Blackmagic Cinema Camera in the RAW will blow you away

by planetmatt5 Comments

Buzz is hitting the interwebs again as John Brawley released RAW CinemaDNG files from a shoot he accomplished with the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. To clarify, one of the main benefits of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera is the ability to shoot RAW video (as well as ProRes 4:2:2 and DNxHD – both high quality compressed formats).

Quoting from Brawley, “When shooting RAW the camera stores as metadata, the cinematographer's choices about ISO and WB, but it’s really only recording the intent of the cinematographer, not committing them irreversibly.  While later processing the images the user can choose to ignore those choices made at the time of shooting and create a new set of choices.”

With RAW files, you have ultimate creative control over your images.


Blackmagic Cinema Camera RAW

As with DSLR still imagery, RAW is the utmost flexible file made to be pushed, pulled and hammered in post. However, as with still imagery, RAW data is huge so you need lots of disk space, RAM and fast hard drives in RAID arrays for proper video playback as well as proprietary software. The good news is that the Blackmagic Cinema Camera comes with Davinci Resolve 9 valued at $999 for FREE! And if that is not enough, a lite version of Davinci Resolve 9 is here for free!

GRADING
Davinci Resolve lite is a free version, so the 2.5k images were scaled to 1920 x 1080 (the full version supports 4k resolution) and no noise reduction was used (this is also disabled in the Lite version). Each shot had 2-3 nodes on it. Grading is powerful, easy and fun so there is simply no excuse not to be able to deliver a superb image even with the Lite version of Resolve. The Resolve Lite software also has one of the most powerful trackers available on the market (I did not use power windows or track masks however).

Being that these are RAW files, you can also use Adobe Photoshop RAW or Adobe Lightroom (like Stu Maschwitz did) to grade if you are hesitant to dive right in to a professional color grading environment. In many ways, this again bridges the gap between photographer and cinematographer.

So here is my first attempt at grading in Davinci Resolve.

RAW WORKFLOW

This is an important topic when working with RAW CinemaDNG files. On PC platforms, do you want to do a pass with Cineform RAW and have a ‘compressed' RAW file that plays better in NLE's while saving disk space? Or do you want conform to ProRes or use proxies? Your workflow has many options and you need to research which is best for you.

Adobe CS5.5 has a free plug-in to allow RAW CinemaDNG's to be played in the timeline, but it is only 8-bit, buggy and conforms at 1 fps – so you need to reset the clip's properties. Also, rendering the timeline didn't complete all the time and the footage was manipulated by Premiere CS 5.5 when importing, so I went a different route.

I chose to ingest the footage into Davinci Resolve (Lite), put together the clips in a timeline and export as an uncompressed QuickTime 4:4:4 file (less than 30 seconds long and 3.5 GB in size). I exported a color graded version and the original version, then imported both files into Adobe Premiere CS 5.5, edited, animated swipe transitions, added titles and exported to Vimeo HD settings.

This was done on a PC, Windows 7 64-bit, Xeon W3550 3.07 Ghz quad core with 12 GB RAM, a SSD, NVidia GTX 470. Davinci ran smoothly at full frame rate with 3 nodes, full screen even without having a dedicated GUI GPU. Adobe Premiere however used gobs of RAM and had a hard time playing back the QuickTime Uncompressed renders from Davinci, even on the SSD. A RAID is definitely in order.

The Ram usage was high:

memory

Also, QuickTime and Windows still do not play nice. You can see the gamma shift issues below (ignore the title cards on the bottom two images). I recommend for PC users rendering to tiff sequence or using Cineform as Davinci does not have AVI settings yet.

gamma shift

gamma shift

CONCLUSION
These images are by far sharp, detailed, rich in skin tone and excellent to grade. They blow away any DSLR at the moment and produce quality on par to a baby Alexa. I am simply astounded. Now my grading skills and film-making need to increase to match the potential of the camera.


RAW FILES FOR DOWNLOAD

(cover photo credit: snap from the video)


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Comments

  1. melissa

    if i dont record in RAW but only in the Pro Res 422 of this camera, will the images still be sharper and more detailed than my 5d mark ii when i uncompress the files to 422?? Im thinking it will but need others feedback

    1. Author
      planetMatt

      Many people will shoot ProRes on fast shoots. You can charge clients more for a RAW workflow and tell them day-for-nights and other complex grading options (and keying) are recommended with the RAW workflow.

      But for the rest of fast daily shoots intended for full HD, ProRes or DnXHD will suit you fine.

      That said, no DSLR – even the GH2 – stands up against this beast in ProRes mode for resolution and sharpness. Latitude is again not even a fair comparison. The BMCC is 13 stops, 5dmkII maybe 9, GH2 even less.

      That is the difference of having windows you can see out of vs. white glowing gobs on a wall.

      The first articles I wrote all had video shot in ProRes from the BMCC. Look at the detail.

  2. bradbell.tv

    Melissa – I think Raw is icing on the cake. 90% of the value in BMCC comes from increased latitude, from not worrying about line skipping artefacts and moire, and perhaps most importantly, recording into ProRes: virtually lossless, in contrast to the HDSLRs very, very highly compressed H.264: arguably the greatest impediment to quality.

    Raw will be good when you want it; when you want to conform with Resolve. When you don’t, you shoot ProRes and edit natively, save disk space, and rejoice that you are so good with exposure and ProRes looks flawless. ProRes will let us really push the image in post. Raw will let us push it even further.

    I imagine I will use HDSLRs and BMCC together in some combination. HDSLRs have big sensors – especially 5D.

    1. Author
      planetMatt

      Yes, RAW is even more robust but I would also had, slightly more detailed and a significant higher resolution. 2.5k vs 1920 is a good difference. I want to shoot RAW for perfect DCP output at 2k.

      And yes, I plan on still using my 5dmkII alongside the BMCC but I have a growing suspicion that the Canon will be more regulated toward still imagery!

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