August 16, 2014

NFL Films Has Abandoned Film and is Shooting the 2014 Season on the ARRI AMIRA

ARRI AMIRANFL Films, the production company that has dazzled our eyes and ears with beautiful 16mm footage and slow motion aerials of the National Football League, will stop shooting its regular season and postseason games on film. For 2014, they are now moving to the ARRI AMIRA as their main production camera, with likely a number of other supporting cameras that have already been in use. While film got a shot in the arm thanks to the news that Hollywood will continue buying Kodak stock, this is certainly a setback.

Here's a snippet from the NY Times post describing the move to the AMIRA:

Testing began on various models with the goal of finding one that would replicate the look of high-speed film and satisfy Steve Sabol, who counted cameraman among his many roles at the company. One problem that Sabol and others at the company wanted to avoid is the fluttering on digital video shot at high speeds, Katz said. The experiment continued after Sabol’s death in September 2012, as cameramen used models from Sony, Panasonic and Arri, mainly for close-ups and bench shots.

“We wanted our cameramen to have the same comfort they’ve had with film cameras all these years,” Katz said.

Eventually, NFL Films chose the Arri Amira and bought 30. Steve Sabol never saw what the Amira could do but did see another Arri model, the Alexa.

If you're not familiar with the amazing work they do, here is a highlight reel from the 2013 season:

The AMIRA seems like a perfect fit for NFL Films, between the ProRes codec, high frame rates, and shoulder-ready design. Here's some footage shot with it from a few months back:

With deadlines getting tighter and tighter, moving completely to digital allows them to offload footage each quarter and send that back to NFL Films HQ, where it can then be edited and sent to other networks that use the clips. The company has been experimenting with digital for some time now, shooting plenty of footage on cameras like the ALEXA and the RED EPIC, with a wide range of other digital cameras in the mix.

Film, however, has been the one constant over the years, and the majority of game action has been 16mm for most of NFL Films' 50 year history. They've had their own lab for some time, and have even processed plenty of negatives having nothing to do with football (including one of my student films).

If you're bummed about the look changing, the company is still planning on shooting film for some projects until their stock runs out:

There is still some unused 16 millimeter film left at NFL Films. Some of it will be used for future documentaries, but the last bit will be used for “NFL Films Presents,” a show that is moving to Fox Sports 1 this season after a long run on ESPN.

For more about the change, check out the NYTimes post, but in the meantime, it looks like this will be an extremely rare sight on NFL sidelines:

NFL Films ARRI SR

Link: NFL Films Retains Its Name as It Goes Digital - NYT

Your Comment

51 Comments

Funny that the youtube quality is only 720p...and its advertising one of the nicest cameras on the market....

August 16, 2014 at 2:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Steve

The YouTube video is pretty much all shot on film, and it's a rip from one of their videos, since it's easier to embed - not the original source.

August 16, 2014 at 2:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
avatar
Joe Marine
Camera Department

What kind of servo-zoom lens for sideline stuff etc will you be using?

August 16, 2014 at 3:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

8
Reply
peter wery

Thanks for the story! Would love to find info. on how to shoot sports with a video cam. Football, Formula 1, ect. Not a DSLR.

August 16, 2014 at 3:31PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

9
Reply
Brian

This just shows you the power of good reputation and sales skills , because in less than a year they will be switching to a 4k camera to satisfy the new trend , Sony f65 would have made more sense or f55

August 16, 2014 at 4:59PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

5
Reply
cjay

Why would they switch to 4k so fast, when the US has NO 4k broadcasting?

August 16, 2014 at 6:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Bertzie

Agreed. This whole 4k rush is starting to seem a little insane... Unless you're shooting features or sitting six inches from the screen, there really isn't a whole lot of necessity.

August 16, 2014 at 6:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

8
Reply
David Stewart

If there's one archive that will be viewed far, far into the future, it is NFL films. Ironically, by dropping 16mm film they are getting rid of the one original source that can be scanned and rescanned into whatever future video format is currently popular.

They should capture in 4K now because I -- little old me -- can and do capture in 4K today. I use a personal GH4, but we also have Sony FS700s recording to Convergent-Design Odyssey 7Q recorders that potentially can capture high frame rate 4K.

4K is not a gimmick. NFL tried 3D, but that's failed, again. I didn't bother with 3D even though a lot of 3D TVs were sold. Didn't think it was important after viewing a 3D movie in a theater. It's simply not necessary to advance the story.

But I jumped at 4K. If my 100mbps GH4 4K, when imported as 1080, looks fantastic, it's my guess NFL Films will be shooting 4K very, very soon.

