Why Arri cameras dominate the professional industry.
Hi, Focus Rat here. 🐀
Today we are going to talk about a topic that's been on my mind since the beginning of my career. Why do the Arri cameras dominate the film industry?
There is a constant flow of professional cameras coming to the market, from legacy manufacturers like Panavision or Sony as well as the newcomers like Red or even DJI, yet if you look at the oscar nominated films of recent years, 80% are filmed using the Arri cameras.*
You might think that it’s all in a numbers game and they beat out the competition when it comes to resolution, but the truth is that Red cameras can record in much higher resolution than Arri ones.
So what is their secret?
There are four main reasons people prefer Arri: the history of the company and its roots in filmmaking, the user-friendly way its setup, its compatibility with a wide variety of accessories, and its quality.
Let’s start breaking this down, shall we?
August Arnold and Robert Richter founded Arri in 1917 in Munich Germany, the name Arri comes from the initial two letters of Arnold and Richter.
Arri cameras have been in the industry since the dawn of Hollywood and introduced major technical improvements in the camera sector such as the words first reflex mirror shutter in the Arriflex 35 or Arriflex 16ST which was the first 16mm camera equipped with the groundbreaking reflex viewing system
The first two companies who made this were Arri and Panavision, and because of the price of this equipment, they were rented out to production for not an insignificant amount of money.
One main difference between these two companies, which showed signs of Arri-s' ability to adapt and improve, was Arri’s willingness to sell these cameras to third-party rental companies, while Panavision only let people rent directly from them.
Another important quality, that Arri kept to this day, is the durability and robustness of their products. Cinema cameras are intricate machines and the first digital ones from the likes of Red and Panavision were very sensitive and prone to overheating and total breakdown, especially in adverse weather conditions.
Time on shoots is incredibly valuable, and the last thing you want is for your camera to brake down, overheat, and glitch, bringing the whole production to a standstill and spending agonizing minutes on troubleshooting.
The world-class reliability, good support and service network, and military durability of Arri are many times deciding factors for cinematographers and even producers when it comes to picking the right camera for the job.
Ease of Use
The leap from film to digital is a daunting task for most cinematographers. To make this transition easier Arri digital cameras, such as the Alexa, has ergonomics and a layout similar to traditional film cameras. Adjusting the shutter angle on a brand new Arri Alexa LF it’s just as easy as it was on the trusty Arriflex 35 BL4s. Also the smooth compatibility with classic accessories such as the older Arri FF (Follow Focus) systems.
From personal experience, I can say that every one of my projects that were using Red or Sony cameras required more preparation just for me to get up to speed with the menu systems and confidently operate the camera, especially if a few months passed since I used that ecosystem. This extra friction and required technical know-how are many times the reason for sticking with Arri.
Some competing models such as the Red One introduced in 2007, were so notoriously bad when it comes to overheating, freezing, or just giving up on life that Arri had the upper hand just by functioning properly.
A professional cinema camera on its own is as useless as a block of moldy cheese 🧀
As we all know you need lenses, cages, viewfinders, monitors, rods, matte boxes …
Arri used the compatibility question to its advantage when it kept using the Arri PL, meaning “Positive Lock”, for its range of digital cameras. This decision made it possible to use a huge arsenal of incredible vintage lenses from the likes of Zeiss, Cooke, and Leica with the new digital workflow.
Same situation when it comes to pulling focus. Arri already has decades of experience in developing follow focus systems and they did a great job of enabling features such as importing lens data to their follow focus hand unit when these systems are paired with the Arri camera.
If you wanna read my pick for the best wireless follow focus systems make sure to click here.
Lots of people think that quality in the camera means higher resolution. Red cameras, for example, can go up to 4k to 8k resolution, while Arri ones are usually capped at 2k, yet cinematographers still prefer Arri cameras.
The answer is simple. Color science and image quality. The engineers at Arri created the ALEV series of image sensors in collaboration with ON Semiconductors that can capture the nuances of color, saturation, and light pleasantly and naturally. Skin tones and its dynamic range are identical to the 35mm film look, especially for the untrained eye, so it offers the so often sought-after “cinematic look”.
Sometimes is more important for a scene to look nice and cinematic, life-like, yet timelines, than the highest quality possible, and good cinematographers and videographers know this instinctively.
Arri cameras have a history of capturing long-lasting and timeless pictures while also being easy to use and solid workhorses.
Their brand and products induce confidence in the cinematographers and camera assistants alike while also offering ease of mind for the producers that there will be no wasted resources because of technical malfunctions.
Besides these, the amazing ARRIRAW format and workflow, and the variety of body sizes from the Alexa Mini to the Alexa 65 make it an easy first choice for the majority of professionals.
If you wanna take a look around the menu system of the newest Arri cameras follow the link below for the official Arri Camera Simulator:
We love you Arri!
Keep up the excellent work!
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