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It's real! ARRI Alexa 65mm 6.5K camera!

9 minute read

ARRI/RedSharkARRI Alexa 65mm

In a stunning reveal, ARRI introduces the Alexa 65, a 6.5K 65mm large format video camera, making good on a rumor that surfaced way back before NAB 2014.

Several months ago, in the run-up to NAB 2014, we ran an article on a hot rumor, a 65mm update to ARRI's venerable Alexa workhourse cinema camera. Although the Alexa is well-renowned for the beautiful images it can produce, its sub-4K resolution left many to wonder when ARRI would revamp the Alexa. At NAB, no ARRI 65mm camera was seen.

Recently, ARRI boosted the capabilities of the ARRI Amira, the company's documentary camera, to output 4K by taking the open gate full 3.4K sensor read and upscaling from there. This results in fakey 4K but saves valuable time in post, as the video would be at resolution and ready to slide into a quick turn-around 4K timeline.

Today, however, we are happy to report that the ARRI 65mm camera is real and could be available for rent by the start of your next production.

Meet the ARRI Alexa 65

arri 65 2b

It turns out those early rumors of an ARRI 65mm camera weren't just a blogger's wild fantasy. The new ARRI Alexa 65 exists and its specs are jaw-dropping. The 6.5K sensor is actually larger than the frame of ARRI's 65mm film camera, or three times the area of a Super35 sensor. At full resolution (open gate, 6560 x 3102, 2.11:1), it will record video at a staggering rate of 2.6 terabytes an hour in ARRIRAW, onto the same Codex XR media used by the Alexa XT. There are two crop modes for 1.78 and 1.5:1, which will bring you down to 1.9 and 1.6 TB/h respectively, but there's no way around the fact that the Alexa 65 is a storage-hungry beast.

The Lens System

arri lensesline 05 cropped scaled

Of course, ARRI wouldn't release a new 65mm video camera without coming up with a lens system to match. Above, you can see ARRI's line of Hasselblad lenses designed specifically for the Alexa 65, including a 50-110mm Zoom 65 and eight Prime 65 lenses from 24mm to 300mm, all in XPL mount. The XPL is a new propreitary PL mount variant that, when joined with the ARRI Lens Data System, will allow the transmission of metadata about focus, iris and zoom, which can be used onset for wireless remote lens control or in post for the creation of accurate virtual lenses.

Real medium format video arrives

We've discussed the possible merits and issues of medium format video and whether it makes any sense. Well, it seems that when it's in the hands of ARRI, it makes a lot of sense. There isn't a manufacturer better equipped to pull off a 65mm professional video camera better than ARRI, as its Alexa has been the gold standard in cinematic imaging for years and it has a long history of making 65mm film cameras.

Fans of the Alexa XT can take heart that ARRI will continue to manufacturer and develop the Alexa XT for the foreseeable future. Its newfound big brother, the Alexa 65, will only be available for rent through ARRI Rental; no purchase options are planned, as it would likely cost as much as a Bugatti Veyron to own. Kidding aside, this is truly an exciting development for our industry and expect RedShark to bring you more on the Alexa 65 as the story develops.

Check out the full specs and ARRI Alexa 65 FAQ on Page Two!

Full Specs and ARRI Alexa 65 FAQ

Camera type 65 mm format digital cinema camera
Sensor ARRI A3X CMOS sensor
Image aperture 5-perf 65 mm (54.12 mm x 25.58 mm active image area)
Sensor resolution 6560 x 3102 (Open Gate - maximum recordable)
Dimensions Length: 387.8 mm | 15.3 in
Width: 208.3 mm | 8.2 in
Height: 163 mm | 6.4 in
(body only with XPL mount)
Weight 10.5 kg | 23.2 lb
Lens mount ARRI XPL mount with Lens Data System (LDS) functionality
Shutter Electronic, 5.0º to 358.0º. Adjustable with 1/10º precision.
Frame rates 20 to 27 fps (Open Gate) *
Exposure index EI 200 to EI 3200. Base sensitivity EI 800
Dynamic range >14 stops
Recording system

Recording file format Uncompressed ARRIRAW
Recorder crop modes 5-perf 65 mm (Open Gate, 1.78 extraction)
8-perf 35 mm (future)
Storage (type) Codex XR Capture Drive *
Storage (capacity) 480 GByte capacity / 850 MByte per second data rate *
Storage (recording time) 11 minutes @ 24 fps
System interfaces

