Introducing Blackmagic RAW

GTC sponsor Blackmagic Design has recently made available a new Blackmagic RAW file format for its URSA Mini Pro cameras and DaVinci Resolve. It's a modern codec designed as a replacement for both RAW and video codecs, making it easier and faster to use as well as resulting in much higher quality output.

Faster and more intelligent

Blackmagic RAW is much more intelligent than simple RAW container formats like the CinemaDNG format used in the past. It understands the characteristics of the image sensor and the camera’s colour science, resulting in more cinematic images and better quality for smaller file sizes.

Another big feature of Blackmagic RAW is how it's designed. A partial de-mosaic in the camera means that part of the processing pipeline has been hardware accelerated by the camera itself. As a result, Blackmagic RAW does not load up the software with lots of processing so the result is incredibly fast playback and faster rendering.

You also get total control over RAW settings such as ISO, white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation and custom colour spaces. Blackmagic RAW also includes extensive metadata support including user customisable sidecar metadata files, plus GPU and CPU acceleration, new Blackmagic Design Generation 4 Colour Science, different encoding options for constant quality or constant bitrate and more.

Modern RAW format

Blackmagic RAW has been designed to be a replacement for both video and RAW formats. It’s dramatically better than video codecs because the images don't suffer from the 4:2:2 video filtering. Plus compressing video is much more noticeable as image artifacts. Blackmagic RAW performs better than other RAW formats such as CinemaDNG because it's a single file and it's hardware accelerated by the camera so it's much faster. Additionally, all the colour detail is present along with full RAW adjustments.

Powerful metadata

When it comes to metadata, Blackmagic RAW can embed metadata into the file itself, as well as add sidecar files, meaning that users can add their own metadata. A good example of how this works is you could record to Blackmagic RAW with camera settings but when you do RAW adjustments in DaVinci Resolve, you can save that into the sidecar file and all other software that reads the files will also see those changes.

Where this is really powerful is when working in video gamma. If you select video gamma in the URSA Mini Pro camera, you will see video gamma if you edit the files. But it’s only the metadata in the file that’s telling the software that the files are video gamma. Underneath they are always film gamma. This means that if you ever want to colour grade the images, you don't get clipped whites and blacks. All that film dynamic range is there. When you pull up the blacks, or pull down the whites, all that detail will just appear!

Developer SDK library

There's yet more good news in that it’s easy to add Blackmagic RAW support into any software because all the downstream software processing has been bundled up into a single software library that's free for developers. This library is available on Mac, Windows and Linux and it means all the complexity of using Blackmagic RAW has been handled. Reading sidecar files, setting RAW parameters and all the colour science is included. This ensures you get consistent images between different software applications and across operating system platforms. DaVinci Resolve 15.1 also uses this library so any RAW settings changed in DaVinci Resolve will be seen by other software. A simple app called Blackmagic RAW Player has also been developed which lets you review Blackmagic RAW files.

Cost and availability

Even better is that this update is free of charge. If you own a Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro camera then you can download a public beta for your camera that adds Blackmagic RAW and it also upgrades your camera to Generation 4 Colour Science at the same time.

To enable you to start shooting in Blackmagic RAW immediately, Blackmagic has also released a new version of DaVinci Resolve 15.1. This release has several new features but most importantly it includes support for Blackmagic RAW.

To try out some Blackmagic RAW sample files, Blackmagic has posted some camera original files on their website. Simply go to www.blackmagicdesign.com and select the URSA Mini Pro product page. You will see a new Blackmagic RAW tab that includes extra information.

You can also download the Blackmagic RAW Player from this webpage and it lets you play the files. Why not download DaVinci Resolve and do some test colour grades on the files? You will be able to go to the camera tab in the primary colour corrector area and see the RAW settings. You can even save sidecar files.

If you want to add Blackmagic RAW support to your own software, the Blackmagic RAW Developer SDK is also available on the webpage and it includes sample code so you can see how to use the library.

Blackmagic's CEO, Grant Petty says,

I am personally very excited by Blackmagic RAW and the feedback from the beta testers has been incredible. I was playing some Blackmagic RAW clips yesterday and then realised I was playing them from an old USB mechanical hard disk. I cannot play 4K video files off this disk, but I could play 4.6K Blackmagic RAW files perfectly. It’s quite amazing how good the pictures look at small file sizes. It’s very exciting.

To see more about Blackmagic RAW, take a look at this video.

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