ARRI ALEXA SXT CAMERA REVIEW
ARRI ALEXA SXT CAMERA REVIEW
CHANGING IT ALL, SO NOTHING CHANGES
I know the title may sound a little dramatic, but I’m convinced that this was the philosophy behind the big change ARRI is going to make. Of course there were improvements to make, but there was also the big satisfaction of the film community with the previous models, so the challenge was to make happen important upgrades without changing the essence of the camera itself.
After 11 software updates, together with the shipping of the first SXT models, ARRI starts its first hardware upgrade, which will transform the XT models in SXT or SXR, depending on the base camera. There has been a lot of talking since the first Alexa SXT was announced, but quiet a few time as passed by so let’s have a close look to the news that this hardware upgrade will bring. Let me say that, once again, ARRI did an amazing job to make life of people in film making industry easier. And one of the most important thing of all this is the philosophy beyond that: ARRI put all the good things of his line up in his top model, allowing by this to switch easily between every model of his gamma according to the needs of your production.
I haven’t had the chance to put my hands on one actual model, but on the other side ARRi usually keeps his promises, so I’m pretty sure that there will be no surprise between the specs we can find now on ARRI’s website and what we will have on set later.
ARRI RECORDING FORMATS
The SXT will keep on featuring the same (excellent by the way) 3.4k sensor ALEV III, but its performance will be improved by adding the electronics developed for the Alexa65 that will make possible a lightning-fast processing of the image without loosing a bit of quality. The sensor mode will still be 16:9 4:3 and open gate.
On of the most impressive features of the SXT will be the range of recording modes available. Aside of the 8 already available in the XT, there will also be the possibility to record in the following modes:
- 4K UHD (3840x2160)
- 4K CINE (4096x2636) which has 500 more horizontal lines than the standard 4K (4096x2160) and an aspect ratio of 1,55:1
- 4K and 2K desqueeze in-camera mode: while in the previous models, the desqueeze was only a monitoring options, now we will able to deliver an already desqueezed footage at 2 or 4K resolution, saving time, exports and money in post.
- ProRes Open gate: from now on the ProRes recording will be available in the open gate sensor mode too. Actually with the Alexa SXT all recording modes will be available in arriraw AND ProRes.
- 3.2K Arriraw. This is pretty amazing because it is the largest area still covered by most of super35 cine lenses and it can be used for recording up to 120 fps.
ARRI LOOK MANAGEMENT
Big news also on the side of on and off set look managing. First of all, it will be possible to monitor on HDR monitors directly on set from one of the camera output, simply by selecting the look in the gamma list and without affecting others parameters.
Then it will also be possible, using the technology developed for the Amira, to create and load into the camera both for preview or recording the new ALF2 (Arri Look File) files which contain the ACS CDL (color decision list of the American Society of Cinematographers) as well as 3D LUT. To create them we’ll use the new Arri Look Tool, a free software which can also import and make usable on camera standard 3D LUTs. Plus, all the ALF-2 files are fully compatible between ALEXA SXT, Mini and AMIRA and once loaded into the camera can be applied to the EVF, any of the 3 HD SDI output and/or directly to the ProRes recording.
As for the Amira, it will also possible to modify the CDL parameters both on camera and in the DIT station. The metadata will be fully embedded in the footage (ProRes too) and are compatible with all major software of color correction AND editing.
ARRI SXT MONITORING
Here it comes something that not everybody may immediately appreciate but that I’m sure a lot of Acs, DoPs and DIT were craving for: 3 TOTALLY independent SDI outputs. None of the Alexa line up on the market so far could do such a thing, and I think it will be super helpful, specially on commercial sets. Let’s imagine a typical on set situation. The DoP is operating the camera, so he want to see in the viewfinder the LUT applied with the surround view, but not the status info to avoid any distraction when framing. At the same time the focus puller on his on board monitor prefers to display a REC 709 LUT, with the surround view, the status info and a medium level of peaking. The DIT, on the contrary does not need the surround view, nor the REC 709, while he does want to see the status info and, color wise, the logC. Finally the client/director has a stunning HDR monitor and just want the clean image with the LUT applied. All this so far was possible only buy loops and tricks, but from now on we will get all this option straight out from camera, with no delays.
Last but not least, while a new kind of recording support called SXR capture drive with a capability of 1 or 2 Tb will be available, with the help of dedicated adaptors every other recording support since the birth of the Alexa will be good to record on. So, no need to throw away your valuables SxS, CF fast or XR capture drive cards.
Resuming, as usually ARRI seems to have put all his effort to make the upgrade as smooth as possible for the users, without giving up any of the improvements achieved. We are obviously waiting to puts our hands on this, but from the distance it looks like they did a good job.
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