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Movie Week: The high-tech cameras that make the movies you love


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Movie Week: The high-tech cameras that make the movies you love

The cameras Hollywood uses to win Oscars

The cameras Hollywood uses

It may come as a surprise to enthusiasts of today's consumer-grade digital cameras that despite all the wonderful technological breakthroughs in recent years, the majority of today's movies are still shot on professional cameras most people haven't heard of.

While there's an ongoing debate over the merits of digital vs film when making a movie, taking a quick look through the cameras used to make the films that were nominated for Oscars this year, it's evident that digital is definitely more prolific these days, despite the fact that film is still very much in use.

But perhaps the thing that is most surprising to the everyday people who aren't part of Hollywood, is that the vast majority of the cameras used to make award winning films come from a single company, which doesn't really have much of a name in the consumer space.

Nine different cameras were used to make the movies nominated for Best Picture at the 2015 Academy Awards. Of those, six of them come from a company called ARRI.

So if you're thinking of making your own film to hopefully take home a Best Picture Oscar, investing in one of these cameras certainly won't hurt your chances.

Arricam ST

Arricam ST

2015 Best Picture nomination: The Last Budapest Hotel, The Imitation Game

Here's the proof that film still has a place in Hollywood. Originally launched back in 2000, the ARRICAM ST (or studio) camera is a 35mm film camera, noted for its two film magazine mounting configurations. Weighing in at 8.15kg (17.95lbs), it's a hefty unit, but has proven by its longevity to be a superb performer, and is a popular choice for blockbuster films.

Arricam LT

Arricam LT

2015 Best Picture nomination: The Imitation Game

The Arricam LT is the "Lite" version of the iconic 35mm film camera. Weighing in at 4kg (8.8 lbs), it's roughly half the weight of the studio version, while still offering the same exceptional recording quality. This lighter body was designed to allow more mobile steadicam footage, and makes this possible by only allowing film magazines to be rear mounted on the camera (instead of the option of mounting on top like the ST version.)

ARRI Alexa

ARRI Alexa

2015 Best Picture nomination: The Theory of Everything, Whiplash

ARRI's current family of professional cameras is dubbed Alexa, and brings the high quality associated with their film cameras into the digital age. Originally launched back in April 2010, the Alexa manages to replicate the organic film look, shooting directly onto a 16:9 sensor, with upgradeable components to allow for a future-proof design. The Alexa can shoot 1080p or 2K footage and features two HD-SDI outputs that allows metadata to be streamed from the camera while shooting.

ARRI Alexa XT

ARRI Alexa XT

2015 Best Picture nomination: American Sniper, Birdman

The Alexa XT (or Xtended Technology if you like forced acronyms) takes the impressive Alexa camera and then adds a whole raft of new features to appeal to the professional filmmaker. Buy an Alexa XT and you'll get all the same features as the Alexa, plus a Super 35 sensor with Open Gate and 4:3 sensor modes, the ability to shoot RAW footage at 120fps, a new silent fan and a refreshed mounting bracket. It's also smaller and lighter than the original Alexa.

ARRI Alexa XT Plus

ARRI Alexa XT Plus

2015 Best Picture nomination: Selma

As the name suggests, the Alexa XT Plus is the Alexa XT, with a little bit extra. That little bit extra comes in the form of an integrated radio and lens motor electronics, which allows filmmakers to control the camera remotely, saving time in their already hectic filming schedule.

ARRI Alexa M

ARRI Alexa M

2015 Best Picture nomination: Birdman

It may have been recently discontinued, but the ARRI Alexa M offered filmmakers a truly versatile camera. With a separate camera head and body, the Alexa M allows for easier recording of tight corner shots, aerial photography or 3D. With the same sensor, build quality and processing as the ARRI Alexa, it's a whole heap of camera excellence in a more compact, versatile body.

MovieCam Compact

MovieCam Compact

2015 Best Picture nomination: Boyhood

One of the beautiful things about film cameras is that they are built to last. The 35mm MovieCam Compact, originally launched back in 1990, was one of three cameras made by MovieCam that saw significant success, before the company was bought by ARRI. These days, many of the MovieCam Compact's truly innovative developments can be seen integrated into ARRI's camera lineup.

Panavision Millennium XL2

Panavision Millennium

2015 Best Picture nomination: Boyhood

While the new millennium brought with it a strong push into digital technology, that didn't stop companies like Panavision continuing to develop film tech. Launched in 2004, the Panavision Millennium XL2 is a 35mm camera features a dual-drive motor design for shutter and movement while supporting 2 HD and one SD video outputs.

Canon EOS 7D

Canon EOS 7D

2015 Best Picture nomination: Whiplash

Finally, a consumer-level camera makes its way to the Oscars list. The Canon EOS 7D isn't quite a full-frame sensor, but does happily record in 1080p, and with Canon's extensive lens lineup, it makes a useful companion camera for filmmakers looking for a nice lightweight device to shoot with.

  • TechRadar's Movie Week is our celebration of the art of cinema, and the technology that makes it all possible.





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