DEFINITION July 2022 - Newsletter

The latest issue of Definition is now available and, we have to admit, it’s out of this world! Whether it’s interviews with the creative minds behind some of the planet’s biggest shows you’re after, or deep dives into new opportunities created by the latest tech developments, it’s all here. We’ve selected just a few of this month’s stellar features below, but be sure to seek out the issue to get the full picture.



Rise of the robots The artificial intelligence changing how we work

Printed in the UK



Small is beautiful Arri looks to its past to deliver diminutive, cutting-edge Alexa 35



Caleb Heymann creates the darkest Stranger Things yet, plus the metaverse – what it is, why it matters to you



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H onesty is the best policy, or at least that’s what my mum used to tell me. So, cards on the table, before we started working on this issue, I had no idea what the metaverse was. It was a construct that my ageing brain struggled to conceive, let alone grasp what opportunities it presents. Ditto cryptocurrencies. If you’re in the same boat, may I suggest that you head to this month’s round table feature (page 51) in which key industry figures explain its potential. For those seeking more traditional Definition fare, this issue also has much to offer. We’ve got the detail on the Alexa 35, Arri’s first camera launch in three years, plus a fascinating insight into the Netflix mega-franchise that is Stranger Things . Not only did DOP Caleb Heymann have to deal with the pressure of working on one of the world’s biggest shows... he had the added spice of shooting as productions emerged from Covid-enforced lockdowns. I mentioned last month that I’m keen to get feedback on the magazine. You can always get in touch on the email below, but I’ll also be at Euro Cine Expo in early July, so feel free to tap me on the shoulder. Just don’t ask for an explanation of bitcoin.

Roger Payne



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ADVERTISING SALES DIRECTOR Sam Scott-Smith 01223 499457 SENIOR ACCOUNTS EXECUTIVE Emma Stevens 01223 499462 DESIGN DESIGN DIRECTOR Andy Jennings DESIGNER Lucy Woolcomb JUNIOR DESIGNER Hedzlynn Kamaruzzaman AD PRODUCTION Man-Wai Wong


Definition is published monthly by Bright Publishing Ltd, Bright House, 82 High Street, Sawston, Cambridge CB22 3HJ. No part of this magazine can be used without prior written permission of Bright Publishing Ltd. Definition is a registered trademark of Bright Publishing Ltd. The advertisements published in Definition that have been written, designed or produced by employees of Bright Publishing Ltd remain the copyright of Bright Publishing Ltd and may not be reproduced without the written consent of the publisher. The content of this publication does not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. Prices quoted in sterling, euros and US dollars are street prices, without tax, where available or converted using the exchange rate on the day the magazine went to press.

EDITORIAL DIRECTOR Roger Payne FEATURES WRITER Lee Renwick CHIEF SUB EDITOR Alex Bell SUB EDITORS Matthew Winney & Harriet Williams CONTRIBUTORS Verity Butler, Adam Duckworth, Matty Graham, Mel Noonan & Phil Rhodes


Cover image Stranger Things | © Netflix. All Rights Reserved.




3. JULY 2022

Industry 17 THE EURO ZONE

The global show tour lands in Munich in July. We look at what to expect – and the stands you should make a beeline for 51 E NTER THE METAVERSE  What is it and how is it going to affect your work? Our panel of industry experts answer these questions and many more



Production 06 GOING UP TO ELEVEN

DOP Caleb Heymann discusses how he delivered the darkest series yet of Netflix behemoth Stranger Things



Massive LED volume leads to a shipshape look for HBO Max’s pirate comedy Our Flag Means Death


Jason Ewart explains how Steadicam Volt helped him ensure footage was stirring, not shaken, on No Time to Die



Arri has unveiled its first new camera in three years – the Alexa 35. Find out what’s packed into these compact dimensions



Far from a celluloid relic, anamorphics are enjoying a renaissance. We round up the key players for all budgets


Mavo Edge 6K looks heaven-sent for independents. Is it?


’Bots of options for moviemakers seeking automated ease




Pore over key kit specifications

5. JULY 2022


Stranger Things is back for a fourth season and, as DOP Caleb Heymann tells us, it’s arguably his most challenging project yet Going up to Eleven

WORDS. Roger Payne IMAGES. Netflix



Did you know? The original name for Stranger Things was Montauk, a nod to Steven Spielberg’s Jaws . The New York village was the setting of the iconic film’s fictional Amity Island. The Duffer Brothers were inspired by the works of Spielberg, among others.

07. JULY 2022


CAN’T GET A BREAK Being a teenager is rough at the best of times, but growing up in Hawkins is something else

S pare a thought for Caleb Heymann. In late 2019, the sci-fi-loving cinematographer landed a dream job – working with the Duffer Brothers as one of two DOPs on Season 4 of Stranger Things . He’d already read the scripts of the supernatural horror-drama and spent the next four months prepping to take the reins for four episodes. But just as shooting was due to start, the industry was turned upside down. The US – along with most of the world – went into Covid-19 lockdown, and production was delayed until August 2020. “We felt like guinea pigs, as we were one of the first shows to start up again,” recalls Heymann. “Only certain people could go into red zones with the actors, we had to work out who was staying in the green and yellow zones, whether you had to wrap equipment in plastic or even have a drink. It was a journey into the unknown. “A couple of times an actor tested positive, and we had to come up with something else to shoot – there was no way we couldn’t work for a week once we’d restarted,” he continues. “There was always some other piece to do, but often it wasn’t planned. So, rather than being in this distinctive block system where you’d be working on two episodes at a time, in the first few weeks we were doing scenes from episodes 7, 8 and 9 that hadn’t been fully prepped. “It was a real nightmare for continuity, because you were locking in hair and make-up, the look of bruises and the way dirt was falling on somebody, for something you’re going to be shooting

