ARRI Group is a multifaceted operation. Its reputation as a leading designer and manufacturer of camera and lighting systems for the film industry, with a worldwide distribution and service network, is well known. But also important are ARRI’s other operations. The company is an integrated media service provider in post-production and equipment rental, and it supplies productions with camera, lighting and grip packages. In addition, ARRI’s medical business focuses on the use of core imaging for surgical applications.
ARRI’s entry into the manufacture of digital cameras, with the arrival of the Arriflex D-20 in 2003 and then later the D-21 in 2008, allowed the company to take a fresh look at its role in the production workflow, but the aim remains the same: to help filmmakers fulfill their creative visions.
“A digital camera is basically a computer and an image sensor, and we help cinematographers get the best image out of the camera,” says Stephan Schenk, managing director of ARRI’s Cine Technik and GM of the company’s Camera Systems business unit.
“When I started here in 2009 the camera was 80% mechanical parts, 20% electronics; now it’s 80% electronics and 20% mechanics,” Schenk continues. “That means we had to rejig the company in terms of skills, tools and what we do. Today software is the main part of improving our cameras.”
In designing digital cameras, ARRI has had to bear in mind the overall workflow, including post-production. “We learned from the D-21 times that we cannot do business the same way we did it in the good old analog days, when we would make the cameras and the rest was [film stock manufacturers] Kodak and Fuji, and the labs,” Schenk says. “It doesn’t work that way anymore. The [post-production] software tools have to understand the camera language.”
Just as digital technology revolutionized the camera market, the rise of LEDs has shaken up lighting on set. ARRI has been able to grab a large share of this market with its SkyPanel unit, as well as its other LED lights, while still offering the traditional tungsten and HMI lampheads.
“The conversion to digital in lighting was not as dramatic as the tectonic shift on the camera side, but if we were to have missed the train it would have been a disaster — luckily it looks like we were right on time,” says Markus Zeiler, general manager of ARRI’s lighting business unit.
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The advantages of LED lighting are enormous: longer lifetime, more durability, lower use of electricity, far less heat and sigificantly less cabling.
The cost savings mean that LED lights can pay for themselves in one to two years, Zeiler says.
SkyPanel has been a huge hit for ARRI, which is producing around 2,000 units a month, contributing to a 40% increase in revenue for the lighting division last year. LED now accounts for 60% of the revenue for ARRI’s lighting unit.
ARRI prides itself on being able to cater to a filmmaker’s needs at all stages of a project’s life, from set to screen. Many of these services are provided by ARRI Media, headed by managing editor Josef Reidinger. It covers such areas as sound design and mixing, color grading, visual effects, restoration and DCP mastering and distribution, as well as co-production and international sales.
“The idea is to offer package deals to the clients. We have everything under one roof, so it’s a chance for filmmakers to take advantage of [all our services],” says Angela Reedwisch, key account manager at ARRI Media. These packages can also include camera and lighting equipment rental. “We can do everything, or we can do just parts — anything is possible.”
For the past three years, ARRI Media has been stepping up its role as an active co-producer, and has started to develop projects itself. It now has 20 projects in development, and intends to have five go into production each year.
Among other projects, it is co-producing two horror tales with “American Honey” producer Celine Rattray: Fritz Boehm’s “Wildling,” starring Liv Tyler, and Boaz Yakin’s “Boarding School.” The unit’s strategy is to focus on genre films — especially horror, sci-fi and thrillers — for the international market. Ideally it handles world sales for its project itself through its sales arm, ARRI Media Intl., headed by Antonio Exacoustos.
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As with other parts of the company, ARRI’s visual effects department adopts a collaborative approach to projects, and likes to be attached to them at script stage. “We try to be a partner of the production — to come up with ideas about how to accomplish the project in a way that benefits the story that is going to be told, not in a way that maximizes our effects budget,” says Michael Koch, head of visual effects.
ARRI is keen to handle audio and visual as one. “The idea behind the facility was to combine those technologies and have sound mixing next to color grading, just to see the movie as one thing, and go back and forth between the picture and audio,” says Daniel Vogl, head of post-production at ARRI@Bavaria.
Vogl sees Dolby Atmos, with its ability to place audio in particular parts of the movie theater, as part of the future of cinema. “We are now in the process of getting into a new world of audio,” he says. “One of the key benefits is that you can leave the screen and tell the story from somewhere in the [screening] room.” Vogl cites the example of Til Schweiger-produced movie “Don’t Believe the Hype.” “If the picture offers that, you can be really creative with Dolby Atmos. It is a new form of storytelling.”
Dolby Vision also offers something special, says Florian “Utsi” Martin, executive of business innovations and senior colorist. “For me, with Dolby Vision, the pictures become life-like. They get a certain depth to them — a three-dimensionality — that they don’t normally have.”
ARRI Rental supplies professional camera, camera grip and lighting equipment. The company formerly consisted of offices with different names operating in multiple countries, but the entire operation was rebranded a few years ago under the ARRI Rental umbrella in order to provide a unified level of service and support. Rentals also gives filmmakers access to high-end technologies such as the Alexa 65 that they couldn’t otherwise afford.