Having dilemmas with the ARRI Alexa Mini audio? Are you struggling with having Line level input as your only audio option? The Beachtek DXA-Alexa is an audio module designed specifically for the Alexa Mini that converts dual XLR to Line level output. I was sent a pre-production unit to check out. Anyone who’s used an ARRI Alexa Mini intending on also recording sound will know its limitations: it has a single Lemo input on the front, and some gain settings buried in the menu. Not to worry, though. Wooden Camera do the cool little A-Box that converts that Lemo input into dual XLR. Sorted, right? Not so fast. You still need to feed it a Line level input, and here’s where many will struggle. Few audio sources provide this level output, which is why you usually have to go through another sound device, such as your soundperson’s mixer. Having a soundperson plus mixer may not always be an option, and that’s then your options are limited without your rig getting pretty hefty. Beachtek saw the need for a product to fill this need and recently announced the DXA-Alexa audio module, a sleek little box that receives XLR audio (mic level or providing phantom power) and outputs Line level via 5 pin XLR. Beachtek sent over a pre-production DXA-Alexa, which I put through its paces during a recent shoot abroad that required a single op camera and sound. Features of the DXA-Alexa The DXA-Alexa receives 2 channels of audio via standard 3 pin XLR. Both can be powered independently by 48v phantom power and both have a high and low gain switch (60db and 40db modes respectively). Neither channels have a metering display, but instead offer a tri-colour LED that works in the form of a traffic light system (green/amber/red) to meter audio. More on this later. There are three physical pots on the top of the module for adjusting the gain of each channel, as well as the volume of the monitoring output. The headphone output is a 3.5mm jack on the side, but there is also a 3.5mm jack for audio return from the camera. You can select whether you listen to the output or return via a switch. Additionally there’s a stereo and mono mode for choosing your headphones output options. Lastly, it offers a 3.5mm unbalanced auxiliary stereo out which I unfortunately didn’t have time to test this. Power is received by 2 pin lemo that has a voltage range of 11-18. Physical Features The module is well built, and is clad in a carbon-fibre-look to match the aesthetics of the Alexa Mini. It weighs 374g (0.89lbs). Full spec card here. All buttons and knobs have a satisfying feel to them, the power button recesses nicely and the pots on top have a half click resistance to them. The gain switches feel solid too. Connectivity The DXA-Alexa comes with no cables, so you must spec it for power and output yourself. The 11-18V range on the power input is useful, placing a standard V-lock battery system right in the middle. It means a straight 2-pin Lemo to D-tap will get you going. I bought a Hawk-woods LA-69A, and here’s a US non right-angle equivalent. The thin and slinky cable with a right angle connector provides a nice setup, as this way your cables will pop out of the dumb side of the camera, which is why the right-angle connector was important. The next consideration is audio output from the module to the camera. Wooden Camera has made a specific cable from 5-pin XLR to Alexa lemo. Unfortunately, this wasn’t available for my trip, so I picked up an off-the-shelf 5-pin XLR to dual 3-pin XLR tail, then went through a Wooden Camera A-Box to get the XLRs into lemo for the camera body. Both will do the job, but the former is a more concise way of doing it. Mounting It The Beachtek DXA-Alexa has three ¼” 20 threads on the bottom for mounting only. I found the best way of adding it to the Alexa Mini rig without things getting too bulky was to simply thread a 15mm mount on the bottom, and stack the module between the v-lock plate and the camera body. The rig becomes a little longer, but I felt this was more streamlined that side or top mounting. The included cradle makes use of two of the threads on the bottom. It gives you a couple of 3/8” screws on the side, as well a few ¼” 20 threads on the same side and one on the bottom. Additionally, on the opposite side is an array of smaller threads that adhere to the quad pin array that ARRI uses on the top and bottom of the camera. This means you can use the cradle with any existing ARRI accessories, mounting it between your camera body and handle as pictured, for example. Operation The Beachtek DXA-Alexa works exactly as one would hope. At first glance, you may ponder over the lack of metering displays and primitive traffic light system for audio levels. However, the camera itself displays audio level info, so you won’t miss anything more substantial in terms of on-board meters. To set it up you simply send a tone through the Beachtek DXA-Alexa (or consistent audio level if you don’t have access to a tone generator) set the gain level in the camera menu to your desired level (I went with a gain level that provided -18db on the meters), and you’re set. To then make any further level tweaks you then adjust the pots on the module itself. I found that I was using the least amount of gain from the camera itself by doing it