in nine months’ time. We were often tackling seven episodes in a week, or four episodes in a single day, just to always be shooting something.” Talking last month, Heymann appears to have emerged unscathed from what he describes as ”a full year of crazy, long weeks and hard work”, putting much of his sanity down to his meticulous paperwork admin, paired with galleries of stills shot on-set. “The Duffer Brothers knew what they wanted, so it was always just a conversation away. But I needed spreadsheets!” he smiles. “They were colour-coded for different storylines, each had a one-line description of what happens in a scene and any special equipment we needed. Between that and the stills that detailed all the set-ups, it was the only way to keep sane!” In truth, Heymann wasn’t a complete – erm – stranger to the show. He’d worked as second unit DOP on Season 3, giving him a first taste of a giant production, but was more used to working on independent films, only shooting his first feature in 2015. The big break came in 2018 when director Leigh Janiak – herself a young director – brought him in as DOP for the Fear Street trilogy, eschewing the typical route of employing a seasoned veteran for the camera work. “With a young director, the natural thing to do is get an experienced DOP,” confirms Heymann, “but Leigh and I had known each other for a while, and she responded to the lookbook I put together.” As a new project, Heymann had been able to define and influence the look of the Fear Street films from the

“In the first few weeks we were doing scenes from episodes 7, 8 and 9 that hadn’t been fully prepped. It was a real nightmare for continuity”

DAYLIGHT SAVING Tracking character development through sensitive visuals is key to the show’s success



outset, but what of Stranger Things ? An undeniable jewel in the Netflix crown, and with three seasons already out in the wild, all with their own predefined aesthetic, surely he would have some degree of creative restriction? “We didn’t inherit lighting diagrams or rule books from seasons past – there was inherent trust that you are going to continue in the spirit of the show and what’s already been established visually,” explains Heymann. “From reading the scripts, I knew we were using new locations that we could define the look for. One of the first things we did was develop lookbooks to tease out how the overall mood, tonality and colour palette for these locations would appear. But the sets that had been used before – like the basement where the characters play Dungeons & Dragons – you want to respect that and not have too much of a departure. “Without a doubt this is the darkest, most adult season to date,” he continues. “In Season 4, the story expands beyond Hawkins. You have the California storyline with Joyce, Jonathan, Eleven and Will, which we wanted to have its own look and feel – warmer, pastels, sunnier – but also a harshness that felt threatening. Then you have the Russian storyline where Hopper is, which is darker, low-lit, moody and very cool. It leans into the

blues, but also with old-school practicals, like uncorrected fluorescents and sodium- vapour lights. “Hawkins was very colourful in Season 3, particularly the Starcourt Mall, but in the wake of where everything left off, it’s now a much more sombre tone. Even if we were shooting scenes in the school, we made it as dark as possible, turning off many of the overheads to bring in shadows and silhouettes. Similarly, Max is living in a trailer park with her alcoholic mother. We tried to make that gritty, so it looked like 8 Mile , with uncorrected fluorescents and dirty colour temperatures. We also shot handheld in the trailer park – an approach which hadn’t been used in the show, providing a unique sense of immediacy.” Further new ground was trodden in the choice of cameras and lenses. Previous seasons had been shot on different flavours of Red – the Dragon for Season 1, Helium for Season 2

“We didn’t inherit lighting diagrams or rule books from seasons past – there was inherent trust that you are going to continue in the spirit of the show and what has already been established visually”

Did you know? Charlie Heaton, who plays Jonathan Byers in Stranger Things , also starred in Heymann’s first feature film As You Are . Heaton was in the middle of casting for Stranger Things during shooting, and wasn’t allowed to shave his hair for the feature once he landed the part.

COLD CASE Chief Jim Hopper’s explosive end to Season 3 now sees him in the chilling surroundings of a Soviet prison



RUNNING UP THAT HILL The strength of Kate Bush’s music helps fight the powers of evil

and Monstro for Season 3 – along with Leica optics; Summicrons initially, then Thalias when the cameras switched from Super 35 to full-frame. This reliance on Reds was largely down to Netflix’s 4K requirements, but also because they were integral to the show’s look. “We tested out the Reds alongside the Arri Alexa LF and Mini LF, plus six or seven different lenses,” says Heymann. “We quickly found that we could achieve the same look with Arri that both Lachlan [Milne, second DOP on Season 4] and I were more accustomed to. It gave us a slight edge in the highlights. “After a season of Thalias on the Monstro, everyone was accustomed to the field of view that comes from full- frame, so we stuck with that, but it means limitations in terms of optics. We settled on Camtec Falcons – primarily rehoused Canon FD lenses. The older coatings give a certain texture, there’s more highlight halation, warmth and flare. It gave us enhanced texture, whereas the Thalias were cleaner, more pristine. “With the Mini LF, we could meet the 4K requirements, but in smaller form, so we’d mix and match according to requirements. It still had the look we wanted once the colourists were able to do an Alexa version of the show LUT. We kept one LUT throughout and there’s no DIT, so a lot of the look comes from lighting. “We used very little white light and the camera was rarely set to a tungsten or daylight colour temperature – it was often somewhere between 3800 and 4200K. Then you have a practical that’s

ON THE BRIGHT SIDE Set in 1986, Season 4 captures the riotous colours of the decade, alongside more sinister aspects

Did you know? Episode 1 of Season 4 includes a huge pep rally with 300 extras, originally slated to shoot early in production, but was delayed due to Covid-19. It was eventually completed in a post-vaccine world, late in the spring of 2021.

