This friday the camera department on "Everybody Hates Chris" were privileged to do a test of the Arri D20 HD camera in a real world production environment. Stephan Ukas-Bradley was kind enough to also be present during the test to answer our questions. It was an interesting test for two reason's.
1) It was a real world side by side of the D20 and the Viper
2) It was also a test of how well a crew will adapt to the camera.
Aside from our DIT our camera department is one of Film guys. Yes we have spent plenty of time with the 900 and we are now in our second season of using the viper (Plus 8 is building me mods on a weekly basis). We like film cameras, no, we LOVE film cameras and constantly take swipes at the crap that we have to put up with. Crap that is the "Hallmarks" of why HD is bad.
Well folks I'm here to tell you, HD has arrived and it's the D20. With one masterstroke Arriflex has obsoleted all other HD "Production" cameras. How? Here's a list of just some of the strokes of super genius that has come from Arri.
2.5 amps at 24 volts.... Yes 2.5, not 9 not 12 but 2.5 amps, a pair of Dionic 90's will last almost 2 hours
NO cooling fans. 7 chimneys convection cool the camera electronics and 2 Peltier junctions/heatpipes and heat sink cool the sensor.
OPTICAL Viewfinder... 'nuff said but I'll drive that point home with this. A real groundglass that shows more than the chips "live" area.
Two ways to get Standard Def video out to the steadicam monitor. One way is to use an IVS video tap. The IVS advantages are viewing of the groundglass and the overscan that we are used to with an optical viewfinder, and no downconversion video delay. The disadvantages are sometimes a noisy image due to gain at thick f-stops and the flicker free "Smear". The other way to get SD Video out is from the HD Sensor and internal downconverters to output the "CVBS" (Composite Video Blanking System). This is the CLEANEST CVBS I have ever seen. Markedly cleaner than the Viper CVBS that I fly everyday. Now Arri has gone a few steps better with their CVBS. They give you a set of 16x9 framelines along with a set of 4x3 TV Transmitted lines.
Hang on a second, why would a set of 16x9 framelines be so a surprise, after all HD is a 16x9 format, why do I need to see brightlines on the normal 16x9 signal. Here's where Arri kills everyone else... It's a FULL FRAME Super 35mm Sensor. In-fact it's the same sensor as Arri uses in the Arri Scanner. Why is that so cool? well the CVBS Outputs the full frame frame from the sensor which means that you have "Overscan" top and bottom so you can see that pesky boom BEFORE it enters the frame. It also means that you can shoot true Anamorphic HD.
That folks is just the tip of the iceberg, this camera is simple and familiar but best of all it flies like a dream. With a 50mm Ultra Prime and liteweight mattebox, two Lens motors and the lowmode bracket it's just slightly heavier than a Arricam LT. It's balance point right now is approximately 1 inch behind the optical plane. Stephan told me that in the next revision of the camera they will be making the back shorter which should bring the balance point to the optical centerline. And while it is a bit wide (A bit, not bad at all really) it has great side to side balance, being almost perfectly balanced side to side. As it sit's the lowmode bracket allows you invert the rig with little to no reposition of the gimbal.
If you haven't figured it out I love this camera, Our camera department loves this camera.
If you want to see some more photos I have a gallery of them on my website Here
And just so you guys know I haven't been paid by Arri, CSC or Clairmont Camera. Hell I didn't even get a hat!