ARRI has announced the Hi-5, a state-of-the-art 3-axis handheld controller that is the replacement for the WCU-4 that was first introduced way back in 2012.
ARRI has been working on the HI-5 for many years, and just like all ARRI products, the two key considerations when designing it were durability and reliability. With any wireless FIZ system, it is paramount that you try and achieve the best possible range and radio link quality. This was the ARRI’s top priority when designing the Hi-5.
You can add all the bells and whistles you want, but the core functionality of any product should be paramount. In the case of the Hi-5, the radio system is like a car’s engine, and without a good engine, you won’t have a good car.
ARRI has always been good at making a large range of accessories that can be used with its products and the Hi-5 system is no exception. There will be 42 different products within the Hi-5 platform.
This is ARRI’s fifth-generation intelligent hand unit, but the name 5-IH is not overly catchy, so they decided to reverse it around, thus ending up with the name Hi-5.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. ARRI looked into creating the Hi-5 in various different form factors, but ultimately they decided to stick to a similar design that they used with the WCU-4. If your customer base already likes the form factor of a product there is no need to re-invent the wheel. So what ARRI did is look at how they could improve and update the WCU-4 so it would fit into current and future workflows. Familiarity is important to a lot of users and by sticking with a similar form factor as the WCU-4, the Hi-5 is bound to feel familiar and comfortable.
The Hi-5 features a touchscreen interface as well as three user buttons on the back of the hand unit. The WCU-4 only had a single user button. The user buttons on the Hi-5 can be programmed to do a variety of different tasks including Slider Marker, Focus Knob Marker, Peaking, Exposure Tool, Focusbug FOV, Cancel Override, etc.
The touchscreen is a nice addition and it lets you quickly make changes on the Hi-5. You can even do things such as pinch to zoom if you want to look at a closer section of say your focus distance scale.
ARRI has also customized the display screen so you can show all of the information or just the information that you need to see. For example, you can just display the focus scale and nothing else if all you are controlling is the focus axis. Again, everything with the Hi-5 has been designed to make the users’ experience easier.
If you don’t want to use the touchscreen, you can control everything through a Force Pad that is located on the top left-hand corner of the Hi-5. This lets you essentially do everything you can do if you were to use the touchscreen interface instead.
The Hi-5 also comes with a PanzerGlass™ screen protector that was made specifically for ARRI. This gives the screen more protection and you can always replace it if you need to.
The backlight color on the handwheel can also be changed which is handy if multiple units are being used on set so you can quickly identify which one is which.
There is also a manual T-stop function so you can just display the depth of field when you are not using a motor to control the iris.
You can also do manual lens calibration if you are using an old lens or a lens that needs specific mapping done. Please note that this functionality won’t be available straight away but it will be implemented with a later SUP.
ARRI has also thought about how to cater for left-handed users and they have designed the Hi-5 so it can be flipped upside down and all of the information on the screen will be still be displayed correctly.
Like all ARRI products, the Hi-5 has gone through a rigorous phase of testing and it has been designed to be reliable, robust, and have a long life expectancy.
The entire unit is completely weather-sealed from the elements.
ARRI is utilizing a couple of small Pogo pins on the Hi-5 so when you attach re-marked focus rings, those focus rings are automatically recognized by the Hi-5. This is really clever feature and it can save a lot of time on set if you need to change over focus rings quickly.
The Pogo pins on the Hi-5 interface with the EEPROM chip that is located on Focus rings and their exact characteristics then are automatically displayed on the Hi-5.
ARRI will have 20 different focus rings available. What is nice is that they have tailored the focus rings for specific scenarios where if for instance, you are working at a fairly close range, you can choose to use a focus ring that only works at closer distances. This way you have far greater finite control in the range you are working in.
If you have a lens that can transmit LDS data and you then use it in conjunction with a smart focus ring the Hi-5 can automatically recognize everything without the operator needing to do anything.
ARRI has also put two little soft stops on the handwheel so if you want to set up two manual focus points you can. These don’t interfere with the rotation or range of the hand wheel, they are simply there just so the operator can use them as he or she sees fit.
The Hi-5 features an LBUS connector and a SERIAL connector (4-pin).
