The announcement of ProRes Raw at NAB has sparked much interest. What’s more, the recent firmware update of the EVA1 allows users to capture 5.7K RAW via its 6G-SDI output via both the Atomos Sumo and Shogun Inferno in addition to 4K RAW with the VariCam LT.
Following this announcement, we wanted to provide a brief overview on just what ProRes RAW is, how it works, in addition to both the possibilities and limitations of its usage.
Shooting moving images in RAW is very similar to capturing RAW stills in photography, in that you are capturing all of the raw data directly from the sensor without any treatment from the camera, and to instead entrust the task of interpreting the image within post-production, and thus like developing a film afterwards.
The key advantage to capturing moving images in RAW is that you don’t necessarily lose any of the colour information and therefore provides you with the freedom to correct almost any of the colourimetry. Dynamic range can also be increased as a result of recovering almost all of the details in the highlights and shadows.
The main argument against the use of capturing RAW data up until this point has been due to the weight of the data, with it not being untypical to reach 1GB/second and terabytes of data for a single hour. This requires use of media that supports such a data rate, and an ultra-powerful computer for processing the images in post-production. As a result, shooting in RAW is not necessarily within all camera operator’s reach.
Apple’s promise to free itself from all RAW constraints
This is where ProRes RAW comes in. The headline of ‘Performance of ProRes. Flexibility of RAW’ from Apple states this. Having read the White Paper published by Apple, it’s something to be excited about – particularly with the near-equivalent data rates when capturing images in ProRes RAW in comparison to the original ProRes codecs. As a result, we arrive at thresholds that are managable on accessible recorders and existing post-production infrastructure. Whilst only accessible on FCP X currently, we believe that it will be matter of time before the platforms in which most of us work on – DaVinci Resolve, Premiere Pro etc. – will too have access to ProRes RAW.
It looks like Apple’s intention is to therefore standardise all RAW formats around this unique platform. What is even better is that the format appears to be more optimised, and potentially allowing post-production of RAW to be achieved with a laptop rather than a stationary computer.
Testing ProRes RAW
We downloaded ProRes RAW files from filmplusgear.com and Media division and ran them off our MacBook Pro (2015 Edition). Our first observation was that it passes without a problem, even if the performance of our laptop suffered slightly through as a result of background calculations being made. We managed to read the files fluidly whereas when we have moved over to our workhorse computer complete with 64GB RAM and a large graphics card for editing other RAW codecs that we have worked with in the past in order to achieve the same result.
Here are some of the screenshots below:
Despite everything, the tools available in FCP X do not allow to push things as much as in Resolve for example. And this is where we reach the limits of ProRes RAW’s promises.
ProRes RAW – some uncertainties
As already discussed, the format is exclusively found on Final Cut Pro X and using Atomos recorders for the moment and therefore sole use on an iMac and not PC for licensing reasons.
From our own perspective, Apple have long left the big machines to focus on both the iMac and MacBook Pro and to process RAW even using ProRes on larger productions you will need a workhorse with sufficient processing power.
We would strongly recommend you watching this video from DSLR Video Shooters, which covers absolutely all aspects of this new format.