October 29, 2013

The Perfect Documentary Camera: A First Look at the ARRI AMIRA

AmiraEarlier in the year at the IBC convention, ARRI announced a new camera, one that many believe to be the perfect documentary camera. This camera, the ARRI AMIRA, combines the image quality of its cinematic big brothers (the ALEXA line of cameras) with the single-shooter ergonomics of ENG style cameras. The result is a camera that is perfectly suited for high-end documentary production (as well as run 'n gun narrative production, for that matter.) The fine folks at Zacuto and NewsShooter have released their first look videos and interviews from IBC. Here's what they had to say about the AMIRA:

For those of you who missed our post during IBC, here's a list of the utterly impressive features of the AMIRA:

  • Super 35mm 16:9 Sensor (Same Exact Sensor as Other 16:9 ALEXAs)
  • 2K/1080 Rec 709/Log C using ProRes LT, 422, 422HQ, or 444 codecs
  • Up to 200fps
  • Records to CFast 2.0 (New Compact Flash card standard)
  • 1280 x 1024 OLED Viewfinder and Separate LCD Monitor
  • Internal ND filters
  • 4-Channel PCM Audio: 48KHz 24-bit
  • Selectable 3D LUTs can be recorded
  • Aimed at Documentary, TV Magazines, Trailers, Corporate, Factuals, Live Events
  • Interchangeable Lens Mounts: PL, PL Broadcast, B4, and Canon EF

And here's another IBC video from NewsShooter, this one featuring an extensive interview with ARRI representative Stephan Schenk and legendary cinematographer Rodney Charters ASC. Charters, who is one of my all-time favorite DPs, has a style that seamlessly blends documentary techniques with traditional narrative storytelling, which can be seen in excellent series like 24 and Shameless. Needless to say, this camera is absolutely perfect for how he works. Here's the interview:

At this point, the only things that we don't know are when exactly the camera will be officially released (we're told that it will be before NAB 2014,) and what the camera will cost. As much as I think people would be thrilled to death if this camera came in under $25,000, it just doesn't seem plausible. I'd love to eat my words on that one, but my guess is that we'll see this thing priced in the $35-40,000 range, which will most definitely make it a rental-only option for most shooters.

What do you guys think? Is the AMIRA a dream camera for documentary and run-and-gun narrative shooters alike? How much do you think this camera will cost when it's all said and done? Let us know in the comments!

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40 Comments

wishful thinking.. This thing would be affordable for "non" Oil Tycoons. lol

October 29, 2013 at 11:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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xml

:)

October 30, 2013 at 7:29AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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hansd

I'm slightly bummed it doesn't have the 4:3 alexa xt sensor - however, it's utter nonsense to complain about this camera at all. This is going to be a huge deal, and I can't wait.

October 29, 2013 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alex

Killer TV cam. If its anywhere near $35k will fly off the shelves, especially in developing/secondary markets. It will be the new Sony 900 with a probable 5-8 year shelf-life.
*I too mourn that it won't do 4:3. Greedy.

October 30, 2013 at 2:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

i can see this being used on something like Parks and Recreation etc

October 30, 2013 at 3:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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john jeffries

Not sure they are pricing it right if its going to be in the 35k 40k range. I see C300's all the time in the field and they are way cheaper. Why would someone choose this over a C300 when a C300 can shoot super high iso's is super lightweight, and is less noticeable when shooting guerilla.

I can see this being used on smaller indy films and possibly tv shows but not documentaries which this camera is aimed at. Most docs these days are either shooting C300 ,some type of DSLR, or old school Sony's or Panasonics.

Canon 13k vs Arri 35k
Not sure they will sell many of these. It would have to be at least 20k for anyone to really want to get it.

October 30, 2013 at 4:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Mike Thomas

Because it's an Arri and will no doubt be lightyears better than a C300...

October 30, 2013 at 9:24AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pat

I like both cameras, but here are a few reasons I would use the AMIRA over a C300.

