May 25, 2014

How to Maximize the Image from the ARRI ALEXA for 4K Delivery

ARRI ALEXA XTThere were some rumors that ARRI might be talking about a new 6K 65mm camera or a new 4K camera at NAB 2014, but there wasn't a peep from the company about any new cameras except for the AMIRA. While there are plenty of ALEXA projects shot at 1080p and 2K, Michael Cioni, CEO of Hollywood post house Light Iron, talks about how shooters can get the most out of the almost-3K sensor in a 4K world and how to optimize the ALEXA XT for 4K and UHD applications.

The description from Vimeo:

As online UHD exhibition and 4K digital cinema projection rapidly expand, it's important that content creators prepare their work for optimized exhibition platforms. But as Arri has yet to release a 4K sensor, how can Alexa users take advantage of a developing 4K ecosystem? Light Iron CEO Michael Cioni talks about how Alexa users can get the most out of a 3K sensor in a 4K world and how to optimize the Alexa XT for 4K and UHD applications.

Cioni believes that broadband (like Netflix) will actually be delivering 4K long before most movies are delivered in 4K, and one of the very first stats he talks about is that 80% of cinema is shot in 3K+ but 99% of cinema is delivered in 2K. Why is that? Cioni gives a few possible answers, and what would need to be done to push that forward:

Since the ALEXA sensor is so clean, he argues that shooting the full 2X anamorphic with the ALEXA in ArriRAW will scale nicely to 4K because the image isn't that far away from the 4K 2.39 DCP it would need to be delivered in:

While you may not be working with the ALEXA anytime soon, and shooting anamorphic will likely increase costs slightly if you do, it's certainly interesting to see what can be done even if you're not capturing 4K natively. His suggestion about shooting in ArriRAW and saving that data immediately as a 3K ProRes file and discarding the RAW media is very similar to shooting in ProRes directly to the camera, except you're able to reduce your storage needs significantly. This could also be done for any other projects where storing uncompressed RAW is just too much to handle, or you could also convert to a compressed RAW format like CineForm (and if you're shooting RED or Sony, you've already got the benefit of compressed RAW).

We'll see if ARRI announces anything in the 4K space in the next year or two, but clearly they want to get the image comparable or better than the ALEXA is right now (but at 4K), and I'm sure they are also not in a rush because the camera is still one of the most widely used on studio films.

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50 Comments

Alexa is on the perch right now, waiting to be knocked off it ... a great camera for April, 2010 that is getting a bit long in the tooth ... will probably work in secondary roles/markets for another decade as an inexpensive rental ... F55, as it is getting ready for the World Cup, and Varicam will give it a battle in the TV/studio markets ... winning Cannes will give F65 a boost too ... Arri needs to jump to the head of the line again with something unique ... and it probably will too ... unless Sony beats it to it ...

May 25, 2014 at 7:04PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Lol, and the expert spoke, oh boy

May 25, 2014 at 7:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Marcus

Couple-fries-short-of-a-happy-meal cynic spoke.

May 25, 2014 at 8:39PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

I think I am being accused of saying that Alexa is somehow an inferior camera. So, for the record, I am not even remotely suggesting that. It's just that Arri will need to come out with a new product after four years. That isn't exactly a revolutionary idea, is it? One can make a Model T for only so long. Alexa isn't a type used for your wedding videos. It's used on productions that require a lasting image quality, whether an episodic TV show or a Discovery type of a documentary. And that image quality has to be in 4K because it will be shown somewhere two decades from now.. To keep filming in lower resolution is akin to shooting in black and white. Now, look at how many B&W TV shows are still run in syndication. Whatever opinion you might have of "I love Lucy" or "Leave it to Beaver", your average American TV watcher just won't spend time on a B&W show and everyone is Hollywood is aware of the need to future proof their product. Beside that, the streamers want 4K. The 2015 4K Blu-Ray consumers will want 4K. The TV manufacturers want 4K. The camera manufacturers want 4K and Arri is likely to aim at something even higher than 4K. And then Alexa will take its place in history much like D20 and D21. You don't see many of those around, do you?

