The Alexa is Arri’s flagship digital cinema camera and is still relatively new in the market. Facing competition from RED One with the Mysterium-X sensor upgrade, upcoming RED offerings, and even DSLR’s, the software update is a large step forward towards Arri cornering the digital market largely because it enables in-camera ProRes Quicktime recording.
This feature was previously not enabled in the 1.0 software package and presented it’s own problems for shooting on Alexa as recent as the end of last month for me. More changes after the jump.
As mentioned, the ProRes recording option on the Alexa is the largest feature upgrade from 1.0 to 2.0. For those unaware, Alexa’s workflow is substantially improved over RED because of this feature. The Alexa has the ability to record “ARRIRAW” image data alongside Apple Prores 1080p HD (4:4:4 or 4:2:2) simultaneously.
What this means is that you could record an HD clip alongside a RAW image clip. You take the HD clips, send those to the editor, he can edit with this footage without having to transcode (as is needed with RED footage over 2K). The editor then can simply do an EDL or offline edit. When the picture is locked, the RAW footage can be brought in using timecode to have a high-quality HD-plus final product. This is an elegant solution which allows for instantaneous editing with the highest possible quality output.
On the sound front, however, Alexa is still lagging behind it’s competitors. As of now, the Alexa manual states that the 5-pin XLR connector for Audio In is “not in use” and there is no mention of audio recording enabled in the release notes. I think Arri is less concerned with this, however, knowing that many of their clients will be comfortable with non-sync sound recording and opting for the good ol’ slate clap instead.
Other major updates in the 2.0 software include a web remote interface and improved “sensor timing and color processing” that supposedly increases Alexa’s latitude to 14 stops over the previous 13 stops. If you read my story about shooting with the camera, you’ll know that the camera’s ability to handle light in the dimmest conditions is remarkable and one of it’s main draws over the RED – even with the MX sensor.
Besides what’s mentioned above, there are minor improvements, bug fixes and features enabled with the 2.0 software update. ProRes recording is a huge leap forward for the camera in terms of usability. While it will still take an external recorder to utilize ARRIRAW, at least now the camera can record standalone as long as there are SxS cards nearby. This should help those in the low-budget realm as well as the Hollywood honchos shooting with the Alexa.
I also updated my post that features the Arri menu tree structures with the new 2.0 maps.