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    Implementations of camera raw - How do they compare?
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    There are so many cameras that offer some form of raw recording these days:

    AJA
    Arri
    BlackMagic
    Canon
    Dalsa
    Digital Bolex
    Ikonoskop
    Indiecam
    Kinefinity
    Nikon
    Panasonic
    Panavision
    Red
    Sigma
    Sony
    Z-Cam

    These companies all offer at least one camera that has a method of recording raw video either internally, or with a third party implementation like ProRes raw, BRaw, or even Magic Lantern raw. However, "raw" can mean different things from different camera manufacturers when it comes to a post workflow. Some record raw data, which can be assigned an ISO in post. Some have options for defining highlight roll-off in post. Some may offer features or be limited in ways that I'm not even aware of.

    So, which camera raw implementations offer which features in a post workflow? Maybe we can compile a list or at least have a discussion.


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    REDCODE RAW > everything else and there is a reason they have protected it or tried to for 10+ years.

    In 2012, I expected everything moving forward to behave like REDCODE because I didn't really know any better, so when I was introduced to CinemaDNG in Blackmagic cameras and there was no support in FCP X I couldn't understand it.

    Fast forward 10 years later, and it's now clear that RAW and its nomenclature was a microcosm and a way years later for everyone (or mostly everyone) to create a way (or work with a partner) to obtain the highest quality they can out of their cameras internally or externally.

    I imagine this was years in the making but RED's patents created a lot of problems.

    With that said, there is only one true RAW for me and it's REDCODE RAW because many others are called RAW but are just alternate high-quality options without the true photography image manipulating controls for video in the software I use. (Maybe BRAW would be a close second if I used Resolve.)


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    By the way, if Lightroom or Photoshop was ever to one day be able to output hundreds of thousands of JPEGs in less than an hour, my god would color grading be absolutely unreal with CinemaDNG (which is how I used to grade it), but as it stands now even the best machines in the world are still sluggish handling and processing so many frames. And management is a nightmare.

    CinemaDNG is just an example that I'm familiar with, but future hardware will most likely be able to shoot 24,60 frames per second in other RAW formats for extended periods of time.

    So your Canon or Sony stills cameras will just be bursting with stills and creating motion pictures.

    No compressed form of video at all for the future generation.

    This was at least the dream for many 20 years ago...those stills coming to life in a moving form.


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    One more thing...lol.

    I like this subject because it's one that's affected my knowledge and influenced my decision to not trust Japanese cameras.

    When I had the big URSA, I could visually see and feel (in post) how ProRes 444XQ behaved.

    Dislike to use this word but it was darn robust. And this is exactly what many of these RAW formats are.

    They call them "RAW" and that means different things to people with various backgrounds and experience, but they are in their simplest description the best and highest-quality formats the cameras can provide on currently available technology that is able to capture and write the information.

    So with CRL, for example, this is Canon's PR444XQ and a way for this camera to offer what it offers with the limited processing and the amount of data provided.

    This should have been available 5 years before it was introduced but the time wasn't right.

    If cameras can't output their pictures out of their bodies straight into a television then they have to write it somewhere, and exactly what they are doing and how they are doing it is the single greatest debate in the history of pure camera image quality.

    Main point is...cameras could have been a heck of a lot better for many years.


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    Look for:

    • Image fidelity: 12-bit log or 16-bit linear. Both are equally good. Those using 16-bit linear often drop the 'linear' part when talking about it, making it sound "more" or "better" than 12-bit, which is often encoded in log, which in turn distributes the stops of light properly. While "true" raw would be naked sensor data, it's often not the case (actually not even when you think it is) and it's not a problem.
    • Gamut: a large gamut makes the data more flexible and less prone to artifacts with edge cases like neon light or whatever.
    • Compression: options to go from low compression to high. Both are important.
    • Post flexibility: can you trim the media after the fact and still maintain its raw state?
    • Industry support: support of file type in various NLEs and acceptance of the log curves. Availability of documentation and transform curves to and from log.
    • Deep NLE support: wider support than just ability to read the files. Possibility to manage data on a project level and streamline handling/global resetting of file settings.

    These are some of the things that I look for in a modern file format. It doesn't matter to me what you call it. Raw, more often than not, is already a half lie for those who love to nit-pick about every little aspect.

    In the list above there are both image quality aspects as well as convenience aspects. Depending on what your workflow is, one might trump the other. Everything isn't about highest possible quality regardless of everything else.
    @andreemarkefors


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    Andree is right. There are so many claims of "16 bit" as if it trumps 12 bit, especially when talking about REDCODE.

    For me, any work flow that allows you to

    1. Nominate a white point (WB) with an actual number and tint.
    2. Set the ISO later on.
    2. Allow a re-demosaic later on

    Can be called a true RAW format in my view.

    This idea that RAW is somehow unprocessed, pure and unadulterated is also a furphy. It's not just the pixels off the sensor. At the very least there's pixel compensation / re-mapping, some engineers idea of a colour space / transform, but a lot of them are also doing noise reduction, compression as well as other non RAW image processing things and putting it into a container that's labeled RAW. Or Raw. Or is it just raw ?