4K offers the ability to zoom into the picture if outputting to 1080 for the details viewers want to see. 4K is approaching the resolution of film.

The only thing I can think that can stop 4K is if we the public stop buying large screen TVs and switch to watching everything on our 4"-5" phones or tablets.

August 16, 2014 at 7:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Dan

Not sure if joking..... Do you seriously think in the future people are going to care about NFL highlight reals that much? Or are you just pulling the collective leg?

Sure, 4k is the future. But you know what? John Q Hollywood still uses the hell out of the Alexa. There are movies that haven't even come out yet that were shot on Alexa. And if it's good enough for Hollywood, why wouldn't it be good enough for the NFL?

4k is the future, but we live in the present.

August 16, 2014 at 7:35PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Bertzie

Are you kidding I'd the question people will pull more archived and replays of sports way more than movies so the over hyped 4k medium actually makes perfect sense here .

Sports and movies are almost apples and oranges , their is not heavy color grading in sports docs or highlights if any at all unlike movies who I could care less about 4k , for movies 2k is good enough

But for a future proof pixel peeping non heavy color grading product like NFL footage , 4k or 6k on the other hand makes perfect sense .

Technically going from.35mm film to 2k is a step backwards for something like the nature of sports

August 17, 2014 at 12:38AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
cjay

A lot of DoP in Hollywood don't want 4k, because with modern glass it can make your actors and sets look like hell. If you can see the makeup, fake eyelashes and stitches on the clothing you know you've gone way overboard.

I rarely encounter anyone who's not happy with the 2,8k out of the Alexa. Even the FX guys don't want 4k. If there is anything everyone wants it's even more dynamic range, and that will be harder to do if you cram more pixels in to that s35 space

I hope Arri has the balls to buck the trend and keep at least one sub 4k sensor in production.

August 17, 2014 at 1:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
bla

NFL Films shot 16mm and S-16mm.

August 17, 2014 at 3:17PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Charlie

But movies actually need a level of futureproofing. NFL footage? Not so much. When's the last time you watched a football game from 1964?

August 17, 2014 at 9:03PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

12
Reply
Bertzie

Your argument makes little sense when you take into account how much is actually shot at a single game by NFL Films. The amount of storage necessary would be ridiculous. Think of all the high speed overcranked shit then you're getting the picture here.

August 17, 2014 at 10:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
Chris H

You are absolutly right about the need of archive everything in (at least) 4K. Currently I am working in a regional baseball broadcast in Mexico, ( LMP - AAA winter league) and even when our league can not stand the comparission with the NFL, MLB, NBA, even the Soccer in Mexico by a very radical margin. The needs about going back and review the history of some particular games are excatly the same. You never know about whats gonna happen in a game, it could be something, it could be epic or it could be crap, but either way you need to store it. Maybe it is the debut of the next Fernando Valenzuela, who knows? If you´re makink a documentary about this hypothetical player within 25 years from now, when he's about to retire you'd like to use this footage in the best quality available. IMHO.

Sorry about my english, I hope you all got the point.

August 18, 2014 at 2:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Pedro Rendon

To answer your question its an easy answer , even though 4k is not ready in full swing , at least they would have had 4k master files in the archives as opposed to 2k master files

August 16, 2014 at 11:57PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
cjay

Are they getting some new lenses, too? The CA in the opening shots… wow.

August 16, 2014 at 5:38PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

18
Reply

Another nail. Arri truly made the film killer for many shooters.

August 16, 2014 at 7:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Natt

The Alexa was amazing and still is from when it first came out because it was the head honcho in terms of dynamic range , color gamut and workflow

However there are several cameras that are just as capable and better in many aspects than both arri cameras

Its just that you have some DPs who are not acceptable to change , h3ll most are no only switching to film because they are forced because studios don't want to pay film budgets so that's why you get a lot of directors who all of a sudden have fallen in love with the camera

Don't get me wrong the Alexa image sensor is indeed good but just like Apple , Canon or any other fanboys , this is a case of word of mouth and following as opposed utilizing other superior products such as f65 with better sensor and true 4k mastering

Its the same as a multi tasker refusing to leave iPhone versus a superior Samsung phone that's capable of running various apps and tasks in the background at once

August 17, 2014 at 12:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

9
Reply
cjay

You realize that the operators are running around the stadium alone for 3-4 hours? They're not in a studio with a support crew.

They used to have a loader in one corner of the stadium at a table with a changing tent, and a runner shuttling mags between the loader and operator.