this way, but as a result you require more gain from the Beachtek DXA-Alexa, and often the LED meter reaches red. You could counter this red light by increasing the level of gain in camera and reducing the level on the Beachtek module. However, I trust the amplifiers on a dedicated audio device more than those on a camera that are usually added as an afterthought, so I didn’t worry too much about seeing a few red blinks. The tri-colour LED scales operates at: Green -40dBu to 16dBu Yellow -16dBu to +4dBu Red Over +4dBu Summary I feel the DXA-Alexa is a must-have accessory for those who regularly record sound on their Alexa Mini and work without a soundperson. Could it be smaller? Perhaps. Half the depth with outputs and pots on opposite ends could be nice, a form factor that would have me consider a top mounted option far more seriously. The size of XLR ports is restricting here, substantially smaller would require specific breakout cables that can be less ideal. Could it be cheaper? Only Beachtek could tell you, but it does seem like the typical ARRI tax applies here. If you are looking for a cheaper option, you could consider the Beachtek DXA-SLR. This is a similar device originally designed to sit between your audio kit and DSLR. However, this doesn’t provide a true Line level (-26dBu at 0db on the VU meter, I’m told), so it would involve boosting the gain in-camera, and thus compromising the signal-to-noise ratio. It also can only be powered via 9v batteries, and would require a ¼” jack to lemo breakout (which doesn’t exist, to my knowledge) so generally a less than ideal system for the Alexa Mini. It’s a shame ARRI never made further efforts to offer more comprehensive audio solutions for the Alexa Mini. I’ve read it was never the intention to include anything at all, but with spare space on one of the boards they thought why not lob something in there for good measure. True or not, we’re left with a hurdle to jump in getting Mic level to Line level in a concise way, and I feel the Beachtek DXA-Alexa does a pretty good job of doing that.Read more
As part of our aim to strengthen the connection between us and our readers, we decided to give our talented audience out there a stage to express themselves and share their success stories in our new weekly TALENT FEATURE. We hope that with time, these guest posts will become a source of inspiration to our colleagues wherever they are. If you are interested in participating, please upload your video to our VIDEOLOG and follow the rest of the submission process by reading the information here. (Intro by Johnnie Behiri) Hello, I’m Joe Simon, a filmmaker based in Austin, TX. Together with my production company, The Delivery Men, we’re creating brand narrative and documentary style work that offers our clients a way to break the mold and re-ignite creativity when it comes to their brand story. We also work in some personal projects, giving ourselves a creative hiatus from client requests and expectations in order to make something fully our own. In July of this year, we released our first narrative short film LOW TIDE and are excited to broaden our TDM original work in the future, in between making amazing content for our clients, of course. Photo by: Bill Weir Name: Joe Simon Age: 38 Currently based in: Austin, Texas. USA. Language(s) spoken: English, somewhat proficient. Occupation: Owner, Director & DP at The Delivery Men How did you get started in our industry: Filmmaking was initially something I got into to promote my career in BMX. I rode professionally for 5 years and needed a camera to document my adventures for my sponsors. I quickly fell in love with making films and started teaching myself everything I could. That was the beginning of 1998, and since then I’ve started two production companies, Joe Simon Productions in 1999 and The Delivery Men in 2012. Since 2007, I’ve been collaborating with Director, Editor & Writer, Hussain Pirani. In 2012 we transitioned focus to The Delivery Men, creating lifestyle, brand, narrative, and documentary films. Current assignments: This career has taken me all over the world. After we wrapped up LOW TIDE in June, the summer has been a whirlwind. I’ve been working as the DP on CNN’s The Wonder List with Bill Weir. That has taken me to Alaska and Madagascar over the last few months, and we’re New Zealand bound next. In between that, we filmed for two weeks on the east coast of the US for a series of videos we’re creating for large financial company. What types of productions do you mostly shoot: We generally create a lot of web-based commercials. We’re always striving to challenge ourselves to create astounding visuals in any project that we’re working on. One of my favorite things to do is try to streamline my camera rig so I can make transitions when we’re on set running & gunning. I’ve most recently outfitted the EasyRig with a FlowCine Serene arm to support the Alexa Mini on the Freefly MoVI M10. It’s a game changer and will allow us to be more nimble on those long production days. What is your dream assignment or job in our industry, and what are you really passionate about: Definitely being a DP for Game of Thrones. More specifically the finale, where we all know Daenerys, Jon Snow & Tyrion scorch what’s left of