One of the best things about modern cameras is that they just keep getting better - even after you've bought them, they just keep getting better
ARRI's Alexa cameras have been around long enough now, and have enough variations, that you could almost say they are a "platform": that is, a stable system where you can add features and functions through developing software.
They've just announced a major software upgrade for ARRI ALEXA XT cameras and ALEXA Classic cameras with the XR Module upgrade.
The headline feature of the new software is that Avid's DNxHD is now supported in 444 for all cameras with a DNxHD license.
Importantly, SNxHD supports ARRI's Log C, which improves handling of the camera's dynamic range and is more flexible in modern colour workflows - all of which is aided by the 10 bit resolution of the DNxHD 4:4:4 RGB codec.
Also in the release
Higher speeds for ProRes recording - up to 120 fps with ProRes 4444 in 16:9 HD mode (with suitable capture cards).
ProRes Pre-Recording - the camera will continuously capture recording into a loop buffer, making it easier to capture unexpected events.
There are detailed user interface improvements as well.
For the full range of features with this software release, we've included ARRI's press releases after the break
2 December 2013, Munich
– With the release today of Software Update Packet (SUP) 9.0 for ARRI ALEXA XT cameras and ALEXA Classic cameras with the XR Module Upgrade, DNxHD becomes available in 444 for cameras with a DNxHD license.
DNxHD 444 supports Log C, a key element of the ALEXA system’s widely embraced approach to high quality image acquisition. The new codec option reasserts ALEXA’s position as the most versatile and user-friendly camera on the market, offering a range of simple, industry-standard workflows. DNxHD 444 recording will be of great interest to the many corporations and production companies that work with MXF files and the SMPTE-standardized DNxHD codec, which offers high quality at low bandwidths.
Developed in close collaboration with Avid, DNxHD 444 is the flagship Avid codec, delivering high color fidelity and image quality for 1920 x 1080 projects. With an absence of subsampling or averaging of chroma information, the 10 bit 4:4:4 RGB codec provides an excellent basis for creative grading, color keying and multi-generational finishing and mastering. In essence, it allows the rich color information captured by ALEXA to be maintained through postproduction.
DNxHD 444 clips can be recorded at up to 30 fps on 32 GB SxS Pro cards and up to 60 fps on 64GB SxS Pro cards, CFast 2.0 cards or XR Capture Drives.
ALEXA SOFTWARE UPDATE PACKET (SUP) 9.0 RELEASED
(2 December 2013, Munich) – ARRI is proud to announce the availability of Software Update Packet (SUP) 9.0 for all ARRI ALEXA cameras. In addition to numerous improvements to the user interface, SUP 9.0 adds a slew of exciting new features including new recording capabilities, new codec options, new recording media and expanded support for accessories.
Improved ProRes Recording – Higher Speeds
By optimizing the image pipeline, ARRI has increased the maximum frame rate of the highest quality ProRes codec (ProRes 4444) to 120 fps in 16:9 HD mode. This requires ALEXA XT cameras or ALEXA Classic cameras with the XR Module upgrade and the use of XR Capture Drives or CFast 2.0 cards. It is now possible to keep shooting ProRes 4444, no matter what the frame rate.
Better DNxHD Recording – 444 and ALEXA XT/XR Support
DNxHD will be available in 444 for all cameras with a DNxHD license. Developed in close collaboration with Avid, the 10 bit DNxHD 444 codec delivers high color fidelity and image quality, which provides an excellent basis for creative grading, color keying and multi-generational finishing and mastering. DNxHD 444 clips can be recorded at up to 30 fps on 32 GB SxS PRO cards and up to 60 fps on 64GB SxS PRO cards, CFast 2.0 cards or XR Capture Drives.
ProRes Pre-Recording – Capture the Unpredictable
In response to requests from nature documentary cinematographers, ARRI has developed ProRes pre-recording for all ALEXA cameras. When pre-record is enabled and the REC button is pushed for the first time, the camera continuously captures images, audio and metadata into a temporary ring buffer. When the REC button is pushed a second time, the camera keeps everything in the buffer and continues to record from there, making it possible to capture unpredictable events.
Open Gate – Record It All
The greater processing power and careful sensor selection of ALEXA XT cameras make possible the new Open Gate sensor mode, which records the entire sensor area in ARRIRAW. While 16:9 and 4:3 modes will remain the standard for most ALEXA capture, some specific situations will benefit greatly from Open Gate mode, including wide-angle establishing shots, image repositioning, resizing, rotating or stabilizing, native 3.4K VFX work, special venue projects or up-scaling to 4K.
More Media Choices – CFast 2.0 Support
From SUP 9.0 on, all ALEXA XT cameras and all ALEXA Classic cameras with the XR Module upgrade can use the new CFast 2.0 Adapter to record to CFast 2.0 cards. These cards, which are also used for the ARRI AMIRA camera, offer high data rates for up to 120 fps of ProRes 4444 in a robust, reliable and cost-effective package.
More and Safer Metadata – Self-Healing and LDS Includes Cooke /i
With SUP 9.0, ALEXA features the ability to detect an incomplete metadata file, as can be caused by a sudden power loss, compare it with the recorded frames and reconstruct it, allowing the media to be used again.
Support for the Cooke /i protocol as part of the ARRI Lens Data System (LDS), already present in ALEXA XT/XR cameras, will now be extended to ALEXA Classic cameras with a PL-LDS mount. Being able to recognize the ARRI LDS, as well as the Cooke /i system, allows ALEXA to read and record lens metadata from all lenses with built-in encoders for more efficient working on the set and speedier VFX in post.
Accessory Support – WCU-4 and Alura Extenders
The Wireless Compact Unit WCU-4 now offers an even tighter integration with ALEXA cameras, including proper display of pre-recording status, the ability to switch from regular speed to high speed, and a software switch for lens motor direction.
With the availability of the new 2x and 1.4x Alura Extenders, ALEXAs with a PL-LDS mount will recognize that such an extender has been installed on an LDS lens, or on a non-LDS lens used with the Lens Data Archive. The camera will record the properly re-calculated lens metadata values and show them on all numeric displays.
User Interface Improvements – Smoother Operation and More Features
As always, this SUP continues to improve the ALEXA user interface with many changes including new indications (amongst others: 'Small center dot' and 'Audio disabled' for all cameras, and 'ND filter on/off' for ALEXA Studio) and an improved EVF-1 and MON OUT display in 4:3 mode. It also includes the addition of a PHASE user button for synching the phase of the camera to an external source, like a CRT monitor or rear screen projector, and an increased color correction range.