May 26, 2014 at 1:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Scale 2k up to 4k, because 99% of audiences can't tell the bloody difference anyways.

May 26, 2014 at 5:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Bertzie

Alexa is still a nice line of cameras but there are other 2k cameras capable if same picture quality for less , the global shutter is nice but a colorist could get similar looks with various cheaper cameras

May 27, 2014 at 12:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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jaye

Only that 2K is not like Black and White because

1. it will still take quite a while until there are 4K screens in homes and even most movie theaters
2. hardly anyone will notice the difference anyways.

There are 4K and 2K movie theaters these days (mostly still 2k in my area) and everyone that I asked has never noticed a difference. I even don't notice the difference even when I know what projector they are using. I mean, if I had a movie theater with two big screens and one was 2K and the other 4k, I might see a difference in direct comparison, but I am not even sure about that.

With tvs it is a fact that you will definitely not see a difference on anything under 60"

And cameramen will stick with the Alexa for quite a while even if it is only 2K because it has a great dynamic range, great color rendition, and it is a perfect work horse that just does what it needs to do under any kind of conditions. Never heard of firmware problems or anything like that with the Alexa...

May 30, 2014 at 11:00PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

You seem to have forgotten that every single movie that had the Oscar nomination for best cinematography in 2013 was shot on an Arri... I don't think the Alexa is going anywhere

May 25, 2014 at 7:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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BL

They probably aren't going anywhere. But not all those nominated movies were big money makers, at all. The Red Dragon 6K is still new and movies made with it are still in process. Parts of the new Transformers were shot with the Red Dragon. In time the Red Dragon may have more nominations.

Like the post says ARRI 4K should be out soon. That should make them distinctive again.

May 25, 2014 at 8:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

The Alexa isn't going anywhere soon. It produces with little fuss the type of image that ASC / BSC etc shooters want.

The 4k F5/F55 have been out for over a year and have barely made a dent in the high end film and TV production market. The excellent F65 has been out for almost 2 years and nearly no one but Sony Pictures uses it on their own productions. Red has had 'faux 4k' cameras for years and they were no where to be seen at last years Oscars and have been slipping from big productions.

May 25, 2014 at 9:02PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt

Please provide the numbers that prove Red is slipping.

May 25, 2014 at 10:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Seeing more and more Reds used. 4K delivery for 4K TV's is the reason.

May 25, 2014 at 11:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Paul Watt

I've been a working pro in this business since digital was nothing more than something we talked about at lunch, as the distant future of the business. For a very long time the vast majority of footage we see in post production work for film and TV is shot on Alexa. At least at the upper end. You see more Red on the medium and low end or with owner / operators. Everything is either ArriRAW or Prores444 Log C. We do get Epic footage, it's just not that often. Jackson and FIncher are shooting Red, but we don't see much else unless the production needed a more compact camera. Then we get Epic, but usually it's for a sequence. I expect us to see an uptick in Dragon footage, but that may never happen because the fans on the Epic sound like a blow dryer, a lot of people don't like the layout of the camera and there still is a lot of ill will from the JJ days.

May 26, 2014 at 12:56AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Matt

Well, you made a blanket statement about Red. And now you are saying what you see yourself. From what I've seen of movie and tv shows lists of what is shot with Red I don't see a reduction at all. In fact Red is used more than ARRI in movies. Not a lot more. But it is more. Rumors of Reds demise are greatly exaggerated, methinks.

May 26, 2014 at 1:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

I'm not a fan of Red (generally don't like the image).

