Post workflow for the Blackmagic Cinema Camera

Having tested the BMC since quite a while now, I’m musing about the different options of post workflow.  There are different ways to skin the cat in the moment, and – as usual – all of them have their pros and cons. Speed, convenience, storage space, quality and the balance of those are only some of the decisions you have to make. So here are my thoughts so far:

BMCC with a lovely Angenieux Optimo zoom in a Bebob cage system

1. COMPRESSED QUALITY

If you can live with ProRes or DnxHD – those are the easiest workflows you can choose. In most decent NLEs, you just can throw the files on the timeline and start working, without any need for proxies, re-compression, re-wrapping or any other voodoo.

You have two choices here. Ether the “Film” option, which gives a rather flat image, that is a bit similar to a LOG recording, or the “Video” option. The latter applies a LUT in camera, that is burned in – so not meta data, that can easily changed in post. On the pro side is, that there is no need for any color correction in post.

You can edit right out of the box or hand the material over to an editor. On the other hand, you are a bit limited regarding dynamic range and how much you can alter the picture.

The “Film” option, gives you much more room to play with, but looks rather milky and washed out (like all LOG material). But since it is 10 bit, you have quite some lee way to get your final look, before it brakes apart.

Fazit:

  • Storage space: DnxHD and ProRes need much less space than DNG
  • Speed: Fastest workflow available
  • Transcoding: No transcoding necessary
  • Quality: The lowest quality of the BMC  – but still better than most other compressed formats
  • Dumping time: Fastest downloading from the SSD to your drives.
  • Roundtripping: No roundtrip necessary.


ProRes “Film” option undgreaded

2. UNCOMPRESSED QUALITY

I was always a sucker and evangelist for an uncompressed workflow till delivery. I did that (whenever possible) since over 12 years now, starting back in the SD days, on the advent of the first Decklink cards. Having said that, uncompressed recording was prohibitive cumbersome for most projects (though I did it on some higher end stuff) and usually I had to start with some compressed camera format, that I converted to uncompressed before I worked with it.

Now the BMCC makes recording of, not only uncompressed material possible, but recording of uncompressed raw, which is even better, cause it gives you the most freedom and flexibility. The camera ships with a full version of Davici Resolve 9. It reads, grades and plays the DNGs in realtime (given you have a decent machine) and also can create proxies for round-tripping. So the Resolve work flow Blackmagic recommends is like this:

  1. You copy your files from the SSD to your drives
  2. Open the files in Resolve (maybe add an LUT to them) and render a set of lower rez proxies in a format that your NLE can handle
  3. You do your editing with those files and export a EDL/XML from your NLE and import that into Resolve
  4. Do you color thing and ether render out as a master, for delivery or for further modification like titles andwhatnot in a NLE friendly format.

This is called round-tripping for obvious reasons.

Fazit:

  • Storage space: You need storage space for the DNGs plus some additional space for the proxies.
  • Speed: Takes quite a while
  • Transcoding:Transcoding to proxies necessary
  • Quality: Great quality
  • Dumping time: Takes longer than compressed files
  • Roundtripping: Big time round-tripping


DNG, debayered and graded in Resolve

3. Alternative Workflows

Though both – compressed and uncompressed workflow – are fine and somewhat a industry standard, there are other ways.

CINEFORM RAW

This is somewhat between uncompressed DNG and compressed. Technically it’s visually lossless, compressed raw, similar to REDraw.

So you have smaller file sizes, but keep most of the benefits of raw. Instead of just dumping the files to your computer, you convert them on the fly, right from the SSD to CineformRAW. So the original files never leave the SSD and after conversion you can just delete them. You have a new set of visually lossless compressed CineformRAW files sitting on your computer now and go from there. You can use those files, like they where ProRes or DnxHD material and throw em right on your timeline. You can grade with your favorite plug-in, or tool or send the timeline after picture lock to Resolve or Speedgrade or whatever you use. Also you can do a metadata based first light correction before, while or after editing in Cineform Studio.

It’s all very versatile and flexible. Because it’s all metadata, you can always go back to the original pristine file. Nothing is burned in. Cineform Studio has a wide range of demosaicing and color space options to choose from. I have to confess, that I get better results – right of the bat – with Cineform than after a lot of tweaking with Resolve.

But maybe I just suck at Resolve, I’m working only since a few months with it and still have to learn a lot.

Debayered and graded in Cineform Studio
AFTEREFFECTS

The ADOBE Camera RAW importer – as used in Lightroom, Photoshop and Aftereffects – is the best one out there – hands down.

Whatever I do, with Camera RAW I can harvest more dynamic range and more information out of a DNG, than in any of the other programs I tried.

