Blackmagic unveils RAW format

Blackmagic unveils RAW format
Published: 20 September 2018 - 7:57 a.m.
By: Pranav Vadehra

In one of the bigger technology announcements at this year's IBC show, Blackmagic has released a proprietary RAW format it says enables higher quality, and is faster and easier to use than other codecs. Blackmagic RAW processes the RAW file in-camera, which the company claims will significantly speed up workflows with raw files in post-production.

Blackmagic Design announced the public beta of its new Blackmagic RAW video codec at IBC 2018 in Amsterdam with the new codec demonstrated at the company booth. The company says the new format combines the benefits of shooting Raw video with the ease of use and smaller file sizes usually associated with compressed, gamma-encoded video files. Blackmagic said the new format is more intelligent, gives cross-platform support and comes with a free developer SDK.

Traditional RAW codecs have large file sizes and are processor intensive, making them hard to work with. Video file formats are faster, but suffer quality problems due to the use of 4:2:2 video filters that reduce color resolution. Blackmagic says it has addressed this problem by moving part of the de-mosaic process into the camera, which is able to provide hardware-based acceleration. By performing this process in-camera, editing software like DaVinci Resolve won't need to work nearly as hard to decode the files. DaVinci Resolve 15.1 Update, which includes support for Blackmagic RAW, is available free of charge from the Blackmagic Design website.

Blackmagic RAW is more than a RAW container format. It is designed to capture and understand the image data, along with the characteristics of the image sensor, which are encoded and saved into the Blackmagic RAW file. Blackmagic says this delivers much better image quality, even at higher compression settings, as well as total control over features such as ISO, white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation and more.

Blackmagic RAW supports two types of compression: constant quality or constant bit rate, allowing users to prioritize image quality or file size based on what they're shooting. Images are encoded using a non-linear 12-bit space designed to provide both high-quality colour data and dynamic range. According to Blackmagic, its new RAW format will also provide more accurate skin tones and colour thanks to the use of Generation 4 Color Science.

“Blackmagic RAW could entirely change the workflow going from camera through post production,” said Kees Van Oostrum, Director of Photography and President of the American Society of Cinematographers. “A superb image quality, fine detail and incredibly small file sizes could possibly make Blackmagic RAW the go to format for filmmakers. It will be an important change for post because the editorial team can work with the camera original files, which are fast enough to use for everyday editing. That means less confusion in regards to creative choices I make at the camera. The images can now travel throughout the entire workflow because we’re shooting, editing and grading with the same files! Blackmagic RAW could be a game changer in the way films, television shows and commercials are made.”

“Blackmagic RAW is the world’s only truly modern, high performance, professional RAW codec that is open, cross platform and free,” said Grant Petty, Blackmagic Design CEO. “It’s exciting because customers can get the visually lossless image quality of RAW with the speed of traditional video workflows. Best of all, there are no hidden licenses or ongoing fees. Blackmagic RAW has been designed to provide the industry with an open, elegant and standardized high quality image format that can be used across products and in customer workflows absolutely free!”

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