—Arri recently announced ProRes 3.2K, a new recording format for its Arri Alexa cameras that will become available through a software update scheduled for release early next year. ProRes 3.2K allows the same upsampling in post to UHD deliverables as ArriRAW Open Gate does to 4K.
The majority of digital film and television productions continue to capture, post-produce and distribute in HD or 2K, formats for which Alexa provides an unmatched solution. Widespread adoption of UHD/4K post workflows, as well as availability of UHD displays in consumer homes and 4K projection in movie theaters is at least one to two years away – even in the most progressive markets. However, some film and program makers are already concerned about protecting their work for future developments. The ongoing debate regarding high dynamic range displays, which are said to have an even greater effect on the viewing experience than higher spatial resolution, only adds to these concerns.
For TV productions looking for a UHD deliverable, Alexa XT cameras and Alexa Classic cameras with the XR Module upgrade offer the new ProRes 3.2K recording option. At data rates far below uncompressed Arriraw, ProRes 3.2K provides the benefits of ProRes workflow. As an additional benefit, most lenses fully cover the 3.2K image circle that results from the 16:9 ProRes 3.2K image. A straightforward up-sample from ProRes 3.2K using standard post tools delivers UHD images for broadband and broadcast.
Many high-profile movies have been shot in ArriRAW 2.8K and up-sampled to a 4K DCP with successful results, an example being the last James Bond film, Skyfall. To further improve upon this option, Arri introduced the ArriRAW Open Gate recording format for Alexa XT cameras earlier this year. Open Gate records the full 3.4K Alexa XT sensor area for an optimal up-sample in post to a 4K DCP.
Recent demonstrations of high dynamic range displays have shown the extraordinary visual impact of increased dynamic range and sparked a debate over how and when they will be introduced. Arri has been working with Dolby at major trade shows to help showcase Dolby Vision display technology, which is capable of 100 times more brightness than a conventional TV. This has contributed to a spreading awareness in the industry that dynamic range is an even more important factor than spatial resolution in creating a superior visual experience. Recognizing this, other companies such as Thomson, Philips and the BBC are working on their own HDR solutions.
The Dolby Vision presentations have revealed how much better Alexa images look when displayed with extended dynamic range, demonstrating the untapped potential of Alexa-originated material to be remastered for future HDR display standards.