I finally got my hands on the new Arriflex “Amira” camera system. Actually, I got my hands on it for two projects in a row, which was great because each could not have been more opposite in camera needs. The one thing I noticed right away was that it’s half the weight and size of the “Alexa”. The balance and ergonomics of it rival that of the classic Sony F900r, only with much better everything.
Basically, you get to have all the best things we are used to with the Arri SR3 on location, but without the lab! In this tight little digital box, you get a great shoulder fit with very simple and straightforward options. If you want to add an ND filter, you merely flick a switch, change the shutter, roll a knob, change the ISO, flick a different switch, change white balance- you get the picture.
As far as what you get for shooting formats, it’s all we have come to love from the Alexa minus ARRIRAW. You still get 422HQ and 4444 ProRes options in 1080p up to 200fps (better then Alexa’s 120fps), as well as the option to shoot in 2k ProRes (a personal favorite). You still get your thick 14 stops of dynamic range and the very durable Log C base. The body is only made in a 16×9 censor, so anamorphic stuff may be a miss, but to make up for it they have offered every lens mount option out there (PL / EF / B4 and now a 3rd party PV mount). The last cool thing in the ARRI bag of tricks is the new UHD option now available on the system. I haven’t had need to utilize this yet, but I am interested to test it!
As I mentioned above, I recently utilized the camera on two different shoots. My first use was on a stage commercial spot, in a very controlled environment. The Amira package was from a great little camera house out of Burbank, CA called HD Optics (HDoptics.com). They were basically out of Alexas and since we were only doing 1080p, they set us up with an Amira. I had been looking for a reason to play with one so of course I ran with it.
We were completely studio-style on this one, shooting with an Angenieux 12x Optimo (with teleprompter) on a dolly all day. The system can absolutely handle all the monitoring and power/aks needs of all the studio-style stuff with ease, but when it comes to balancing the small lightweight frame, it sort of becomes a pain. We had to slide all the plates back to the end, add an onboard battery and a counter weight. In retrospect, I should have ordered an Arrihead to put it all on. Regardless, it was a great opportunity to study the image that the camera can do without it being on my shoulder.
The second job a few days later was a single camera TV pilot that was all on location and all handheld. I knew for a fact that I didn’t want to have to shoulder a loaded Alexa with a short zoom on my body all day (if I could help it) so this time I got my good friends at Keslow (keslowcamera.com) to package us up with a great two-camera setup with all the lightweight wireless gizmos. The system really shines in these conditions. The new eyepiece/display combo made it easy to get shots in almost any tight area and the robust C Log negative gave us the latitude to move quickly in tough lighting situations.
I was a big fan of the Amira after testing it and I can definitely see using it a lot this year. I think it’s a great move for Arri and will be a great tool for shooters in all areas of production.