Surprise new ALEXA from ARRI combines the best from AMIRA and ALEXA 65

Written by David Shapton

ARRI/RedSharkNew ARRI ALEXA

A sensational new ARRI ALEXA has just been announced

Taking the wise decision to out their new camera before the noise of NAB, ARRI has announced a new device that appears to combine the strengths of the old one with the colour and video processing talents of its newer ones.

The new ALEXA SXT (which stands for Super Xtended Technology) keeps the much praised 3.4L ALEV III sensor from the previous camera, but adds ProRes 4K Recording at UHD (3840 x2160) and Pro Res 4K Cine (4096 x 2637).

While ARRI says that 4K recording is possible in the above resolutions, it’s not clear how they achieve this, given that that sensor does not have 4K resolution. This is most likely a similar ploy to the one adopted for the Amira, where the images are upscaled to 4K. This relatively small increase in pixel numbers will preserve the fundamental qualities of the picture that filmmakers seem to love, while allowing the production of deliverables that are in 4K for productions that demand it.

Borrowing technology from itself

The technology in the new ALEXA comes from ARRI’s ALEXA 65 camera and the AMIRA. This points to the ALEXA SXT having a completely new internal architecture, with a new, fast, backplane and newer, higher performance FPGAs, which are reprogrammable video processors.

Colour processing comes courtesy of the colour management engine originally designed for the AMIRA.

At this early stage, the very least we can say is that the new ALEXA is not just more powerful, but potentially upgradable as well. If the new FPGAs have been chosen to have spare capacity then it’s quite possible that new significant new capabilities will be added in the future. What’s more, the new architecture may lend itself to hardware upgrades, including, perhaps, a true 4K or above sensor - but this is just speculation on our part at the moment and we will look to ARRI to provide clarification on this, although they do hint at it in their press release.

Here’s the press release (over the page) with a lot more detail in it. We’ll be following this up in the next few days.

ARRI ANNOUNCES NEW ALEXA SXT CAMERAS

(18th March 2015, Munich) – ARRI’s new ALEXA SXT (Super Xtended Technology) cameras represent the next exciting step in the continuing evolution of the ALEXA family. Retaining the rock-solid foundation on which ALEXA is built, ALEXA SXT cameras additionally offer ProRes 4K recording, improved image quality, powerful color management and three fully independent HD-SDI outputs.

With in-camera recording of ProRes 4K UHD (3840 x 2160 pixels) and ProRes 4K Cine (4096 x 2637 pixels), ALEXA SXT cameras are the ideal choice for productions that need 4K UHD TV or 4K DCI cinema deliverables, so filmmakers can continue using the ARRI ALEXA platform they know and love.

ALEXA SXT cameras keep the acclaimed 3.4K ALEV III sensor of previous ALEXAs and add the state-of-the-art electronics of ARRI's groundbreaking ALEXA 65 camera. These high-performance electronics combine the latest generation of FPGA processors with a lightning-fast internal backplane and form the basis of a completely overhauled image processing chain, advanced pixel correction and optional noise reduction. This results in a further improvement in overall image quality. Like their XT predecessors, ALEXA SXT cameras retain the unique and popular Open Gate, 4:3 and 16:9 sensor modes, which can be recorded in ARRIRAW or ProRes.

The creation of new, powerful and unique looks has been made possible by utilizing the advanced color management engine originally developed for the ARRI AMIRA camera. Taking advantage of the extremely wide native color gamut of the ALEXA sensor, this new engine allows unprecedented control, which in the end means greater creative freedom for the filmmaker. A new type of look file, the ALF-2 (ARRI Look File 2), contains an ASC CDL (Color Decision List) as well as a 3D LUT (Look-Up Table). The new color management engine can easily match the look of current ALEXA cameras, but also provides the basis for radically different looks. In addition, previewing of looks on set is improved, including the option to use the wide color gamut of Rec 2020 gamma,

while dailies creation is made more efficient and final grading made faster. ALF-2 files and the tools that create them are compatible between ALEXA SXT, ALEXA Mini and AMIRA.

 

To further streamline on-set workflows and deliver what has been asked for by crews all over the globe, ALEXA SXT cameras include three fully independent HD-SDI outputs.

This allows, for instance, a Log C image to be used to show the director a pristine image with live grading, a clean Rec 709 image to be fed to video village, and a Rec 709 image with status information overlays to be displayed on the camera's on-board monitor.

ALEXA SXT cameras are designed to keep up with the growing needs of changing production methods: their powerful electronics offer significant potential for future hardware and software upgrades, illustrating ARRI’s continuing commitment to the future-proof technology concept behind the ALEXA system.

The first ALEXA SXT cameras are planned for release around mid-2015; the full range will comprise ALEXA SXT EV, SXT Plus and SXT Studio models, replacing current ALEXA XT cameras (though the ALEXA Classic EV model will remain in the line-up).

ALEXA XT cameras (except ALEXA XT M cameras) shipped between 1st the first shipment of SXT cameras will be eligible for a full SXT upgrade, free of charge.

Concurrent with the ALEXA SXT release ARRI will offer an SXR (Super Xtended Recording) Module upgrade to owners of existing ALEXA XT, XT Plus and XT Studio cameras. The SXR Module upgrade delivers all the features of the SXT cameras, although it might not offer all the future upgrade potential.

The fundamental advantage of the ARRI ALEXA system is its unique combination of the highest overall image quality with the most efficient workflows on set and in post. Based on extensive market feedback, the ALEXA SXT line of cameras further improves upon those qualities, raising the widely-accepted gold standard set by ALEXA still higher.

 

Tags: Production

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