Westeros from the backs of dragons. But for real, I’d love to DP a few features and episodics. In the work that you’ve presented to us, now that it is done, what would you have done differently throughout the production: Overall, LOW TIDE was a pretty smooth project. We took an initial scouting trip up to Seaside, Oregon to craft our story and then returned a little over a month later to film. We were able to dedicate the time we really needed to pre-production on the project in between our client work, and for that reason were in a really good organized place when we got on set. It would always be great to have a bigger budget of course, but we were able to spend money where it was most needed and are really stoked with how the final film turned out. What current camera, lenses and sound equipment do you use: Alexa Mini Kowa Anamorphics (for LOW TIDE) I try to choose lenses specific to each project that fit with the look and feel we want to achieve. For our two weeks shoot in July, we rented a Fujinon 19-90 which is a lens I love and was awesome to work with, and was a perfect fit for our project. As far as sound gear, if I don’t have a dedicated sound person on set I use the RODE NTG3 shotgun mic for most of our projects, along with the RODELINK wireless kit. What’s is your favorite lighting equipment, and why did you choose that kit over other solutions: Lighting, when needed, is something we also consider on a project by project basis and most of the time get a grip truck and gaffer. In house, we’ve got a Westcott 1’x1’ Flex light kit which is a great lighting set to have on hand along with a bunch of Westcott lighting modifiers. Do you use drones or gimbals in your productions? If so, what is the most effective way you’ve found to deploy them? We do use drones where it fits into the projects we’re working on. I’ve been flying for over 7 years, and we’ve got a giant old T-REX700 that hangs out in the office just for show. We’re currently flying the DJI Inspire 1 Pro. Gimbal-wise we use the Freefly MOVI M10, which I sometimes like to pair with my electric skateboard for faster moving shots. What editing systems do you use: Adobe Premiere, DaVinci Resolve. How much of your work do you shoot in Log, and what is your preferred way of colour correcting? We shoot in Log as much as we can unless a client requests another format. All of our color correction is done in DaVinci Resolve How frequently do you travel and do you have any tips when it comes to packing your gear: Sometimes it feels like I’m always traveling. About 70-80% of our work is outside of Texas, so we use a mixture of Pelican cases, ThinkTank roller cases and suitcases. Bubble wrap is your friend…… lots and lots of bubble wrap. I find you can fit a lot more into a light hardshell suitcase w/ bubble wrap than using only pelican cases. Photo by: Bill Weir If you want to learn more about Joe’s creative’s work, head over to his home page. Participate in our initiative: share your talent and creative work by following these steps.Read more
Arri just announced several new accessories for their smallest camera body: A broadcast plate for ALEXA mini as well as a newly designed low bracket which accompanies the already available shoulder pad CSP-1. The ALEXA mini can be thought of Arri’s answer to the RED lineup of cameras. It eliminates several downsides of its big brother, the ALEXA, in terms of seize and weight. But of course, that doesn’t come for free. You’ll need some kind of remote control – like the dedicated Arri ALEXA mini viewfinder for example- in order to operate the mini as it lacks decent controls such as dials and buttons apart from very basic operation. Plus, as the camera body comes more or less as a bare cube with nothing to it, on the one hand you are totaly free in mounting it the way you want or the shot requires it but on the other hand it can be challenging to operate it as a decent shoulder rig for example. For that, Arri just announced some very handy accessories which give its users the ability to operate the camera in more ways more comfortable. Broadcast Plate for ALEXA mini The new broadcast baseplate for ALEXA mini acts as a bridge between the camera body and a standard VCT style tripod plate. With it attached to the camera you are now able to switch very fast from shoulder mount operation to tripod work. A shoulder pad is included as well as 15mm rod support and standard rosette mounts for handgrips. With this the mini transforms into a versatile handheld camera rig for documentary style of shooting. Broadcast Plate for ALEXA mini Low Bracket for Shoulder Pad CSP-1 This tiny new accessory was desinged in order to let the user choose between the ‘standard’ bracket which comes with the CSP-1 shoulder pad and this new low bracket. With this, the center of gravity of the camera body is lowered by 15mm in comparison to the standard bracket. Dependent of your given rig, this might make it easier to work with the camera when shoulder mounted. The CSP-1 shoulder pad is not designed to put it on a tripod, it’s a true-bred shoulder mount rig. That said, it is lighter in weight than the broadcast baseplate of course. Low Bracket for ALEXA mini Pricing and availability There is no word on pricing and availability, yet. But you can be sure about one thing: These accessories, no matter how small they might be, won’t come for free. As we are speaking of pro cameras from a top of the game manufacturer, they will be expensive. I think, at least the broadcast plate for ALEXA mini will increase the usability a lot for that camera (when shooting documentary style). With it you can enjoy the comfort of an AMIRA at the seize and weight of the mini. Sounds good to me! UPDATE: cvp lists the broadcast baseplate for ALEXA mini as a bundle with 15mm rods and the quick release plate QRP-1 for nearly 1.550 € (exc. VAT) which equals something like 1.700 US $.Read more
