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Liam

Is the Alexa still king? (Actual question, not an argument)

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2 hours ago, Axel said:

A myth. None of the Arri digital cameras has a global shutter. The Alexa Studio (about 100k presumably) has a physically rotating shutter blade that makes it look like a global shutter, check on the Arri site.

Alexa/Amira has a rolling shutter latency of about 5ms, it's virtually invisible in most situation, even film cameras have "rolling shutter" (different characteristics but due to the rotating shutter, not the entire film plane is exposed in the same time, like a digital global shutter camera would do),

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26 minutes ago, Hans Punk said:

I shot with the D-20 back in the day when it was flagship new (for a music video)...lovely image and having an optical viewfinder was pretty darn sexy. D-20 is the Alexa's grandfather. D-21 was newer internal board and not a huge leap from D-20.

Saw one on eBay sell recently for the cost of a 5DmkIII.

The problem I see with the "thing" is that it's huge and you need some kind of device to tether or record. It also looks very 90s :expressionless:. But for little money it could be nice to have.

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10 hours ago, Nikkor said:

Anyone tried the D 21? It also has the rotating shutter and optical viewfinder, but it's more primitive than the alexa.

The D21 does indeed have a great image. The sensor technology is derived from the chips used in Arri's film scanners, so it's designed from the ground up to replicate the exposure curves of film negative. But despite the fact that it is so cheap now, it's just too cumbersome of a machine to be used practically. The F35 took off because it is relatively easy to plug it into a prosumer workflow. The D21 was always very proprietary in design and many of the bits and pieces needed to run it are no longer available. You had a limited choice of bulky recorders, out of which only the Codex M has any kind of support at all. Also, with a recorder and accessories bolted on, it approaches the weight of an Arri 535. And I believe the native ISO is 200.

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The Alexa is still king as the Alev III sensor is still the best tech available (designed by Cypress semiconductor, now part of On Semiconductor). It's heavily patented, thus not easy to compete via 'low hanging fruit' (e.g dual voltage sensor read out for high DR low noise). We considered the Amira and Mini, however Canon's PDAF is very useful for our kind of work, and frankly ProRes is ancient tech compared to the latest H.264 codecs (ALL-I and IPB). It's very useful for long-format live shoots to have lower bitrates with very high quality, which H.264 can provide and ProRes cannot. ARRI hardware is very, very power hungry, using custom FPGAs and perhaps not having Sony, Canon, and Panasonic's more advanced VLSI ASICs tech/fabs to reduce power requirements. This means when no AC is available, many large and expensive batteries are required. ARRI is kind of like Ferrari- top of the line, but with significant support costs to operate (don't ask what a brake job costs on a Ferrari with carbon-ceramic brakes (rotors & pads: $30K)).

It's interesting to note that most external recorders don't support the Pro H.264 codecs (10-12 bit, ALL-I and IPB). Video Devices just added H.264 support: http://www.videodevices.com/products/portable-video-recorders/pix-e5 . This is a welcome addition, however the bitrate is very low (10Mbps, probably 420 8-bit). So cameras like the C300 II with PDAF are currently in a sweet spot: near ARRI color and DR, but with PDAF, much lower energy/support costs, and super-high quality 50Mbps 422 10-bit 1080p. The FS7 is also pretty good with color vs. ARRI, has small H.264 files, but no PDAF (the next Sony will likely have this feature).

For low light shoots, the A7S II is currently an unmatched value (the Varicam/LT is probably the best pro-level low-light camera for the money right now).

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Coming from editing H.264 files over the years, editing Pro Res from the BMPCC is a delight. I love the codec, and don't mind the size at all when you factor in the speed and smoothness of editing. I'm a huge fan of the whole Pro Res capture + edit workflow and I can totally see why so many shows still just shoot Pro Res with the Alexa.

Agreed that the C300 .mxf files are a good happy medium. Higher quality but still cut like butter. 

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In Australia, Sydney anyway, we shoot with Alexa 99% of the time. There was a period where the 4:3 was very popular with gorgeous panavision anamorphics. The Amira came onto the scene for a few minutes but most camera assistants hated it. Menu is tricky to get your head around on the first few uses especially when youre under the pump not to mention there is no 'dumb side' like on a normal Alexa. The mini has been really popular, especially with all the gimbal and steadicam jobs. Next popular would be Red Dragon. I guess for the most part it comes down to personal preference and also ease of use, especially in the post side of things. Arri has great images, easy to use and post is a simple process. Lots of producers are scared off by Red and this is due to post houses not being up to spec to handle the files. I own a Dragon myself and when you know what to do and have the correct processes in place its easy as can be. Plenty of the post houses were having to transcode files to work with the NLEs and that is just rubbish these days. It meant the post timeframe was drawn out, and more expensive and that put people off.