Viewfinder Electronic color viewfinder ARRI EVF-1
BNC connectors 4 x 3G SDI
- MON (1) OUT: 2 x 3G SDI
- MON (2) OUT: 2 x 3G SDI
SD card For software updates and menu settings etc. as with ALEXA
New high speed operating mode for fast ARRIRAW frame grabs (planned feature)
Miscellanous interfaces Focus / iris / zoom motor control with full wireless lens control support
5 x RS 24 V
1 x 12 V
TC I/O (5-pin Lemo)
1 x LDD
2 x LCS
BAT and ACC connection
Monitoring and playback

Monitoring 3 independent color outputs, all with optional overlays:
MON OUT assistive displays:
Zoom, overscan, overlay info, frame lines, false color exposure check, peaking focus check
CDL CDL server support is provided as ALEXA XT
In-camera playback Playback via EVF-1, HD-SDI MON OUT including audio
* Upgrade planned for Q1/2015

Frequently asked questions

Camera questions

What is ALEXA 65?
ALEXA 65 is a turnkey capture and workflow solution. More than just a 65 mm digital cinema camera that delivers exceptionally high quality images, ALEXA 65 is a complete large-format system, offering custom-designed prime lens, zoom lens and workflow solutions for high-end theatrical motion pictures.

What are the physical characteristics of the camera?
The camera is about the same size and weight as an ALEXA XT Studio.

What sensor is inside?
At the heart of the ALEXA 65 is the A3X sensor; the largest high-performance motion picture sensor available on the market today. The sensor has a 54.12 mm x 25.59 mm active imaging area, which is even larger than the film gate of ARRI’s 765 65 mm film camera.

The maximum recordable resolution from the A3X sensor is 6560 x 3102 photosites, with a dynamic range of more than 14 stops. The sensor design is based on the same photosite technology as the ALEXA XT, therefore image attributes such as colorimetry and dynamic range will match well with any member of the ALEXA family. This allows productions the freedom to mix the use of 35 mm format ALEXA XT cameras with the larger 65 mm format ALEXA 65, without having to worry about adopting different workflows or any additional color correction of images in postproduction.

Can I buy the ALEXA 65?
The ALEXA 65 is only available for rent through the ARRI Rental organization.

Will the ALEXA 65 replace the ALEXA XT?
Not at all. While the ALEXA 65 offers the incredible image of the 65 mm format, for most feature films, TV series or commercials, the Super 35 format of the ALEXA XT remains a great solution.

The ALEXA 65 is yet another tool in the filmmakers arsenal of ALEXA cameras, a tool for high-end application. One also needs to consider the need for special 65 mm lenses, faster recording media and adequate workflow tools.

What are the frame rates and recording media?
In its initial launch configuration, ALEXA 65 will record to the widely adopted and proven ALEXA XR Capture Drives at a maximum frame rate of 27 fps, depending on the recording format selected.

However, a new recording technology is being co-developed with Codex and will be introduced in early 2015. This will provide higher capacity magazines, extended recording times and higher uncompressed frame rates.

Can I record ProRes on the ALEXA 65?
No. The ALEXA 65 only records ARRIRAW.

Can I configure the camera settings and use the same accessories as I can with ALEXA XT?
Yes. ALEXA 65 can be configured in exactly the same way as an ALEXA XT. On-set ARRI Look File support and CDL works the same as ALEXA XT too.

What are the power requirements for the ALEXA 65?
The ALEXA 65 is a standard 24 V camera system, and as such, uses the same block battery solutions as the ALEXA XT.

Why are there two additional fans at the front of the camera?
The higher performance A3X sensor and higher bandwidth signal processing of the ALEXA 65 requires a little more cooling at the front end, compared to a regular ALEXA XT. These additional fans run very quietly and are modeled on the standard ALEXA fan system; therefore they have no contact with any of the cameras internal electronics.

In addition, the same sensor temperature control method is used on ALEXA 65 as with any member of the ALEXA family. The sensor is actively maintained at a constant temperature to ensure accurate and trusted image performance under all environmental conditions.

What resolution is the MON OUT?
It is HD, 1920 x 1080, to be compatible with the currently used on-board and on-set monitors.

Lens Questions

Which lenses can I use with the ALEXA 65?
ARRI Rental have exclusively commissioned a brand new range of 65 mm prime and zoom optics, which utilize Hasselblad lens elements from the world-renowned HC series of large-format lenses.

To create a truly class-leading 65 mm cinema lens look and feel, these lens elements have been re-housed in robust and uniform lens barrels, co-developed with IB/E Optics to our own design specifications – including a new iris system for the prime lenses, and a new focus/iris/zoom control mechanism for the zoom lens. These lenses use a new proprietary XPL mount system with LDS functionality. However, the ALEXA 65 XPL lens mount is modular in design and will allow for adaptation to other medium-format lenses in the future.

