Magic Lantern Raw Video Hack
The people from Magic Lantern have already provided the DSLR filmmakers and videographers with a very nice firmware tool that greatly enhanced the video capabilities of the Canon cameras. Now they have done something possibly even more groundbreaking than that by delivering a hack that allows you to record RAW video up to 24fps in 1080p from the Canon 5d mark III. For the 5d mark II it almost reaches full hd since it delivers a resolution of 1880 x 1080.
RAW videos consist of individual frames of a 14 bit output, which yields a considerably wider dynamic range than the standard 8 bit video files. The RAW videos are captured on the card as RAW files, which have to be converted to individual DNG files on the computer. These files can be edited in most RAW photography editing software, for example with Photoshop CS6. An image sequence is then loaded into a program (e.g. Quicktime Player 7) that can create a single video file from it that can later be used in any video editing software.
For a detailed explanation on the RAW video workflow in OSX take a look at this video by cinema5D:
For a Windows workflow video there is a good one out there from Neumann Films:
Early testings show that the image quality of the RAW video compared to the standard video is very impressive, both in dynamic range as in image sharpness. Over the past few years the lack of sharpness has been somewhat of a nuisance for DSLR users. We have grown accustomed to the soft look in videos from these cameras. In the meantime still pictures in RAW have shown us the potential these cameras have. Now for the first time we can enhance, tweak and edit video from DSLRs the same way as we have done with pictures for so long!
So how did they do it? Basically Magic Lantern has found a way to intercept the RAW data stream from the sensor before it reaches the LCD or the H.264 compression. As a result the Compact Flash card is dealing with much higher data rates that could go as high as 83mb/s when recording 24fps at 1080p. This means you would need a very fast CF card (writing speed of at least 90 mb/s) to be able to record this RAW data stream. Since the camera itself no longer needs to compress the video to H.264 it doesn’t run the risk of overheating. The CF card is obviously doing more work but unless you would record continuously for an extended period of time you wouldn't encounter any problems with the card overheating.
Take a look at the comparison I did on the 5d mark II at 720p:
It is still very early in development and we might have to wait a bit to see a stable version but it does look very promising indeed. However if you are willing to risk using the Magic Lantern firmware and its RAW video hack head over to the forum on their website to find out more on the latest news, updates and releases.
So, is it a groundbreaking development? Yes, it certainly looks that way. Capturing RAW video from a DSLR camera is huge. Until now you would only have this option in cameras that cost considerably more. Should you be filming everything in RAW from now on? At this point in time, probably not. There are a few downsides too when recording RAW video. At the moment you are not able to record any sound in camera simultaneously with your video. This means always having to record audio to an external device. Then there is this huge data stream that is being saved on your card. This means you would have to have at least a couple of cards that could store a significant amount of data to be able to use it when you’re out and about. And finally, the workflow at the moment in post production is just not as fast as with regular video. In some cases when you’re working with a tight deadline I could see this being a problem. All in all I think it is a wonderful option to have in your camera and I really cannot wait to find out how this project develops.