task at hand. Despite this, Heymann remained undaunted, employing principles he’d learned on $1-2 million indie films. “Ultimately, regardless of the budget, the same rules apply. It’s just a question of how big the spaces are and how many tools you have to control it, becoming more about communication,” he explains. “It takes a while to figure out how this giant machine operates. This is especially pertinent with

really warmed up, often sitting at 2800 or 2600K especially for night work, so you have this colour contrast,” Heymann asserts. “Depending on the mood of the scene and where you want daylight to be reading, we’d go with a cold sun when the characters’ emotional states called for something stark or foreboding.” With the aesthetics nailed down, execution became primary – along with an appreciation of the scale of the

13. JULY 2022


Did you know? Heymann’s

initial interest in filmmaking came from his mother, who asked him to shoot a documentary she was directing on the civil war in Sierra Leone.

GOING WEST Following Season 3’s events, half the central characters are in California – leading to stark contrasts in visual landscapes and lighting

LIGHT IT UP The expansion of locations gave the DOP much to play with

second units. You’re trying to tie together scenes that had a certain look the last time you saw them because one director was working, then the next episode has a completely different visual with a new director! Bridging that gap is about being prepared, but also who you converse with, which members of the crew you tap into.” As if to prove this point, Heymann explains one of the more complex scenes, which takes place on water. “Eddie – a new character – has a lakeside boathouse. There’s a sequence at night that involves stunts levitating above the water and also extensive set pieces underwater,” he tells us. “We were shooting in multiple seasons – the story takes place during spring break – so we needed the trees to be slightly green and the water to not be so frigid that people couldn’t get in it. We had to shoot some in winter, some in spring, and bridge those together. Then

“Initially booked as DOP for four episodes, he ended up completing a total of seven, and is now in line for potential Emmy success”

and the fact it’s all getting shot six months apart, was pretty insane!” Insane perhaps, but Heymann’s relative lack of big-time experience did not hamper his creative input. Initially booked as DOP for four episodes, he ended up completing a total of seven, and is now in line for potential Emmy success. Legions of fans will be relishing the return of Stranger Things for a fifth season. And should Heymann be called, he’ll be ready to turn his world Upside Down once more.

some on a stage in a purpose-made 50ft water tank. “There’s an underwater rift with interactive lighting, which one of the characters gets pulled through at the bottom of the tank. But then it had to be flipped upside down with the top of the tank appearing as the bottom of the lake, so the lighting had to be reversed. There are a number of shots like this where you’re moving from one world the right side up, into the Upside Down where you have to match the speed of movement and the framing – and then pop out on a different set. The logistics of figuring that out, especially with the underwater set

Watch Stranger Things Season 4 on Netflix

15. JULY 2022


London? Tick. Vegas? Tick. LA? Tick. The show circuit rolls into Munich next month – here’s why you should head over The Euro zone

WORDS. Roger Payne

T he 2022 show calendar continues apace, with Euro Cine Expo in Munich the next stop on 1 and 2 July. The city’s Zenith Kulturhalle will be full of the latest tech. And with Team Definition in attendance, may we be so bold as to suggest it’s a must-visit, if you’re in Europe or further afield! A fantastic venue, the Kulturhalle is not only the perfect place to get hands-on

special two-day workshop hosted by Arri, and presentations from Sony & Kropac Media, Band Pro & Angénieux, Lightbridge and Dedo Weigert to name a few. Entry is free to visitors – register now at By way of preparation, here you’ll find a hand-picked selection of companies at the show, so you can start planning your visit. We’ll see you there.

with kit from an ever-growing number of exhibitors, there are also outdoor spaces, bars and a comprehensive programme of seminars, panel discussions and presentations to sink your teeth into. Highlights include conversations with three-time Academy Award-winning cinematographer Vittorio Storaro AIC ASC (1 July) and renowned German DOP Armin Franzen (2 July). Plus, there’s a

Hawk-Woods Stand 313

Power giant Hawk-Woods has over 30 years’ experience in the industry and offers a broad range of solutions. Recent shows have given the company a chance to display the MXB-880 – a solid, but lightweight battery with an in-built charger that boasts 880Wh in a small form, weighing just 7.2kg. It’s the first battery designed within Hawk-Woods’ new Mini range, and has received glowing reviews so far. More recent additions include new B-Lock mount batteries and the VL-SV2 V-Lok adapter for the Sony Venice 2. This provides peace of mind that continuous power is being delivered to the camera.

SINGULAR SPACE Zenith Kulturhalle is a unique location. Originally a railway repair shop, it now hosts concerts and exhibitions

Creamsource Stand 208

Lighting the way for productions globally, Euro Cine Expo is a chance to see some new Creamsource additions. It unveiled an update to CreamOS firmware, with improved creative control in 2.0. If it’s gear you want, check out the Vortex4, a 1x1ft 325W LED. With a CCT range from 2200-15,000K and IP65 weather resistance, it’s perfect for all conditions!

17. JULY 2022


Arri Stand 220

CVP Stand 222

An easy-to-recall stand number for a booth sure to be one to remember. If CVP’s presence at BSC Expo is anything to go by, the premium retailer will showcase many of its wares, with opportunities to pick the brains of a resident expert. Monitor walls, lens bars, virtual and live production spaces, services and repairs – it’s like bringing the website to life!

An ideal chance to see the new Alexa 35 (see page 22 for more). Arri’s latest Super 35 was launched in May, with a compact form housing a 4K sensor with 17 stops of dynamic range. Arri Textures and Reveal Color Science image processing feature, as part of a suite of tools soon available in third-party post-production solutions.

