The pre-NAB announcements out of the ARRI camp keep coming, this time with the announcement of the ALEXA SXT (Super Xtended Technology) line of cameras. The ALEXA SXT takes the best of the ALEXA, ALEXA 65 and AMIRA, and rolls it up into one ultra high end package.
The new SXT model of the ALEXA is interesting in that it keeps the same 3.4K ALEV III sensor of previous ALEXAs, tosses in the state-of-the-art electronics of the monster ALEXA 65, and the advanced color management of the ARRI AMIRA. Those electronics combine the latest generation of FPGA processors with a rocketship-fast internal backplane which forms the basis of a totally overhauled image processing chain, with advanced pixel correction and optional noise reduction. This means even better picture quality over previous ALEXAs, while retaining popular Open Gate, 4:3 and 16:9 sensor modes, all of which can be recorded in ARRIRAW or ProRes. The ALEXA SXT offers in-camera recording of ProRes 4K UHD (3,840 x 2,160 pixels) and ProRes 4K Cine (4,096 x 2,637 pixels).
The color management engine found in the ALEXA SXT takes full advantage of the wide native color gamut of the ALEXA sensor, allowing maximum freedom and creativity for filmmakers. The SXT uses a new look file type, the ALF-2 (ARRI Look File 2), containing an ASC CDL (Color Decision List) and also a 3D LUT (Look-Up Table). Additionally, previewing looks on set has been improved, with the camera now including the option to use the wide color gamut of Rec 2020 gamma, while dailies creation is made more efficient and final grading made faster. The new ALF-2 look files and the tools that create them are compatible between ALEXA SXT, ALEXA Mini and AMIRA.
Rounding out the new ALEXA is the long-awaited arrival of three fully independent HD-SDI outputs. This could allow, for instance, a Log C image to be used to show the director a pristine image with live grading, a clean Rec 709 image to be fed to video village, and a Rec 709 image with status information overlays to be displayed on the camera's on-board monitor.
Scheduled to ship mid-2015, the lineup of ALEXA SXT models will include the SXT EV, SXT Plus, and SXT Studio. These models will replace all but the Classic EV model of current ALEXA XT cameras. All ALEXA XT cameras (except ALEXA XT M cameras) shipped between January 1st, 2015 and the first shipment of SXT cameras will be eligible for a full SXT upgrade, free of charge.
Those XT owners not lucky enough to qualify for the free upgrade will have the option to purchase an SXR (Super Xtended Recording) module upgrade, which will have the same features of the SXT cameras, but likely with limited upgradability.
So for those of you who were saving up for an ALEXA Mini, it may be time for a bigger piggy bank.