Alexa Classic or Alexa XT?

At The Vision House we are pleased to offer two types of ARRI Alexas. One is the Alexa EV (now commonly referred to as the Alexa Classic) and the other is the Alexa XT. Both models offer the same 800 ISO base sensitivity and same dynamic range. Both bodies are of the same shape and both weigh roughly the same with the Alexa XT being a few hundred grams heavier.

Both cameras offer a fantastic workflow. You can record ProRes in either HD or 2K allowing you to eject the media, offload the footage and start editing right away.

So what is the difference?

Media and record time
The first thing you’ll notice when comparing the two models side by side is the physical media. The Alexa Classic records onto Sony Pro SxS cards while the Alexa XT records on solid state Codex XR Media drives. Currently the largest SxS card we have is 64Gb that allows for just under 26 minutes when the camera is set to 2k ProRes 4:4:4. On the Codex XR drive you can achieve 89 minutes at 2k ProRes 4:4:4 due to the large size of the drive.

The other thing to keep in mind in regard to media is that while both cameras are capable of recording ARRIRAW the Alexa Classic requires an off board recorder system to enable it to capture RAW. The Alexa XT however, can capture ARRIRAW on the Codex XR drives without the need to hire an additional recording unit. Not only does this save money but it also saves physical space around the camera that is often at a premium.

There is a brief break down of recording times and formats for the Alexa XT are available as a download on our site as well as instructions on how to use the Codex Dock to offload the media.

Image Format
When I refer to image format I am talking about the way the image is captured on the camera. Both the Alexa Classic and Alexa XT can capture 16:9 1920×1080HD or 16:9 2K. What the Alexa XT offers over the Alexa Classic is the ability to capture 4:3 2K and 4:3 RAW with its 4:3 sensor. The 4:3 sensor allows the option to use anamorphic lenses (such as our Kowas) that were based around the size and shape of the Super 35mm film frame. It can also prove useful for non-anamorphic lenses as it allows for significant reframing in post as what use to be done when filming on 4-perf 35mm film.

Further to this the Alexa XT that we offer at The Vision House has an Open Gate sensor mode. Open Gate allows the whole chip to be used when capturing an image. It does mean that some lenses will vignette noticeably but Open Gate is greatly beneficial when the job is very VFX post heavy. It allows greater repositioning, resizing, rotating or stabilizing options above that of 4:3 mode. It must be pointed out that if you plan on using Open Gate mode your only option to record is ARRIRAW and not ProRes or 2K as you are using the full chip.

Lens Data System (LDS)
In the film industry there are various mounts on cameras. The Alexas offered at The Vision House have PL (positive lock) mounts but even here there is a difference between the Alexa Classic and Alexa XT. The Alexa Classic that we offer has what is (not so kindly) referred to as a dumb mount. It is simply a way of attaching a PL lens to the camera. The Alexa XT’s PL mount is slightly different. It has pins that can imbed lens metadata into the recorded files provide the lens used has the appropriate LDS built into it. The lens metadata allows composting in post to be greatly sped up. The postproduction crew can look up the metadata and use it to duplicate the focus, depth of field, perspective and even some of the lens characteristics. In the past the post crew would’ve had to rely heavily on camera notes and tweak the final shot manually to match. This can be a both a time and money saver on a VFX heavy postproduction project. The Vision House range of lenses include the Cooke S4i and Cooke 5i that allow for metadata to be recorded via the LDS system.

What is in each kit?
At The Vision House we aim to anticipate what may happen on set and our kits reflect this. Both cameras housed in heavy duty metal body cases with enough room to have a fully built camera with mattebox, follow focus, media, media reader, onboard monitor, slide plate and necessary cabling inside. This allows the operator or AC to quickly have the camera pre built and on standby the moment it is pulled out of the van or truck on set.

Both cameras come with onboard batteries and multibay charger with additional batteries and block batteries available on request. With the Alexa XT being the flag ship camera at The Vision House we send it out with 8 x IDX DUO 148Wh batteries while the Alexa Classic comes equipped with 6 x IDX Elite Batteries that can be dissembled if the job requires flying to a location.

Each kit comes with a pistol grip and should pad in case of an impromptu handheld shot is added on the shot list at the last minute.

Both kits come with a SmallHD 5.9” Onboard LCD monitor with cable looms to power the monitor off the camera and receive a video feed so the AC can see the shot at the same time as the operator.

In regards to media the Alexa XT comes with 3 × 512Gb XR drives and a USB 3.0 reader (referred to as the Codex Dock or Puck). If you are planning on shooting ARRIRAW there is a setup thumb stick that has the appropriate drivers and software that our prep techs can help you install.

The Alexa Classic comes with 3 × 64Gb SxS cards and a USB 3.0 SxS card reader. We do offer a Thunderbolt SxS card reader at no additional charge but this must be requested either during booking or collection.

Both cameras come with High Speed License that allow recording up to 120fps.

Choosing the right Alexa for the job
At The Vision House we can offer you advice as to which model would be best suited to your job but it should always be up to the DOP as to which camera they use.

Apart from the difference between the cameras briefly outlined above they perform the same function. Both cameras are fantastic to operate and produce exceptional images. The menu systems are easy to navigate and playback is only a single button press away.

If you have a simple music video, TVC or feature that doesn’t involve heavy special effects or the need to record a lot of media I would recommend the Alexa Classic.

If you have a more complicated music video, TVC or feature that is heavily dependent on VFX or a moving car shoot with vehicle tracking I would recommend the Alexa XT. The Alexa XT’s Codex XR drives allow you to record for longer and allow you to record in ARRIRAW if you need to rack or adjust your frame in post.

More information on either camera, as well as other models in the Alexa line can be found on the Arri website as well as a side by side comparison of each model.

If you would like any further information or would like to book either Alexa, please don’t hesitate to contact us.