Freefly has released a lightweight Alexa Mini battery solution, the side mounted v-lock plate makes the perfect partner for the Movi M15. The Alexa Mini body is just the starting point when spec’ing the compact cinema camera. You’ll need glass, power, monitoring and control to get the thing shooting. Most existing battery solutions involve a rail-based plate riding off the back of the camera. You need the larger Arri MAP-2 baseplate with rod support for this, meaning things very quickly get big and heavy. Freefly’s solution keeps the camera profile slim and perhaps most important of all, light. Conventional rear-mounted battery with a heavy MAP-2 baseplate. The bracket is made from carbon fibre so it is very light but remains strong. It has a v-lock plate that mounts to the side of the camera, offering up a pass through 14.8V D-Tap and regulated 12v D-Tap port. The battery plate is placed towards the back of the camera body allowing for full use of the top cage on the M15, as well as providing mounting points on the top and bottom for both Movi slide plates. Included is a custom cable with a right-angle LEMO to D-Tap that connects from the back of the camera straight into the v-lock plate. I love the fact that it’s a right-angle LEMO, perfect for gimbal use when trying to keep the camera profile as short as possible. Being an ambidextrous camera, I can’t see any reason why you can use this on the reverse side of the camera. The Alexa Mini is designed in a way that you can shift accessories around the shell since the mounting points on the top and bottom are the same. I can certainly see a use for switching it to the dumb side of the camera as this would make a very compact setup for the Alexa Mini that would be just as useful outside of gimbal use. It would need clarifying from Freefly that the V-lock Adapter Kit for ALEXA Mini doesn’t clash with the vents on that side, however. Alexa Mini with FREEFLY V-Lock Handlebar Adapter Kit If you’re a Movi M10 operator, you may want to consider the FREEFLY V-Lock Handlebar Adapter Kit. This is what I’ve used up to now when shooting on the Alexa Mini/M15. Very simply, this moves the battery plate off the gimbal carriage and onto the handlebars. On the handlebar/ring there is no influence on the payload of the camera, meaning compatibility with the Alexa Mini in regards to weight is still possible of the lighter loaded Movi M10. The FREEFLY V-Lock Adapter Kit for ALEXA Mini is ready to ship, however as it is a special order item, you’ll be unable to get it directly off the shelf—it also carries a typical Arri Alexa taxed price at $850.Read more
Arri has announced a new control panel at IBC for its Amira and Alexa Mini cameras. They also showcased firmware 3.0 for their cameras which, among other things adds new high & low end recording codec features in the form of MPEG 2 and ProRes 4444 XQ. Arris camera all adhere to a very simply and easy to use menu system (probably the easiest I’ve used). On the Amira and Alexa Mini the menu and screen can be found on the side of the viewfinder. The problem with this? You have to buy the viewfinder in order to operate either camera (physically, Arris new app allows you to control camera wirelessly with a the same interface). As a fairly regular user of the Amira I think this the viewfinder is one of it’s weaker features. Similar to old school broadcast cameras there’s a certain ‘sweet spot’ where if the angle of your eye is not quite right, it’s hard to gauge whether you are in focus. Third party systems like the Zacuto Gratical HD and SmallHD 502 offer a much crisper, feature rich option for monitoring. However adding another viewfinder/monitor to your existing Arri system can be counter productive, particularly if you’re trying to keep things compact (Alexa Mini owners). Enter the Arri Control Panel. This is exactly the same as the panel found on the side of the Arri viewfinder (minus the viewfinder). This saves you cost and real estate with doubling up on viewfinders; buy the one that suits you best and get the Control Panel separately. Of course this will also work in other ways (the way Arri will have no doubt originally intended it), it will remove the Control Panel from the operators side for the AC to on the dumbside (like the full size Alexa). The device is tethered via a cable and will cost in the region of €2,600. Check out Newsshooters video from IBC at the Arri booth: We can see firmware 3.0 in use here, it brings an interesting feature in the form of an intervalometer for timelapsing but most important is the additions of two new recording codecs. MPEG2 in an .mxf wrapper is now supported, working well in an XDCAM environment or original Canon C300 workflow. This means the Arri cameras now support a highly compressed (by Arri standards) option should you require a bit more quantity over quality. If you’re in favour of quality however, firmware 3.0 also brings in ProRes 4444 XQ support. This is a high quality codec supporting up to 16 bits in color information. A target rate of 500 Mbps for 4:4:4 sources at 1920×1080 and shooting at up to 120fps in HD and 60P in UHD. via/ NewsShooterRead more