But a quick look at this Wikipedia page shows that last year (2013), they've listed 28 movies, with 13 shot on Red, which is pretty good going:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_films_shot_in_digital

May 27, 2014 at 7:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Indiana Ford

I am seeing a lot of 4K shot in industrial commercial footage - because the clients want it, because they heard their competitors have 4K footage, and they want it, too.
Also, a Red One these days is a lot cheaper than an Alexa, so you can sell the 4K buzzword and spend less on the camera, that's why the production companies who shoot industrial films use Red :)
It is not really because they'd actually need 4K footage for a real reason, the dps in that field would probably also rather use an Alexa if they could.

How do I know? A friend of mine is a dp who shoots mostly industrial commercial films, that's basically what he told me about his field of work.

May 30, 2014 at 11:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

Alexa is late to the game with 4K.

You forgot to mention Red is used by NASA.

May 25, 2014 at 8:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Alexa will steal all of RED's thunder when they release their 4k/6k cameras. Fact.

June 2, 2014 at 1:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rich

Could be true that ARRI will go into a clear fist place then. But what if Red has an 8K coming out?

June 2, 2014 at 2:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Lets not forgot that the quality of an image doesn't merely rely on the resolution of the sensor.
There are many things to consider: Dynamic Range, Tonal Range, Color Information, etc.The Alexa delivers superior results.. If everyone was chasing a camera for its MAX resolution then I think the best DP's in our business/oscar nominees & winners would be obviously shooting DRAGON or FILM... But majority chose ALEXA because it produces a quality that other digital cameras are still lacking. (film quality images)

May 26, 2014 at 2:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kyle

According to this post, the maximum dynamic range possible with a sillicon sensor is 14 stops:

http://www.cinematography.com/index.php?showtopic=63610&p=409408

"The maximum voltage a silicon photosite can charge up to is 600 millivolts, after that it "overflows".

So if your maximally illuminated photosites are illuminated to be just at the point of clipping, for a 16 stop dynamic range, the darkest pixels would have to producing about 9 microvolts. Sampling and digitizing a voltage that small is like trying to pick up grains of sugar with barbeque tongs. There is a minimal noise level in all conductors called "thermal noise" which at low levels tends to mask the desired signal. The same phenomenon also contaminates the switching signals doing the conversion, with the overall result that 14 stops is the very maximum range possible with a Silicon sensor. Claims of higher dynamic range are usually the result of noise masking, not low inherent noise."

May 27, 2014 at 7:36AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Indiana Ford

If that's true, I wonder how RED is supposedly squeezing 16 stops out of the Dragon. BTW, I have not seen one confirmation or example that proves it can record 16 stops.

May 29, 2014 at 3:21PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rich

Why do we care so much? Well I don't. If I had to shoot on Alexa then this article is of interest. If I'm on a F55 then I will research that. There ia no such thing as a perch, best camera etc. Alexa is the most commonly used camera and that's it. Keep comments based on what the camera can do, your exeriences, how to use it, how to get the best images, how to make the best stories, how to be a good film maker. If all you're doing in concentrating on the postion the camera has in the market then work in marketing, not cinematography.

May 25, 2014 at 8:37PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

OK, let's say you're interested in making a no-budget short. What camera would you choose? There are a lot of FS-700+Q7 fans. Then there are big time DP's like Shane Hurlbut who is a C500 fan (and a spokesman). Others like F5 or F55. (I think Rob Hardy shot or will shoot on F55). Then there are pro-consumer units like GH4 and the soon-to-be-released A7s. Or maybe you can borrow an Alexa. Each camera has its strengths and weaknesses (Alexa's weakness being its price tag). So, my point is that, in the era of the rapidly changing technology, you do need to know the market place, so you can get the best bang for your buck ... which just may be shooting with your iPhone.

May 26, 2014 at 1:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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DLD

Really you've said nothing there at all. I suspect a troll in our midst.

May 26, 2014 at 1:58AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

"Each camera has it's strength and weaknesses". Well I never thought that before. I must think again.

May 26, 2014 at 1:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

"Or maybe you can borrow an Alexa". Can you lend me one?

