Filming in true black and white, or monochrome, isn't just about slapping a filter in post. This is why ARRI has three new ALEXA Monochrome cameras for filmmakers looking to film their next project in beautiful black and white.

But do you really need a dedicated monochromatic camera for black-and-white digital cinematography?

According to RED, sensors made to specifically shoot in this format are capable of higher resolution and sensitivity when compared to color sensors. So let's drive in and see what ARRI is bringing to the table.

ARRI ALEXA Monochrome CamerasThe new trioCredit: ARRI

ARRI ALEXA Monochrome 

ARRI unveiled its new ALEXA Monochrome line of cameras for black and white cinematography, with the ALEXA 65 Monochrome (65mm), ALEXA XT Monochrome (S35), and ALEXA Mini LF Monochrome (full-frame). The sensors don’t include a Bayer mask or an IR filter, so each camera's photosite can capture the entire spectrum of light, including infrared. We’re talking rich contrast and beautiful black-and-white cinematography.

The cameras record in ARRIRAW in higher ASA and resolution, which ARRI explains offers a superior image vs. using one of their famous ALEXA cameras and dropping a filter in post. As they say, the resulting high-contrast look will be a lot like panchromatic film.

Sensor_arri_alexa_monochromeARRI ALEXA Monochrome SensorCredit: ARRI

Do You Really Need a Dedicated Monochrome Camera?

Probably the first question you asked yourself was, “Do I really need a dedicated monochrome camera? Can’t I just select the black-and-white option in my camera or drop a black-and-white filter in my NLE timeline?”

Well, if you read the RED blog post above, you probably already know. If you didn't, let's keep reading. 

ARRI ALEXA Monochrome FootageCredit: ARRI

Well, you could, but the dedicated monochromatic sensors capture far more light than a standard sensor, including invisible infrared, giving creatives a true black-and-white film look from yesteryear. Analog by way of digital.

My friends and I have filmed projects either in native black-and-white or desaturated the footage in post, but we could never quite get the "real" look of true black-and-white cinematography, particularly with the contrast (sometimes it just looked flat, despite our lighting).

RED has had monochrome versions of its cameras for years, with the DSMC2 MONOCHROME BRAIN available for purchase or rent at your favorite rental house.

Check out some footage to get an idea of filming natively in black and white on the ARRI ALEXA Monochrome cameras.

For Rental Only Budgets

If you have the budget, you can rent one of the three ARRI ALEXA Monochrome cameras and deliver a look that even Orson Welles would be proud of. Check out ARRI’s site for more details.

For everyone else, it's a standard by which we can compare. Even if you can't shoot on the new ARRIs, it's good to have a reference to know what is achievable with true B&W cinematography. From there, post-production filters can get you as close as possible. 

What do you think? Will you be checking out the ARRI ALEXA Monochrome cameras? Let us know in the comments below!

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