The market for 4K cinematography is about to get more interesting, with news that the ARRI Amira will soon allow users to record ProRes codecs to CFast 2.0 cards in UHD (3840×2160) resolution and at up to 60 fps. No, the Amira is not getting a sensor upgrade — the images are upscaled in real time. The feature will be unlocked through an "affordable software upgrade," including a sensor calibration for cameras that are already in the field, by the end of the year, ARRI said.
ARRI said the Amira update will allow the camera to use the same 1.2x upsampling filter that's employed for Alexa XT cameras that use the Open Gate mode to maximize recording quality by using all available photosites on the sensor to generate the higher-resolution image. The image is upscaled in the camera for immediate recording to CFast cards.
The feature is arriving on the Amira, rather than on the Alexa line-up, because feature-film workflows generally have plenty of opportunities built in to upscale a recorded image to UHD or 4K, a task that often waits until the very end of a 2K post-production process. But the lighter Amira was designed for run-and-gun situations where time may be of the essence in production as well as in post. "For certain fast-paced Amira productions … 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" by Amira customers, some of whom are regularly fielding questions about fast 4K delivery, ARRI said.
The concerns seem to be regional, as well, with ARRI mentioning the Chinese market in announcing the update. "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," said Amira Product Manager Markus Duerr in a prepared statement. "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.”
One piece of the complete 4K picture may still be missing — ARRI posted a diagram indicating that live uncompressed 4:2:2 UHD output will be available from the Amira via SDI, but described that feature as a "Technology Demo." That may mean UHD over SDI won't be available right away when the new firmware is released. We'll update this story when we get more information from ARRI.