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Arri D-21 Characterization

The Rochester Institute of Technology recently acquired two Arri D-21 digital cinema datacams. Unlike most video cameras, datacams are capable of recording uncompressed and (mostly) unaltered video frames. This allows maximum control for colorists and digital retouchers in a standard workflow. However, from a scientific standpoint, access to raw sensor data provides a unique opportunity to use the camera as a research and measurement tool.

The Arri D-21 was also one of the fist cameras to offer high-resolution imagery at video resolutions. Each frame is 2880x2160 pixels - much larger than even a 1920x1080 (1080p) frame currently used as the highest consumer video resolution. These large frames, in conjunction with high-quality optics, allow for the capture of more detail in each frame. These advantages over traditional video recording make the D-21 a useful tool for imaging research at RIT.

The Motion Picture Science (MPS) program has already provided technical support for the filming of several projects. Interested students from the School of Film and Animation were able to collaborate with MPS students during the filming of these projects.

One example of a student film shot on the D21 is Color, by Mark Davis.

Commercial workflows to handle digital frames produced by the D-21 already exist. However, these focus primarily on adjusting the frames for aesthetic purposes, and use the Arri LogC encoding as their input. As a result, most interface software for the D-21 recorder applies this tone scale, as well as other corrections, to each frame.