Core SWX Stand 400

fleet, since they can be used as either 14v or 28v packs, charge on existing chargers, and sustain up to 20A at 14v – and 10A at 28v.

With three brands on one stand, there’s sure to be plenty of buzz from Creative Solutions, especially when you consider that SmallHD, Teradek and Wooden Camera have all had new additions in recent weeks. Top of the SmallHD pile is the OLED 27 editing monitor, while Teradek’s Serv 4K enhances workflow Creative Solutions Stand 314 To future-proof customers for the range of high-voltage cameras coming this year, Core SWX is showing off its award-winning Maverick mobile power station and Helix Max battery packs. The Maverick is the next-generation, all-encompassing block battery system for cinema and lighting applications. The 639Wh NiMH pack was built for high-demand situations, as it’s capable of sustaining up to 20A draw on both 14v and 28v outputs simultaneously (40A total), while its internal charger can charge the pack back up in five hours. The Helix Max series are dual-voltage onboard battery packs available in 98Wh and 147Wh, in V-Mount, 3-Stud and the new Arri B-Mount platform. These units integrate seamlessly into one’s battery

Aputure Stand 212

Curious about the lights Aputure has to offer? The company has a reputation as an up-and-coming LED manufacturer and is bound to spark the interest of industry professionals. The Europe team will be at Euro Cine Expo, bringing you up to speed on new developments and telling you everything about the recently released LS 600c Pro, LS 1200d Pro and Nova P600c flagship models, among others.

with local and external stakeholders, by streaming content at every stage of the production process in glorious 4K HDR. Its MDR.S, meanwhile, is the latest addition to the company’s RT system and is incredibly small – half the size of the current MDR.X – weighing just 68g and measuring 58x24x42mm. The unit features three ports: a power port that

supports up to 28v, a camera control port and a motor port to daisy-chain up to three motors, for a cleaner build.



Schneider-Kreuznach Stand 308

ISCOspherical A+ cine primes offer 43, 58 and 85mm focal lengths and a 2.4 T stop. They are versions of Dulens Mini Primes, matching the ISCORAMA style, which is why they are provided with an ISCOspherical Amber Coating (A+).

If this issue’s anamorphics feature (page 38) has you reaching for your wallet, the Schneider-Kreuznach stand is well worth a visit. It will display the ISCO4all, combining three stand-alone spherical cine primes along with an ISCORAMA anamorphic front adapter. The three

Astera Stand 112

Based not far from the Euro Cine Expo venue, the Astera crew have no reason to miss the show! They’ll be demonstrating their broad range of lights, from tubes – including the award-winning Titan Tube, developed with the help of cinematographers and gaffers – through to spotlights. Not to mention the diminutive, but versatile Pixel Brick, which can be used individually or in an array. If it’s battery-powered, remote-controlled lighting you seek, look no further.

Vocas Stand 501

The Netherlands-based manufacturer is on a mission to provide high-quality, innovative and ergonomic accessories for film and video professionals, producing both universal and dedicated extras. Don’t miss the opportunity to see its new range, including the Level Marker – a clever tool that helps you correctly align your camera’s horizon – alongside add-ons for the Sony Venice 2 and Red V-Raptor, among others. On top of that, its booth will also contain the complete line-up of popular accessories for the Sony FX6, PXW-FX9 and Red Komodo cinema cameras.

Zeiss Stand 218

Radiance family, known for stunning blue flares, and the new CinCraft Mapper VFX studio software solution. A digital service that provides frame-accurate lens distortion and shading data both quickly and easily, Mapper is the first service in the CinCraft ecosystem for the digital application of lens looks into compositing and matchmoving workflows.

Zeiss recently completed its 14-piece Supreme Prime series, which now runs from 15 to 200mm following the addition of the 15mm T1.8. Upholding the company’s reputation for outstanding quality and versatility, the lens provides a wide view for Super 35 and full-frame cameras. Delivery is expected this month. Euro Cine Expo gives you the chance to experience the Supreme Prime

19. JULY 2022


Irix Stand 104

A fledgling member of the cine lens fraternity perhaps, but Irix has still amassed an impressive range of optics in a relatively short period of time. The current crop comprises six 8K-ready optics ranging from 11 to 150mm, that can either be bought singly or in one of three sets: Entry, Extreme and Production. The most recent addition is the full-frame 21mm T1.5 which, like all Irix Cine optics, has a front size of 95mm and geared Mod 0.8 M rings. This ensures compatibility with most accessories available on the market.

Sigma Stand 402

LCA Stand 208

With a rich optical history, Sigma Cines are available in four ranges – and Euro Cine Expo is the best place to discover them. Compatible with a full-frame image sensor, the FF Zoom Line offers the outstanding optical performance required for high-resolution shooting in 6K to 8K. Similarly, optics in the High Speed Zoom Line offer a constant aperture of T2 throughout the zoom range. If it’s primes you’re after, the High Speed Prime Line claims cutting-edge performance on all its optics, from 14 to 135mm.

The self-proclaimed one-stop shop for all film and TV lighting needs, LCA has been in Germany since September 2021 – opening a state-of-the-art showroom in Berlin late last year, to complement branches in Paris and High Wycombe. Euro Cine Expo sees the company show off the new Auroris: with 24 large format pixels, this 3x3m LED fixture is ultra-slim, with cinema-quality white light, full-spectrum colour and a range of accessories. Alongside that will be lighting from a range of manufacturers like Creamsource, Litepanels and Dedolight, as well as grip kit from Manfrotto and more.