1) Greater latitude. This is wonderful, especially for outdoors in bright sunlight with high contrast.
2) Ergonomics. Many camera operators (myself included) like the shoulder mounted style cameras with a viewfinder. I have used the C100 and while I think it is a wonderful camera (and %90 the camera of the C300) the ergonomics were fine. It is light but still requires a rig to be steady and comfortable over long periods of time.
3) High Framerates. If you need more than 30 fps or 60i the AMIRA has it.
4) Skin Tones. While color is very subjective, and some prefer the Canon color science, the Arri Digital cameras have always been very flattering to skin. It is a great camera to film people with, because it's gentle on skin and faces. It's not always the look people want, but it's great for certain situations.
5) Codec. This is not as big of a winner, but I really like the options of ProRes. It's a lovely codec.

Obviously the C300 is great because of small size, strong sensor, and a great look! Also, a nice bonus is the ability to use the C100 as B/C/D cameras if you're on a budget and they intercut very nicely. Also, you could use the AMIRA and the C300. I remember when the C300 came out they shot a "Game of Thrones" promo with the Alexa and C300 and the DP felt they intercut very closely. So, you could have several C300s and then one AMIRA for high contrast situations and high speed photography. I am glad to see the AMIRA added into the mix.

On a side note, Shane Hurlbut is doing a series on his blog about why they used the C500 for most of Need for Speed, but then why they used the Alexa for certain situations. It's a great read with more to come and I think shows the pros to both cameras. http://www.hurlbutvisuals.com/blog/2013/10/arri-alexa-vs-canon-c500/

October 30, 2013 at 12:14PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Morgan Simpson

They chose the C500 because of that color science you mentioned but IMO an Arri is alot better. I use both quite often and I do like the C300/500 but the Arri just has this film look the Canon doesn't unless you do a good amount of post work. The range and bitrate is also a selling point to me not to mention the global shutter, shoulder ready ergonomics and balance and build quality.

October 31, 2013 at 2:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Brad Watts

Mike, I hate to break your bubble, but there are a lot of things that screw over the C300 for nearly every application. Basically it is nothing but a 7D with better electronic processing, in a different, but no less ergonomic body. Low-light is decent, but frankly, if that's your biggest selling point, you've got it all wrong. The form factor is akin to death. Trying to handhold that and do any kind of manual focusing would be a nightmare. You can't put it on the shoulder without a Frankenrig. And above all, the image quality isn't that great. DSLR's are dead, and the C300 is nothing but a glorified DSLR.

The Amira will win more people than the Alexa, because it is cheaper, it will be in the hands of indie filmmakers who for some reason love to throw cameras on their shoulder. This won't just be used for doc work, it will B-Cam for Alexas, it will be used stand-alone for indie features, it will shine in corporate video. Sony is trying to bring 4K to these lower end markets, Arri is bringing the mythical Alexa look to the same markets.

It's time to usher in the era of Amira.

October 30, 2013 at 7:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Daniel Christensen

Its not going after the c300 crowd and these days a reality show is considered a documentary, I believe that's the market they're after. These networks are starting to like the pretty images large sensors give so I believe this will become a long term rental for most production houses. Plus on a camera like this a lens can cost as much as the camera so IMHO it'll be a hot rental item and ill bet it will fly off the shelf.

October 30, 2013 at 5:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Marino

Yeah...they're not going after reality. Think more BBC documentary. The Arri reps actually reference the BBC documentary crowd multiple times in the videos.

October 30, 2013 at 12:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pat

yeah um the bbc airs almost 2000 hours of factual programming including nature shows along with reality programming, its just 2nd to the 2600 hours they air on news and weather. So in most circles a docu drama or a show that profiles a certain individual is a documentary and it can also be considered a reality show. That's where I was going.

October 30, 2013 at 5:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Marino

It could be considered a reality show, but it shouldn't. That's why the two terms exist...as a distinction...

October 31, 2013 at 10:32AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pat

Perfect on-the-shoulder doco camera, one may add.

October 30, 2013 at 6:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

I do not understand why so huge, reminds me of the Sony Betacam. For documentary agree a better c300, light weight and good low light. Amira has a sensor that over 1200 iso has a lot of noise maybe you can push to 1600 but not usable, you have to see consumption, as if Alexa does not exceed 1.30h with a fully charged battery, so you have plenty of batteries back to him, low light zoom t2.9 is certainly not help, it will be difficult not to use the lights.
It may depend on the market, I certainly do not buy.

