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The Arri Alexa Mini LF is one of the most anticipated cameras ever.  It’s a killer combination of Arri performance, true 4K+ resolution, and a price tag under $100,000. Getting started with the Alexa Mini LF can be intimidating, but here’s what I’ve learned shooting with mine so far.

In general, don’t plan to shoot something important with a camera the first day you use it. It will take you time to make sure all the pieces work together and get your on-set workflow figured out. A prep day is absolutely critical if you’re not already using the kit on a regular basis.

Mini LF Menus and Settings

If you’re not familiar with Arri camera menus, get started with the Mini LF simulator from Arri. This can help you get more comfortable finding settings, formatting media, and other everyday tasks. Be sure to check out the camera explorer, too. Until you can get your hands on the actual camera, learn the basics (or at least how to turn it on).

Essential MiLF Accessories

Next, get to know your accessories. The “ready-to-shoot” kits shipped by Arri include a lot of extras, but the name is a bit misleading. To get started, you’ll need to add some key items, unless you already have them from another camera.

Power

Every camera needs power, of course. Most Arri Alexa Mini LF camera kits will run on Gold Mount battery systems, but some run on V-mount batteries. Since the battery plate isn’t built in to the camera, it’s easy to swap between power methods depending on what works best for you. I run my camera with Gold Mount batteries, or on an AC adapter. So far, I’ve been getting 70-90 minutes out of standard 98wH batteries. These are the largest battery packs allowed on commercial airlines. If you’re not flying, I suggest higher capacity batteries, especially if you’ll be powering other external devices from the camera.

Most kits don’t include an AC power adapter, but I added one to my kit. For shoots on a tripod, it can be easier than feeding the camera batteries all day.

Media

If you can’t record with it, is it really a camera? The ready-to-shoot kit includes 2 1TB Codex Compact Drives. These are different than the Codex drives used in other Arri cameras. Depending on your camera settings, you may find that 2TB of storage isn’t nearly enough. Depending on your budget, you may find additional media is crazy expensive!

Strangely not included in the ready-to-shoot package: a Codex Compact reader. This connects the media to your computer via USB 3.

The Alexa Mini LF can fill up a 1TB mag in under 20 minutes. If you think you’re using a magnetic drive to catch all that data, you’re going to be waiting a looooong time. If you can’t pass the job off to a data manager/DIT, make an investment in large capacity SSD drives. I certainly won’t be shooting open gate ARRIRAW unless someone else is managing that huge data load.

Lenses and Mounts

Well, duh. If you’re using a top of the line cinema camera, I don’t have to remind you to BYO lenses. The camera comes with a native LPL lens mount and a PL adapter. Arri just released an EF lens mount, and there are third-party solutions shipping now. While the original Alexa Mini EF mount fits, it may vignette some lenses in some modes, as Arri designed it for a smaller sensor.

Of course, make sure your lenses will actually cover the image sensor. For some of the more popular lenses, this information is available in the Arri Lens Illumination Tool. A lot of less common lenses will also work in a lot of modes, but you’ll need to test them to be sure. Remember that you probably don’t even need to cover the full sensor, unless you’re somehow shooting in native 1.44:1 aspect.

Getting Started with the Alexa Mini LF

Functional Accessories

Cage and Rails

Many of the accessories designed for use with the Alexa Mini will work for the Alexa Mini LF. The operator side of the camera has changed from the mini, and some hardware won’t fit. Definitely plan on a day to prep your kit if you’re mixing accessories.

Filters

If you’re just getting started with the Alexa Mini LF, I suggest investing in a 15mm system and 4”x5.65” filters.  Going larger starts to sacrifice the advantages of a small camera! The built in FSND is in 2-stop increments, clear, 0.6, 1.2, and 1.8. If you’re looking for a basic filter set, I’d suggest 0.3, something 1.2-1.8, a polarizer, a 0.6 soft grad, and your preferred diffusion.

Most shooters will want to use the camera with the full cage and top handle. If you’re using a gimbal or trying to reduce weight, the camera can be used without the cage.

Camera Support

The size and weight of the Alexa Mini LF is very close to the Alexa Mini. Any nice cinema tripod rated for 15+ pounds should do well. The most popular pairing is probably the Sachtler V18 series. You can mount the camera  to nearly any support system, including jibs or dollies, using the classic Arri dovetail.

