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NAB: Arri Showcases Amira; Filmmaker Jens Hoffmann Tests the Prototype

The cinematographer tells THR that he used the camera to complete his documentary, 'Mata Mata,' about Brazil’s soccer scene as the country prepares to host the FIFA World Cup.

ARRI Amira - H 2013
Courtesy of ARRI
The Arri Amira

Arri will be making noise this week at the NAB Show with the launch of its anticipated new Amira camera, which so far has only been tested by a small number of cinematographers.

One of them was German filmmaker Jens Hoffmann, who talked with The Hollywood Reporter about how he used a prototype to complete the photography on his upcoming feature-length television documentary, Mata Mata: Stories about Football, Dreams and Life, which explores Brazil’s soccer scene by following six young players, as the country prepares to host the 2014 FIFA World Cup. It will be part of distributor Red Arrow’s MIPTV lineup.

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The Amira uses the same imaging sensor as Arri's popular Alexa digital cinematography camera, which has been used on films including Skyfall, Nebraska and Angelina Jolie’s upcoming Unbroken. However, the Amira is designed as a shoulder-mount camera and weighs about 10 pounds (which Arri estimates to be roughly 30 percent lighter than the Alexa). It also includes 14 stops of dynamic range and can capture up to 200 frames per second. The Amira lists for $40,000 (the Alexa has a base price of $75,000) and will be available this month.

Hoffmann used the Amira to photograph the final scene of Mata Mata, which were shot in Brazil. “We were shooting in the City of God -- a slum in Rio -- it was hot, dusty, dirty, no wind,” said Hoffmann, who is the film’s writer, director and cinematographer. “I was filming kids playing football. I used the 200 frames per second function a lot, and I was shooting handheld and also tripod and Steadicam. We started in bright daylight and short through sunset until it was dark. We also shot an indoor scene, following someone from an apartment into the bright sunlight and inside again, all natural light.”

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The rest of Mata Mata was lensed with the Alexa.

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 uncompressed Arriraw).  Said Hoffmann: “The picture quality for me is exactly the same [as the Alexa footage] because I didn’t use Raw; I shot ProRes [with the Alexa].

“The only thing I can’t say anything about is the viewfinder,” he added, explaining that according to Arri the final viewfinder “will be a much different one than I used.”

Hoffmann said he would use the Amira again. “If they improve the viewfinder, it's great for documentaries. For real film sets, I still prefer the Alexa. But for a small-crew, it’s good work horse.”

Arri is planning for a big NAB. In addition to showcasing the Amira, it will preview a free software update for the Alexa, which is expected to be available later in the year; a new version of Arriraw converter software; a new ultra wide zoom, UWZ 9.5-18/T2.9; and Alura Lens Data System (LDS) 1.4x and 2.0x extenders, to extend the focal length range of zoom and prime lenses. Arri and Zeiss will show the Arri/Zeiss master anamorphic MA135/T1.9.

In lighting, Arri will feature a new compact L-series LED Fresnel, the L5; and expand its Caster series LED-products with the LoCaster 2 Plus and BroadCaster 2 Plus.

E-mail: Carolyn.Giardina@THR.com

Twitter: @CGinLA