October 30, 2013 at 6:28AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alexiss

Although it's large, the shoulder-mount format has some great ergonomic and stability advantages. There's a reason cameras this size are still around.

October 30, 2013 at 5:12PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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In fact, in recent years many people prefer to make documentaries about Canon or Red or Blackmagic, light products, which are in a light suitcase, ready to travel without many batteries etc etc, and very good and better than this Amira.
However only be a point of view, the cameras should be a tool.

November 2, 2013 at 12:51PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Alexiss

Hand hold a c300 or FS700 for a standing/walking 20min interview. The 2nd half of the interview will look like hell unless you're on steroids. If image quality/format didn't matter, I'd take the much heavier betacam any day. Sure you can rig them up, but that's not what more professional doc shooters want. You want to unzip the portabrace, remove the lens cap, switch on, and focus. All of which takes under 15 seconds without sprinting through it. (I timed it on an F800 XDcam, a shoulder mounter ENG camera.). I like it so much better than the C100/C300/R1MX's that we're shooting the rest of a documentary feature with. We stopped using the F800 cuz it just doesn't look like the others (which cut together fine). It's a shame cuz shoulder mounter cameras are are the best. The Amira will be super popular. It will take away hugely from Panny and Sony who have previously dominated this market.

November 5, 2013 at 4:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Daniel Mimura

My gosh, if this thing could become the standard for reality TV and similar ENG set ups, then I might just be able to stomach making reality TV a little longer.

October 30, 2013 at 7:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Ben Howling

Too ogly, too expensive

October 30, 2013 at 8:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Nelson

seriously? are we really gonna do this?

October 30, 2013 at 9:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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alex

Yea, because that's exactly what goes through the head of the audience.... "This show wasn't show with a cool enough looking camera." Dumb.

October 31, 2013 at 8:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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bwhitz

No. The perfect documentary camera is the newly announce Sony RX10. Zeis 24-200 F2.8 ; Built in ND Filters. DSLR sized. Weather sealed. Stabilized. Efficient light codec so file storage will be more manegeable.

October 30, 2013 at 10:01AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Quobetab

Except...it's a DSLR and NOT a documentary camera at all...A doc camera has to be an all-in-one package because you can't waste time messing around with a pieced together rig. DSLR video is meant to mimic cinema style shooting...

October 30, 2013 at 12:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Pat

Its actually rather small package. ND Filters, 24-200 F2.8 Zeis lens, dual xlr inputs, manual audio meters,zebra,peaking,uncompressed hdmi out. http://www.newsshooter.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/rx10-600x446.jpg

And in documentary shooting...small and unobstrusive is favored more than a shoulder place huge camera. The amira is more for corporate docs rather than real news style documentary.

October 30, 2013 at 7:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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quobetah

Michael J. (@mj604) produc designer at arri said that the arri amira will be under Sony F55 pricer range.

October 30, 2013 at 10:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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jesuan

Ohhhh, that would be good.
Even though the F55 is 4K and a nice camera that would be a close fight. As mentioned above, that Arri color science is perfect for a talking head business.

October 30, 2013 at 12:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

yeah...resolution ins't it all but the color science is not the same as the alexa...because when I asked him about that he didn't response but he has answered different questions.....I'm not liking at the moment the look of the Amira...it looks kind of an XDCAM....it will never look as an Alexa because that would make people switch or start with the Amira and that for the Alexa market is pretty bad...so I assume it will have a more "videoish" look in 14 stops.

October 30, 2013 at 1:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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jesuan

Pretty sure neither knows what exactly is a "GH2" :)

October 30, 2013 at 10:34AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Michael

Relax guys Norm is taking the piss. It took me till now to realise it :) Good one Norm. Crack up :)

October 30, 2013 at 11:07AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Who Wants to buy a kidney ?

October 30, 2013 at 11:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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nigel Thompson

I read on another site that the body will be priced at around €25,000 over across the pond. The totals usually end up roughly the same when expressed in the US dollars in North America. The key to the overall package cost is the price of the included accessories. I recall a few months ago, when the Alexa HD came out, it was announced at around $45K but the entry level kit took it up to $65K or so.
.
PS. Amira is indeed a premier 1080p camera but there are other options. For a run&gun, new Sony 4K camcorders may do the trick. For high FPS, Sony FS-700 + Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q could do roughly the same for a lot less, while also including a 4K option. (7Q is now shipping)

October 30, 2013 at 9:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

Quite frankly.... i'm thinking about selling my Epic for this. This camera will be a cash cow. It will likely pay for itself in 6-8 months. 90% of Alexa shoots ARE alexa shoots simple because of the ProRes LOG-C recording. Arri Raw (until the XT came out) is pretty expensive to shoot, produces huge files.

