounting Bracket (VMB-3), with a much stronger, more rigid design, partially achieved through the use of two 15mm lightweight rods. These rods also facilitate rapid changes in camera support, i.e. from a tripod to a crane or Steadicam, since accessories such as lens motors or follow focus units can be hung from the rods rather than cluttering up the base plate. Also available as a separate accessory is the new Viewfinder Extension Bracket (VEB-3), with a foldout arm that holds the viewfinder securely in place when moving the camera.
Silence of the fans
Alexa cameras are some of the quieter digital cameras, but a new, improved fan has been included in the XT models, to make it more usable in very quiet or very hot environments.
By David Fox