August 17, 2014 at 3:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Charlie

Amira makes perfect sense for them - high frame rate + internal 2K/1080p ProRes 4:2:2 recording. This is a quality and the workflow issue. Record and upload the footage for quick editing. F55 is not a doc camera per se. It was used to record several World Cup'14 matches in 4K but the reason for only three was the workflow. (AND THIS WAS THE FLIPPING WORLD CUP!!!)
.
NFL's own site streams highlights at 3.5 Mbps and it still heavily pixelates and microblocks. That's where they can make the biggest current advance - up the streaming speed to ~ 6 Mpbps a la Netflix.
.
BTW, this is not to confuse NFL Films with the various networks who could indeed use a 4K camera off fixed mounts for their live coverage if for no other reason than to punch in for the closeups on the various replays.

August 16, 2014 at 9:30PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
DLD

Actually it does not make sense when in 3 years they their old content will not be able to be remastered in 4k while their film stocks will be able to be remastered in 4k

Again great camera but not ideal for NFL where audience and fans are concerned about sharpness and pixel's more so than skin tones tones and 14 stops of dynamic range

Also the moire and aliasing is a big issue with this camera and f65 or f55 would have made more sense

August 17, 2014 at 12:30AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
cjay

You are making no sence.

August 17, 2014 at 2:54AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
MrL

No worries. NFL Films will cover the gamut. This year it's Amira next year it might be Sony. NFL Films is not taking any stances, they're just using the best tools available for the present time. In the future they'll address the 4k issue when it's relevant.

August 17, 2014 at 10:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

17
Reply
Anthony Marino

F65?! Have you seen one of those in person? They are large and heavy. It would make no sense for NFL Films to use one.

I have an F5 (same size and weight as the F55) but if I was NFL Films, I'd chose the Amira too.

August 18, 2014 at 12:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
FergusH

except the lack of portable, fast (below T2.8), 10:1,15:1, and 20:1 zooms for super35....

that was what made S16 such a versatile format. I'd be very curious to hear what they are using now with the Amira.

August 17, 2014 at 2:20PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
eric

Only thing that Amira is supposed have over Sony F55 is the so called "cinematic image" and even that is not true anymore:

F55 with internal 4K, LUT burned in, no grading:
http://vimeo.com/103490175

Same scene with 4K raw and little grade:
http://vimeo.com/103567873

Even the little brother F5 makes pretty images with nice lens:
http://vimeo.com/103685023

August 18, 2014 at 12:34PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
dusty

From the IBC2014 - Session by ARRI :
'
ARRI’s Big Screen session at IBC 2014 will be a fast-paced tour of the amazing variety of production types, distribution formats and deliverables that can be accommodated when shooting with the ALEXA and AMIRA camera systems. Michael Cioni, CEO of U.S. post house Light Iron, will discuss 4K ALEXA workflows for big-screen movies; ....

http://www.ibc.org/page.cfm/action=Seminar/libID=2/libEntryID=128/listID=74

4K Alexa????

August 16, 2014 at 11:08PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
DLD

August 17, 2014 at 10:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
avatar
Joe Marine
Camera Department

Ah, I remember that post (though, I also remember skipping that video ... now, I watched the last 10 min) ... was hoping this was something new ... I mean, there are 4K consumer cameras for under $900 these days ... you'd have thunk that the days of the faux-4-K in the pro ranks were behind us ... Cioni is right about the anamorphic but it's too much work for a lot of folks in TV production ... they're happy with 1080P in ProRes ... too much footage and too little time ... much like the NFL ...

August 17, 2014 at 2:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

10
Reply
DLD

Wow, that's interesting. I knew NFL Films was known for still using film for all of their productions.
NFL Films also did the scans for some student films I worked on at university. I wonder how this will affect the university programs that rely on them for their student's films...

August 17, 2014 at 2:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Mr Blah

Hmm..... that Amira looks really "videoish". Don't like it, even it has the same sensor as the Alexa. It does look different.

August 17, 2014 at 4:33AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Tom DP

HD to 4K will be a piece of cake for future upscales. It will never look worse than when watched in HD, just 4 times as big. That´s the better thing about the HD to 4k transition, compared to SD to HD.
Its Ok for all those GH4 users out there to be bragging about the nice picture they´re now getting, but now imaging handling footage from 10 cameras at the same time shot in ProRes 4K - whole different story.
Considering the look of the Amira: If its the same sensor, it will look just like the Alexa, AFTER the SAME treatment in post...

