Monthly Archives: June 2012

Kodak R.I.P. ~ An Interview With my New Camera

June 13, 2012
By
Interview with Arri ALEXA

Me: So how do you feel about the fact that you have contributed to the demise of Kodak. It is after all a company that has lived in the pantheon of Great Companies, great innovators. Alexa: Well if I had time to think about it, I suppose I’d feel a little badly… Me: You don’t have time to think about it! Have you no conscience? Kodak is the company behind the innovations that have made so much great art possible. Kodak is like, THE COMPANY that first let us shoot in the dark, produce indescribably beautiful images… Alexa: I’ve been busy. Me: So busy you can’t even pause to shed a tear? Alexa: Well, I’ve been busy, I’m shooting a lot… Me: Okay, well, moving on. Would you say that this is “the year that film died?” Alexa: Never say die. I’m proud of what I’ve accomplished, and I can certainly achieve an image quality that rivals film in a general way, but there are still applications where film...

Read more »

Official Site Launch

June 6, 2012
By
Apollo 8 launch

Hey All; This is the official launch of www.alexei-alexa.com, my blog about digital cinema and the Arri ALEXA, as well as anything related to my work as a cinematographer in and around China. I’ll be updating this blog on a regular basis, especially the “Sweet Shot of the Week” section, as I post experimental shots and demo reel material. I hope that this site will develop into much more than just a promotional tool. I intend to use it as magazine for articles on visual storytelling, spread good will in the industry, and chart my learning process as I practice my craft as a cinematographer. So far I’ve covered some basic “hot-button” questions concerning 2k and 4k resolution, been noisy about my beefs with Canon in general, and made some remarks about why people may not like 3D movies and 48 fps projection. That leaves a universe of topics for future posts. I’ll soon be writing about how to get the most out of the ALEXA in different situations, experiences with Chinese and Western crews, and other industry...

Read more »

Sweet Shot of the Week #12: “Ablutions”

June 3, 2012
By

If I’d had 240 frames per second, I’d be happier…at 120fps, it still looks too normal to my eye. Music credit: “Radian,” From 10000 Hz Legend, by Air Arri ALEXA Camera Settings: 120 fps shutter = 180 degrees ProRes 4:2:2 5600K UniQ Optics 50mm @T=2.8

Read more »

Sweet Shot (FAIL) of the Week #11: “Little Doctors”

June 3, 2012
By

Another sweet failure. I had an idea for a shot that I thought would look really cool. Extreme closeup of a kid putting a band-aid on a teddy bear, dolly back…the kid is in an ocean of hanging back-lit X-rays. There are just so many things that went wrong with this shot I almost don’t know where to begin…

Read more »

Sweet Shot of the Week #10: “Sun Flares”

June 3, 2012
By
Arri ALEXA dynamic range test with sun flares

I wanted to really test the latitude of the Alexa by shooting directly into the sun. My experience with all kinds of other cameras is that when you shoot into the sun, your sky disappears. Or…all your subjects are in silhouette. When I took the footage into post for grading, the waveform monitors showed me something I’d never seen in the logC signal before…CLIPPING! A very small part of the image clipped – it was the disc of the sun. The LogC footage doesn’t actually look all that different from this final result. I took the highlights up about twenty percent and the shadows down about twenty percent, but the mid-tones stayed where they were and I just added saturation to finish off the grade. Of course when you increase the highlights, the image gets more contrasty and it looks more natural, but you also get more of the image clipping. What I like in these shots is that there’s still a lot of color information right into the...

