Underwater with ALEXA: CAPTAIN AMERICA

CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGER opened over the weekend in the U.S., making the action-packed release the biggest box office earner for a super hero film this year. Directed by Joe Johnston and shot by Shelly Johnson, ASC, CAPTAIN AMERICA was mainly shot on Panavision Genesis cameras, however production was also able to attain one of the first ALEXA models available for the underwater scene.  

During a chase sequence where the newly enhanced super soldier Steve Rogers (played by Chris Evans) pursues a man underwater, the crew was tasked with using the new camera system. The A-camera, first assistant on the main unit was Julian Bucknall, while Ryan Taggert served as digital transfer technician. Here, they tell ARRI in their own words about this exciting portion of the shoot. 

We were concerned that the temperature within the [ALEXA] housing would build quickly and were pleased to find this was not the case.

"Our reason for shooting on ALEXA for the underwater portion of CAPTAIN AMERICA was the availability of the underwater housing. Hydroflex had just completed their new housing for the ALEXA. As no housing was available for the Genesis, our DP Shelly Johnson, ASC decided to use the ALEXA.

For many of our crew this was the first time working with the camera. At short notice, MovieTech Camera Rental House supplied the ALEXA.  Kevin Allen, from Panavision joined us to supervise the underwater housing, as Panavision were servicing the job. Russell Kennedy was our 'in water' camera technician to assist our A camera focus puller Julian Bucknall, who controlled the camera from the surface. With only a day to prep the shoot because of availability of equipment, we were pleased to find it easy to adapt to. Our main concern was heat. Spending more than an hour at a time within the housing underwater on a hydro head, we were concerned that the temperature within the housing would build quickly and were pleased to find this was not the case.

Camera control was via a hard wire Preston Mk2 for turn over and focus. No camera RCU was available to us at the time. So menus were set before the camera was set in the housing.

Being underwater the images coming from the camera were unique within the movie so it's hard to compare with the bulk of the material shot on the Panavision Genesis with Primo lenses.

Underwater with ALEXA: CAPTAIN AMERICA

Directed by Joe Johnston and shot by Shelly Johnston, ASC, CAPTAIN AMERICA relied on  one of the first ALEXA models available to shoot the underwater scene.  

The only change we had to accommodate was that the movie was shot using Panavision SSR (solid state recorders) and DPX frames were created on set from the uncompressed video. Ryan Taggart, our 'digital' 2nd AC was managing this process on CAPTAIN AMERICA. No 4:4:4 dual link out being available from the camera through the housing to allow us to feed our recorders, meant we chose to record on board to the camera's SxS cards in ProRes 4444 codec. Ryan delivered these ProRes 4444 files to editing where they were introduced into the workflow.

The camera performed well."

 

The production not only mixed Panavision Genesis as the main camera with ALEXA, but additional bodies included the ARRIFLEX 435 and 235 to capture the many explosions on celluloid. Captain America will return in next summer's blockbuster THE AVENGERS, currently in production on ALEXAs and shooting ARRIRAW for director Joss Whedon and DP Seamus McGarvey BSC, ASC. You can catch the AVENGERS teaser following the credit roll of CAPTAIN AMERICA, in theaters now.