The demand for simple prores workflow is getting pretty strong.....

October 31, 2013 at 2:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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A good move, consider how stupidly saturated the Red market is. My friends are making pennies on those things.

October 31, 2013 at 6:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Kenneth

Some great comments (and some stupid as usual). Here's my take on this. It will only get used in the corporate world if it's a HUGE company with deep pockets. I worked for the 7th largest insurance company in the U.S. and they only shot video the cheapest way possible. The price of this camera will force DP's to charge a premium to get him/her and the AMIRA and corporations won't pay. Nonetheless, I love this camera, it's going back to the one-piece days: camera, recorder, viewfinder, zoom lens and shotgun mic all in one, shoulder supported unit. You might call that old school but when we shot like that we called it stable and fast moving. Then there's not having to mess with building "cages" wires, power taps, a separate recorder, etc. I would kill for a camera like this and we're a good size, very active agency but the price puts it out of our reach. Yes, rental as some have suggested. For reality TV and very high end docs as others have mentioned. I could see this being very well used by a show like Top Gear a mix of reality and doc to me. They shoot beautiful stuff now, this camera would make their video look even better.

November 1, 2013 at 2:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I am not sure this is the camera the world is waiting...

It is probably the best design for a camera out there but this does not mean people that made it are actually thinking about consumers. It is all about money, this is a nice camera today, tomorrow who knows???

It lacks of many things to be a serious camera to do anything film like professional today, ( I am talking about movies, tv commercials and other serious jobs where epics, f55s and other cameras fit well regardless the many nonsens limitations ) cant imagine trying to use remote follow focus and other everyday very useful accesories for steadycam and mounting the camera at rigs like MOVI... It is an ARRI DSLR with 200 fps with a very high price tag, still nice but people will end doing the same by adding many accesories to build Frankenrigs. ARRI why this limitations: 16:9 only?, no ARRIRAW?, why only 2K? (4K seems to be the standard). I will tell you why, you are protecting ALEXA and you are coming with a new camera beyond 4K that will make both cameras obselete again...

ARRI is not what it used to be and is now just playing tricks to get money ... no different to CANON, SONY, RED or other even shitier camera competitors...

November 27, 2013 at 8:15PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I am a longtime shoulder cam shooter since the RCA TK76 days. DSLR's are cool but worse than holding an EX3! I have been wondering WHEN someone would just get it together and put a large sensor in a reasonable priced shoulder cam. I went to the Arri booth at IBC and thought I had found what I was looking for. Then I picked it up and dammmm if it didn't weigh a ton for a camera this size! Mr. Sales Guy, who probably has never run and gunned while being shot at, laughed it off. Not the camera to be carrying up and down mountains. You COULD beat a rhino off with it and it probably will still be ticking. The price is a turn off. Yeah...they protecting ALEXA. And no RAW? I am still waiting...........

January 30, 2014 at 12:54PM, Edited September 4, 11:45AM

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Charles Tudor

What is your thoughts on this vs the new Sony FS7? I was thinking about that one, but this one is also interesting.

September 23, 2014 at 6:53AM

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BLOG | The focus puller workout - Camaleon Rental

irst of all, I would like to say that is a camera system, like all the Arri models both digital and 35mm, with which the assistant cameraman feels very comfortable, since is easy to use, solid and reliable even in the most extreme shooting situation (here I have to be honest and tell that I din't work with it in very extreme conditions, but I know people that did and they got no trouble at all)
As I was saying, it is often considered the "Scarlet" of Arri, or his solution for low budget productions. And even if I'm not going to say that the Amira is as good as the Alexa (and their price point is a clear proof of that), I do believe that in many aspects the Amira is very close and at some point even better.

http://www.camaleonrental.com/es/blog/10p3

February 8, 2017 at 3:16AM, Edited February 8, 3:16AM

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