Read more »

Sweet Shot of the Week #9: “Blessing”

June 3, 2012
By
Arri ALEXA blessing the camera

This is the very first shot I took on my Arri ALEXA. I was in the Arri offices to go and pick up the camera and I wanted to bless the camera. So I recorded this prayer off my iPhone. This prayer has very special significance for me since it speaks of the power of the human spirit to bring new realities into being through the power of creativity. It is also a prayer whose power was a significant factor in bringing me to China. Full text of the prayer is: O God, O Thou Who hast cast Thy splendour over the luminous realities of men, shedding upon them the resplendent lights of knowledge and guidance, and hast chosen them out of all created things for this supernal grace, and hast caused them to encompass all things, to understand their inmost essence, and to disclose their mysteries, bringing them forth out of darkness into the visible world! “He verily showeth His special mercy to whomsoever He will.” O Lord,...

Read more »

Sweet Shot of the Week #8: “Different Bokeh”

June 3, 2012
By
Arri ALEXA different kind of bokeh

This experiment shows a more horizontal blur. This is not the spherical blur of regular lenses, nor is it the horizontal flaring and oval bokeh of anamorphics – it’s an optical trick to get those out-of-focus areas to do something a little different. The first shot just shows the background and foreground going in and out of focus. The second part of the clip shows a comparison between two identical shots, one with horizontal blur and one with spherical blur. This is an “in-camera” effect. DISCLAIMER: Please excuse the small shakes in the camera – I was packing gear around on my own and the tripod was about three sizes too small for the camera.

Read more »

Sweet Shot of the Week #7: “Apocalypse”

June 3, 2012
By
Arri ALEXA short film shot

This is just a quick shot from Varga Changizi’s short film called “Area 6”. This is a Beijing demolition zone. Everything’s been destroyed just enough to prevent squatters from living in the buildings. Great backdrop for a disaster movie. With an overcast day, grey bricks, white walls and so on, the contrast range in the scene is so low that the LogC footage looks like a grey test pattern. There are situations where I now understand it would be better to shoot something like Rec709 with Arri’s Low Contrast Curve applied as a look file, just to get a little more bang for your bytes. Still, after color grading, there aren’t any noticeable banding artifacts, even though the highlights have been boosted 200%, and the blacks have been crushed. The latitude of this scene was about four stops, but it’s been stretched out in the grade to cover 8 or 9. This shot would have been better if we’d waited for it to get a little darker, so that...

Read more »

Sweet Shot (FAIL) of the Week #6: “Strutting”

June 3, 2012
By
Arri ALEXA rolling shutter

Some tests are failures, but you learn something. I went a little slow-motion crazy when I first got the high-speed license on the camera, and I was eager to do some shooting at night, and in the wild. That over-eagerness led to a failure that I’ll know how to avoid in the future. I think everyone knows that the ALEXA’s viewfinder exhibits some stuttering. According to Arri’s FAQ, “Smooth Mode off: A certain amount of stuttering, which can be observed especially during quick pans, is inherent to all low frame rate progressive image displays. The sharpness, contrast and relatively large image size of the EVF-1 make this effect even more apparent. The effect is much less noticeable when panning within the normally accepted maximum panning speeds (which is why some operators prefer to leave Smooth Mode off), and when following an object or person in frame. It may also be helpful to note that the effect will generally be much more apparent in the viewfinder than on separate monitors...

Read more »

Sweet Shot of the Week #5: “Gloomy Stairwell”

June 3, 2012
By
Arri ALEXA low light test

I had a friend, the young and talented Varga Changizi, operate the camera for me while I took a turn as an actor. Poor casting aside, this shot was, for me, another revelation of the ALEXA’s strength in low-light situations. I actually had to put some black wrap on the exit sign that gives the initial greenish murky glow – it was too bright. I used an LED flashlight to creep up the stairs. After the light goes out, I struck two matches at once. When I saw the footage I was stunned to see that the flare of two matches was enough to illuminate the entire scene. I love the way the match casts flickering shadows on the wall as I come up the stairs. Arri ALEXA Camera Settings: ISO 800 25 fps 180 degree shutter ProRes 4:2:2 3600 degrees Kelvin Lighting Equipment: two matches one feeble exit sign One SmallSun LED flashlight

Read more »