Tech Review // Arri Amira

“A camera can either frustrate you or help your creativity flow…this camera aids in the process and adds something special to everything it captures.”

At the start of 2016 we travelled out to Port au Prince in Haiti, and Athens in Greece to make fundraising films about the work there. The first trip was with Compassion – a charity that work to sponsor children – and we captured stories of children and families being lifted out of poverty by the brilliant work this charity does. The second trip was working with the Salvation Army – filming their work with refugees.

So when writing this, I’m really writing about how this kit helped me to tell these stories. This review is about what the Arri Amira camera does differently that is so helpful in the field.

The rig we took out to both shoots was identical; Arri Amira body with a 17-120 Canon doco lens. The size of the camera became a running gag with the team, and whilst at times the weight of the camera was exhausting, its weight was actually hugely helpful in capturing footage smoothly. Light weight cameras can often give that slightly shaky feel, and there was no danger of that with this camera.

I’m an editor as well as a cameraman and I always like seeing the near finished result while I work. This is something I have had to adapt to as we have split out the grading process in recent years to another member of the team with a lot more skill in that area. What I love about the Arri is that it will record in Log, giving flexibility at the grade stage, but will preview in-camera with a grade so that you get a feel of how the footage will look as you shoot. I hate shooting in Log on cheaper cameras, as I find it so hard to get excited about the footage without an indication of how the final film will look.

Setting up and having the camera exactly as you need it for quick reactions in different situations is key. The Arri has numerous programmable buttons, allowing you to quickly shoot in higher frame rates or change ISO for example. The only downside to this came when surrounded by hundreds of Haitian children that decided to flick every button and setting on the camera! But for me, not having to dig around touch screen controls and having quick access to functions hugely helps you to respond as situations happen around you.

The workflow from this camera meant that I was able to watch everything back on a Macbook each evening to check out what I had shot and look at what was working well and what adjustments needed to be made for the following day.

Working with good audio provision onboard was also helpful; quickly getting boom microphones in place in situations where a fast response was needed. A great all round doco camera that really lends itself to shooting doco style footage; in the field it is really about working with what is in-front of you and telling the story that is there. A camera can either frustrate you or help your creativity flow, and for me as I shoot film and tell these stories, this camera aids in the process and adds something special to everything it captures.

J Jones