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ARRI's Alexa Camera, Used on 'Birdman' and 'Unbroken,' Gets Ultra HD Upgrade

A software update will give the camera a new 3.2K option for delivering Ultra HD TV

Cinematographer Roger Deakins
Courtesy of Sony
Roger Deakins

Camera maker ARRI's Alexa may be the most widely used digital cinematography camera today for high-end movie and TV production. It's also one of the few in that class that doesn't support 4K resolution, though ARRI is taking another step in that direction with a newly announced software update aimed at Ultra HD TV production.

The company has maintained that it would not release a 4K camera until it felt that it didn't compromise other camera features. That includes its wide dynamic range, which has attracted such leading cinematographers such as Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki, who used it to shoot Birdman; and Roger Deakins (pictured above with the Alexa), who lensed Unbroken with the ARRI camera. The Alexa is also widely used in TV production including on Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Elementary and Girls.

But on Tuesday, ARRI announced development of ProRes 3.2K, a new recording option for the Alexa cameras aimed at supporting the Ultra HD TV format (3840 x 2160 resolution). This uses upsampling in postproduction, as does the Arriraw Open Gate option to upsample to 3.4K in order to create 4K deliverables (4096 x 2160) for cinema. (Upcoming production using the Open Gate option include Warcraft and San Andreas.)

The Alexa XT and Alexa Classic camera models with the XR module will support ProRes 3.2K with a software upgrade expected to be available early next year. ARRI reported that "most" lenses would fully cover the 16:9 ProRes 3.2K image.

ARRI also recently announced a software upgrade for its Amira documentary-style camera that would allow it to record Ultra HD TV resolution. That's expected to be available before the end of the year.

Email: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com
Twitter: @CGinLA