A visit to Arri Burbank

Snehal Patel and Jan Becker with the Alexa Studio

I finally payed a visit to Arri in Burbank – a visit long overdue since the company and I share the same hometown: Munich. I was invited by Franz Wieser, Vice President of international marketing after a friendly talk at NAB 2012 where we also found out we had common friends and of course – Bavarian roots. He pointed out to me that Arri is always open to help anybody who picks up the phone, e-mails or visits them on Victory Boulevard.

And indeed, after entering the inviting Burbank headquarters I felt very welcome. On their testing stage were 2 Alexas set up to work with: The Alexa Studio and the Alexa Plus, both already equipped with the new 4:3 sensor. The Studio version was connected to a Codex Arriraw recorder and carried a massive 45-250 Alura zoom lens.

Franz Wieser and Julio Saldarriaga

Snehal Patel, a former teacher of camera technology now working full time for Arri as a sales representative gave a great overview of the two systems. Happily he explained to me the science of debayering, the process where sensor data is interpreted by the computer inside the camera and the actual digital image is created. And as he was talking it became clear why Arri is the leading company when it comes to color science. They started gathering experience many years ago through developing tools like the Arri Scanner and the Oscar winning Arri Laser which concluded in their first digital camera: the D-21.

What they learned is that it’ all about color – not about sharpness and pixel count – it’s about finding a way that the image that ends up on the screen is beautiful and able to carry emotions.

Julio and Snehal working it

That is exactly the reason when camera tests for Hollywood films and shows are conducted, they always put the actors in front of the lens and not a landscape or a car or a robot.

Not to my surprise the Alexa is by far and beyond the winner of most of these tests. I have been hearing rumors that about 95% of all TV shows are now shot on the Alexa. It’s ability to create beautiful skin tones is now already legendary.

Talking about TV shows: In a world where time is money the über-easy workflow of the Alexa is also a very convincing selling point.

Jan holding the Alexa M head

The demonstations Snehal gave us were very impressive, especially how easy it was to create a look file on set and then add it to your output image while still recording flat in Log-C.

During the time of our visit he answered many of our questions and as it turns out the Alexa is a camera that’s very easy to use and also very forgiving. It gives you the ability to focus on the creative work and not being bogged down by technical limitations and problems. There is much more written on the technical details of the camera online and of course you should visit the ARRI website for a massive amount of online support.

Julio with the Alexa Plus

All in all I have to say that I can’t wait to work on my next project using the ALEXA!