ALEXA does the SUNDANCE SHUFFLE

ALEXA does the SUNDANCE SHUFFLE

Earlier this year at the Sundance Film Festival, ARRI headed for the slopes of Park City, Utah to showcase ALEXA to independent filmmakers. We tasked writer/director Aloura Charles to come up with an idea for a short film that could be shot, edited and screened in two days for a presentation during the festival sponsored by the NY Governor’s Film Office. Titled SUNDANCE SHUFFLE, the short follows an excited filmgoer (played by Morgan Roy) who comes to Sundance only to learn how difficult it is to actually get tickets for a screening.

This was true guerrilla filmmaking; the challenge not only showcased ALEXA’s adaptability and fast workflow, it exhibited the resourcefulness of the director and tiny crew. Director of Photography Peter Fackler was at an ALEXA camera demo when ARRI reps asked if he’d like to take the camera on a test drive and shoot the remaining shots of SUNDANCE SHUFFLE. PostWorks NY offered editing and coloring services with their Director of Technology Matthew Schneider cutting the piece on a MacBook Pro in Avid Media Composer.

The short took inspiration from the silent comedies of yore, shooting without audio and relying on Roy’s physical comedy. The amount of crew and equipment was extremely limited, however Charles was able to work with what was available and create a simple but clever story from the limitations. Says Charles, "I really enjoyed working with the ALEXA. The versatility and sensitivity allowed us to run around Park City during the festival and grab exterior, atmosphere shots of the Sundance film festival, even in different light and weather conditions. Being able to be spontaneous and creative with a camera that can capture amazing images was great. I'd just point and say, ‘Let's grab this,’ and my DP would shoot it.”

ALEXA is now virtually the sine qua non of digital cinematographic imaging quality.

The director was able to adapt to what locations were available on the fly and charmed bystanders into being extras. The crew used existing lights except for the final scene inside a movie theater. “What also impressed me was being able to shoot with relatively no light in the movie theater. We lit it with our iPhones, and did a flicker effect,” says the director. 

For Fackler, a cinematographer who was relatively new to the camera system, he found there was little transition in learning how to operate the ALEXA. “The camera is distinctly ARRI; it is engineered as a solid machine for real-world use and designed with camera people in mind. All of the buttons and controls are in the same familiar and well thought-out places. The ALEXA has an electronics control panel on the dumb-side which is well laid out and easy to navigate. And actually, once the camera was set-up there was no need to go into the menus at all,” he says.

Shooting outdoors in the dead of winter tested the camera’s performance with extreme bright exteriors as well as weather conditions. Explains Fackler, “It had been snowing on and off all day so I asked if they had brought a rain cover to bag the camera. Guenter (ARRI Technical Sales Representative) explained to me that there's no need for a rain cover in light rain and snow because the electronics are sealed deep within the camera and only the heat-sink is exposed to the weather. So cool, and such a time saver during the shoot. Even the best designed rain covers can make operating a camera slower, it was nice not to have to deal with a rain cover especially on a fast moving shoot.”

With the quick turnaround and desire to shoot handheld, the filmmakers took advantage of the ProRes workflow, recording to Sony SxS Pro cards. Since ALEXA records natively to ProRes, the clips were brought directly into Final Cut with no ingest or transcoding time – a crucial step when a deadline looms near. “It was fantastic to be able to watch the ‘dailies’ back right away, before going out again for pick-up shots,” notes Charles.

SUNDANCE SHUFFLE

Inspired by silent movie comedies, Sundance Shuffle was conceived when ARRI tasked writer/director Aloura Charles to deliver a short film shot on ALEXA that could be completed in two days. Filmed during Sundance Film Festival, the short stars Morgan Roy as an eager fan hoping to get into a screening.

Says Joe Beirne, EVP Technology of PostWorks NY, “ALEXA's workflow allows for amazingly nimble editing, especially when you consider the quality of the imagery. You really get the sense of looking at a work print on your laptop. This is true even while following an ARRIRAW workflow and when using Avid as the editor; direct to edit is not just for Final Cut.”

 

The shoot was fast and dirty, but with Sundance as the back drop, the intention was true to the spirit of indie filmmaking. “I hope to work with the ALEXA on all my projects," says Charles, who recently released a funny web series titled Un-natural Selection.

 

Fackler was also impressed by ALEXA’s image quality and versatility. “…The ALEXA would be fantastic on almost any set. I can definitely see using it for narrative films, commercials, and episodic television where extremely high quality, ease and speed of operation, and streamlined workflow are all essential qualities. I could also see using it on long form documentaries,” he said. “I had a great time shooting with the ALEXA, and I can't thank the kind people at ARRI enough for taking me out to shoot with them. I'm looking forward to the next time I'm on set with an ALEXA.”

For PostWorks, which serviced several films at the festival, the facility has worked with every format imaginable for productions of all sizes. “ALEXA is now virtually the sine qua non of digital cinematographic imaging quality; every new scripted TV and feature client counts ALEXA among their top two choices. In regards to stereo 3D imaging, there is almost no other discussion,” notes Beirne. “We have been impressed since day one with how straightforward ALEXA is to work with in the field; it seems significantly less ‘fiddly’ than most other digital imaging platforms. This clarity tends to make the post workflow more straightforward as well,” says Beirne. “This is a great time to be working with digital cinematographic tools, both in production and in post. We look forward to working with ALEXA for a long while.”