Popular though the Arri Alexa is, some people have been deterred from recording the Raw output by the requirement for the camera to be tethered to an outboard recorder which sometimes cost as much to rent as the camera itself! RedShark contributor Freya reports
Working with Codex, who previously made the leading outboard recorder for use with the Alexa, Arri have created both new versions of their camera range and also an upgrade to their existing cameras.
The XR upgrade is added to the left side of the camera replacing the existing SxS Pro card slots with a single XR slot. It adds about 8mm to the width of the camera. The installation of the new slot and associated hardware needs to be done at an Arri authorised service centre (you can’t just stick it in yourself). The upgrade is available for ALEXA, ALEXA Plus, ALEXA Plus 4:3, Alexa M and Alexa Studio cameras.
Obviously once the camera has been upgraded it won’t have any SxS slots anymore but Arri is making available an adaptor so that you can continue to use your existing SxS Pro cards with the Alexa. Sadly the adaptor only offers a single slot as opposed to the dual slot the camera originally came with and of course you still won’t be able to record Raw to the SxS Pro cards; that can only be done on the new XR drives.
The XR drives will come in a 512gb capacity to start with. The Drive holds 50 minutes of ARRIRAW 16:9 at 24fps, 10 minutes of ARRIRAW 16:9 at 120fps and 2.12 hours of ProRes 4444 HD 16:9 at 24FPS. You can apparently also record up to 15 hours of ProRes proxy onto the drive too.
Another storage format
One downside of all this is that obviously the new XR drives represent a bit of a shift away from media that could be used in other contexts. Previously you could use the same SxS Pro media on an Alexa as you used on a Sony EX1 or a Sony F3 or even a Sony F55. So far the XR drives are specific to the Alexa. Sony are also making their own media available for recording in raw, so it looks like Raw is, at least for the moment, taking us even further down the path of the proliferation of media formats.
Arri are also updating their camera range to new XT models which will all have the XR module installed as standard but will also have some other extra benefits! Anamorphic desqueeze and 120 fps high speed licenses will also come as standard, A new fan which will be even quieter, a newly designed viewfinder bracket, and a new in camera filter system (IFM) for which Arri are making a set of IR-ND filters.
The new line up will be: Alexa XT, Alexa Plus XT, Alexa Studio XT, Alexa M XT which will all have 4:3 sensors with a resolution of 2880 x 2160
However, it looks like Arri will also be continuing to make the original Alexa available in its current configuration and still 16:9. Presumably as a sort of “entry level" product for lower budget productions. Maybe they can call it the Alexa classic!
Is everyone now going to move across to Arri Raw?
So with Raw now closely integrated into the Alexa itself instead of requiring a bolt-on recorder will everybody be moving over to ARRIRAW workflows? I must admit that while it will make things easier and from a production viewpoint it will now be way more straightforward to actually shoot raw, I suspect people will still be demanding ProRes for the edit. I’ve heard anecdotal evidence that there are a lot of people out there who think that Log-C IS Raw and I’ve also heard the argument that Log-C is so good already that the extra hastle of going raw isn’t worth the extra benefits it brings! Having said all that I can’t imagine any Hollywood movie shooting on the Alexa will not now shoot in Raw and I’m sure these changes will bring raw to many more smaller productions too!
No 4K yet
There may be some disappointment that there is still no 4k Alexa, and with the new XT models being launched it would appear that a 4k Alexa may not be imminent. Arri instead seem to be focusing on anamorphic widescreen shooting with the new XT lineup all having the 4:3 sensors for use with anamorphic lenses. Perhaps they are convinced the anamorphic shooting will be the next big thing what with Zeiss releasing their new anamorphic Master Primes and rumours that Cooke are also developing a set of anamorphic lenses.
There's still no option for shooting 4k 16:9 on the Alexa and some productions demand 16:9 so it looks like Arri may be waiting it out for now to see where the 4k market goes, so a slight disappointment there but all the same there’s a LOT of excitement that shooting ARRIRAW will soon just be a matter of having the right Alexa model and matching drives!