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April 6, 2018

Apple ProRes RAW promises faster RAW video workflows for Final Cut Pro X

by John_A

Apple released a new version of its ProRes video format this week as the company continues to regain ground in the world of professional video editing. Called ProRes RAW, Apple claims the new filetype combines the flexibility of a RAW video file with the performance advantages of ProRes, all with a file size that is actually smaller than ProRes 4444 (the previous top-of-the-line version of the format).

As with RAW still photos, RAW video offers more latitude for making adjustments in post-production, capturing greater dynamic range and bit more depth than consumer formats like MP4. Unlike other RAW formats, ProRes RAW uses compression to keep storage requirements minimal. It supports multiple resolutions in 12-bit color and a data rate of 80 to 140 megabytes per second. 4K video can be recorded up to 120 frames per second, and can record 2K up to 240 fps.

DJI is one of the first companies to license the new format and will bring it soon to its Zenmuse X7 aerial camera that can be mounted to the Inspire 2 drone . The Zenmuse X7 uses a Super35 sensor (equivalent to APS-C) which produces excellent image quality, and while it already offered RAW recording via Adobe’s CinemaDNG standard, ProRes RAW should offer improved, real-time editing performance in Final Cut Pro X.

Select cinema cameras from Canon, Sony, and Panasonic will also be able to take advantage of the new format thanks to their ability to output RAW data over HDMI. That’s because Atomos, maker of external HDMI video recorders, will soon be integrating ProRes RAW into its Shogun Inferno and Sumo 19 recorders via free firmware updates. Not only will such a recorder capture the full color and dynamic range of a camera’s sensor, it will even save metadata like shutter speed, f-stop, and ISO.

Of course, the question that’s bound to come up is, can this be used to record RAW video from a mirrorless camera or DSLR? We reached out to Atomos for clarification on this, and the answer is a pretty hard no — at least, for now. While using an external recorder is a good way to bypass some of the limitations of your camera’s internal video processing, no mirrorless camera or DSLR currently outputs RAW data over HDMI. Even the video-focused Panasonic GH5S only outputs a 10-bit 4:2:2 feed; many other cameras offer just 8-bit color, and some don’t output a clean HDMI feed at all. Furthermore, these cameras “bake in” a color profile to their HDMI feeds, which may be a flat log profile, but is not actual RAW data.

Still, the existence of the ProRes RAW format is good news for the future of DSLR and mirrorless video. Should a manufacturer choose to allow its cameras to output RAW HDMI feeds, small cameras could truly compete, quality-wise, with much larger and more expensive cinema cameras. And while a RAW video workflow certainly isn’t for everyone, ProRes RAW may make it more approachable to a broader range of videographers, at least those working in MacOS and Final Cut Pro X.

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