The world of video is obsessed with resolution, to an extreme. Netflix insists that shows shooting for their platform shoot in 4K or higher resolution, camera companies are pushing higher and higher resolutions, from red digital cinema, that sells cameras that shoot anywhere from 5K to 8K resolutions, to black magic design pushing 12K with their newest camera, aptly named, the Ursa 12K. The highest resolution I have seen thus far, is from a camera called the ACHTEL 9×7, which the creators claim shoots a 18K image, or 260 megapixel image. Together this paints a picture of a world in which resolution is the number one most sought after trait of a camera.
Whatever the reason, resolution is only a small part of the picture, when it comes to capturing compelling images for the screen, the single most used camera in the world for film production, up until very recently, only shot a 2.5K image. just a little over half the resolution Netflix insists all its productions shoot at. The Arri Alexa. Arri is a company that never goes for what is in vogue, instead Arri has always insisted on producing the highest quality products, in a way that creates tangible results that translate to real world use scenarios, not just fancy products that look good on paper. So what made Arri choose to continue to produce, rent, and sell, 2,5K camera for years after everyone else had moved on to creating 4K cameras?
Resolution is only half the picture. and while I can’t say for sure what Arri was thinking, or what they were aiming for, its clear that the Arri Alexa, did have a distinct quality that attracted a lot of very avid fans in the film production world. I believe that what Arri was going for, was to have A: good color, filmic, natural color, and high dynamic range. they sought those out as a priority over resolution, and it paid off in spades. film producers, DP’s and directors all over the world trusted the Arri Alexa as their go to camera for production after production for years, despite the hype around 4K.
While it is possible, very possible indeed to get good colors out of a camera of any resolution (in theory) its clear that resolution should, only be part of the consideration when choosing a camera. I would encourage filmmakers to look at the color quality, and dynamic range of a camera, well before they considered the resolution of that camera.
this is part one of a two part series, my second entry will cover how black magic found, and then lost, some of the best color of any camera on the market period. and how their quest for ever higher resolution undermined the superb image qualities that initially made people fall in love with black magic design cameras. (they still make damn good cameras, but they could have made legendary cameras)