Review: ARRI Alexa Mini

January 5, 2017

You would be hard pressed to find any Hollywood film or television series that is not shot with an ARRI camera. Recently, DeSales had the opportunity to use the Alexa  Mini, a lightweight camera that pulls its weight alongside its bigger brothers. Being the “gold standard” for the industry, the Alexa family of cameras has held our interest as the end result is seen in theatres and in homes.

FEATURES

Available with EF, PL, or B4 lens mounts, the Alexa Mini captures images through a 35mm film-style format Alev III sensor and records to a CFast 2.0 memory card in 16:9 or 4:3 formats. The five-pound body is compact enough to fit most mounts and allows shooting in HD, 2K, 3.2K, and 4K UHD. With an ISO ranging from 160 to 3200, that gives more than 14 stops of sensitivity.

When it comes to recording, the Alexa Mini excels with multiple sensor readout options. Open Gate 3424x2202, MXF/ARRIRAW, is available optionally when both the 4:3 and ARRIRAW licenses are purchased. In addition, ProRes, HD and 2K frame rates from 1–200 frames per second are possible.

IN USE

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DeSales students utilized the Arri Alexa Mini capture behind-the-scenes footage for a run-and-gun production.

The students who had access to the ARRI Alexa SXT and Alexa Mini for our one-day shoot, couldn’t be happier with the choice of cameras. The Alexa SXT captured our 90 second film, “I Don’t,” and the Alexa Mini was called into action as the “behind the scenes” camera. The much larger and more robust Alexa SXT had its own crew to help with transport and set-up and was tethered to our 4K-field monitor. With the Alexa Mini shooting in ProRes Log, we filled three 128GB CFast 2.0 cards.

We assembled the Mini camera package in our TV studio and the MVF electronic viewfinder helped with the frequent handheld shots. Tripod mounting needed a much smaller tripod and worked well with our university’s tripod.

DeSales has a large selection of Cinema Series EF mount lenses and the Mini’s PL mount was easily replaced by an EF mount to accept our EF mount prime lenses. Our Gold Mount Anton Bauer batteries helped balance the Mini as most of the time it was shoulder mounted on our Jag to capture all of the action.

As the students took turns behind the camera, most preferred shooting with the Alexa Mini over our flagship 4K camera from another manufacturer. This trouble-free experience with the lightweight camera allowed our students to get unusual angles or to run with the actors during the chase scene. Everyone wanted to actually use the Alexa Mini. That says a lot about the camera.

The action was monitored on location with an Ikegami 4K monitor and the Log footage was easily transferred to our hard drive for editing in Adobe Premiere. The ARRI Color Tool (ACT) was a free download from www.arri.com that gave us an immediate “look” at our footage with various color templates. Each of these presets could be adjusted easily to customize the end result well before color grading. I understand that shooting in Log results in a washed out image and I frequently applied a more saturated preset to each shot because it was so simple to do.

Although the Mini does capture in RAW, we chose ProRes as the recording platform. The ARRIRAW Convertor, ARC, also a free download, easily converted the raw footage we shot on the SXT for the film itself.

One of the main reasons we wanted two ARRI’s for this production was for the behind-the-scenes documentary. In this doc, we showed a Log scene directly from the camera on the left side of the frame, and the final, color-graded scene on the right. We wanted the viewer to realize how much color correction actually occurs with everything shot in a project. What most won’t realize, however, is how simple it actually is to do the conversion.

After post, we had a great short film and an educational behind-the-scenes documentary.

SUMMARY

The Arri Alexa Mini is a cost-effective camera to shoot any sized production. Since our students use the latest technology when shooting their films, there was virtually no learning curve when using the ARRI. The footage will intercut with other cameras in its class and the free ARRI software saves much time in the postproduction phase.

FAST FACTS

Application: Small form factor camera body matching sensors of existing ARRI cameras with superior image quality and customizable looks and user controls.

Key Features: Multiple lens mounting options; built-in lens motor controller; HD, 2K, shooting up to 200fps, 3.2K, 4K shooting and up to 60fps; 4:3 sensor mode or internal Raw recording option available via separate licenses.

Price: ARRI ALEXA Mini (body only) MSRP – $41,040

Contact:
ARRI Inc,
Tel: 845.353.1400
[email protected]
www.arri.com 

 

Chuck Gloman is an associate professor and chair of the TV/Film Department at DeSales University.  He may be reached [email protected]

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