The Revenant was wildly praised for its stunning cinematography and the camera behind a lot of the sequences was the Arri Alexa 65. The camera was originally designed to capture a great deal of detail without distortion. As such, it was built to work with shots that dealt with visual effects. Now, a lot of production pipelines are using the cameras in ways that ARRI didn’t even expect. The Alexa 65 was introduced around 2015 and by January, it was already used in several films, including Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation, Star Wars: Rogue One and How to Be Single. What is so special about the camera that has lensers using it for more than just visual effects?
Design & Features
The Alexa 65 mm system is comprised of a 65 mm digital cinema camera, custom-designed prime and zoom lenses and fast, efficient workflow tools. Essentially, it’s a scaled-up version of an ALEXA XT can capture uncompressed ARRIRAW 65 mm image with stunning intensity and definition.
Harking back to the golden age of 65 mm widescreen filmmaking in the mid-20th century, the Alexa 65 is equipped with a sensor that is larger than a 5-perf 65 mm film frame. As such, it has been able to produce footage that has captured the imagination of film audiences all over the world.
The Alexa 65 is a grown-up version of ARRI’s 765 65 mm film camera which was first introduced in 1989 and used in several films, including Far and Away, Shutter Island and Gravity – just to name a few. The 65 mm is capable of capturing immense detail making it a choice of filmmakers to shoot an entire movie or selected sequences.
With an open gate resolution of 6560×3100 photosites, the Alexa 65 is capable of unsurpassed image quality. The camera is capable of a lot of sensitivity, high dynamic range and natural colorimetry which is the same as the ALEXA but it differs in that it has far better spatial resolution. As a result, images will look really stunning and life like when viewed on large cinema screens. Not only that, the footage will have pristine clarity and really fine detail.
The Alexa 65 is a complete system as well with high-performance 65 mm prime and zoom lenses capable of capturing exceptional levels of detail. The lenses part of the package are the 50-110 mm Zoom 65 and eight Prime 65 lenses which range from 24 mm to 300 mm. All of these lenses make use of state-of-the-art optics from Hasselblad and are housed in a robust, uniform lens barrel co-developed with IB/E Optics.
Both the Prime 65 and Zoom 65 lenses feature an XPL mount that is equipped with the ARRI Lens Data System. This allows frame-accurate metadata about focus, iris and zoom settings to be recorded with the image stream. The data can be used on set for wireless remote lens control as well as to match a virtual lens with a recorded image in postproduction thus allowing a reduction of time and cost involved in generating complex visual effects shots.
Just like the ALEXA XT, the 65 also captures footage in the ARRIRAW format. This format is capable of delivering uncompressed, uncompromised and unencrypted images. Together with Codex, ARRI created a high-performance workflow that is unique to the Alexa 65 and is capable of processing full resolution uncompressed ARRIRAW 65 mm images. The workflow can run on a purpose-configured ARRI Rental Vault S65 or the new high performance ARRI Rental Vault XL65.
Pros and Cons
- Trusted by filmmakers in Hollywood and used in many films from action blockbusters to graphics heavy productions and even comedies.
- It provides superb image quality.
- It is simple to learn and operate.
- It performs well in low-light situations.
- The price is too steep for cinematographers who are just starting out.
- The workflow is meant for big budget productions.
The ARRI Alexa 65 is special and unique and designed to capture the best image quality possible. As such, it’s a dream machine for cinematographers for their dream projects. It’s star has risen among filmmakers given that ARRI has upped the supply from only making 20 units available for rental. But whatever the great features of this camera, one thing remains clear: it’s not going to be cheap. In fact, the company says the amount needed to make the first 20 was “enough to make you break out in a cold sweat.”