American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 12

Short Takes
The recent World Cup soccer tournament served as inspiration for an Alexa demo shot by cinematographer Dana Christiaansen for director Sam Nicholson, ASC, who also wrote and produced the demo.

I

Taking Arri’s Alexa to the World Cup By Iain Stasukevich

Sam Nicholson, ASC and his collaborators at Stargate Studios have a long-running relationship with Arri that includes consulting on the development of the company’s 535 film camera and D-20 and D-21 digital cameras. After seeing Nicholson’s demo films for two other digital cameras, the Sony F35 and the Weisscam HS-2 Highspeed, Arri asked him to produce, direct and write something similar for its new digital camera, the Alexa. For the demo, says Nicholson, “we wanted to design a piece that would demonstrate the various unique qualities of the Alexa: dynamic range, sensitivity, portability, ease of use, maintenance, and post workflow. Those are all things that define a digital-cinema camera.” Special attention was paid to dynamic range. Apart from resolution, a digital sensor’s ability to capture detail in the brightest highlights and the darkest shadows is a significant yardstick by which almost every digital camera is measured. This was a particularly important aspect of the Alexa demo, as the camera has a 4:3 ALEV III CMOS 2880 x 1620 sensor with a base EI of 800 ISO, and boasts an exposure latitude of 131⁄2 stops. Arri wanted to see the camera in daylight, low light and highcontrast scenarios and with greenscreen visual-effects scenes, so Nicholson wrote a World Cup-themed story that would incorporate those elements. The plan to unveil the film at the Directors Guild of America ahead of NAB 2010 became a major challenge when the Alexa delivery schedule was altered, pushing production back to a week before the scheduled April 6 premiere. This left Nicholson and
12 September 2010

cinematographer Dana Christiaansen only a few hours to familiarize themselves with the camera. Nicholson and Christiaansen knew they’d be working with certain limitations. Their prototype Alexa would only shoot at 24 fps with a 180-degree shutter at ASA 800. ArriRaw wasn’t available at the time, so they would be capturing 10-bit 4:4:4 DPX files in Log C on the A camera, and 30 fps ProRes 4:2:2 on the handheld B camera. They had just enough time to check their lenses, Arri Master Primes and Angenieux Optimo 15-40mm and 24-290mm zooms, and get their signals straight before their first day of shooting. “We didn’t even have time to shoot charts or latitude tests,” Christiaansen laments. “We knew very little about the camera except its ISO rating, and that it had a 3.5K-resolution Bayer-style chip.” Unlike the D-20 and D-21, the Alexa does not feature an optical viewfinder and rotating shutter. Instead, it has a 1280x720-pixel F-LCOS (ferroelectric liquid crystal on silicon) EVF and a 5-to-359-degree electronic shutter, making it much lighter than a model with optical parts. (An Alexa with optical parts is in the pipeline for a late 2010 release.) Two days of photography were scheduled, one day exterior and one night exterior. The film begins at night with a group of kids kicking a Hacky Sack around an abandoned alley. The sack gets kicked over a fence, and a kindly, old caretaker lets the kids in to retrieve it, then tosses them a soccer ball. More players show up to join the impromptu game, and suddenly, the bridge above them splits open, showering the vacant lot with sunlight. The kids find themselves in a huge outdoor stadium, playing for real. Christiaansen and Nicholson started with the day exteriors,

American Cinematographer

Photos and frame grabs courtesy of Stargate Studios.



American Cinematographer - September 2010

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of American Cinematographer - September 2010

American Cinematographer - September 2010
Contents
Editor’s Note
President’s Desk
Short Takes: Alexa “World Cup” demo
Production Slate: Eat Pray Love • The Milk of Sorrow
Mob Money (Boardwalk Empire)
War Horses (The Expendables)
A Beatle’s Upbringing (Nowhere Boy)
Romans on the Run (Centurion)
Where Cinematography Lives (ASC Clubhouse Renovation)
Post Focus: Lottery Ticket
Filmmakers’ Forum: David McFarland on Black Tulip
New Products & Services
International Marketplace
Classified Ads/Ad Index
ASC Membership Roster
Clubhouse News
ASC Close-Up: Dejan Georgevich
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - American Cinematographer - September 2010
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Cover2
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 1
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 2
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Contents
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 4
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 5
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 6
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 7
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Editor’s Note
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 9
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - President’s Desk
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 11
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Short Takes: Alexa “World Cup” demo
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 13
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 14
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 15
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 16
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 17
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Production Slate: Eat Pray Love • The Milk of Sorrow
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 19
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 20
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 21
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 22
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 23
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 24
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 25
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 26
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 27
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 28
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 29
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 30
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 31
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 32
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 33
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Mob Money (Boardwalk Empire)
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 35
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 36
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 37
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 38
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 39
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 40
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 41
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 42
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 43
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American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 45
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 46
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 47
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 48
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 49
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - War Horses (The Expendables)
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 51
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 52
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 53
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 54
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 55
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 56
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 57
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 58
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 59
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 60
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 61
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 62
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 63
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - A Beatle’s Upbringing (Nowhere Boy)
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 65
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 66
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 67
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 68
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 69
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 70
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 71
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 72
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 73
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Romans on the Run (Centurion)
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 75
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 76
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 77
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 78
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 79
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 80
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 81
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Where Cinematography Lives (ASC Clubhouse Renovation)
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 83
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 84
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 85
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Post Focus: Lottery Ticket
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 87
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 88
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 89
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Filmmakers’ Forum: David McFarland on Black Tulip
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 91
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 92
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 93
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - New Products & Services
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 95
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 96
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 97
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 98
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 99
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 100
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 101
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 102
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 103
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - International Marketplace
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Classified Ads/Ad Index
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 106
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 107
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - ASC Membership Roster
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 109
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Clubhouse News
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - 111
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - ASC Close-Up: Dejan Georgevich
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Cover3
American Cinematographer - September 2010 - Cover4
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