January 30, 2014 11:27am PT by Carolyn Giardina
Arri Previewing Prototype Amira In L.A.; The Camera Will List For $40,000
A prototype of Arri’s developing Amira digital camera is making a brief stay at the company’s Burbank office for some early previews and limited testing. It will list for $40,000 and start shipping in April.
The camera -- first announced last fall at IBC -- is in development at Arri’s Munich headquarters. Four prototypes are traveling around the world in advance of the launch at the April NAB Show.
The Amira uses the same imaging sensor as Arri's popular Alexa digital cinematography camera -- which has been used on features including Oscar nominees Gravity, Nebraska and Prisoners. However, the shoulder-mount camera is designed to be smaller, lighter and cheaper, aimed at documentaries and news magazine type programs.
The body is expected to weigh about 10 pounds, which Arri says would be roughly 30 percent lighter than the Alexa. Amira includes 14 stops of dynamic range and can capture up to 200 frames per second. Details include a viewfinder that can be turned toward the camera operator or toward a focus puller.
The Amira has been developed to record Rec 709 or Log C images using ProRes LT, 422, 422HQ or 444 codecs to in-camera CFast 2.0 flash memory cards (meaning it doesn't accommodate Arriraw). While features such as Prisoners used the Arriraw capabilities, Dallas Buyers Club actually was lensed with the Alexa using ProRes.
“We don’t see it as a replacement for Alexas, but traditional customers have been interested,” Kennel said of the Amira. In fact, director of photography Rodney Charters (24) has been testing the camera in the UK.
In the U.S., NFL Films has been giving a prototype Amira a test drive. “They still use a lot of 16mm,” Kennel said, noting that the company will be examining the Amira as a camera for documentary footage including game highlights.
Asked if he was concerned about cannibalizing Arri’s Alexa market (the Alexa has a base price of $75,000), Kennel responded, "Not so much a worry. We make cameras and our customers decide how they want to use them. We intended to reach a different segment [who want a camera that is] lighter, smaller and cheaper. But there will be some who use it where they are renting Alexas today. Some cinematographers are talking about using it for their second or third camera on TV projects for the ease of use.”
While 4K has been a big topic, Arri has not yet introduced this capability, saying that it wants to get all aspects of the image right. Many individuals and companies in Hollywood are pushing for improvements beyond resolution -- notably higher dynamic range, a wider color gamut and high frame rates. In particular, Dolby recently introduced its proposed “Dolby Vision” spec that supports those characteristics from production through distribution.
“We feel we have the best dynamic range today on the market, combined with color fidelity and gamut that can really take advantage of the Dolby system,” Kennel told THR. “We are talking to them about how to make it work." Much of the Dolby Vision test footage shown at CES (other than the movie clips) was lensed with the Alexa; Amira also has the desired capabilities that would support this spec.
Said Kennel: “There’s interest from the studios and creative community to create better pixels — not just mores pixel – and support high dynamic range, high frame rates, and wider color gamut. I think it’s the right way to go from a creative standpoint and also to make the content more impactful for the consumer.”