Thread: tips on shooting with the Alexa

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  1. #1 tips on shooting with the Alexa 
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    hey guys,

    New short film coming up, next november, that I'll be directing and DP'ing. So I instantly started looking for lenses to use and I really wanted to use the Cooke mini S4 (can't use the S4, because my Mini is EF mount). But the rental house doesn't have the Mini S4 with the EF mount, so after a lot of experimenting with a PL-EF adapter that I have, we came to the conclusion that the only lens that would work was a Angenieux Optimo 45-120 which I loved.

    After a lot of talk with the rental house, they were impeccable and, in order to end my limitations, they offered to rent me another camera, without any increase to my budget. Of course I chose the Alexa.

    Now, this is the main reason I'm writing this post. I love the Alexa but I never really shot with one. Doesn't seem to be a problem because they are also providing me with a camera operator that knows the Alexa by heart. But I wanted to know if there are any specific stuff that I need to know before shooting a short film with the Alexa. Of course, I'll do extensive image tests before, but I know blackmagic cameras very well. I know, for example, that they have a thing with IR that needs to be corrected before light hits the sensor. I also know how they rate and how they handle low light.

    So I was wondering if any of you guys can share some tips of your experience shooting with the Alexa. Probably a weird post for this forum, but I feel that we are much more of a community of filmmakers than anything else.

    Thanks for any help!
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  2. #2  
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    Arri has some amazing learning materials on their website, including an Alexa Camera Simulator
    http://www.arri.com/camera/alexa/too...era_simulator/

    Tobias N - Gaffer / Cinematographer
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  3. #3  
    Senior Member david evans's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tolin View Post
    Arri has some amazing learning materials on their website, including an Alexa Camera Simulator
    http://www.arri.com/camera/alexa/too...era_simulator/
    Thanks. I'll definitely check that out. But I don't actually need help with the menus and stuff like that because I'll have a camera operator that knows how to operate the Alexa. My thing is what tricks the camera may have that one should know before shooting something with it. Like with BMD cameras, I know I can't shoot with them without using an IR cut filter. But I only know that because I learned about it here.

    Another great thing is false color in the Ursa Mini 4.6k. Can I also get this in the Alexa feed?
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  4. #4  
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    Quote Originally Posted by david evans View Post
    Another great thing is false color in the Ursa Mini 4.6k. Can I also get this in the Alexa feed?
    If you check the link there's also the Alexa Pocket Guide. There's a page on False Color (and yes, Alexa has it for the viewfinder and monitor out).
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  5. #5  
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    Hey David,
    Last year I sold my RED Epic and picked up an Alexa Classic. So far I've found it to be the single most forgiving digital cinema camera I've operated (and I've used almost all of them at this point). It's great that the rental house is providing a camera tech, but honestly the menus are so simple to use that a 10 year old can figure it out in 5 minutes (assuming that 10 year old knows what shutter speed, ISO, frame rate, file format, and WB they want to use). It's all right there, never more than a layer or two deep. Once you see it you'll be surprised at how friendly it is.

    As for 'tricks', I haven't found much need for any. It just works. That sensor is so good that it just gets out of your way and lets you shoot. It doesn't have any real flaws or weaknesses like FPN, poor IR filtration, moire, etc. Just expose your scene to within a stop or two (over or under) of what you need and you'll be fine. It's quite forgiving if you don't do things perfectly on set. Just get close. I never worry about blown highlights or lost detail in the blacks- I just let them go. The Arri handles those rolloffs so well that it's a non factor, really. If you record ProRes 444 you'll have no problem grading anything in post so long as you're even somewhat close on set (even WB). I wouldn't shoot any ISO higher than 2000 unless you're really stuck for lack of light. It seems to work best at 640 or 800, but I've shot 1600 and 2000 with no troubles. So it's not a 'modern' low light wonder. In that sense you'll be pretty comfortable coming over from the UrsaMini, I think. They have similar low light capabilities. The EVF isn't as sharp as some modern ones, but it offers quite an accurate representation of the exposure and color of your image . the EVF also has one button toggles for exposure, mag, & focus tools. Very easy. The only significant nicks against the Alexa is that they are somewhat slow to boot, a little power hungry and hitting record doesn't instantly start recording (about a 1 second delay before it starts recording) so it's not great for doco work, but perfectly fine for narrative work. The image tends to lean a little green, but it's super easy to dial out in post. It's a heavier camera (figure about 9-10 kilos with everything and a prime lens on it- definitely more with that 45-120 you want to use), but it's the right kind of heavy. It's very well balanced, feels great on the shoulder, very solid and the images feel settled. My favorite thing about the camera is that unlike so many of my previous cinema cameras it doesn't need a lego kit build out every time I want to shoot. I can be up and shooting with it in 2 minutes, as opposed to my Epic or other cameras that need to be 'built out' with rigs, cages, recorders, NATO arms, bits & bobs, etc.

    You should definitely find time to mess around with it at the rental house before you start shooting so that you can do some tests and get a feel for how it works. Most rental houses are pretty accommodating in that regard. Good luck and have fun!
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