The ready-to-shoot kit also includes a shoulder mount with pad, compatible with 19mm rails. While I’m sure there will be plenty of aftermarket kits for customizing your rig, ARRI have done a great job making the camera shoot a variety of shooting styles out-of-the-box.

Audio

Good news! Arri added dual built-in mics for scratch audio. This will make it much easier to get a reference track, in case things go wrong with timecode, or you’re mixing with cameras without timecode in the same project. The built in mic volume levels are fixed and can’t be adjusted at all. You could add your own onboard mic, but I don’t recommend it.

If you want to monitor the audio inputs, the headphone jack is hidden under the MVF-2 viewfinder.

Cables

If you were an early user of the Arri Alexa Mini, you may remember the viewfinder cable was extremely easy to damage. Arri made an incremental improvement in the replacement cable. For the Mini LF, Arri completely redesigned the viewfinder and the cable. So far, it appears to be much more durable.

The back of the camera has many ports. You might want to keep the following cables in your kit:

  • 5-pin Lemo timecode cable
  • 6-pin Lemo audio input cable (your 5-pin cable from the original Alexa Mini won’t work)
  • 8-pin Lemo power cable to 3-pin or 4-pin XLR

Monitoring

The Alexa Mini LF includes an incredible viewfinder and flip out display. If you’ll be pulling focus from the operator side, you might not need an additional monitor. However, if your AC will be pulling focus, you’ll want to mount a small SDI monitor on the assistant side.

The camera includes anamorphic support built in. If you’re shooting with anamorphic lenses, you don’t need a special license, and your SDI outputs can de-squeeze automatically.

The camera can output Log-C footage or use Arri’s custom LUT over SDI. It ONLY records in log or raw, so if you want to leave set with a LUT applied, you’ll need to use an external recorder.

Summary

Getting started with the ARRI Alexa Mini LF will take some time and accessories. Plan a day to prep your kit and get your basic accessories figured out. Hopefully this overview helps you feel a little more prepared.

If you need to hire an Alexa Mini LF owner operator, please reach out. And if you have opinions on getting started with the Arri Alexa Mini LF, leave them in the comments below!


When you’ve been a director of photography for as long as I have, you end up with a lot of stuff! Here’s an abbreviated list of equipment I own and operate regularly.

Cameras

Arri Alexa Plus Camera

  • Arri Alexa Mini LF Camera Kit
  • Sony FS7 Camera Kit
  • Sony A7s II Camera Kit (2)
  • Sony A7r II Camera Kit
  • Sony a6500 Camera Kit
  • GoPro Omni 360-degree VR Camera Kit (2)
  • Sony EX3 Camera Kit
  • Arri Alexa Plus Camera Kit
  • Red Scarlet Camera Kit
  • Custom BulletTime 24-Camera Rig
  • GoPro Hero 7 Black Camera Kit (2)
  • Canon 5D mark III Camera Kit

Lenses

  • Zeiss CP.2 Super-Speed Compact Cinema Prime Lens Set in PL and EF
  • SLR Magic Anamorphot 1.33x PL Lens Set
  • SLR Magic APO Hyperprime Cine Lens Set in PL and EF
  • Zeiss ZE Super Speed Set in EF
  • Fujinon MK series zoom lenses in E
  • Canon Photo Zoom Lenses (including 16-35, 24-70, 24-105, 70-200, and 100-400mm)

Camera Support

  • Sachtler V18 Tripod System
  • Sachtler FSB 8 Carbon Fiber Tripod System
  • Sachtler 7+7 Tripod System
  • Dana Dolly with Speedrail
  • Kessler CineSlider Dolly
  • iFootage Lightweight Camera Jib
  • 100mm Hi Hat
  • 75mm Hi Hat

Lighting, Grip, and Electric

  • Quasar X-Fade 4′ LED tubes (8)
  • Litepanels Astra 6x Panels with Bluetooth (2)
  • 1.2K HMI (PARs and Fresnels, with magnetic ballasts) (4)
  • 8-inch and 6-inch Mole Richardson Daylight Fresnels (4)
  • Flag Kits, Reflectors, and Floppies in Various Sizes
  • Junior, Baby, and C-Stands
  • Electrical Cables (Stingers)
  • Clamps, Sandbags, Apple Boxes, and Everything Else

Other Stuff

  • 17″ Teleprompter
  • Ford Transit Connect Van
  • Laptop Computer with Windows 10, MacDrive, and ShotPut Pro

I have a valid drivers license and US passport. In addition to working as a freelance cinematographer, I often work as a fixer; arranging for rentals, providing insurance, finding crew, and payroll services.