But you have to pay a huge penalty for the quality.

It’s super slow, super cumbersome, super inflexible and irreversible, that means, everything is burned in. No way to go back and tweak things once you have “developed” the material (unless you start from scratch).

Fazit:

  • Storage space: You need more than double the storage space. 1. for the DNGs plus some additional space for the NLE friendly debayered material.
  • Speed: Very slow
  • Transcoding:Transcoding to NLE friendly files
  • Quality: Best possible quality
  • Dumping time: Dumping the DNGs takes a while
  • Roundtripping: Roundtrip from AE to your NLE and maybe an grading program.

DNG, graded and debayered in Aftereffects

Verdict:

As I said, there are many ways to skin the cat. It depends on your need, time, budget and how you can get all that into your normal workflow.

The great thing is, that we now have all that options at our hands, so we can choose the best one for  a given project.

DISCLAIMER: After uploading the pics, the blog software did – sort of err… a own “interpretation” – so don’t pixel peep to much into them, and take em just as illustration.

6 thoughts on “Post workflow for the Blackmagic Cinema Camera

  1. Really nice article, Frank. Very informative. I personally am an absolute Cineform Studio Fanboy and as far as I can tell, I agree with you that I get results quicker with it than with Resolve. And speed’s a huge thing for me. The AE camera raw really is great, but so, so clunky and every time you do it, your machine just SCREAMS at you😀

  2. Very nice Frank.
    I am really interested in buying this camera. Also i am starting to work with resolve to see if it fits my needs. H264 it’s past, let the Raw come.

  3. Wow, once again, thanks for your valuable insights, Frank! This is really helpful in making decisions about yet another camera system. I’m amazed at what you are getting from Raw. Finally, a camera that creates the look of film, at a great price! I have been using Cineform for many years, but never Raw. How fast is it to both convert from Camera Raw, and work with it on the timeline compared to other compressed formats? Thanks again.

  4. Hi Frank,

    Great stuff. I’m waiting on my BCC at the moment, hopefully won’t be more than a couple of weeks wait now. I’m very excited. I think that Cineform Raw is going to offer the best workflow for me, as its smaller file sizes mean I can stretch my storage options a little bit further. You say that once converted, you can drop the Cineform Raw files straight into your preferred NLE. Does this include FCPX? I know you’re using Premiere, but I can’t find any info online as to whether FCPX will support Cineform Raw at all. Up until now I’ve been using ProRes and ProRes HQ – This camera will be my first step into the world of RAW.

    Keep up the great work.

    Thanks

    • Hi Frank,

      thanks for this great and helpful article. I am test-driving Cineform Studio Premium and have found that the converted files from BMCC-DNG-RAW are not playing smoothly in PremierePro5.5. Resolution is of course 2400*1350, profile is “high”, and there seems to be no way to downscale to 1920*1080 as in Resolve, only crop. Do you have an advice for me – besides buying new GPUs? I have 1 GTX460 and 1 GTX580, but I could upgrade if necessary.

      Thanks!

      Sebastian-Alex. from Oberwil-Lieli (CH) (sgierth in the BlackmagicDesign forum)

  5. I am currently working on an “optimal” (of course it depends) raw workflow for the BMPCC if you want to use some more VFXs. I have the feeling it must be possible like this:
    – Import raw DNG sequence in AE.
    – Do noise reduction, rolling shutter removal, compositing, VFX and such in AE.
    – Import raw DNG sequence (or just stills) in Resolve.
    – Grade in Resolve.
    – Export Grading LUTs from Resolve.
    – Import LUTs into AE and apply above compositions.

    This seems pretty perfect to me since you don’t have to use proxies and don’t need to transcode anything. Also this is very flexible in terms of order of effects (you can chose when to apply what effect, LUT, noise reduction anytime). So everything is “non destructive”. And the grading is applied to the “neutral” shots with composition which makes it easier to match the color of different elements (downside: you have to export/import additional elements if you want to grade them in Resolve as well). Also it would be easy for working with a colorist as you can just exchange grading LUTs and maybe you don’t even have to share the complete data load but just send him a few DNG files (don’t know if that is enough for a colorist).

    BUT!: I haven’t figured out a way yet how to interpret raw in AE with ACR in a way I know what happens and can apply a conversion so AE and Resolve start with the same interpretation of the DNG files. VisionLOG seems to be able to do something like that with *.dcp settings for ACR but there is no setting for BMPCC yet. I tried the 5D MkIII VisionLog setting but that failed (as expected).

    So any input or ideas on that “big but”? Or do you think this workflow does not make much sense?

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