A Bluetooth stick (this comes with the Hi-5) is attached to the USB-A interface per default. USB-A is on the Hi-5 bottom under a plastic cover. Bluetooth is the way that the Hi-5 communicates with the ECS Sync app that I will talk about in more detail later on in the article.
The USB-C connector can be used to attach the Hi-5 directly to a computer and you can also use it to power the unit from a USB power bank. The USB interface can also be used by ARRI servicing.
The SERIAL connector is currently for future unnamed applications.
The Hi-5 is powered via a new ARRI battery, but it is also compatible with batteries using Sonys L-Series battery interface. ARRI’s brand new Li-Ion batteries include a chipset for precise battery readout on the Hi-5 handset. The interface and form factor is similar to a Sony NP-F550, but those have much lower capacity and no communication to the Hi-5.
On top of the Hi-5, there is a standard NATO rail, as well as two 3/8″ mounting points, and a couple of 1/4-20″ mounting points. This provides lots of versatility when mounting the Hi-5 to monitors, etc.
ARRI has also developed its own Hi-5 monitor bracket which utilizes the NATO rail. It features monitor locating pins and you can tilt it up and down or move it along the NATO rail.
ISM bands have so much wireless traffic on them that coming up with wireless modules that have good range and good immunity from interference is no easy task. ISM bands are used for low-power and short-range telecommunications, such as WiFi, Bluetooth, Zigbee, wireless telephones, RFID, and NFC.
Given all of these challenges, ARRI decided to do away with the inbuilt antenna that was used on the WCU-4 and move to a new modular radio system. In addition, instead of having the radio module at the top of the hand controller, like it was on the WCU-4, ARRI has now moved the position to the back of the controller.
The chipset in all of these modules is the same one as those that are in the ERM external radio modules that ARRI uses in products such as the SH-3.
The chipsets on RF-900 and RF-2400are related to the ones used in the ERM radio modules used for ARRI SRH-3.
There will be three different Radio Modules available:
At launch, only the RF-EMIP Radio Module 2400 MHz DSSS will be available. The other two modules will come later in the year.
The modules are incredibly small and ARRI has been able to shrink them down to the size of a matchbox.
Instead of using the FHSS system like the RF-2400, the RF-EMIP utilizes DSSS (direct sequence spreading spectrum). With this radio module, you need to physically choose from 14 different channels to operate on.
The RF-EMIP is directly compatible with the in-built radio modules that are already found in the ALEXA MINI LF, ALEXA LF, and the cforce Mini RF motors. Depending on what region you are in, the transmission power varies from 8.9-70.8mW. This radio module will work with up to three handsets.
If you are not familiar with the letters FHSS they stand for frequency hopping spread spectrum. As the name suggests this means that the RF-2400 has the ability to automatically hop around between 99 channels so that you get the least amount of possible interference.
The RF-2400 transmission power is 100mW.
The RF-900 is only for use in the USA and Canada as it works on the 900 MHz spectrum (902-928 MHz). It also uses a frequency hopping system and as it isn’t operating on the heavily congested 2.4GHz spectrum, you should, in theory, get a lot better range and less interference. This radio module will be better at sending the signal through walls and other solid objects.
The transmission power is 100mW in Standard Mode, but there is also a Hi-power Mode with is 1W.
Now, because these radio modules have been designed to be modular you can use different versions depending on your needs. ARRI has made an interface on the camera side that they call the RIA-1 (Radio Interface Adapter). This allows you to use any of the three modules if you happen to be using a version that doesn’t have direct compatibility with your camera.
For example, if you were using an RF-2400 module with the HI-5 and you wanted to control a lens on an ALEXA Mini LF then you would need to use the RIA-1 with the same RF-2400 module inserted for the system to work.
The basic rule to remember with the Hi-5 system is that the radio modules need to be the same (or be compatible in the case of a camera using an in-built radio module) for everything to work.
ARRI has tried to make the RIA-1 as small and as unobtrusive as possible. All of the connectors on the RIA-1 face the same direction. You can connect it directly to the camera so that it can receive power, be used to start/stop recordings, and control the camera. With the LBUS interfaces, you have control over your lens motors.