Leitz Stand 318

One of the world’s leading premium cine lens manufacturers, Leitz is offering Euro Cinegoers the chance to view its line-up of full-frame optics, including stunning zooms, high-speed primes and recently announced, character-rich Elsie primes. Taking the name of Ernst Leitz’s granddaughter, the range comprises 13 lenses between 15 and 150mm. Each one features a T2.1 aperture, designed from

the ground up as premium cine glass with full-frame performance and consistency in size and speed, to serve a broad variety of productions.

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Arri flexes its muscles with a new camera that harks back to the company’s formative years History repeats itself

C ast your mind back to Underground map was unveiled to the public and 21-year-old Erich Kaestner first walked through the doors at Arri. Kaestner joined as a product designer, and was tasked with penning a new model featuring a reflex viewfinder. In 1936, a working prototype was paraded, before a production version – the Arriflex 35 – was premiered at Leipzig a year later. The camera used a spinning mirror to provide WYSIWYG parallax-free viewing. But, of equal importance, 1933. Franklin D. Roosevelt became the 32nd US president, the London it was lightweight and portable. Revolutionary and revelatory in equal measure, the Arriflex 35 established a new standard. Fast-forward to 2022 and it’s no coincidence that Arri’s latest model – the Alexa 35 – bears a similar moniker to its 85-year-old

predecessor. Small, rugged and giving filmmakers more creative control, its compact dimensions no longer mean compromise. Previous Alexa models have been available in two flavours: one larger, fully specified, the other smaller, but with trimmed functionality. Not so here. The Alexa 35 is small in size, but packs a hefty punch. A veritable Floyd Mayweather Jr for the modern cinematographer. Like many companies in the 21st century, Arri bases at least some of its product development on user feedback. According to managing director Stephan Schenk, resolution was top of the list this time around, without any adverse effects on image quality, naturally. Other requested developments included more creative choices for the user and improved handling of highlights. If those were on your Arri wish list, you’ll be delighted to hear

TOTAL PACKAGE The compact, yet fully featured Alexa 35 hones in on resolution and dynamic range



23. JULY 2022


all have been addressed, alongside some other pretty significant milestones for the brand. REVEALING ALL Let’s start with the ALEV 4 CMOS sensor, which deserves top billing by virtue of the fact it’s the first new light-catcher Arri has made in 12 years. Super 35 in format, it offers native 4K – or 4.6K to be precise – at up to 120fps. At 3:2 in Open Gate, you have 4068x3164 pixels at your disposal. A Super 35 sensor broadens the range of lenses that can be used on the camera – modern, vintage, anamorphic or spherical – with the 27.99x19.22mm sensor offering an imaging circle nearly 34mm in diameter. If you have a 4K mandate to fulfil, lens choice shouldn’t be limited. Equally impressive is the expanded dynamic range, which now measures 17 stops – 1.5 of those are in the highlights and the rest in the shadows, with Arri claiming this range is far wider than any other digital cinema camera. Stray light suppression in both camera and lens mount

FEATURE-PACKED Throwback and visionary at once, the Alexa 35 boasts a familiar name but brand-new sensor

ensures the full contrast range of any lens is captured by the sensor, and the increased dynamic range makes the Alexa 35 well-suited to HDR projects. Either way, the extra flexibility is sure to be welcomed by colourists all over the world. Sensitivity ranges from ISO 160 to 6400, with the native setting at ISO 800. An Enhanced Sensitivity

“Equally impressive is the expanded dynamic range, which now measures 17 stops – 1.5 of those are in the highlights and the rest in the shadows”



captured with an Alexa 35 can easily be intercut with older Alexa or Amira footage, while Alexa LF/ Mini LF Arri Raw files can use the Reveal Color Science workflow. The advancements result in better skin tones, improved colour saturation and more accurate colour tracking when footage is heavily over or underexposed. It should save time in the grade, too. TEXTURAL HEALING The Alexa 35 is the first model to feature Arri Textures, which enable you to bake specific looks into footage, just as you would if choosing a particular film stock. Previous models had a default applied, but here the choice is all yours. Textures essentially control the appearance of both grain and sharpness. The K445 Default setting provides a clean, smooth

Mode can be applied when using ISO 2560 or 6400 to deliver cleaner, less granular footage – unless you are going for that gritty and noisy look, of course. Allied to the sensor is a new image processor in the form of Reveal Color Science. This is built into the camera, but part of a wider suite of tools that will be available in third-party post-production solutions when processing Arri Raw files. Reveal includes an improved de-Bayering algorithm, for cleaner compositing that converts Raw data into native RGB image data; a new colour engine; wide-gamut colour space for faster grading; LogC4 encoding to contain increased dynamic range; and LogC4 LUTs for improved colour fidelity. The good news is that all these developments are also backwards-compatible – footage

Complete the set

New features and functionality haven’t stopped at the Alexa 35 body – some tasty new accessories are lined up too. Let’s start with power, which comes from the latest B-Mount, developed in conjunction with Bebob. The Alexa 35 is a 24v camera, with the new mount supporting 3x as much power as existing 12v systems. B-Mount is not proprietary, it’s an industry-wide system with a number of companies in support, and all major battery manufacturers expected to be on board by the end of this year. The Alexa 35 is also the first to feature a modular design with optional electronic modules that offer expanded functionality, giving users the flexibility to have a small rig, or build it out. The Power Distribution Module (PDM-1) adds an extra seven power outputs, providing up to 150W of accessory power via 24v and 12v connectors, along with a D-Tap connection underneath. The Audio Extension Module (AEM-1), meanwhile, is made by Sonosax and has two channels of microphone preamp, a stereo digital input, two additional power outputs and a headphone socket. Alongside these, Arri has also produced two accessory sets. The Lightweight version is meant for owner-operators or smaller crews, and

WELL-CONNECTED Extensive input and output options mean the Alexa 35 is a versatile machine (below)

“The advancements result in better skin tones, improved colour saturation and more accurate colour tracking when footage is heavily over or underexposed”

comprises a lightweight, carbon-fibre top handle

with a choice of two shoulder pads. In contrast, the Production set offers a more traditional

camera production arrangement – with a viewfinder mounting bracket attaching to a larger top handle, the

third-gen compact bridge plate, a side bracket and articulated mounting plate.

