ALEXA on fast-paced Turkish TV show

MUHTEŞEM YÜZYIL (MAGNIFICENT CENTURY), is a weekly Turkish soap opera based on the life of Suleiman the Magnificent, the longest reigning Sultan of the Ottoman Empire. Hugely popular in Turkey, where it is one of the top TV shows, it also attracts large audiences in the Balkans, the Middle East and other broadcast markets all over the world. ALEXA cameras have been used on the show since its second season, and cinematographer Burak Kanbir joined for seasons three and four, shooting around 70 episodes in total. In this interview he explains to ARRI why ALEXA was the best and only choice of camera for the production.

Are you happy to be using ALEXA on the show?

 

The decision to use ALEXA was made before I joined the show, but it would have been my first choice anyway. ALEXA feels just like a film camera, with many different functions and options, and yet it allows you to work at a very fast rate and provides a very easy postproduction workflow. On this show we shoot five or six-day weeks with three cameras across two units, so it's vital we have a camera that delivers both quality and speed.

 

How does ALEXA help you achieve the look you want for MUHTEŞEM YÜZYIL?

 

I have to achieve harmony between a lot of different elements that combine to create the look of the show. We have multi-colored costumes and washes of color over large areas, so the ALEXA's faithful color reproduction is extremely important. The fact that ALEXA performs so well for the many night interiors we have, as well as for bright day-time exteriors, is also a key factor.

I have been working in the industry for 24 years, starting as a 2nd AC, spending 13 years as a focus puller, and becoming a cinematographer in 2005. Throughout all of those years, ARRI cameras and accessories have always been there for me and naturally they have become a great habit of convenience, providing working comfort, exceptional quality, and everything else we all know about ARRI products.

In many ways ARRI cameras have been like a friend, staying with me all through my professional life. On MUHTEŞEM YÜZYIL the ALEXA continued that tradition, proving easy to work with and giving me the rich, pleasing images I wanted, with no unpleasant video sharpness.

Are there any particular features of the camera system that you like?

I like that first and foremost ALEXA is an ARRI camera, so it was easy for my crew to get used to it. Everything is simple to find and simple to use. Over the past 10 years various ENG style cameras have been used on movies without much success -- it often felt like news cameras had been brought on to film sets and it was a bad experience because they didn't fit in with the way we work, but the ALEXA does. It works with prime lenses and monitors and other accessories in exactly the way we want it to.

Does the show involve low light or other difficult lighting situations that test ALEXA?

This is a very enjoyable aspect of working with the ALEXA. We have many night interior scenes, often involving bluescreen, and the EI 800 base sensitivity produces excellent results, even in situations where we only have candles and torches providing the light. We can keep an eye on skin tones and exposure with false color and a waveform monitor, and we can work fast without any problems. When we started taking these images into postproduction, we saw how truly amazing the results were.

Quality and speed were of the utmost importance, and that's what ALEXA gave us.

What recording solution do you use and is it an efficient workflow?

 

In Turkey one season of a TV show like this runs for 40 episodes and on this one we shoot up to 120 minutes of edited material in each six-day week, which is an amazing speed and much faster than American or European standards. We therefore need the fastest possible workflow and recording solution, so we record ProRes to the ALEXA's SxS PRO cards. Our DITs take footage to the postproduction facility at the end of each day.

 

Quality and speed are of the utmost importance, and that's what ALEXA gives us. MUHTEŞEM YÜZYIL is shown in many different countries around the world -- perhaps more than any other long-running weekly TV drama, so it's important that we make the show as good as we can. I work with a great team and we put in a lot of hours, a lot of self-sacrifice, every week, because we want to deliver the highest possible quality. With these demands, and the speed at which we have to work, there is no other camera that could do the job, and no other camera that I'd be willing to try. I should also say how grateful I am to LINKA, ARRI's Turkish distributor and camera service center, for all the support that they give us.