One-Man-Band ARRIRaw

Last weekend I had the rare opportunity of spending six hours alone with an ARRI Alexa Plus, a Codex onboard recorder, and a set of ARRI/Zeiss Master Primes. As astronomically out-of-reach as such a package might be for the individual filmmaker, I was curious about the potential it might hold for small productions. RED cameras shoot a manner of raw file that even film students can process on their iMacs. Though the Alexa cost nearly three times as much as a RED One body, might ARRI’s raw files be as accessible?

I set up the camera to record LOG C to the internal SxS cards while simultaneously feeding dual-link ARRIRaw to the Codex. I settled on shooting in available light in situation with strong highlights and deep shadows. The bulk of the footage was captured at 800 ISO and metered to protect the highlights.

Over the course of the afternoon I managed to fill the 25-minute Codex datapack, which consists of RAID drives totaling 256GB of free space. The SxS cards were quick to download, but it took the Codex about an hour to dump the ARRIRaw files and another hour to transcode those to ProRes 422 HQ clips. I used Codex’s desktop transfer station, but it is possible to download from the onboard unit through a CAT5 ethernet cable.

I downloaded ARRI’s ARRIRaw Converter (ARC), expecting something akin to RED’s REDCine-X processing software. At this point, however, the ARC software better resembles a proof-of-concept than a desktop coloring program. It is possible to adjust things like ISO, color space, and white balance, but the options appear to be limited to the capabilities of the Alexa when it first shipped last year. ISO settings cannot be changed to anything above 1600, despite the fact that every Alexa is now capable of 3200. Additionally, export options are limited to different sequence formats, like DPX and Cineon. There are no provisions for the creation of proxies.

On the other hand, the ProRes files I created through the Codex held a lot of potential. Because they were created from the ARRIRaw files and not in-camera, they retained the native 2880×1620 resolution of the Alexa sensor. Even with a direct-to-edit format like ProRes, near-3k resolution gives filmmakers a great deal of freedom to color before they down-convert to 2k or standard HD. I was able to edit freely with them before sending the timeline to Apple Color. Whatever noise or grain was retained in the shadows essentially vanished once the final piece was compressed to 1920×1080. Below is the video on Vimeo:

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