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Key specifications

SENSOR TYPE Super 35 format Arri ALEV 4 CMOS MAXIMUM NUMBER OF PHOTOSITES 4608x3164 ACTIVE IMAGE AREA From 4.6K 3:2 Open Gate: 4608x3164 to 2K 16:9 S16: 2048x1152

AUDIO INPUT 1x Lemo 6-pin balanced stereo line in with 12v power output. 2x built-in microphones AUDIO OUTPUT SDI (embedded), 3.5mm stereo headphone jack (on MVF-2) INTERFACES 1x LBUS (Lemo 4-pin), 1x Serial (Lemo 4-pin) 1x TC (Lemo 5-pin) 1x ETH (Lemo 10-pin) 1x Sync in (BNC) 1x Ret in (BNC, switchable on SDI 2) 1x USB-C, 1x rear interface (18-pin Pogo) 1x top interface (5-pin Pogo) WIRELESS INTERFACES Built-in Wi-Fi module (IEEE 802.11b/g). Built-in white radio for Arri ECS lens and camera control LENS MOUNTS Arri LPL mount (LBUS) Arri PL to LPL adapter Arri PL mount (LBUS) Arri PL mount (Hirose) Arri EF mount (LBUS) Leitz M mount for Arri POWER INPUT 1x PWR (Lemo 8-pin) 1x BAT (camera rear interface/battery adapter) 20.5 to 33.6 V DC


EXPOSURE INDEX Adjustable from EI 160 to 6400 in 1/3 stops


MXF/Arriraw, MXF/Apple ProRes 4444 XQ, MXF/ Apple ProRes 4444, MXF/ Apple ProRes 422 HQ RECORDING MEDIA Codex Compact Drive 1TB or 2TB COLOUR OUTPUT Rec. 709, Rec. 2020, Rec. 2100 PQ, Rec. 2100 HLG, LogC4, Custom Look (Arri Look File ALF-4) WHITE-BALANCE Manual and auto, adjustable from 2000K to 11,000K in 10K steps.

“The eagle-eyed will notice a display on the left-hand side of the body that allows setting changes to be made without the viewfinder”

look, G733 Nostalgic softens and increases grain, while F567 Clarity sharpens and deepens blacks – to my ageing eyes, at least. There are more than these three to choose, so expect some time testing to decide on your favourite starting point. Certain features may be familiar to existing Arri users. The Alexa 35 uses the same MVF-2 viewfinder as the Alexa Mini LF, but this now offers HDR monitoring on top of SDR. Similarly, it supports 1TB and 2TB Codex Compact Drives. But the eagle-eyed will notice a new display on the left-hand side of the weather-resistant body that allows setting changes to be made without the viewfinder. That’s perfect if the camera is mounted to a drone, or for Steadicam use. Further additions include a pre-recording capability, additional user buttons and Advanced Color Match, which ensures footage from multiple Alexa 35s all look the same. A total of 19 recording formats are available, giving productions ultimate flexibility. For the sake of brevity, I won’t list them all, but it’s safe to say all bases are covered, including in-camera downsampling and anamorphic de-squeezing. Lens metadata can be recorded in

all common standards, then output as real-time streaming metadata to Arri’s plug-in for Unreal Engine. If it’s connections you seek, the Alexa 35 hits the spot. There are two SDI outputs, a sync in port for genlock, 12v and 24v power output connectors and the same time and audio connectors as the Mini LF. An ECS antenna provides wireless control with compatible units, the Ethernet port is ideal for real-time streaming, and Wi-Fi antennae provide remote control options. If that’s not enough, consider the AEM-1 optional accessory (see ‘Complete the set’ boxout). Wireless functionality is enhanced with the free Camera Companion app available for iOS and Android, and an Apple Watch version is in the works. The app, compatible with the Alexa Mini and Mini LF, has extra features like the ability to control multiple cameras at the same time, or send frame grabs from camera to phone – and offers a sensor-flip function, from normal to vertical orientation. The Alexa 35 is available for pre-order now, with delivery expected in July.

Colour correction adjustable range from -16 to +16 CC.

1 CC corresponds to 035 Kodak CC values or 1/8 Rosco values FILTERS Built-in motorised ND. Fixed optical low-pass, UV, IR IMAGE OUTPUT 2x VF custom CoaXPress connectors for MVF-2 viewfinder. 2x 12G-SDI (BNC): 422 1.5G HD, 422 3G HD, 444 3G HD, 422 6G UHD, 422 12G UHD, 444 12G UHD

POWER OUTPUT 1x RS (Fischer 3-pin) 1x 12v (Lemo 2-pin) 1x LBUS (Lemo 4-pin) 1x Audio (Lemo 6-pin) 1x ETH (Lemo 10-pin) MEASUREMENTS (HXWXL) 147x152.5x203mm WEIGHT Approx 2.9kg/6.4lb camera body with three antennae and LPL mount (LBUS)



INVESTING IN THE FUTURE As the UK screen industry booms, ScreenSkills is working hard to meet skills needs at every level

