RAW CinemaDNG (from BMCC) to CIneformRAW for DaVinci Resolve via RAW4Pro+CIneform

Suppose you have some RAW footage, in CinemaDNG format (a number-sequenced set of [.dng] files), for example shot on a Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC).  Compared to “visually lossless” say ProRes or DNxHD (let alone H264 etc.), CinemaDNG occupies an awful lot of disk space, primarily because it is mathematically lossless.  The GoPro-CineformRAW encoding format offers significant reductions in file size (and hence data rate) at the cost of a practically negligible loss of visual information (and a purchase price).  This codec can be purchased as part of the GoPro Studio Premium product.  A comparison-grid of the various GoPro Studio products is here.

CineformRAW is an attractive compression-format, but unless care is applied to some very technical-level encoding options/settings, compatibility problems can arise when importing to DaVinci Resolve.  The latter is in widespread use but is especially relevant to BMCC owners because it is supplied as free software with that camera.  I experienced such problems myself: one version of Resolve (v.10.0) interpreted CineformRAW clips as green-tinted, while another (v.10.1) just gave black frames.

Happily, a simple solution existed: RAW4Pro, which is essentially a front-end to CineformRAW (and also to DNxHD, useful e.g. if you want HD proxies).

Summary:

  • Install
    • A product incorporating the GoPro-Cineform RAW codec.
    • The RAW4Pro utility
      • Essentially a front-end to generate CineformRAW and also to generate HD (e.g. as proxies) as DNxHD, in each case in either MOV or AVI container-formats.
  • Run RAW4Pro
    • Select (Browse-to) input-folder, output folder.
    • Select:
      • Sound: Audio-Merge
        • Initially, extract audio from source file to a WAV file, then merge this audio in with the generated file.  The WAV file remains, regardless.
        • The alternative (if not enabled) is no audio in the generated file (and no WAV file).
      • Processing: Convert-Only
      • Quality: Fine
        • Clicking the [?] button reveals that this creates 10-bit Log (colour-channel resolution).
      • Video Format:
        • Cineform RAW (encoding format)
        • MOV (container format)
        • LUT: NoneClick the [Process Clip] button.
  • Result:
    • A movie file with name prefixed by :R4P_” and suffixed by “_sound”, incorporating both video (10-bit Log) and audio tracks.
    • An audio WAV file, similarly prefixed,  generated as a “side effect”, may or may not be useful to you, can be deleted.

Background:

  • At first, I was going to request advice on the Cineforum forum at https://cineform.zendesk.com/entries/22175187-Blackmagic-Cinema-Camera-CinemaDNG-to-CineForm-RAW-Workflow-Windows
    • I was just about to ask:
      • << What’s the best Encode setting for getting RAW footage from a Blackmagic Cinema Camera (BMCC) into DaVinci Resolve?  To preserve the maximum information in RAW shot, would it be the “Optimize for 13 stops” option?  System=Windows7.  Or are there any challenges with that workflow at this time? >>
  • But then I read the forum thread at http://forum.blackmagicdesign.com/viewtopic.php?f=2&t=238 (“Re: Cinema DNG to Cineform RAW”) especially the post of Fri Jan 17, 2014 7:18pm by natedgreat3.
    • From this thread, it sounded like Resolve fails to treat Cineform RAW as RAW, and until it does, people have to do a fairly technical workaround.
    • One suggestion was to use the RAW4Pro utility to generate proxies (for editing with on an NLY, followed by relinking (in Resolve) back to the original CinemaDNG RAW files as part of a Finishing process.
  • Naively-optimistically, I tried updating Resolve to its latest version (10.1.3), hoping they might have fixed this issue, but instead my existing CineformRAW clips (generated using the latest version of GoPro Studio Premium) merely appeared as black frames in Resolve, though they still played fine in Windows Media Player…suggesting it was a Resolve issue (or at least a combined Cineform-Resolve issue).
  • Finally, at [http://www.bmcuser.com/showthread.php?3666-BMC-LUT-for-Cineform/page2] I discovered the solution I was seeking: RAW4Pro was not only useful for proxy-generation but was actually the answer to my needs, namely a simple “push-button” approach to generate CineformRAW with the correct technical format settings for Resolve to interpret in broadly the same way as the original RAW.
    • RAW4Pro can (depending on selected options) generate Cineform RAW without any looks added, so that the footage appears to Resolve broadly the same as would normal RAW.
    • A post by Alex Primehd as of 2013-11-18 announced a utility he had written, at that time called “RAW 2 CF RAW”.  Clicking on his provided link, I arrived at [http://raw4pro.com/], for the successor to that utility, namely “RAW4PRO”
  • Consequently, in Resolve, I would have the choice of using either the original RAW file-sequences or the compressed CineformRAW files.  In Resolve I could make temporary grades (suitable for first-cut editing).  Or I could import the CineformRAW to an NLE and do some grading there.  From Resolve or an NLE I could then generate dailies (in H264) suitable for transfer/sharing over domestic broadband (e.g. by uploading to DropBox).
    • Note: Resolve van currently generate H264 only for QuickTime (MOV) file-type, not MP4, but I have not found that to be of any consequence thus far.

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