RAW Cinema DNG vs Graded Image

In the week after I got my Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera the RAW firmware update was released. I had never shot any video in RAW before and one of the reasons I bought my BMPCC was that I would really like to experience how it is shooting RAW and then having to deal with the post production side.

In the weekend after the RAW update was releases I had some time to do some testing with the BMPCC to see how it performed best. I had already read in an article (footage in your pocket) by John Brawley that you had to ETTR (Expose to the Right) on the Blackmagic Camera so I wanted to give that a try as well as to see with my own eyes how the different ISO (ASA) settings performed on the Pocket Camera.

I shot a little test video that I put on Vimeo but there was an encoding problem from my ProRes file to the H.264 file encoded by Vimeo, so I took it offline. Watching it on Vimeo didn't exactly do it justice either, you really had to download the Original File anyway to see a real difference. Please comment below if you would like to download the original test file and I will provide a link.

Anyway, my conclusions from this video were:

  • The Pocket Camera definitely has more dynamic range then my Nikon D800 in video mode, I already knew that but I wanted to see it for myself.
  • The Pocket Camera definitely performs best (has the least amount of noise) when set to ISO 800.
  • The sensor really needs light, the more, the better.

ETTR

The last point of my conclusion is a confirmation of what John Brawley already wrote, go the the Display Settings in the menu and set Zebra to 100%!

Then set exposure not on what you see on the screen at the back of the camera but which hightlights you want clipped or not and stop there.

This can be pretty confusion because what you see on the back of the screen can seem to be pretty blown out, but you have to trust the camera here.

Here is an example of how an over exposed shot looks when I open it in Adobe Camera RAW:

Overexposed in RAW

Then in Adobe Camera RAW or more likely DaVinci Resolve you can go to the Camera RAW settings panel:

Camera RAW settings panel

And bring it back to achieve the right looking exposure, apply a LUT, make some changes and it will look like this:

Same image after grade in Resolve

You will have far less noise in your image if you expose like this instead of just shooting by setting the exposure with your eye.

ETTR with ProRes or RAW

I am not a professional colour grader so I found it far more easy to take back exposure in Camera RAW as opposed to do it using the Color Wheels when shooting ProRes, but with a little practice it probably can be done just as well. The same is true of changing White Balance, I find it far more easy to change the colour temprature in RAW then to do it for a ProRes file with the Color Wheels.

Like developing film?

I have never developed film before so I don't know what it's like but I can imagine it's really magical when you see the photo you took appear on a piece of paper. When shooting overexposed like this it also feels a bit like magic when you open the a single DNG in Camera RAW and see the image appear in front of you when you drag the exposure slider to the left.

Amsterdamse Bos

With all of this knowledge in my mind I went to the Amsterdamse Bos (Amsterdam Forest) on a drooly, little misty sunday aftertoon to shoot some RAW footage with the c-mount lenses I have (see C-Mount Lenses for the BMPCC). A real small, low profile setup, because that's how I would like to use the camera, or at least try to use it.

The weather was absolutely beautiful, no bright sun, just really soft light which was perfect since I don't have any filters to change exposure, I have to do it all by changing the aperture on the lens and changing the ASA (ISO) on the camera. Ofcourse I shot most of the footage on ISO 800 because of what I found out testing the camera.

I started out with the Schneider Cinegon 10mm F1.8 lens on my camera but quickly switched to my Xenoplan 25mm F1.9. That was probably the biggest mistake I made, what was I thinking? Well obviously I wasn't thinking because 25mm on the BMPCC is the equivalent FOV of 75mm on a full frame photo camera. It's impossible to shoot handheld like this! When I was shooting I thought I was doing a pretty good job, it all seemed quite steady, until I saw the footage back ofcourse, oh man, such a beautiful day, such nice footage but shaky as hell!

After a while I fortunately changed back to my Cinegon 10mm to get some more shots that were not too shaky.

Music, Edit and Grading

When I came back home I checked searched for some music that would fit the mood I had felt while being there shooting. It was such a calm, serene feeling that afternoon, really relaxing to shoot in an atmosphere like that.

So I browsed for music on Marmoset and within a few minutes had found 'Highway of Waterfalls' by Marmoset, the music matched exactly with what I had in my mind. It's great that websites like this exists, by entering some values for different filters it real easy to find some great music for your videos.

Grading

I graded the RAW clips in Davinci Resolve:

  • Changed the exposure in Camera RAW settings by an average of around -1.20
  • Applied Captain Hook's LUT
  • Tweaked the exposure on individual clips
  • Changed the Hue vs Sat Curve to make the red / yellow colors a bit more saturated to emphasize the Autumn colours.

Editing

I then brought the clips into FCPX, added a temporary track of 'Highway of Waterfalls' to the timeline and started my edit.

I was done in less then an hour with this video, it just all fell into place.

There was only one thing: the shaky footage! Man, did I regret shooting handheld with the 25mm! I rendered the video, really loved it the tone, the music, the entire mood of the video but that shakky footage was bothering me. I tried to apply Smoothcam stabilization in FCPX but that only made it worse, it made it look real artificial and cheap.

Flash forward

So although I published this on November 23rd, 2013 I actually wrote this article on the 28th of March 2014, this is because I just started my blog and want the articles that I write to have a date that corresponds with the time it took place.

Since I first edited the video, Final Cut Pro 10.1 was released and introduced a new stabilization method called 'Inertiacam', not in all circumstances this will lead to better looking footage but in the case of this video it absolutely did!

I applied the stabilization to all shots that needed it and also changed the size of the timeline to 1920x816 pixels to have it rendered without black bars at the top and bottom and in a 2.35 aspect ratio (to get rid of the vignetting that occurs when shooting with the Cinegon 10mm).

There are still shots where I don't like the stabilization though but I think it is now at an acceptable level, I just like the rest of the video too much too leave it unpublished.

Last week I bought the license for the music from Marmoset and published it on Vimeo, hope you like it:


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