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Cinema and Television Specialist Magazine - Five Questions with Codex Digital’s Marc Dando

Five Questions with Codex Digital’s Marc Dando

In Hungary, while directors Maurichio Chernovetzky and Mark Devendorf shot Styria, a horror film inspired by a 19th century vampire tale by Irish novelist Sheridan LeFanu, Budapest-based Colorfront and Codex Digital collaborated on the first-ever workflow that leveraged the power of the ARRI Alexa camera in the ARRIRAW format.

The workflow allowed the filmmakers to capture full 2880 x 1620 pixel resolution, uncompressed 12-bit raw Bayer sensor camera data onto on-board Codex recorders and then quickly produce and grade dailies at Colorfront for review. The ARRIRAW workflow also generated other deliverables and archived on LTO-5 tape. Producers in Budapest and Los Angeles got sync sound dailies in both Apple ProRes 422 and H.264 QuickTime formats via ARRI’s Webgate digital dailies service optimized for delivery to the web, iPhone and iPad. Dailies grades applied during production will serve as the starting point for final DI grading to be completed at Colorfront’s facility in 2011.

Studio Daily sat down with Codex Digital president Marc Dando to talk about this new workflow.

Why did you choose to create a workflow specifically for ARRIRAW?

Cinematographers and post-production pros have welcomed the recent release of Arri’s raw digital camera format, ARRIRAW, because of its excellent image quality and the flexibility it provides during production and post. Yet there remains a good deal of confusion about some of the specifics of this format, how it can be applied with Arri’s Alexa and D-21 cameras, and how to structure a workflow to achieve optimal results. We are very excited about this format and have already seen it employed successfully on a number of productions.

Is Styria your first test of the Codex Digital workflow?

Codex has been conducting workflow tests using full ARRIRAW for several months. In November of last year, we used a Codex Onboard recorder to capture more than 60 hours of ARRIRAW for a feature film. Codex recorders have also been used in London to capture Alexa ARRIRAW data for commercials, including one that went to air in the U.K. on Christmas Day. Additionally, a short stereo 3D film was shot in Australia where two Alexa cameras were captured by a single Codex Onboard recorder. That film was production in conjunction with fxphd and the Australian Cinematographers Society. Currently, several films are planning to shoot using the Alexa/Codex combination.

How is the Codex Digital recorder used with ARRIRAW?

In a typical Codex ARRIRAW workflow, the user captures ARRIRAW data directly to a Codex recorder. After recording, the recorder data packs are removed and taken to a Codex Digital Lab or Desktop Transfer Station for QC and generation of deliverables. Although, it is possible to capture Apple ProRes on SxS cards and ARRIRAW on a Codex recorder simultaneously, many feel that the most robust workflow is to produce editorial deliverables directly from the digital camera original to be certain that editorial see a true representation of them. The generation of deliverables can be done at the same time as archiving material.

I imagine there must be pitfalls with this workflow as with any new workflow? What are they?

In is important to note that post tools must fully support Version 3 ARI files in order to correctly process Alexa ARRIRAW images. The sensor characteristics and ARRIRAW encoding differ significantly between the D-21 and Alexa, so it is vital that the file format is able to describe these differences. This has led to some dangerous confusion. Some early experimenters have captured ARRIRAW from the Alexa and then taken the post path for the D-21. That has inevitably produced suboptimal results, and is not a fair way to judge Alexa ARRIRAW. Codex Onboard Recorders avoid this problem. They can automatically detect which flavor of ARRIRAW is in use, and downstream deliverable files are processed correctly with no manual intervention.

What are the capabilties of the Codex Digital data packs when it comes to recording ARRIRAW?

The Codex 256GB Data Pack can store 25 minutes of Alexa ARRIRAW, and the larger 512GB Data Pack can store 50 minutes of Alexa ARRIRAW data. These recorders can capture D-21 ARRIRAW 4:3/16:9, or Alexa ARRIRAW 16:9. A Codex Onboard Recorder has a live de-Bayered monitoring output for both single and dual camera recording. The recorder employs standard quality de-Bayer for dailies and editorial deliverables, and high quality de-Bayer for VFX and finishing.

The soon-to-be-released ARRI Alexa v3 firmware will embed important metadata within the image data stream, and it is this metadata that will complete the “official” release of ARRIRAW. Codex has  implemented tools to allow the insertion of metadata into ARRIRAW clips captured using any version of Alexa firmware. With the roll-out of v3 camera firmware, this metadata will be automatically inserted. ARRI also provides de-Bayering tools. Codex recommends that users run their own independent tests to review material and judge which solution works best for them.


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