This new Prime 65 lens series delivers unparalleled MTF, excellent contrast and geometry, and no chromatic aberrations or focus breathing. Usability and environmental ruggedness is comparable to that of the ARRI/Zeiss Master Prime lenses.

Additionally, a Vintage 765 lens range, originally developed to partner the ARRIFLEX 765, has been adapted for use with the ALEXA 65. These lenses provide a classic filmic look with a gradual, soft roll-off across the image – perfect for creating a softer look that is complimentary to the new Prime 65 and Zoom 65 lenses.

Can I use other manufacturers’ lenses on this camera?
The ALEXA 65 is fitted with a brand new proprietary XPL lens mount, supporting the Prime 65 and Zoom 65 lenses, as well as the Vintage 765 range. ARRI Rental is currently looking at other lens and lens mount options and will make further announcements in due course.

How many focal lengths are available?
At present, there are eight lenses within the Prime 65 range and one Zoom 65. The Prime 65 series offers focal lengths from 24 mm to 300 mm, with apertures from T2.2 to T4.8, while the Vintage 765 lens range offers 11 focal lengths from 30 mm to 350 mm.

Prime 65 & Zoom 65 Lens Range

Vintage 765 Lens Range

Additional prime and zoom lenses, as well as other optical accessories are planned for 2015.

Workflow Questions

How do I manage on-set workflow, color management and display?
As a scaled up version of the ALEXA XT, the ALEXA 65 employs the same on-set support with regards to color management and display technology. The ALEXA 65 has two separate HD monitoring outputs and also uses the same Look and CDL functionality as the ALEXA XT.

How does data management work for the ALEXA 65?
ARRI Rental have partnered with Codex to deliver a fast, efficient and cost-effective ARRIRAW workflow for the ALEXA 65. The camera uses the same XR Capture Drives as the ALEXA XT, which has proven to be an extremely reliable, robust and widely adopted recording medium.

Two bespoke workflow systems, based on the Vault technology platform, have been developed - the Vault S and the Lab 65. Both can transfer, store and review ALEXA 65 material on set, near set or in a post facility based on production needs.

Vault S

The Vault S is designed for use on, or near set as the hub of a file-based workflow. The Vault S platform integrates world-class image science and high quality processing into a modular design that means it can be customized for any project. It is rugged in design and can be DC powered, running off standard 24 V camera batteries, which makes the Vault S ideal for location-based productions.

As with traditional Vault systems, the Vault S comprises of a series of configurable modules.

Transfer module
Contains readers for the media from the ALEXA 65 and all other ARRI digital cameras
Clones original camera data quickly with full check-sum verification
Storage module
Contains 8 TB solid state transfer drives that are raid protected and robust: ideal for moving data from set to post
Review module
Allows playback of original camera material on a high resolution calibrated display with the correct look and at the right frame rate
A full color pipeline, including support for ACES. Use real-time, non-destructive, primary grading tools or apply pre-made LUTs

Lab 65

Based on a Codex Vault XL platform, the new ARRI Rental Lab 65 is the workflow workhorse behind the ALEXA 65 and can render out full ALEXA 65 Open Gate 6.5K ARRIRAW in near real time, as well as simultaneously produce dailies for offline use. The Lab 65 can also downscale to 4K or 2K depending on the workflow pipeline required.

The system is a rack-mounted, network attached device that is ideal for a near-set or postproduction configuration. It contains multiple CPU and GPU cores for parallel processing of data and network storage. This provides fast access to files and allows for easy administration and integration into an existing facility infrastructure. Along with near real-time processing of ALEXA 65 Open Gate material, the Lab 65 can also play back original camera material to a calibrated display at the highest resolution, with the correct look and at the right frame rate.

With a sophisticated timeline and user friendly interface the QC of original camera material can be carried out efficiently, while also generating detailed QC reports for production use. The system also includes a full color pipeline, including support for ACES, and uses non-destructive, primary grading tools to create new color decisions or simply apply pre-made LUTs.

Most importantly a powerful GPU processing engine can transcode to all the formats required for dailies at speeds far greater than real time.

The Lab 65 also has the ability to archive to dual LTO tapes with full verification, using the industry-standard LTFS format.

Given the 65 mm sensor format, how much data will the ALEXA 65 generate?
Referring to the tables below, when recording full resolution Open Gate 6560 x 3102 ARRIRAW at 24 fps, the ALEXA 65 generates around 2.6 terabytes of data per hour. This is almost three times more than an ALEXA XT in Open Gate mode.

Alternatively, the ALEXA 65 will support two cropped recording modes; 1.78:1 (5120 x 2880) and 1.50:1 (4320 x 2880). In these lower resolution modes the camera generates less data. The ALEXA 65 therefore has the flexibility to support a variety of production requirements and workflow needs.

Tags: Production