I carry my own liability, workers’ compensation, equipment rental, and umbrella insurance. It’s easy for me to get most video production equipment with a few days’ notice. I am also comfortable and experienced operating cameras from Panasonic , JVC, Blackmagic Design and others.

This equipment can travel with me to set in Chicago, Milwaukee, or the surrounding areas, or be rented separately.


If you’re a director of photography for documentary, reality, or even corporate video,  someone has probably hired you to shoot local landmarks. Here are some of my favorite Milwaukee standards, and where to shoot them, to set your scene in Brew City, USA.

Milwaukee Downtown

Grab a parking spot, most of these shots are within reasonable walking distance.

  • The Calling, a one-of-a-kind, 40-foot-tall orange star sculpture where Wisconsin Avenue bends to meet the lake. I usually shoot when pedestrians are around, for a sense of scale. It has no bad angles, but my favorite is from the top of the parking structure just to the northeast.
  • The Milwaukee Art Museum, is actually three separate buildings, but the one you’ll recognize is the Quadracci Pavillion. Milwaukee locals call it “The Calatrava” for the architect who designed it. This all-white building usually looks more like a sailboat than a museum. It’s been the setting for a Transformers movie and many commercials. If you’re lucky, you’ll catch it when the “wings” are open, depending on the time of day and weather conditions. Be sure to get shots from the pedestrian walkway crossing Lincoln Memorial Drive.
  • The newest skyscraper is the glass Northwestern Mutual Building, across from The Calling on Wisconsin Avenue. The tallest is the US Bank Center, at just over 600 feet. It’s not as sleek, but probably more recognizable as classic Milwaukee. If you’re lucky enough to get inside the NM building, there are terraces are a few hundred feet up. You have a bouquet of Brew City B-roll options to the west. With a long lens you can grab shots of the Fiserv Forum, most of the East Side, and the rest of the skyscrapers worth mentioning (mostly in Westown).
  • Discovery World / The Pilot House isn’t quite as famous, but is quite beautiful. If you’re in Milwaukee between May and October, try to catch the Denis Sullivan, a large sailing ship that docks at Discovery World.
  • Lake Michigan is core to Milwaukee, and quite beautiful. My favorite time to shoot it is right before dawn. If you’re shooting from near Discovery World or the Art Museum, you can see a lighthouse or two. If you decide to move south into Lakeshore State Park, be aware:  Wisconsin State Parks require a $50 permit for video or photo shoots. It’s an easy permit to get, but they will always kick you out without one.  Technically a peninsula, it feels more like an island, and there are some very pretty paths and footbridges that can lead your eye to the downtown skyline on the west. This is the only place you can shoot over the water toward downtown without getting a boat.

Nightlife

Milwaukee isn’t a huge city, so if you want active nightlife shots, you probably want to be out on a weekend. Here’s where you’re liable to find people socializing and having fun.

  • The Third Ward is a classy neighborhood just south of downtown. During the day it’s all boutiques and pop up shops, at night the bars and theater get busy.  Most of the Third Ward is in bed by 10pm, though.
  • Old World 3rd Street has a classic old Milwaukee look, and plenty of classic beers to go with it. When the weather’s nice, you can catch people dining outside on the sidewalk, or waiting in line to get into clubs. If the Milwaukee Bucks are playing, you’ll probably see a lot of spillover from the Fiserv Forum crowd nearby.
  • Brady Street is the trendy destination of the Lower East Side. Plenty of bars and lots of lighting make it a great place to catch some candid moments on the street. Your biggest challenge will be parking. In the summer, you can catch some street festivals and concerts here.
  • Water Street runs along the river’s east bank, and has a smattering of bars along the north end of downtown. While you’re there, it makes sense to grab a shot of the courthouse, too.
  • Kinkinnickinnic Avenue (or just call it KK) is the main drag through the Bay View neighborhood. It has a much more hipster vibe than anything downtown, with cafes, bakeries, and great local eats.

