First public try-outs in real-life conditions for the Alexa 65

by François Reumont for the AFC

[English] [français]

Seizing the opportunity of Cameraimage, Arri Rental organized the first public try-outs of its Alexa 65 camera within the framework of a workshop led by Spanish cinematographer Daniel Vilar.

Set up in the gymnasium that has already been used for a number of other Master Classes, the new Alexa 65 mm camera went through its baptism of fire before an audience composed of students and professionals, who were very curious to see it in action. Cinematographer Daniel Vilar – who has worked in the past with the likes of Mabrouk el Mechri and Fernando Trueba – set up night-time lighting on a set simply decorated as an apartment. A couple of takes ensued with the new Arri camera lenses. “It was a risky exercise,” explained Niel Fanthom, of Arri United Kingdom, “and to tell you the truth, we hadn’t done this type of real-time try-outs in public before.”
Although the shooting itself was quite tame – with essentially close-ups on the actors’ faces – it was in postproduction that the true challenge lay. Indeed, the camera generated six minutes of dailies for this test, the equivalent of 273 GB of images.
The Codex team only needed about 40 minutes to treat the ArriRaw images and to generate a 4K DCP ready to be projected onto the screen installed above the set. “What struck us when we saw these images,” explained Neil Fanthom, “was their extreme definition, and yet the softness with which they rendered flesh tones and faces. The short focal length helped us to fix the focus exactly on the eyes, which left the rest in a very subtle haze.”

In order to illustrate the camera’s abilities, Mr. Fanthom then showed a more “classic” demo in the main assembly hall of the festival. Landscapes filmed with very slow camera movements, often with a short focal length, alternating with shots of materials, faces, and an extremely contrasted scene filmed indoors in daylight (depicting a blacksmith at work).
In order to prove the very high precision of the sensor, one of the shots was even magnified a number of times in postproduction in order to extract a detail, which kept its structure and definition.
Later asked about the near-absence of any moving or travelling shots, Neil Fanthom took out his mobile phone and showed, within the privacy of the Arri stand, a dozen minutes of freestyle trials carried out outdoors during the daytime, with a shoulder camera, and vintage Arri 765 lenses. These were images of perfect quality, with a blurrily silhouetted actor against the backdrop of the sky with sun and clouds that almost could have been tests for a Terrence Mallick film…