Handcrafted Visuals: ALEXA for Budweiser

Editor Adam Pertofsky, who is a partner at editorial company Rock, Paper, Scissors in Los Angeles, is no stranger to directing. Within months of completing his first feature, low-budget independent bgFATLdy, he directed THE WITNESS: FROM THE BALCONY OF ROOM 306, which was nominated for a 2009 Academy Award in the category of short documentaries. He doesn’t usually direct commercials, but when a friend of his asked him to step in, he accepted the job.

“They wanted me to do something about the making of Budweiser,” Pertofsky recalls. “It’s about seeing the ingredients that go into the beer. We start in the fields where we see the hops and barley, and the Clydesdales are in their normal habitat. Then we go into the factory and see the ingredients mixed, and watch the beer being bottled.”

Pertofsky has worked with cinematographer Steve Yedlin on numerous projects, including the Academy Award-nominated documentary where they first met. The two of them talked about which camera to use. “We talked about the turnaround time,” says Pertofsky. “And that’s when Steve said there’s this new camera, the ALEXA, and that we could shoot with ProRes. Since our company is entirely set up with Final Cut Pro, I was over the moon. We don’t have to do any transcoding? And we can start editing immediately? That was great.”

Another plus was the on-board SxS cards. “I can shoot for longer periods of time,” he says. “I love to let the actors just run, and here you’re not replacing film every 8 to 10 minutes. The actors will run out of gas before the camera does.”

Yedlin, who calls the camera “solid and well-built,” notes that he had already carefully studied the ALEXA before the Budweiser job came up. “I am not one to believe in hype without testing,” he says. “I am very thorough in precisely testing any new digital camera for latitude, noise and density characteristics and so forth. I knew that ALEXA was the best option for the job and that it was also the most friendly for film-style set operations.”

There is so much you can go in and play with... The range is amazing.

As a cinematographer, Yedlin appreciated the “beautiful viewfinder.” “The viewfinder is easy on the eyes, easy to judge focus with and has an optical-viewfinder-style look-around area,” he says. “The user menus are intuitive and it is easy to get to the photographic adjustments and stay away from the engineering adjustments.”

With a cost-conscious production, the producers had been planning on using a camera that was only somewhat less expensive but—says Yedlin—“very much worse in quality and versatility.” “I had no problem changing their minds to ALEXA,” he says. “Having done my homework, I explained the differences and they were raring to go.
Then, after getting camera bids, they were pleasantly surprised that the cost was not a problem either.”