South of Downtown

Milwaukee remains one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States. To explore the city deeper than the surface level, spend some time on the north and south side. Here, the history of redlining, and discrimination have shaped the communities.

Historic Third Ward sign over the Milwaukee Public Market

  • The Hoan is the I-794 bridge that connects the Port of Milwaukee with downtown. There are tons of great places to shoot it, but while you’re near Discovery World, you can get a great shot of it to your south southwest if you brought a long lens, and you can get a little closer if you can shoot from inside Lakeshore State Park.
  • The Harry W Maier Festival Park is more commonly called “The Summerfest Grounds,” named for the epic music festival that takes place for the two weeks surrounding July 4 each summer. While there’s a lot of hustle and culture going on during the festival season, you’re not going to find much to shoot inside or around the park when it’s cold out.
  • The Allen Bradley Clocktower is part of the Rockwell Automation headquarters. It’s a large four-sided clock, with minute hands that are 20 feet long. Since it’s four-sided, there are no bad angles, and you may be able to catch it in the background of your other shots, if you compose them carefully.
  • The “Historic Third Ward” sign and Milwaukee Public Market can both be seen as you’re crossing east over the St. Paul Ave bridge.
  • Futher south, General Mitchell Airport isn’t particularly flashy, but you can get shots of planes coming and going. The white “MKE” sign welcomes drivers as they approach the airport from the west.
  • If you’re getting driving shots you’ll want to shoot 794 from the Port of Milwaukee and drive through downtown. To finish your trip, come back through downtown to the south side via Water Street/1st Street.

North of Downtown

Locals call the area north of Downtown and east of the Milwaukee River the “East Side.” The “North Side is everything between the river and Highway 145. While the East Side has lots of students, some neighborhoods have become much pricier and appeal more to urban professionals. The North Side is predominantly African American communities.

  • Bradford Beach is worth visiting any time the weather is nice.
  • The Martin Luther King Statue sits near the south end of MLK Drive.
  • Kadish Park is my favorite place to get sweeping skyline shots. You can watch the sun rise over downtown, and can see most of Milwaukee from the East Side to the Miller Valley.
  • The UW Milwaukee Campus is spread out over multiple blocks. The first UWM building, Mitchell Hall, still stands.

Milwaukee’s Industry and Culture

Much of Milwaukee’s brewing history is north and west of Downtown, where German, Italian, and Polish families settled in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The south side was dominated by manufacturing and sausage making.

  • Miller Brewing was a major economic driver in Milwaukee for a long time. Today, the facility is still active and open for tours.
  • The Pabst Mansion is a beautiful home turned museum, built entirely with PBR cans. I’m just kidding, aluminum cans weren’t invented until 1959.
  • The Harley Davidson Museum is all new buildings. The only local factory work happens 15 minutes away, in Menomonee Falls.
  • The Charles Allis and Villa Terrace museums are massive mansions with lake views.

Sports and Sports History

  • Miller Park is home to the Brewers and relatively pretty to look at. It stands out, surrounded by surface parking. The site of the previous MLB field, County Stadium, is now called Helfaer Field. While the space is small, there are lots of statues and plaques commemorating Milwaukee’s baseball greats (both Brewers and Braves).
  • Fiserv Forum is the newest sports complex in Milwaukee, and home to the Milwaukee Bucks. Their previous arena, the Bradley Center, was demolished to make room.
  • The Milwaukee Mile is part of State Fair Park. It’s not particularly pretty, but it’s the oldest operating motor speedway in the world.  The inside of the oval hosted the 1939 NFL Championship Game.
  • Pettit National Ice Center is an Olympic training facility for speed skating and hockey.

Let’s shoot something in Milwaukee!

Hopefully, that’s enough B-roll ideas to start your story. If you need a cinematographer to shoot your Milwaukee B-roll, reach out!  If you have other favorite Milwaukee spots to shoot, please leave your suggestions in the comments!

 


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