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ALEXA 65 & ARRI RENTAL

Codex has been uniquely positioned to watch the launch and success of the ALEXA 65 with partner ARRI Rental.

 


 




WHAT MAKES ARRI RENTAL UNIQUE?


This amazing camera has already been used on movies like The Revenant, Captain America: Civil War, Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Snowden. We recently talked to CEO Martin Cayzer. . 

What makes ARRI Rental unique? 
With ARRI celebrating its 100-year anniversary next year, that history brings a tremendous depth of knowledge and longstanding customer relationships. To have an ownership that has been in the same family since the very beginning brings a continuity and understanding that is totally unique. Although ARRI Rental is not in itself 100 years old, being part of the ARRI Group gives us access to that history, culture and understanding.



Has the ALEXA 65 changed people’s perceptions of ARRI Rental? 
Yes, I think it has, along with some other initiatives we’ve undertaken.

Until a few years ago, each ARRI rental operation around the world had a different brand – ARRI CSC, ARRI Media, ARRI Rental Deutschland etc. It was a collection of well run businesses, but more of a loose confederation than a unified and connected global group.

The name change to ARRI Rental for each of our businesses is an outward sign that we are now a much more integrated global group. However, the big changes have happened internally. We made the commitment back in 2012 that we wanted to better serve our customers as they travelled around the world as part of the increasingly global film & TV industry. We wanted them to feel that whether it was Berlin, London or Atlanta, the ARRI Rental sign above the door would signal the same high level of service and technology. 

Also, we wanted to move from being a rental company to a rental company that innovates technology. We wanted to develop customized and specialist technology that wasn’t easily available elsewhere to support our creative clients. The ALEXA 65 was the first significant project with that intention.

ARRI had talked about this for a long time but decided it just wasn’t viable as a sales product. It would be very expensive to develop (and therefore sell) and also required new lenses and workflow to make it a complete system. In late 2012 ARRI Rental evaluated the project and decided to take a massive leap and exclusively fund and commission its development as a rental only camera system.

We wanted to maintain the dynamic range, color imagery and all the other successful features of the ALEXA. But we also wanted to add as much resolution as possible, to scale it up and to revisit a format ARRI had already brought to market 25 years ago with the Arriflex 765.

We wanted to have a true 65mm sensor – a digital successor to the larger film formats of 65mm and Vistavision. Size matters and a larger real estate, giving as much resolution as possible, was our aim – still utilizing the same pixels as the standard ALEXA, but a lot more of them.

In fact, our original prediction at the start of the project was that we were developing a digital version of a Vistavision film camera which would be primarily used for VFX, large vista shots, landscapes – where resolution was critical. However, as the ALEXA 65 has exactly the same image characteristics as a standard ALEXA, the majority of the 30 feature films that have used the ALEXA 65 so far have also used it as the Main Unit A-camera.

Crucially, for us this was never just about a camera; it’s a camera system. We took on the task of developing a 65mm lens program that covered the full sensor with our partner IBE. Those lenses have been very successful and we are now in the process of developing more new lens systems and reworking older glass to give a full range of optics.

And of course, we worked closely with Codex for the development of a Codex Vault, which not only manages regular ARRIRAW but also handles the large amount of ALEXA 65 RAW data.

It is a complete package, which could only be brought about by a technology collaboration between ARRI Rental, ARRI R&D, Codex and IBE.

Also, ARRI Rental announced in 2015 a collaborative venture with IMAX. ARRI Rental and IMAX are jointly developing a customized ALEXA 65 for use on IMAX productions - a natural successor to IMAX’s rich heritage of 15-perf 65mm filmmaking.

I think this has been the most important factor that has changed the perception of ARRI Rental – that we can innovate and work with world-class technology partners to make small-volume, complex technology available to our clients.



“IT IS A COMPLETE PACKAGE, WHICH COULD ONLY BE BROUGHT ABOUT BY A TECHNOLOGY COLLABORATION BETWEEN ARRI RENTAL, ARRI R&D, CODEX AND IBE”



Has the camera rental business changed in the last few years?

That’s a good question. Certainly the development of digital single-sensor camera systems has democratized the business, with many new camera rental companies emerging over the past five years. Competition is fiercer than ever and also the range of technology available is growing every year.

This makes it an ever-more challenging environment for us. We have to integrate rapidly changing and diverse technology into our business – making sure that all our staff members are fully trained and that we have the appropriate test equipment and systems.

Also, the business is more geographically diverse and mobile than ever, with global production hotspots appearing and disappearing mainly due to the competitiveness of local tax incentives and currency movements. We are responding to that with local, professional support solutions for our clients.

However, even with all this change, for ARRI Rental the fundamentals still remain the most important for our future: well-trained and motivated employees, an entrepreneurial spirit, strong, loyal partnerships and a fierce commitment to the continuous development of new technologies.




What does the future hold for ARRI Rental?

The last four years have been quite a journey for us; consolidating and improving our businesses around the world, opening new offices, bringing aboard new talented employees and developing new camera, workflow and lens systems.

The next four years will be much the same and will build on this; we plan to open further offices and with support from our partners, really establish ARRI Rental as a technology leader.

With the development of the ALEXA 65, we have seen an enthusiastic embracing of large format cinematography that has not been easily available in the digital world until now. The format esthetic, the resolution and the wide choice of optics we believe will continue to be popular – especially as the management of the large files it produces becomes easier and easier. This will continue to be a substantial development for us and we will create systems that can be available to a wide range of productions – not just big budget, VFX-heavy feature films.

However, the most important aspect of the future is continuing to attract dynamic and experienced new employees to join our team and to help support this growth. Technology and our people have to develop hand-in-hand for us to have success in the future.

We also visited ARRI Rental’s facility in Secaucus, New Jersey where we met Chris MacKarell and Lynn “Gus” Gustafson. Both were heavily involved in the development and roll out of the ALEXA 65 and the accompanying Codex workflow. Like Martin, both emphasized the combination of people and technology that underlies ARRI Rental and has made the ALEXA 65 so successful. Chris, one of ARRI Rental’s workflow experts, explained that without a streamlined, reliable workflow, the ALEXA 65 would not be successful. Codex had proven themselves with the ALEXA XT and so were the natural choice. Codex Vault had the horsepower to keep up with the approximately 2.6 TB hour needed. Chris and Gus both also wanted to mention the contribution of the late Bill Lovell, an early champion of the ALEXA 65 project, who sadly passed away before his vision was realized.





Images courtesy ARRI and respective owners. Behind the scenes images, photo credit, Kimberley French.