The Complete Guide to Getting Started with the ARRI ALEXA
Within the span of the past three years, the ARRI ALEXA has become the gold-standard for cameras in productions of all shapes and sizes, from the highest-end Hollywood extravaganzas to television shows and commercials and beyond. Essentially, if you're looking to work as a camera operator or assistant, or even as a DIT, it will behoove you greatly to know your way around the ALEXA. With that goal in mind, I've pulled together some of the finest resources from around the web to get you started with this excellent camera system. Luckily, it's a very intuitive camera, so you'll be up and running in no time flat!
Obviously, ARRI has released several variations on the ALEXA in the past two years, including the ALEXA XT line, which utilizes the full area of the 4:3 s35 sensor (allowing for native use of anamorphic lenses), among a whole bunch of other fantastic features which I'll get to later. However, despite the abundance of ALEXA variations, the operation of all of these cameras is almost identical, so once you're familiar with the original ALEXA, you're in for a smooth ride with the rest of them.
Here's a brief video rundown of the menu and the external buttons/connections on the body of the ALEXA from Gary Adcock.
Obviously, the menu system for the ALEXA is extremely intuitive. However, that doesn't mean that it doesn't need to be practiced. Luckily for us, ARRI has an excellent ALEXA Camera Simulator that emulates the buttons and menu perfectly. So give it a go.
For a bit more technical information on this camera, here's a workshop from Rule Boston Camera that should tell you literally everything you need to know about the original ALEXA model. It's pretty lengthy, but certainly worth watching if you have the time to spare.
Like I mentioned before, ARRI announced multiple new models of the ALEXA in 2013, more specifically the XT line (which stands for Xtended Technology). These cameras added a plethora of new features and functionalities to the original system, most notably the 4:3 sensor readout and the ability to record ARRIRAW internally with the addition of a new SSD module on the side of the camera.
Here's an excellent overview of the ALEXA XT from the good people at AbelCine:
Of course, these new features in the XT line make for a different workflow than the original ALEXA. Once again, AbelCine has us covered:
ARRI also produces a stripped-down version of the ALEXA, simply called the ALEXA HD. It's the most inexpensive version of the camera, because it excludes many of the higher-end features (features that make it expensive to manufacture) such as the 4:3 sensor readout, ARRIRAW output, and full 2.8K image output. With the exception these features, the ALEXA HD looks and operates identically to its more advanced brethren.
On a final note, ARRI also has Camera simulators for both the ALEXA Plus 4:3 and the ALEXA Studio, so check them out, and familiarize yourselves with this fantastic camera system. Also, if you're a hardcore power-user of the ALEXA or other camera systems, I highly recommend Evan Luzi's Pocket Guides, so that you have all of the relevant camera information at your fingertips at all times.
Have you guys had the pleasure of shooting on any of the variations of the ARRI ALEXA? Do you have any tips or additional resources to share with the NFS audience? Let us know down in the comments!