First Croatian feature to shoot with ALEXA
The children's musical comedy LITTLE GYPSY WITCH was filmed between December 2010 and February 2011, making it the first feature in Croatia to be shot with the ARRI ALEXA. Directed by Tomislav aja and written by Irena Krčelić, the story follows Manusha, a single child in an urban Roma family. One day Manusha's granny Ilonka, the neighborhood fortune-teller, deals herself the death card and her subsequent demise prefaces a series of rather unusual events, forcing Manusha - with help from her friend Zdenko and granny's ghost - to discover the truth behind "the curse", as well as a huge family secret.
The movie, supported by Eurimage, is an international coproduction of Croatia (Formula Film), Macedonia (Geyzer Film Production) and Austria (Knut Ogris Films); it was shot on locations in Zagreb, Skopje and Vienna. Croatian cinematographer Mario Delić, using ALEXA for the first time, was deeply impressed by the camera's performance and wrote the report below, detailing his experiences on the production.
I first read about ALEXA in the spring of 2010, while shooting a TV series in Egypt with the ARRIFLEX D-21. It was quite amazing what the D-21 already had to offer, so I was excited to get my hands on ALEXA. As it turned out, it offered even more then I expected; the camera's dynamic range and sensitivity was a winning point. I tested it side-to-side with the D-21 and printed the results onto Kodak Vision print stock.
In the tests ALEXA held highlights perfectly, which has always been the weakest part of digital cameras. I remember overexposing a white wall by some eight stops and still it didn't give this unforgiving digital imprint - so-called "clipping". Instead it looked like our eyes feel seeing strong brightness. On the other side, black areas were five stops underexposed and still held details, while the D-21 was pitch black in most parts. Sensitivity was crucial on shots lit with just two Kinos with blacklight tubes (UV lights); ALEXA saved all the details and produced stunning results - I even had to underexpose by about two stops.
For the shoot itself I chose Cooke S3 T2.2 lenses (rather than the sharper S4 series) to give it a bit more softness; plus I loved the flares those lenses give with just a bit of edge light. ALEXA's ergonomics and easily accessible menus made it perfect for our 32-day schedule, which involved two children without previous acting experience; animals as characters; three countries; four musical numbers and a huge amount of VFX shots. For 12 days we used two cameras, with lots of handheld and Steadicam shots, and some tricky night locations in extreme weather conditions (down to -14 ºC). It's in those kinds of situations that you can really tell how good the camera in your hand is.
Since I love to take creative control on set, I color corrected many shots within the menus, with the help of the waveform monitor. The only thing I missed was the D-21's optical viewfinder. Although ALEXA's viewfinder is quite advanced it can tire the eye and critical control of focus can sometimes be tricky, although I'm sure this will be improved soon. The whole movie was shot at 800 EI, with the addition of NDs quite often indoors as well as for bright outdoor scenes. Although the camera has a built-in IR filter, I've noticed the presence of a slight green hue in combination with NDs, especially on cloudy days. It was easy to handle this within the menu CC and final correction will be done by colorist Matthias Thomasi at Synchro in Vienna, where postproduction is scheduled to begin in June 2011.
It is my belief that ALEXA already rocks the world; ALEXA with an optical viewfinder will take us to a completely new dimension.
LITTLE GYPSY WITCH is expected to premiere at the Pula Film Festival in 2011
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