ARRI Alexa & the Future of On-Set VFX Data Gathering

Written by HaZ Dulull

Our resident VFX expert, HaZ, made an on-set discovery that not only eased his workflow, but solidified, in his opinion, the ARRI Alexa as the go-to camera for VFX shoots.

Last week, I was VFX supervising on-location for a rather large-scale commercial shot on the lovely ARRI Alexa.

Usually, when I supervise on-set VFX, one of my many tasks is to take notes of the lens used, height of jib crane, f-stops, FOV, etc. To get this done, I typically hassle the camera assistants for that info then scribble it down as we move onto the next shot and setup.

But when things start changing, such as different takes with different angles and lens or new setups made on the fly, it can be a nightmare to keep on top of all the camera info.

As I walked over to the DIT guy (Digital Imaging Technician), I noticed he was dumping the footage using the ARRIRAW Converter tool (freely available from the ARRI website). As he clicked on the info tab, there was the usual metadata of time-code, roll number, frame rate, aspect ratio, etc. Then, I spied two other available tabs.

arri alexa vfx 02B

I kindly asked him to click on those tabs. As I checked out those tabs' metadata, I was pleasantly surprised to see there were all the notes I was taking down being captured automatically and intelligently with the built-in software in the Alexa. It captured all the things I needed, from lens size (35mm etc), to type of lens used (Argenieux 19.5 – 94mm), to focal distance, right down to tilt and roll angle of the camera.

arri alexa vfx 03scaledB X

arri alexa vfx 01B

Thanks to this discovery, the only notes I had to take in terms of camera data were the start and end height of the camera on the jib arm, and the height of the camera from the ground.

The workflow between DIT and VFX is very tightly woven and the sharing of data is now much more possible than ever before. This got me thinking that what ARRI has done with making the Alexa is to create an ideal camera to meet the demands of VFX shoots.

As ARRI continues to develop the Alexa software, and as the Alexa continues to produce fantastic images, I can definitely see why this camera is currently the preferred camera choice for shoots involving VFX... and will likely to be the front-runner for years to come.

Tags: Production


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