Red Dragon is awesome in the right hands.

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10 hours ago, jcs said:

 We considered the Amira and Mini, however Canon's PDAF is very useful for our kind of work, and frankly ProRes is ancient tech compared to the latest H.264 codecs (ALL-I and IPB). It's very useful for long-format live shoots to have lower bitrates with very high quality, which H.264 can provide and ProRes cannot.

 

I have to disagree with you. H.264 has it's place but 10 bit ProRes LT is a manageable file and so much better than an 8 bit h.264 file. I can shoot 6 hours of 2K ProRes LT on a 256GB CFast card. DPAF is freakin magic though. I'll give you that.

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3 hours ago, AaronChicago said:

I have to disagree with you. H.264 has it's place but 10 bit ProRes LT is a manageable file and so much better than an 8 bit h.264 file. I can shoot 6 hours of 2K ProRes LT on a 256GB CFast card. DPAF is freakin magic though. I'll give you that.

Have you noticed a big difference in quality between ProRes XQ and ProRes LT on your Ursa? Also, do you have a link to your Vimeo page, I would love to see some of your UM4.6 work... Even just some tests?

 

13 hours ago, dbp said:

Coming from editing H.264 files over the years, editing Pro Res from the BMPCC is a delight. I love the codec, and don't mind the size at all when you factor in the speed and smoothness of editing. I'm a huge fan of the whole Pro Res capture + edit workflow and I can totally see why so many shows still just shoot Pro Res with the Alexa.

I just bought a BMMCC and you couldn't be more right about the ProRes files. I always edited in ProRes anyway, so the ability to just copy the files to an external drive without having to convert them is amazing. 

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I feel like RED went in the wrong direction after the Epic 5K sensor, which had larger photosites than Dragon (5.4 vs. 5.0 µm). While I love the color you get from the Dragon, and have put in an order myself for the Raven (which I'm likely to switch to Scarlet-W, as it is the sweet spot for price/performance in RED's lineup), there is no comparison between Dragon and Alexa when it comes to ISO performance at 800:

Of course, the Alexa can be noisy as well (e.g., Lubezki's Birdman had excessive noise in the shadows as much of the film was shot in near darkness), and its resolution is not ideal for 4K release, but its lowlight performance is far superior to the Dragon, which gets very noisy above ISO 1600. The 6K resolution does minimize this noise pattern better than the same Dragon sensor at 4K, but it's still very noticeable on a lot of 6K lowlight footage that I have seen.

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6 hours ago, AaronChicago said:

I have to disagree with you. H.264 has it's place but 10 bit ProRes LT is a manageable file and so much better than an 8 bit h.264 file. I can shoot 6 hours of 2K ProRes LT on a 256GB CFast card. DPAF is freakin magic though. I'll give you that.

Was referring to the latest Pro 10- and 12-bit 422 and 444 H.264 codecs. They are superior to ProRes in terms of quality and bitrate. They are more CPU expensive to decode, though H.264 tends to be GPU accelerated.

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2 hours ago, jcs said:

Was referring to the latest Pro 10- and 12-bit 422 and 444 H.264 codecs. They are superior to ProRes in terms of quality and bitrate. They are more CPU expensive to decode, though H.264 tends to be GPU accelerated.

Pro h.264? Do you mean H.264/AVC? Or pro h.264 is a different codec? I'm confused here because I never heard about Pro h.264. 

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2 hours ago, Tiago Rosa-Rosso said:

 

Pro h.264? Do you mean H.264/AVC? Or pro h.264 is a different codec? I'm confused here because I never heard about Pro h.264. 

Consumer cameras provide 8-bit 420, Professional cameras provide 10+ bit and 422, 444 H.264.

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10 hours ago, jcs said:

Consumer cameras provide 8-bit 420, Professional cameras provide 10+ bit and 422, 444 H.264.

But when you mean the codec is superior, you mean in IQ or in the ability to compress and still give you a nice IQ? Because I think pro res 422 and 444 maybe is quite inefficient in compressing but from what i see, i didn't played with it yet, the IQ is better with much less artifacts, feels more organic (whatever this means) and is edit friendly, but maybe I'm wrong, as I said I did yet played with c300 mark 2 footage.   

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ProRes being edit friendly is key to the Alexa's success on the high end. Look at Sony and Red quickly trying to catch up.

If you bring in an assistant editor to transcode footage and it takes an extra day to transcode it all, that's $400 at least to hire an ae. Pretty quickly the difference in price between an Amira an F55 become irrelevant. With the Red this is an even slower process.

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Guest Ebrahim Saadawi

Yup Alexa is still king of the hell. Well, Alexa 65 is the absolute king of the hill that everyone would use now if they had the set-up (65mm lenses and Alexa65 body!)

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