IT HAS BEEN an unnerving few years for the industry. On the one hand, streaming giants such as Netflix and Amazon Prime have grown exponentially during the pandemic. On the other, pressures on productions battling to find enough crew to meet demand are higher than they have ever been. Never, for organisations such as ScreenSkills, has it been more imperative to support this new age of television and filmmaking. Enabling continued growth and future innovation across the country, ScreenSkills is investing in the talented and inclusive workforce that’s critical to the global success of the UK screen industry. Christine Healy’s day-to-day role is COO of production company Watford & Essex. But she’s also chair of the ScreenSkills High-end TV Skills Council, comprising industry practitioners who work to inform how the fund invests contributions from TV productions. “Giving my time to work with the High-end TV Skills Fund is a no-brainer,” she explains. “I grew up as a freelancer and this community really acts as a backbone – it’s an area ScreenSkills has a large focus on. “I was fortunate throughout my career to have soft mentoring and informal training, which was invaluable. But as the industry has increased in size, and with high-end TV in particular becoming so prolific, it’s really important that people ensure we are creating opportunities – as well as the right training for those entering the industry.” Healy highlights how even the most practical screen-based careers eventually result in a need for managerial capabilities, as well as the particular skills for that specific trade. “Something that comes up all the time is the fact that, although we have all these talented people, none of them are being trained as managers. While the industry grows, people find themselves with teams to manage as their career progresses. Luckily, it’s now pretty unheard of for a

LEADING THE WAY The work of ScreenSkills is helping to deliver outstanding British content, like The Outlaws

production world lacks – regionally and nationally. The next challenge is getting the message to schools, graduates and people looking for a career change.” There is a phenomenal level of support for ScreenSkills from major players, including the broadcasters and SVODs, as well as indies. This demonstrates an inarguable recognition of the crucial service it provides in upholding worker wellbeing. “It’s all about retention – bringing in diverse people and ensuring that they feel supported every step of the way,” concludes Healy. “It’s impossible to ignore the billions of pounds that screen injects into the UK economy. This needs to be taken seriously, and it’s time to invest in the people that can continue that legacy.”

production company not to include some form of leadership training.” Fortunately, ScreenSkills runs an array of flagship opportunities. “ScreenSkills offers programmes such as Trainee Finder, which brings people in. On top of this, it runs Make a Move and Leaders of Tomorrow, which target mid-level careers. “As those programmes flourish, it also works on getting people into the industry who had never considered it. It’s about helping them understand that you don’t have to follow a traditional path after completing a degree in accountancy, for example. Instead of landing at a firm, they could become a production accountant.” This philosophy could be applied to many traditional career-seekers who still have that creative itch. Carpenters, electricians, decorators – these are all invaluable to production. “We also work to break the stereotype that this is a London-centric industry. ScreenSkills has people like me stationed across the UK, which helps us develop a specialised understanding of what the

29. JULY 2022


In capturing 60K footage and manning a 165ft LED volume for high-seas comedy Our Flag Means Death, Stargate Studios founder Sam Nicholson may just have landed his virtual production white whale Thar she glows!

WORDS. Lee Renwick IMAGES. Warner Media & Sam Nicholson

I f you’ve sat down to watch an episode of Taika Waititi-produced, swashbuckling comedy-romp Our Flag Means Death , you may have been fooled into thinking Rhys Darby and co truly set sail during filming. In fact, what you’re seeing is yet another milestone for in-camera VFX virtual production. Because only one crew took to the seas during the creation of this series, and it was that of Sam Nicholson. “I had collaborated with Mark Costa from HBO on virtual production before,” he explains. “A few years ago, we did a show called Hooligan Squad . It was fully green screen – very ambitious – and we pulled it off. The pilot didn’t go, but it looked fantastic and, for the time, was futuristic. Next, we did Run for HBO, set mostly on a 250ft-long train. We shot plates all across the US, then remapped them onto 40 4K monitors on a set in Toronto. And that worked, too. Both were scary conquests of virtual space. “So I’d worked with HBO, and did some very successful tests with Taika for Akira . It was all on LED and, although that hasn’t been made yet, the footage looked great. As Our Flag Means Death was set to begin, Mark called me and asked, ‘Can we shoot an entire pirate series without leaving a sound stage?’ I have a great team at Stargate that I bring unusual challenges to – and we figure them out.” As planning began, ever-developing virtual production was one leading option for tackling this unique set of circumstances. Building and launching a sailable pirate ship is near impossible within the timescale and budget of even

the largest blockbusters. What’s more attainable is creating plate footage in a technology-driven way. A VAST ARRAY “We only had six weeks of pre-production when the show finally got green-lit,” Nicholson continues. “Rendering water at the scale we were going for was out of the question. David Van Dyke, the visual effects supervisor, and I quickly decided live-action plates were the right decision. “A stabilised array of five Blackmagic Ursa Mini Pro 12K cameras was chosen for three reasons: image quality, data handling and resolution. There’s a lot of risk involved in all production decisions. Hardware dependability and relationships with manufacturers are critical to success. We relied heavily on Blackmagic hardware, for instance – not only in image capture, but also the playback and distribution of assets.” Puerto Rico was the primary location, so Nicholson and his small team of experts set out on a boat for an intensive few weeks of shooting. What began

CHANGE OF SCENERY Many hours of plate footage were captured, to ensure all kinds of weather and light conditions could be screened on the volume



31. JULY 2022


Production Fact File

GENRE Series creator David Jenkins pitched the show as an ‘historical pirate rom-com’

