Casey Warren and Danielle Krieger of the Seattle-based content provider MINDCASTLE are the creative team behind THE BALLOONIST, a short film designed to test the new ALEXA Mini on Freefly Systems' popular MōVI gimbal rig and CineStar aerial multi-rotor.
Both companies provided input during the camera's development and the MINDCASTLE duo were able to draw on their experiences combining their ALEXA M camera with MōVI rigs in planning a shoot -- at short notice -- that would demonstrate the ALEXA Mini's remarkable production benefits.
Why is ALEXA the right system for the work you do?
Casey Warren: We used to work with DSLRs but we wanted to move up a level and were looking around for our next camera. Our main criteria were dynamic range and filmic skin tones, so we specifically examined how all the available cameras rendered skin tones and ALEXA was the best. We went with the ALEXA M because we could make it work on our smaller Steadicam and dollies.
Danielle Krieger: We were excited when we heard that a mini ALEXA was being developed because it would mean we could work untethered and do new things without giving up the beautiful imagery we're used to from the ALEXA M.
What input did you and Freefly give ARRI about the ALEXA Mini?
DK: Most people will probably be renting the Mini as a second or third camera, but from our perspective as owner-operators it was potentially our primary camera, so we wanted it to have an audio input and to be as small as possible, while Freefly wanted it to be optimized for gimbals. I think the fact that ARRI listened to a lot of people's feedback has led to the ALEXA Mini fulfilling various different requirements.
How did THE BALLOONIST come about?
CW: A prototype was being brought to the U.S. for testing on the MōVI and CineStar so we suggested that instead of a purely technical test we should do a whole shoot, although there were only a few days to put it together. Freefly is located in a valley in Washington and a lot of balloon flights happen there, which immediately made sense for our needs. I was telling people that we wanted to shoot the biggest color chart in the world and we ended up doing exactly that because our balloon had these rainbow colors on it.
What were your first impressions of the camera?
DK: We were at Freefly's headquarters when it arrived and I was just thrilled to see something so small. For the last three years we've been hoping for something the size of the ALEXA M head and the Mini is even smaller than that, so it was very exciting for us.
CW: When we picked it up the lightness really surprised us. On the second day of the shoot I ran around handholding a minimal setup of just the camera, a lens, the MVF-1 viewfinder and a battery. It was amazing and I realized you can throw this camera in a backpack and go literally anywhere. I think it's going to be really interesting to see where people take the Mini and what they do with it.
How easy was it to balance the ALEXA Mini in the rigs?
CW: Having all the weight towards the front of the camera body has several advantages. One is that when you put a lens on the camera, you can balance it very easily and accurately on a gimbal or a multi-rotor. Another is that once you're shooting, the motors on the gimbal have an easier time maintaining that balance because the center of gravity is very close to the center of mass.
DK: We did this whole shoot in only about four hours and we were constantly switching between different rigs and lenses, so being able to do that without any downtime was a big help.