ARRI Cameras and Netflix TV
Starting with 2013’s House of Cards, Netflix has led the way for online streaming services to shift from simply exhibiting shows, to now being the creators and producers of their own content. Thus granting them relative freedom from the traditional cable or satellite exhibitors, Netflix and similar services such as Amazon Prime have now become dream factories of intense, character focused, high-value productions.
This focus on high value, HD capture came with certain production restrictions. In order to qualify for the main camera of an Original Netflix Production, all cameras are needed to have a true 4K sensor (equal to or greater than 3840 photo sites wide). This restriction means that the vast majority of the ARRI Alexa & ARRI Amira cameras would not be suitable for production. Leading many productions to utilise RED Epic Dragon or Panasonic systems instead.
“The ARRI Alexa and Amira are fantastic cameras, and we stream plenty of content that was captured with these cameras. However, since these cameras do not have true 4K sensors, we cannot accept them for our 4K original productions.”
– Netflix’s statement regarding ARRI camera systems
This previously meant only the ARRI Alexa 65 (Effective Pixels of 6K:6560×3100) could be utilised for production. However, with the release of the Large Format system by ARRI, this now means the ARRI Alexa LF ((Effective Pixels of 4.5K: 4448×3096) can now be utilised as the main camera for all original productions, granting greater choice and suitability to capture the perfect image. Here are some examples of the leading flagship productions led by Netflix.
Netflix Original Productions
House of Cards
- 2013-Present, Beau Willimon (Creator). Netflix
- Cameras used: Red Epic & Red Epic Dragon,
- Shot with: Zeiss Master Prime Lenses (season 3), Zeiss Master Prime Lenses (MX sensor), (Season 1-2)
Often seen as the ‘flagship’ of the Netflix Original Productions, Beau Willimon’s dark and brutal political drama House of Cards was the original pathfinder for the concept of a streaming service produced serial tv show. Telling the twisted and backstabbing rise to power of President Francis Underwood (Kevin Spacey), it has faced its own twist and turns and near cancellation behind the scenes. Returning for a final season starring Robin Wright as Vice-President Claire Underwood, it has utilised the RED Epic & Epic Dragon camera systems throughout its run. However, the image capture was obtained using ARRI & Zeiss Master Prime series lenses.
- 2015-2018, Carlo Bernard, Chris Brancato, Doug Miro (Creators). Netflix
- Cameras used: Panasonic GH4 (Drone Footage), Red Epic Dragon
- Shot with: Cooke S4 Lenses (season 3), Hawk V-Lite Lenses (season 4), Zeiss Ultra Prime Lenses
Often held at the independent production. Mexican located production Narcos is the surprise stealth success of Netflix. Telling the story of a Columbian drug cartel, it is often compared to HBO’s The Wire or ABC’s Breaking Bad as a gritty crime drama of desperate characters in extreme situations. Again, we see Panasonic and RED systems used, with a partial use of ARRI & Zeiss’s Ultra Primelens series.
Orange is the New Black
- 2013-Present, Jenji Kohan (Creator). Netflix
- Cameras used: ARRI Alexa
- Shot with: Cooke S 5/i Lenses
Whilst the ARRI Amira has not been accepted for Netflix Productions, the ARRI Alexa has found a place in some productions. One such example is Jenji Kohan’s Orange is the New Black.
Initially seen as the underdog to other grander Netflix productions, the popularity of Orange is the New Black has soared in recent years thanks to its sharp wit, key character focus and enduring cult interest. Now held as the most streamed show on the service, this darkly charming comedy tells the tale of a woman’s prison from New York State. With a tighter and focused production, Orange is the New Black was well suited for the compact and mobile ARRI Alexa. Utilising the Cooke S 5/I Lens to capture the chaotic saga of Litchfield Penitentiary Prison. Out of the key examples shown here, this is the only production to currently make use of the ARRI Alexasystems, returning for a further sixth series later this year. However, with the advent of the ARRI Alexa Large Format, we are likely to see more future productions use a mixture of RED & ARRI in their system choices.