ARRI's "Fabulous" 6K Alexa 65 Camera Launched at Hollywood Event

ARRI Alexa 65 - H 2014
Courtesy of ARRI

ARRI Alexa 65 - H 2014

The soon-to-be-released Alexa 65 — a large-format, 6K resolution model of ARRI's popular Alexa digital cinematography camera — got high marks from many attendees when ARRI launched the camera and screened early test footage on a Barco 4K projecto on Tuesday evening at the Linwood Dunn Theater in Hollywood.

"Spectacularly beautiful images — the best images I've ever seen come from 4K projectors. It's a fabulous camera," enthused cinematography and VFX vet Bill Taylor, who is a member of the American Society of Cinematographers and AMPAS' Science and Technology Council.

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"Big thumbs up. Bravo, brave pioneers," added David Stump, also a member of the ASC and the SciTech Council. "When we formed the camera subcommittee at the ASC Technology Committee, the one criteria that we held up to digital as a measure of its success is it needed to meet or or exceed the capabilities we had with our film cameras. I think we reached that point."

Cinematographer Greig Fraser (Foxcatcher) lensed some test material, shot handheld in Los Angeles and London, which was screened during the launch. Fraser's also said to be considering the camera for an upcoming project (and while the project wasn't named, it has been reported that Fraser is set to photograph an upcoming Star Wars movie).

A who's who of Hollywood's leading cinematographers are lined up to test the new camera, though this could take some time, as there are currently only five models available worldwide. But an ARRI exec told The Hollywood Reporter that the first projects that would use the Alexa 65 for all or portions of their production could be starting as early as next month. And that might include underwater photography; HydroFlex has already built an underwater housing for the Alexa 65.

There are of course still questions to be answered and work to be done. Notably, this signaled a need to revisit the technical specification for the Digital Cinema Package (the digital equivalent of a film print) that is used to deliver movies to theaters. "The problem is the bit rate; we need a DCP that has  a bigger pipeline to push the data through," Taylor said. "What we are looking for ultimately is high dynamic range (HDR), high resolution like we saw tonight, and high frame rates. ... Arri has so much dynamic range, these images can be re-transferred to [emerging HDR projection systems and displays] and they will look sensational."

The crowded event was attended by leading cinematographers including Matty Libatique, Stephen Lighthill, Nancy Schreiber and Amy Vincent, as well as SciTech Council members including Joshua Pines, Michael Tronick and Beverly Wood. Also attending were representatives from leading Hollywood postproduction houses including Deluxe, Fotokem, Light Iron and Technicolor; and rental houses including The Camera House and Clairmont Camera. (Deluxe's Efilm and Technicolor provided postproduction services for the test footage).

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The Alexa is arguably the most popular digital cinematography camera among leading Hollywood cinematographers — recently Emmanuel "Chivo" Lubezki used it to photograph Birdman and Roger Deakins for Unbroken — though it was also one of the few high-end cameras that didn't support 4K (Ultra HD) resolution. ARRI execs have long maintained that they would not release a native 4K model until they felt that it didn’t compromise other characteristics, particularly the Alexa's wide dynamic range. With the unveiling of the Alexa 65, it believes it met that goal and it additionally upped the resolution bar to 6K.

The Alexa 65 has a 65mm CMOS sensor and 14 stops of dynamic range. It weighs 10.5 kg, a bit larger and heavier than the existing Alexa. ARRI said the workflow itself is similar to that of the Alexa, but the file sizes are expected to be about two and a half times larger (for 6K), underscoring the aforementioned concern about the DCPs. The Alexa 65 will be available for rental only, through ARRI Rental.

A range of lenses co-developed with Hasselblad and IB/E Optics will be made for the Alexa 65. Eight Primes and a zoom will be available in January, with additional lenses to follow. A 'Vintage 765' line will also be available.

For the production workflow, ARRI teamed up with manufacturer Codex, which developed an in-camera recorder plus an on-set and near-set data management system for the new camera.

The Alexa 65 was first previewed in September at the Cinec camera show in Munich and more recently at last month's Camerimage Festival in Poland.

Twitter: @CGinLA