It's taken three years, but one of the big boys may finally have an answer to the RED ONE
camera -- the device that took the cinema world by storm in 2007 as the first affordable digital movie cam with a 35mm, full-frame sensor, 4k resolution, and rugged good looks. Venerable camera-maker ARRI has finally revealed both the full specs for its upcoming ALEXA digital camera and
reconfirms Hollywood's propensity for over-capitalization. Regarding the specs, you can color us impressed. The ALEXA is something of a follow up to the ARRIFLEX D-21, the company's first foray into digital cams, but besides writing data in 0s and 1s the two cameras share little in common. ARRI is positioning the ALEXA to compete directly with the RED ONE (and forthcoming EPIC
cameras), so you can expect a price point in the sub-$60k range. Besides the low price tag (for a professional movie camera), a few newly-announced features may have indie-shooters on a budget thinking hard about picking up an ALEXA for their next bit-crafted, cinematic yarn. We'll break it down for you after the break.
When you're shooting incredibly hi-res video with a camera like the RED ONE, you end up with extremely large and processing-heavy files that take a certain amount of finessing to play nice with your editing software. This post-processing can be taxing on both time and resources, both of which cost money and can break a production on a budget. The ALEXA allows you to record compressed 1080p footage in Apple's native ProRes 444 and ProRes 422 (HQ) QuickTime format to readily available SxS cards, which can be instantly ingested and edited in Final Cut with no transcoding necessary. What's more, the camera has the ability to dual record to a compressed format and to its higher-res, 2k ARRIRAW counterpart at the same time, allowing you to rapidly edit in the field and bring the big, high quality footage online later.
The ALEXA also boasts a super 35 CMOS Bayer sensor promising 13.5 stops of dynamic range and plenty of that buttery, out-of-focus shallow depth of field that you'd expect from a major motion picture camera. ARRI's also promises a host of expansion accessories for the camera, from storage modules and advanced recorders, to HD viewfinders and an exchangeable lens mount so you can use your DSLR lenses in addition to the big-time PL-mount movie lenses.
With some name directors in the field with this camera right now, we should be seeing plenty of footage in the very near future. RED has had a three-year head start in the space, but the movie industry is notoriously hard-headed about gear and we wouldn't be surprised to see even more films shot digitally now that there's a digicam with the word ARRI stamped on the side.
Chad Mumm is our video producer at Engadget, producing and directing The Engadget Show and filming shorter-form stuff when we need it.