Blackmagic RAW

Blackmagic Camera 6.2 update enables Blackmagic RAW in the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K.

The Pocket Cinema Camera 4K has a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) size 18.96 x 10 mm sensor. The lens mount has a Flange Focal Depth of 19.25mm and its inside diameter is nominally 40.2 mm Ø.

Blackmagic RAW is a new codec that combines the quality and benefits of RAW with the ease of use, speed and file sizes of traditional video formats. File sizes are smaller, which means recording time is longer. You’ll be able to record 2 hours of Blackmagic RAW in 4K on a single 256GB SD UHS-II card.   

Blackmagic RAW has two types of file compression. You can choose constant quality or constant bitrate encoding.

Constant quality uses variable bitrate encoding so complex frames are managed at higher data rates to preserve detail and maintain the highest possible quality. Blackmagic RAW Q0 has minimum quantization and yields the highest quality. Blackmagic RAW Q5 uses moderate quantization for more efficient encoding and a smaller file size.

Constant bitrate encoding provides predictable and consistent file sizes. Blackmagic RAW 3:1, 5:1, 8:1 and 12:1 ratios are calculated by the unprocessed file size of a single frame from the camera’s sensor.

Blackmagic RAW Q0 and 3:1 are excellent for effects-heavy features and commercials. Blackmagic RAW Q5 and 5:1 are suggested for episodic television and independent films. Blackmagic RAW 8:1 and 12:1, with the highest compression, are enticing for productions that wouldn’t normally consider shooting RAW.

Typically, RAW codecs typically had large file sizes. Blackmagic RAW offers the same quality, bit depth, dynamic range and controls as RAW, but with better performance and smaller file sizes. Once files are brought into DaVinci Resolve, additional GPU and CPU acceleration make decoding of frames incredibly fast.

When Blackmagic RAW settings are changed in DaVinci Resolve, a .sidecar file can be generated or updated if one already exists. When opened in other software applications that support Blackmagic RAW, the .sidecar file, which contains the Blackmagic RAW settings made in DaVinci Resolve, will be automatically used to display the image. If the .sidecar file is removed, then the file will be displayed using the embedded metadata instead. This new workflow gives you a non-destructive way to change Blackmagic RAW settings while working between different applications.

Image data, along with the unique characteristics of the image sensor, are encoded and saved into the Blackmagic RAW file, which offers better image quality, even at higher compression settings, and control over ISO, white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation and more.

Blackmagic RAW is optimized for AVX, AVX2 and SSE4.1 enabled processors, works across multiple CPU cores and is GPU accelerated with support for Apple Metal, CUDA and OpenCL. Frame decoding and image processing is extremely fast, making it nimble for editing, color correction and visual effects in DaVinci Resolve. There’s another big benefit: media is stored as single files, and not image sequences. This simplifies media management and file copying is much faster.

The free Blackmagic RAW Developer SDK is available on Mac OS, Windows and Linux. This SDK helps developers add support for Blackmagic RAW to third party software applications. Developers get access to GPU and CPU accelerated algorithms for decoding files, along with unique information about the camera’s image sensor, so their applications can accurately decode and display the files. The SDK has highly descriptive and flexible metadata options. Metadata is embedded directly in the .braw file or it can be stored in a .sidecar file. Metadata is important because it contains the Blackmagic RAW settings along with information about lens  focal length, iris, focus, slate, white balance and a lot more. Metadata in the .sidecar files can be used on top of the embedded metadata without overwriting it. Blackmagic RAW also supports frame-based metadata. This is important when focus is changing on a frame by frame basis, for example, as you dolly into a subject.

Grant Petty, Blackmagic Design CEO, summed it up: “Blackmagic RAW gives you the visually lossless image quality of RAW with the speed of traditional video workflows.”

Blackmagic Camera 6.2 update is available now as a free download.

Reprinted from Film and Digital Times April 2019 Edition #93-94

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