Interestingly, the release notes that the upgrade is in response to "user feedback". In other words, Amira shooters probably wondered why far less expensive cameras from Blackmagic and Panasonic recorded at higher resolution than their $40,000 cameras. It is also interesting to note that the Amira gets the upgrade and the Alexa does not.
Here's the full text of the release:
(August 26th 2014, Munich) – A new software upgrade for ARRI’s documentary-style AMIRA camera will allow it to record ProRes UHD files, answering the 4K requirements of some productions. The upgrade is expected to be available for purchase at the online ARRI License Shop by the end of 2014.
While widespread adoption of 4K or UHD for broadcast is still a long way off, an increasing number of content owners are becoming concerned that they ought to safeguard the longevity of their programs by ensuring that they will be suitable for UHD transmission, should that become a standard in the future.
For those productions that do need to generate UHD deliverables, AMIRA will now offer the ability to record all ProRes codecs in Ultra High Definition 3840 x 2160 resolution directly onto the in-camera CFast 2.0 cards, at up to 60 fps. This feature, activated through an affordable software license (and a sensor calibration for existing AMIRAs), comes in response to feedback from AMIRA customers, some of whom have been quizzed about 4K deliverables by clients. It is made possible by the camera’s exceptional image quality, its processing power, and its reprogrammable system architecture.
Whether a production is pursuing a UHD workflow all the way through to distribution, or simply wishes to archive in UHD in order to future-proof itself against industry developments, AMIRA now offers an easy solution that requires no additional processes in postproduction.
The ALEXA/AMIRA sensor has repeatedly proved its ability to deliver outstanding image quality for the 4K or even IMAX theatrical releases of high-end feature films such as Gravity, Maleficent and Iron Man 3. This proves that the ALEXA and AMIRA camera systems are already future-proof and more than suitable for the next generation of distribution formats.
For major feature films, an up-sample to 4K can be carried out after visual effects and other postproduction tasks have been completed at 2K resolution. For certain fast-paced AMIRA productions, however, there may not be the time or resources for such processes in post, which is why a 4K or UHD output direct from the camera has been requested.
AMIRA’s UHD output utilizes the same efficient 1.2x up-sample filter that allows ALEXA’s Open Gate mode to optimize the camera’s image performance for 4K distribution, as well as the same best-in-class sensor pixels. The up-sample to UHD happens in camera, and in real time.
SAME GREAT IMAGE QUALITY
Outputting UHD broadens the distribution options for the superior image quality that has helped make AMIRA, and ALEXA, such a success. The wide, 14+-stop dynamic range remains unaltered, as does the accurate colorimetry, natural skin tones, and organic look and feel. By making that high-quality image data coming out of the sensor compatible with higher spatial resolution formats, the UHD upgrade answers the concerns of certain regions and productions about a 4K future, allowing AMIRA to be used on any project, no matter what deliverables are required.
Markus Duerr, ARRI’s Product Manager for the AMIRA system, says, “Feedback about AMIRA from all over the world has been overwhelmingly positive and it is clear that the camera is already a great success, being used on an amazing variety of challenging productions. Already acclaimed for its phenomenal image quality, ease of use and versatility, the new ProRes UHD output will take these benefits even further, adding value for customers in areas like China, where 4K is a major focus of industry attention.”
Wildlife cinematographer Rolf Steinmann, who was nominated for an Emmy Award this year in recognition of his work with ALEXA on the BBC’s Wild Arabia series, is currently using his AMIRA on a movie for Disney Nature. He comments, "For cameramen like me who own their gear, the UHD upgrade is a great way to stay future-proof. From now on when there's pressure from the production side to deliver UHD, I can continue to work with AMIRA and won't have to compromise on image quality or on the camera's robustness and reliability."
With headquarters located in Munich, Germany, Arnold and Richter Cine Technik (A&R) was founded in 1917 and is the world's largest manufacturer and distributor of motion picture camera, digital intermediate (DI) and lighting equipment. The ARRI Group comprises a global network of subsidiaries and partners that covers every facet of the film industry, including worldwide camera, grip and lighting equipment rental through ARRI Rental; turnkey lighting solutions through the ARRI System Group; lab services, postproduction and visual effects through ARRI Film & TV; and film distribution through ARRI Worldsales. Manufactured products include the ALEXA camera system and AMIRA documentary-style camera; Master Anamorphic lenses; L-Series LED and M-Series HMI lights; Pro Camera Accessories; and ARRISCAN archive technologies. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has recognized ARRI’s engineers and their technical contributions with 18 Scientific and Engineering Awards.
In my view, this is just the beginning of the wave of 4K/UHD announcements and press releases we will see in the coming year. Manufacturers from Arri to Canon to Sony will introduce new 4K cameras and upgrade older models. If a camera doesn't record 4K, it will lose a lot of its market appeal. As a result, shooters will start unloading old 1080p and 2K cameras at bargain basement prices. It will be the story of the transition from SD to HD all over again.
This will be great news for entry-level amateur shooters who are looking to buy a 1080p camera in the next few months - but pros and high-end amateurs interested in delivering higher resolution to their clients and audiences may want to seriously consider upgrading - especially since there are reasonably priced cameras with 4K/UHD internal recording from Blackmagic and Panasonic already on the market.