August 17, 2014 at 5:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

13
Reply
BearWithMe

7D Mark II baby! Here we come, just a couple weeks away. Foveon sensor! Word on the street is, it's the 1080p Amira killer!

August 17, 2014 at 7:37AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

2
Reply
Derek

i guess they can't call themselves NFL Films anymore…

alexa or amira will cost you just as much in post as super 16mm

NFL Video…doesn't sound good

August 17, 2014 at 2:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

4
Reply
DIO

no.. it'll cost more upfront with the cameras and the lenses ... but the workflow will be much easier with Amira ...

and, hey, if anyone wants to own a piece of history -
'
http://www.ebay.com/itm/NFL-Films-owned-Arriflex-SR3-High-Speed-16mm-Film-Camera-Package-Arri-/171349889133?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_0&hash=item27e53fd06d

August 17, 2014 at 3:13PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
DLD

Wow! That's my favorite super-16 camera!!! The high speed version no less...and so cheap...sadly I have to spend my money on a newer digital camera right now...

August 26, 2014 at 7:48PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

5
Reply
Daniel Mimura

Remember that these guys are literally running around a football field, so ergonomics actually matter. Here's the Amira's workflow for the camera guy: Take it out of the bag. Put it on your shoulder. Press the button.

August 17, 2014 at 5:50PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Frank

i applaud NFL Films for choosing the Amira. Its a great match for what they need, to get the content that they deliver ever week.
The Amira will help them tell their stories in the same way that they have done with S16mm for over 40 years.
The Amira will allow their cameramen to be portable and setup fast for shooting the game. The game isn't stopping for them to get the shot.
They will be able to switch from 24fps to 200fps with a filck of the switch. Also I'm sure that NFL Flims will take full advantage of the 3DLUT's to closely match the 16mm stocks that they have used for years, allowing to keep that feel of their films they have mastered over the years.
NFL Films is not about covering the game. Its about telling the story of the game, teams, and players.
No other camera is going to deliver this for them.
I understand the arguments for 4K. But For these guys its the story, and I don't think 4k will help with that.
Cheers to NFL Films

August 17, 2014 at 6:10PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

4
Reply
sean

You sound like you work for Arri.

August 21, 2014 at 1:41PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Anon

Had no idea Steve had died. Shame. I interviewed him (and others) here for a report I did about NFL using film for their capture a few years ago: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5vgTZJLvPAk

August 17, 2014 at 7:07PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

8
Reply
adj

A classic from the time back machine. The 1967 Ice Bowl.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Tfr1STSrBQo

August 18, 2014 at 1:49AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
DLD

Great example of what NFL Films is about. They tell a story.
Leave the massive game coverage to the networks. And if the Networks want 4K let them deal with it.

August 18, 2014 at 6:55PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
sean

I'm honestly surprised it took NFL Films this long to switch to digital. It just makes sense to me. Shooting an event like a football game can mean unpredictability when setting up shots. Can you imagine how much wasted film there is out there of just uninteresting plays?

August 18, 2014 at 11:26AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

3
Reply
grantly0711

What a time saver not using film will be! I don't expect they will go to Arri 4K (then edit and render in 1080p) when it comes out as the cameras will cost a mint. And I still ask the question why they still don't use GoPro arrays? It would be a relatively inexpensive way to open up a whole new world of covering the game. There's so many ways an array could be set up, including a few around the circumference of the entire field at more than one height per array.

August 19, 2014 at 7:46PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

28
Reply
geno

There is talk of using GoPros on NFL referees for better officiating angles on replays.

August 21, 2014 at 1:42PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Anon

That's pretty cool. I'd love to see that.

August 21, 2014 at 5:52PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

1
Reply
grantly0711

YouTube has resolutions up to 4k UHD, albeit highly compressed...

August 21, 2014 at 5:18PM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply

And Amira will be 4K soon shortly too with upgrade, so you can all stop whining about that too. :-)

August 26, 2014 at 7:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

7
Reply

So all you peeps auguring that they should be shooting 4k, your wish came true today.
Arri announced UHD prorez acquisition upgrade of the Amira.

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

0
Reply
Sean

So sad to see NFL abandoning film, 4k may look good today, but in a few years time, like beta sp, digi beta etc, it will look a bit tired. Whilst 16mm may lack the resolution it makes up for in the romance. Programmes looing back at history look better if the source material is film based, 4k will look tired in a few years time. I wonder too if Kodak plans to drop certain 16mm products and gave the nod to NFL about there intentions!

August 30, 2014 at 6:52AM, Edited September 4, 11:56AM

0
Reply
Andy