CAST The younger Stede Bonnet is performed by Rhys Darby’s own son, Theo

SCHEDULE Filming took place between June and September 2021

make the sky a little darker, vignette the sun some more, bring a moon in and put it over the left-hand corner of the wall?’ You’re editing on multiple screens at the same time. Once it’s done and looks great, it has to be played at 24 or 48fps. That was definitely a challenge.” As for the missing pieces of the typical puzzle, Resolve was run on custom-built computers, and 14 Nvidia A6000 graphics cards were needed to drive the NEP Sweetwater wall itself. But yet another piece of hardware was relied upon for efficiency and reliability. “We couldn’t have any downtime on set, but we had a backup, which was a

“Access is difficult, you’re swinging around in the waves, weather is harsh and the sun is going down. You don’t want to have to change data”

entire volume, so the crew could point multiple cameras anywhere and still have a usable shot. We didn’t film in the stage based on a frustum philosophy, where only one camera needs to see a single section of the wall at a time. We wanted a playground for the cinematographers. “The water we shot had to be dead still, so it was steady on the wall,” Nicholson continues. ”Thankfully, the resolution and stabilised rig made sure this was possible. After that, we added motion with Unreal Engine. You need perfect material going in; only when it’s redistributed do you start to play with it.” With so much capacity to handle, six synchronised DaVinci Resolve platforms were necessary to drive this particular volume – modified to let crew make full colour and focus adjustments on multiple 8K channels. “Resolve gave us all the control we wanted,” Nicholson adds. “You’re essentially compositing onto a gigantic display. The creatives will ask, ‘Can you

as a full, 360° array with eight cameras was reduced to five. This opened space to stabilise the rig, with plenty of resolution left over thanks to the 12K sensors at play. “Imagine five cameras on top of a boat,” says the DOP, returning to one of his three deciding factors. “Access is difficult, you’re swinging around in the waves, weather is harsh and the sun is going down. You don’t want to have to change data. We found a great solution, putting 4TB Sandisk SSDs on each cam. You’ve got off-the-shelf storage to shoot on all day. Plus, it simplified the DIT lay-off when we got back to the hotel.” But why go so large scale at all? Well, a big ship demands a sizable volume. “Our visual effects team at Stargate stitched the individual recordings together. So, we had a 60K original background, squeezed down into a 20K anamorphic signal, then chopped up through Blackmagic hardware and redistributed to a large 165ft LED wall. Full resolution was required across the

RUNNING A TIGHT SHIP Creating and filling a volume of this size was no small feat. Stede Bonnet’s vessel, the Revenge, was built in three parts – so it could be manoeuvred and filmed as required



CROSSING SWORDS Our Flag Means Death boasts a stellar ensemble cast, led by Rhys Darby and Taika Waititi (top) as real-life pirate legends Stede Bonnet and Blackbeard. In this cut-throat comedy with a surprisingly tender heart, the pair have a somewhat unpredictable relationship



example. In a drama, you have shorter takes. Things are storyboarded, and there’s a lot less improv. When you choose LED volume, you have to take into account the type of content you are shooting. I always feel the tech should not drive the show; the show should drive the tech.” While long hours at sea and complex shooting methods were a necessity in this case, it paid off. It certainly allowed Our Flag Means Death to be created at all – that it was done in spectacular fashion came down to the expertise of creatives like Nicholson. He concludes with a broader look at the future of LED volume. “One day, we may do ICVFX exclusively with rendered images, or a much more viable hybrid fusion. But it isn’t about a camera test, purist philosophy or science experiment. It’s about real production. “Right now, you can order 2000 panels to your doorstep at a day’s notice, but who’s going to drive it? What’s the content? That’s the stumbling block for a lot of shows right now. All that work has to be done in pre-production. What was a green screen post-production workflow is now flipped around. Our assets not only had to be captured, but stitched,

series of 8K HyperDecks. Once we settled on a sequence everyone loved, the camera would repeat the same movements take after take. That meant we could switch to a linear workflow of the perfect rehearsal. We’d record on the multiple HyperDecks and – in sync – these distributed playback over the 20K wall. If a computer crashed, or the ship’s rigging blocked the tracking cameras, it wouldn’t affect the live wall.” FULL SAIL AHEAD As with any aspect of filmmaking, we’re entirely at the mercy of the technology at hand. The cutting edge has its appeal, but balancing that razor-thin line with a budget takes skill. “Production is interesting when you look at it as complex problem-solving,” Nicholson muses. “A lot of the mysterious technical arts, if you will, rely on engineering and hardware capability. If you stepped on-set and had rendered some beautiful water, but it only lasted ten seconds because that’s all your machines could put out, it’s no good. It doesn’t matter how appealing the solution, if it doesn’t fulfil the project’s needs. “We approached this Taika Waititi comedy differently than a drama, for

CUT DOWN TO SIZE The project launched with a large eight-camera array, providing full 360˚ coverage – but it was dropped in favour of the final set-up. Usability was factored against final delivery

stabilised, de-grained, distributed on a massive scale, then rehearsed. You have to make sure the director, DOP and other key parties have seen the material – it has to be worked into the creative pipeline. You wouldn’t build a physical set on the day principal photography begins. We’re building something here, too – it’s just much more complex.” Series one of Our Flag Means Death is on HBO Max in the US, coming to UK screens soon. A second series is in the pipeline

Did you know? Taika Waititi joins Rhys Darby again, after collaborating on Flight of the Conchords (2007), Radiradirah (2010), What We Do in the Shadows (2014) and Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016).

DEEP WELL An absolutely stacked cast includes Kristian Nairn, best known as Hodor from Game of Thrones (far left), and a memorable guest turn from Will Arnett (far right)

35. JULY 2022

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