    By the way @NorBro, as good as you think PS is at grading, it SUCKS at doing that over time. Animating grades over time is what you need to be able to do with OS, not simply up the output. Also C1 always looked better than PS at RAW processing too ;-)

    JB
    John Brawley ACS
    Cinematographer
    Los Angeles
    www.johnbrawley.com
    I also have a blog


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    ha...I mostly used Lightroom. It was really my thing and nothing was better for me, but the time spent was unbearable. It took all day to process 10 minutes worth of video.

    As far as RAW being unprocessed, I don't think anyone expects it to be completely untouched, completely pure. It's just easier to refer to it as less processed when discussing in a comparison versus other formats that may be heavily processed.

    If the term 'RAW' was never so heavily marketed and companies refrained from copying each other they would all most likely continue to call their formats something else and speak about them differently.

    No matter what the specifications are from the engineers - which none of us can prove when critically thinking about them...like really, we can only trust them - these modes are all first and foremost about achieving the best quality from that piece of hardware, on paper.

    ___

    Over the years, the biggest concern with many of these proprietary formats (not just RAW) is that most of them needed to be transcoded after processing them in their native software which was the only software that provided full controls (or more controls). Some received extended support and others didn't.

    ARRIRAW, KineRAW, CRL, Canon RAW (and Half-RAW), Codex, CinemaDNG, X-OCN, Wave's high-speed RAW format via PC's WaveViewer, etc.

    ProRes RAW just recently was updated with some controls in FCP X (but not for all cameras).

    ___

    It is an absolute mess.

    Say what you want about RED, but they figured it out a long time ago. They make very good cameras with great software and great software compatibility.

    It doesn't matter what they call it...the bottom line is the cameras look darn good, and .R3Ds are of a higher quality than their other recording options and all major NLEs are able to dig deep into them and manipulate the data.

    Blackmagic too but they are unfortunately limited with Resolve.


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    Quote Originally Posted by John Brawley View Post
    Andree is right. There are so many claims of "16 bit" as if it trumps 12 bit, especially when talking about REDCODE.
    This idea that RAW is somehow unprocessed, pure and unadulterated is also a furphy. It's not just the pixels off the sensor. At the very least there's pixel compensation / re-mapping, some engineers idea of a colour space / transform, but a lot of them are also doing noise reduction, compression as well as other non RAW image processing things and putting it into a container that's labeled RAW. Or Raw. Or is it just raw ?
    JB
    As far as I can recall the waters were first muddied when Silicon Imaging and then Red decided they wanted to call something "raw" that wouldn't widely have been recognised as such at the time. Of them all, Blackmagic is probably pushing the definition of "raw" hardest; it's a partial demosaic.

    Regardless, these days there are very similar pros and cons for most raw formats. What Red are doing has never been particularly clever. Certainly back in the day it was just four JPEG-2000 planes and it presumably still was when they started selling the rebadged DVS Atomix JPEG-2000 boards as the "red rocket." I scratch my head at the idea it should have really been patentable, but these days that's much more to do with how much money you spend on lawyers than how much effort you put into actual engineering.

    The problem I have with all this is that proprietary codecs make workflow harder. Whatever the format, raw is very convenient if you stay within the ecosystem the company has deigned to support. Anyone who dares step outside the walled garden is screwed. Personally, for what it gains anyone, which is really very little, I'd rather have a file I can read in anything. That's much more important to me than a microscopically marginal IQ bonus and the ability to not bother about white balance.

    This endless willy-waving competition between Blackmagic and Atomos has got to stop, it's completely destructive and doesn't gain anyone anything. The fact that every camera needs at least one gamma curve and colourspace is crazy enough, but everyone's now deeply dug into the idea that it's somehow crucial.

    P
    Last edited by Phil Rhodes; 01-05-2021 at 02:58 PM.


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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil Rhodes View Post
    Personally, for what it gains anyone, which is really very little, I'd rather have a file I can read in anything. That's much more important to me than a microscopically marginal IQ bonus and the ability to not bother about white balance.

    P
    This is *exactly* how I feel these days, and it's why I've never bothered with ProRes RAW beyond some tests—even when I was nearly certain I'd be editing in FCPX. The benefit is still unclear to me: I lose compatibility with the best grading software widely available (Resolve) for... what exactly? Regular ProRes 422 and even LT have always worked fine, even when I've had to do some pretty drastic white balance adjustments or heavy grading.

    The cynic in me sees the RAW trend as mostly marketing—like the whole push to full frame—and trying to get people boxed into particular ecosystems.


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    It's all part of the rat race, but I feel it was also necessary for many to create their own RAW formats to shoot at higher resolutions and framerates.

    You can license ProRes from Apple - which some people who may know have shared it can be a nightmare of a process to get through - but many of the best technical specifications from cameras are in a proprietary RAW format.

    Some of these cameras that offer high-resolution ProRes with over 60p framerates are impressive, but extremely rare.

    That's why CinemaDNG is very useful and applies to almost the entire list above - but capturing it internally is a problem for obvious reasons and why some cameras, including Blackmagic removed it.


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