For mounting ARRI provides you 3/8″ and M4 mounting spots on the bottom of the unit. They also have a new mounting bracket that has been designed specifically to be used with the RIA-1.
The RIA-1 features a small user interface so you can manually adjust the channel, and set up the radio module to configure it to be either a transmitter or a receiver.
If you are using the Hi-5 system with a camera that already features a built-in radio module you can still use an external radio module as well as the internal module at the same time as long as they are daisy-chained together. For example, you could have your system set up so that one radio module is selected just to look after one particular lens axis, while the other is going to a different controller where that other axis is being controlled by someone else.
The RIA-1 will be compatible with ARRI, RED, and select Sony cameras. It also supports devices such as CINE RT’s Focusbug, ARRI’s own UDM, and Cinetape via the SERIAL interface.
Hi-5 and the Radio Interface Adapter RIA-1 (and other devices as SUPs come that support this) will feature a new, bi-directional communication between the Cine RT and Hi-5 system. ARRI has developed this in a joint effort with Laird and Jon from Focusbug. The bi-directional communication allows for 2 distance values from Cine RT to be displayed on the Hi-5, as well as focus marks from the Cine RT hand set. In the other direction, you can setup the Cine RT Range Finder from the Hi-5 menu and user buttons, which is very useful. Additionally, the bi-directional protocol is fast, for minimal latency. The Focusbug integration will be available with RIA-1 a little after Hi-5 FCS.
The ECS Sync app which will initially only be available for Apple iOS devices lets you monitor and update your Hi-5, as well as load up and save lens files. This also makes it incredibly easy to save and share lens files, because you can simply do it directly from your iOS device.
You can also archive and recall frequently used user settings which is very handy. The settings can also be shared just like lens files.
The other nice aspect of the ECS Sync App is that you can use it to update the firmware or check the status of not only the Hi-5 but any other compatible product that is connected up.
So for instance, you can update the firmware of a cforce mini RF motor, an OCU-1, or even ARRI’s Master Grips, all through the app. The app will also automatically check the firmware version of every device that is connected and tell you if there is a new update. Please note that the devices have to be connected to the Hi-5 hardwired via LBUs cable.
Through the app, you will also be able to bring up FAQs and other helpful information.
There will be Hi-5 licenses that you will need to purchase separately depending on what you want to do with the system. As standard, the Hi-5 comes with an ALEXA Remote License, but if you want camera control if you are using a RED or select Sony camera then you will need to purchase an additional license. Those licenses won’t be available at launch and you will need to wait until a firmware version update comes out.
There will also be licenses available for Focusbug and the Cinefade VariND system.
Like a lot of the products they make, ARRI has designed the Hi-5 so that it can be constantly updated with new features via firmware updates. It would not surprise me to see items such as focus overlays being added to third-party monitors in the future.
The Hi-5 looks like a worthy successor to the WCU-4 and ARRI have certainly put a lot of thought into it. It features some very impressive new functionality and features that are sure to appeal to focus pullers.
The Hi-5 hand unit with white-coded RF-EMIP radio module and accessories. Compatible with ALEXA Mini LF, ALEXA LF, ALEXA Mini, ALEXA SXT W, ALEXA 65, cforce mini RF, UMC-4 and RIA-1/RF-EMIP. Includes: KK.0039973 1x Hi-5 Hand Unit Body Set K2.0033702 1x RF-EMIP Radio Module 2400 MHz DSSS K2.0036022 2x Li-Ion Battery Pack LBP-3500 K2.0039874 1x LBP Battery Charger K2.0039959 1x Hi-5 Neck Strap K2.0039958 1x Hi-5 Hand Strap K2.0040015 1x Hi-5 PanzerGlass
Matthew Allard is a multi-award-winning, ACS accredited freelance Director of Photography with 30 years' experience working in more than 50 countries around the world. He is the Editor of Newsshooter.com and has been writing on the site since 2010. Matthew has won 42 ACS Awards, including four prestigious Golden Tripods. In 2016 he won the Award for Best Cinematography at the 21st Asian Television Awards. Matthew is available to hire as a DP in Japan or for work anywhere else in the world.
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