May 26, 2014 at 2:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

You lost me at "big time DP's like Shane Hurlbut"

May 26, 2014 at 2:22AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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kyle

Bang for your buck would be if GoPro would use the guts of the fish eye cam and make a cam with a lens mount, or even a 50X zoom on it. Still GoPro is the biggest bang for your dollar as is.

May 26, 2014 at 1:45PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

In productions with a lot of budget like a typical Hollywood movie, the Alexa is not that expensive - plus it might save some time and troubles because it works just perfectly in every condition and the workflow is thought through from top to bottom.
Saving a few minutes every day on a shoot can save huge amounts of money in big productions, so the Alexa might turn out to be cheaper in the end for multi-million dollar movie in the end. Arri doesn't just put out a new camera as soon as they have some beta-version of a new sensor - that's why it takes them longer to release something new and they are also more expensive. But in the end, when you use an Arri camera, you can be sure it always does what it's supposed to do, and you don't need to wait for the updated firmware...

May 30, 2014 at 11:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Heiko

+1

May 30, 2014 at 2:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Augusto Alves d...

This guy sounds like a motivational speaker on the shopping network, hitting every buzzword with pitch perfect timing.

May 25, 2014 at 9:09PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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meh

and you sound like Marcus.

May 25, 2014 at 10:58PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

What is he supposed to do? Sit alone in front of a computer typing know-it-all comments about people that had good ideas and turned them into a successful business?

May 25, 2014 at 11:19PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Well, if he had any sense he'd talk about cinematography. But that's obviously not his field of expertise. The definition of an expert being x is the unknown quantity and a spurt is a drip under pressure. Film that m********r! Only having fun.

May 26, 2014 at 12:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

You mean like Gene?

May 26, 2014 at 12:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Eneg

Actually I am Gene . . . and Marcus . . . and also DLD. In fact this entire conversation is just with myself. What can I day? I was bored.

May 26, 2014 at 2:03AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

Day? Say.

May 26, 2014 at 2:04AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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JPS

There is a commenter that does use more than on name. He's even used Joe Marines name.

May 26, 2014 at 1:40PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Remind me why you keep running these PR pieces?
That announcement is coming any minute. Engineering sign-offs have occurred.

May 26, 2014 at 2:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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marklondon

I and a few others here appreciate what Light Iron is trying to do, and I think the video explained aspect ratios, resolutions, and delivery format pretty well for those who might not have the best grasp on them. If you know so much about these releases you might as well share it since you are commenting anonymously anyway.

May 26, 2014 at 3:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Joe Marine
Camera Department

+1. I find it very valuable as a DP trying to manage budgets.

May 29, 2014 at 4:22PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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tbonemain

I think it's valuable too. This is NoFilmSchool and this video is part of schooling---even if you don't use the information now it's still valuable to learn a little more.

May 29, 2014 at 9:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Seems like some people on here think that your choice of camera affects your chance on getting into the oscars....

May 26, 2014 at 3:06AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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S-dwag

+1

May 26, 2014 at 1:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

Get with the times already, Arri...

May 26, 2014 at 4:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Natt

+4K ;0)

May 26, 2014 at 1:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Gene

WTH?
just shoot raw and scale in post, raw scales amazingly well.
even upscaling BMPCC raw to 4k looks pretty neat (max iso 1600)

May 27, 2014 at 8:02AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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faraz

If you are honest, you will admit that you could not tell which one was which;

http://vimeo.com/96696423

Basically there already is 4K Alexa - it is called Sony F55 (with latest tweaked firmware & color LUTs OR with 16-bit raw rec + ACES )

When got 16-bit raw out of 4K sensor, you can do all kinds of very pretty artsy things:
http://vimeo.com/95695035

May 28, 2014 at 1:49PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Juhan-i

Highlight rolloff is a little better on the Alexa than the F55 from what I've seen. Regardless, the F55 is a way better value, offers 4k, and well suited for film and video. 14 Stops is more than enough for most situations.

May 29, 2014 at 11:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

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Rich