Movi-Crew’s top tips for the Arri Alexa Mini & Movi M15 Set up
Arri’s Alexa mini has simply been a game gamechanger in the world of cinematography and indeed for gimbal operators everywhere. Since it’s release in the summer, it has quickly become the premium camera for productions where the budget allows it to be. More importantly for us, it’s compact size and ergonomics make it easily mountable on Freefly’s Movi M15. It’s no secret that Arri worked along Freefly to design the Alexa mini, with gimbal and drone use the idea in mind from the out set. Since the rise of gimbal technology, thanks to Freefly’s Movi series, Arri seemingly where loosing out to RED and Canon as people opted for use these smaller camera systems when gimbals where on set. This is no longer the case with the release of the Alexa Mini, in fact since it’s release a high majority of the jobs our Movi-Crew have operated on have been with the Alexa mini. Productions ranging TV series, commercials, fashion promos and music videos have all opted for Arri’s Alexa Mini. This change makes sense when productions can now have a Arri Alexa or Arri Amira ‘A cam’ on sticks and Alexa mini ‘B cam’ constantly mounted on the Movi M15, saving time on rigging and de-rigging between set-ups. Arri Alexa MiniMovi M15
Although the Alexa Mini balances particularly easily on the Movi M15, there is still some essential accessories needed and tips we can offer to make sure you don’t waste precious time on set.
Arri Alexa Mini & Movi M15 recommended accessories.
Powering the Alexa mini is obviously the most essential factor of the set up. The Alexa mini has no internal battery or a V-lock bracket on the body, therefore additional options are necessary. The ideal solution is a third party battery side plate that allows a V-lock battery to connect easily to the Alexa mini. Side plates screw directly into the ARRI Map-1 top and bottom plates (see the plates section below for more info) and power the Alexa via a short 2 pin Lemo cable. Some of the side plates available, also include a Dtap socket, which is great for powering additional accessories. We consider these plates to be the ideal power solution for the Alexa Mini & Movi M15. One important factor to take note of is that the majority of battery plates available are reliant on skinny IDX V-lock batteries in order to fit within the Movi M15’s cage. This will be an additional piece of kit you will need to order with your camera package. Using skinny IDX batteries does limit your powering time, so be sure to keep your batteries on charge in rotation and a power source is available on set.
Top Tip – If you are worried about the battery life of Skinny IDX batteries, you can power accessories from a second Movi battery using a Dtap to Lipo cable but be sure to keep you eye on the voltage so you don’t drain the Lipo batteries beyond the point of no return”
Here are some great side plates that currently available:
Freefly Alexa Mini Side Plate
Hawkwoods Alexa Mini Side Plate
If your unable source a side plate there are a couple of additional options that are available to you. The first being a battery belt and a custom, right angled, 2 Pin Lemo cable long enough to travel from the camera to the belt. The cable will need to be right angled as normal 2 pin lemon cables restrict with the Movi. When the Alexa Mini was first released, there wasn’t a side plate available so our first few Alexa mini jobs where reliant on this set up. This isn’t ideal, often the cables available are thick and often restricted the Movi M15’s movements. We felt it also increased trip hazards for the operator and additional crew member was needed as a cable basher which also increased the chance of a risk or snags.
One more option is to mount a Vlock plate to the Movi M15 handle bar. A custom right angled Lemo cable is still needed, although it can be shorter than the battery belt option. This time the cable only needs to be long enough to travel to the Movi’s handle bar but needs enough slack to ensure the Movi isn’t restricted in anyway. The thinner the cable the better and we recommend a length of around 2ft.
Mounting the Alexa Mini to the Movi M15 is tremendously easy, however if your not experienced with the set up it can cause confusion and take up a lot of your prep time. The Alexa Mini body doesn’t directly have any 1/4″ threads to attach the Movi’s top and bottom plate, therefore you will need to attached Arri’s Map 1 top and bottom plates to the camera. The Map 1 plates have a number of 1/4″ and 3/8″ screw threads and screw directly into the Alexa Mini body. They should always come standard with kit, however it’s worth checking beforehand as if the plates aren’t included your pretty screwed (pardon the pun).