We are here at BVE 2015 in London and together with our UK man Tim Fok I had a chance to have a hands-on with the super lightweight Alexa Mini, and an extended chat with Arri product manager for cameras, Michael Jonas. As might already have read in our news post about the new Alexa camera, the new “baby” Alexa is targeted at gimbal (like on a MoVi M15) and multicopter shooters. However, when holding it in our hands we realized that this camera will also be very popular with “normal” shooters who want to stay extremely small without sacrificing the legendary Alexa quality – but they must also have the money (to either rent or buy body-only for €32,500), and the camera quite clearly isn’t a bargain. It’s tinier than I thought it would be – it feels considerably smaller than a Red Epic, but they are similar in size. It’s very lightweight and according to Michael Jonas, it comes in at roughly 300 grams less than the Red Dragon / Epic. The Alexa Mini features a set of mounting screw holes that haven’t been seen on other cameras before. Mounting it on a normal tripod isn’t its main intended purpose, but surely a lot of people will want to do just that – and Arri will sell them a cage for that. It won’t take long until other accessory makers will provide solutions for that. Due to the fact that the body is made out of carbon fibre, the mounting screw holes were put onto the metal front part which holds the lens mount – the carbon fibre would break under too much force. Be sure to watch the full video to see some of the first footage of the Arri Alexa Mini which we were able to shoot at the Arri stand at BVE, and of course also to hear all the technical details about the camera from Michael Jonas. Arri plans to start taking orders in March and the body-only price (as mentioned above) will be EUR 32,500. We are planning to shoot a review film with a pre production model as soon as possible.Read more
What an unfamiliar sensation to write the words “lightweight” and “ARRI” in the same headline. But here it is: Camera manufacturer ARRI just surprised us with the announcement of a new cinema camera: The ARRI ALEXA Mini. A small and lightweight, carbon fibre version of their hugely popular ARRI ALEXA cinema camera. ARRI seems to have been quite busy lately. After announcing loads of cool upgrades for their documentary style AMIRA camera just last week, here’s another piece of gear for filmmakers to drool over. Cinema camera manufacturer ARRI is known for their heavy duty, tank like professional cameras. Even the ENG style ARRI AMIRA with its “documentary style” single-shooter approach is quite a heavyweight at 5kg body weight. The body design of the ARRI ALEXA mini is a lot lighter than all their previous cameras. It is optimised for use with brushless gimbals, multicopters and other specialized rigs. It is compact enough to allow the use of space-constrained rigs, such as gyro-stabilized aerial systems. The ARRI ALEXA mini is not featherlight though, it’s still a solid piece of gear, but at 2.3 kg it is a lot lighter than its bigger brother. Interestingly 2.3kg is exactly the weight of its main competitor, the RED Epic (Dragon) camera. Observing the design and ergonomics of the ARRI ALEXA mini, there’s a startling resemblance to the RED cameras… The ARRI ALEXA mini has an extremely cool set of features, also very similar to the RED Epic line. Interestingly RED’s new camera, the WEAPON was also recently announced. In their press release ARRI prides itself to have made “the most future-proof camera system available today“. The camera will work in a 4K environment, supports 4K HFR technology up to 60p, as well as featuring HDR (High Dynamic Range) capture for upcoming higher dynamic range displays. Most important features at a glance: 35mm format sensor (4:3 or super35) HD, 2K and 4K (UHD) recording options 14+ stops of dynamic range like ALEXA ISO 800 base sensitivity CFast 2.0 memory cards (Like AMIRA) Recording Codec: ProRes 4444XQ, 4444, 422 (HQ), 422, 422(LT), ARRIRAW Up to 200 fps in 2K (60fps in UHD) MVF-1 OLED Viewfinder (with flipout LCD) Built-in radio interface for ARRI lens control motorised internal ND’s (can be remote controlled with iPhone via WIFI) tons of additional features… How cool is that part about the iPhone remote controlled motorised internal ND’s?! The ARRI ALEXA Mini is scheduled to begin shipping in May 2015, with orders being taken from March. There is no word on pricing yet, but from the looks of it this camera won’t be an affordable one (thinking $40k and beyond). A prototype of the ALEXA Mini will be on show at the British Video Expo (BVE) from February 24-26, 2015, in Booth J30. The ALEXA Mini microsite: www.arri.com/alexaminiRead more
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