ALEXA captures the beauty of Dubai

Babak Amini of Eclipse Production, based in the United Arab Emirates, had his first experience with ALEXA while producing a short promotional film called DEFINITELY DUBAI. Utilizing an ultra-efficient ProRes workflow, Amini and his crew were able to work rapidly in a variety of locations, relying on ALEXA's rugged durability under challenging climatic conditions. Full of stunning images achieved by combining ALEXA with ARRI Ultra Prime and Zeiss CP.2 lenses, DEFINITELY DUBAI was officially presented during the Arabian Travel Market in May; the TVC campaign will air internationally later this year.

Behind the scenes with ALEXA in Dubai

The making of DEFINITELY DUBAI - a short promotional film produced by Babak Amini of Eclipse Production, based in the United Arab Emirates.

ARRI News: Who commissioned this film and what was your brief?

 

Babak Amini: DEFINITELY DUBAI was commissioned by the DTCM (Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing), the official tourist board of the Emirate of Dubai. Eclipse Production has been producing most of the DTCM's international-bound destination films and TVC projects for the past 10 years. This long creative collaboration means we now know our client extremely well, so the concepts we develop are finely tuned to their promotional aspirations.

 

The brief this time was to develop and produce a short destination film promoting Dubai as the city of choice for the most discerning cliental from across the globe. Based on that idea, Eclipse presented a synopsis and a storyboard to the DTCM prior to production. Our concept was approved by the client and shooting began a few weeks later.

Shoot in ProRes, drop it on the FCP timeline and immediately you are ready to edit in full HD! It's as simple and as beautiful as that.

AN: Are there various different versions, of different lengths?

 

BA: The "mother" version is now at 8 m 40 sec head-to-tail in both English and Arabic, but from the outset the concept was designed in such a way as to allow the extraction of shorter versions if needed. We knew that several 30 sec TV spots would have to be edited and finalized after completion of the long version; to date we have produced 13 of these spots, ready to be broadcast on some of the biggest television networks worldwide. In addition, the airline Emirates has shown strong interest in using the film for its inflight programing.

AN: Why was ALEXA chosen for this shoot?

BA: Since the introduction of ALEXA a few years back I have been very keen to use it on one of my productions. It took a while before ALEXA was available in this part of the world, but when the DEFINITELY DUBAI project was given the go-ahead, I knew that this was an ideal opportunity to work with the camera. A combination of many parameters led to us choosing ALEXA over other systems, but the positive response from DPs around the world was obviously a big factor to start with. Once we had gone through testing ALEXA with different workflows and under relatively harsh climatic conditions, we were convinced that this was the way to go.

AN: What advantages did ALEXA have for you as a producer?

BA: The workflow. Shoot in ProRes, drop it on the FCP timeline and immediately you are ready to edit in full HD! It's as simple and as beautiful as that.

AN: Was your DP happy with the choice?

BA: In fact my DP, Shahram Aderangui, was the person who insisted on going with ALEXA! I work as a cinematographer myself from time to time, so I could clearly recognize the many advantages of using the ALEXA system to capture our content. For example it was useful to be able to shoot at 60 fps [ALEXA now goes to 120 fps with a special license] as some of the most memorable scenes in this film were shot on a Steadicam at 60 fps and I think they look fantastic. But yes, my DP was over the moon.

AN: In what kind of conditions did you shoot?

 

BA: We shot between April and May, which in Dubai is what we call pre-summer. This means that your day might start with a cool early morning breeze when you slate the first take, but later on it will be 40+°C in the shade. ALEXA worked long hours under hot conditions and responded admirably; we never encountered any problems whatsoever.

 

AN: Obviously you were shooting in real locations - were you often able to rely on available light?

 

BA: Shooting real locations usually means having enough lighting kit with you to enhance or sculpt the light based on the script directions. Prior to production my DP provided me with a wish list of lighting equipment that seemed to me at first glance to be excessively underestimated: two sets of 4Bank Kino Flos, a complete set of Dedolights, and that was it? No HMIs or big lights? However, ALEXA responded beautifully to so many different conditions of natural light that we somehow never really lit any set; we only added some form of coherent light into the mix and that was it.

 

ALEXA worked long hours under hot conditions and responded admirably; we never encountered any problems.

AN: What did you think of how the camera captures color and texture?

 

BA: I guess I would not be the first person to describe ALEXA as a camera that provides you with an organic, film-like image. One can sit back and talk for hours on the essence and the origin of image in the modern digital processing era. However, I would rather simply say that ALEXA gives you the opportunity to get very close to what you saw in your mind's eye at the conceptual stage. From that initial idea you end up on the set or on location; you look through the monitor; you discuss the possibilities with your DP and the crew; you rehearse; you shoot and most of the time you fall in love with what you as a crew have captured. ALEXA is at the core of this experience.

 

AN: Would you work with ALEXA again?

 

BA: Undoubtedly!