Map 1 Plates
If you would prefer use 15mm rods for follow focus rather than Freely Carbon rods, Arri’s Map 2 plate can also be mounted below the Map 1 bottom plate to allow this set up. This will also speed up the transition from Movi to tripod of handheld set ups if you don’t have a second camera. The addition of the Map2 plate does however make your set up taller meaning you will be right on the limit of the Movi’s cage.
Map 2 Plate
Top Tip – If you have a front heavy set up due to a heavy lens or mattebox, attaching the Map 2 plate may provide you with enough body weight to counteract this.”
If you plan to switch between Movi and other shooting styles, you can attach both MSB-1 Side Brackets to allow rosette handles mounts to the rig. The MSB-1 plates screw directly into the Map 1 plates, it is important to take into account that if you are using a side battery plate this will need to be removed before attaching the MSB-1 side plates.
MSB-1 side plates
Possibly the most exciting feature of the Alexa Mini is it’s internal lens control system. This built in phenomenon; means a focus puller needs only one cable to connect their motor to a lens without the need of a focus brain. The Arri WCU-4 hand unit accessory enables the control of all 3 lens motors as well as camera settings. In theory this is an incredible option, an all in one remote controller, however on a few jobs this capability hasn’t been incorporated in the camera or hand unit yet.
The exclusion of the brain means one less accessory to power, one less cable and most importantly less weight for the Movi and Operator. Should you need to mount a brain we recommend attaching it either to the Movi’s cage or the back of the Alexa mini. Once again this can help to counteract front heavy set ups. If you have no way to attach the brain in either of these locations and alternative is to mount the brain to the Movi M15 handle bars and run a long cable to the focus motor. As ever make sure your cables don’t restrict the Movi’s movements in anyway. You can power the brain using an alternative Movi battery or your side plates Dtap output.
One slightly annoying feature of the Alexa mini is that there is limited interface on the camera to dial in camera settings. There are 4 assignable buttons on the Alexa mini but often the need to dig deeper in the menu often occurs. You have a couple of option here. The first being, using the Arri EVF to plug into the Alexa mini. This only take a few seconds but we highly recommend turning the Movi off to do this, as the pressure applied can often strain the Movi’s motors. This power off and on time can add up to a lot during the shoot. Be very careful when constantly plugging the EVF into the Alexa mini, it’s very easy to bend the pins on the EVF cable, it’s a pricey fix and you could be completely stuck on your shoot should you damage it.
The most logical solution is to use the wifi app that is available with the Alexa Mini. It is worth familiarising your camera assistant with the function before the shoot as they can simple connect to the Alexa mini and dial in settings this way. However, in the past there has been issues with wifi signal from the Alexa Mini and this has caused delay to shooting schedules. We recommend having both options available to you on set.
Even though the Alexa Mini has internal ND filters, It’s very rare on a shoot that the DP doesn’t require a mattebox and additional filters. The compact size of the Alexa mini and the increased depth of the Movi M15 makes adding a mattebox a lot more straight forward than former Movi set ups. Of coarse the additional weight to the front of your set up will make balancing a lot more tricky but it shouldn’t be a problem. Of coarse lens weight is a major factor here but we’ve managed the addition of mattebox with heavier lenses such as Arri Ultra primes and Cooke S4/i mini’s. If you’re having trouble balancing with the inclusion of a mattebox, always remember adding body weight to the Alexa Mini will help to counteract this. Another tip is to attach the Movi bottom plate using the hole located the furthest away from the focus rails, this allows you to slide the camera further back during your balance. A lightweight mattebox is highly recommended, here are two options that we’ve found to be the most suitable;
Arri – Lightweight Matte Box LMB-25
Bright Tangerine Misfit ATOM
Don’t forget you’ll need a monitor for the operator. The Alexa Mini doesn’t have a HDMI output so you’ll need a HD-SDI monitor. We recommend TV Logic monitors or the newer Small HD OLED monitors. Sun hoods are often essential when shooting outdoors so be sure to keep this in mind. Skinny BNC cables are a necessity to limit restricting the Movi, be sure to use a robust monitor bracket, the last thing you want is a monitor that is wobbling during shooting!
Tv Logic 5.6″ Monitor
Small HD DP7 OLED
We hope you’ve found this blog a useful source for your Alexa Mini and Movi M15 set up.