First of all, I’ve been much more active on my Facebook page than my blog (some smaller posts don’t warrant writing a blog post over), so please visit and like the page: http://facebook.com/bryantnarocinematography
So the big deal these days is the Magic Lantern raw hack. It’s been around since May. I decided to wait it out a few months to hear feedback from people I knew that had tested it. It’s a pretty scary endeavor, but the only real side-effect is that the bootflag cannot be reset. What does that mean? Well, if you don’t know, you might want to do a lot more investigating in the Magic Lantern forums.
The bootflag is a work-around to direct the camera to use the Magic Lantern firmware, rather than Canon’s built-in firmware (which it defaults to if it doesn’t find the ML firmware on a card). It’s a redirection, whose modification isn’t really a big deal, except unlike most installs you can’t set it back (for now). There have also been some folks talking about battery life going quicker, and boot times being slower as a result to this alpha software. I’ll attest to the fact that the 5D does behave a little ‘funny’ these days, but the payoff is remarkable. Hopefully the firmware will become at least beta, and more stable soon.
So now that the doom and gloom is out of the way, on with the show!
Five Things To Know
Here are 5 quick things to know about the raw hack that I seldom see any blog talk about:
1. Really understand the risks of using the Magic Lantern firmware (especially an alpha build!). Seriously. If you’re a photographer that can not live without your camera, just don’t do it. Yes, it’s very stable for an alpha, but you could risk losing the thing that makes you money, so unless you’ve got a backup, just wait.
2. Do not use Komputerbay cards unless you have more time and patience than money (to constantly return them when they fail).
3. Flickering Effect: There are still bugs to be worked out, and as such, sometimes messing with camera raw too much can give you a flickering effect (specifically for Adobe Camera Raw).
4. Rainbow Pixels: If you get strange artifacts (rainbow pixels, weird pixels, etc) it’s probably your card (and you probably didn’t listen to bullet point number two!). Your card is also most likely on its way out (R.I.P. your card). Here’s my post on the Magic Lantern forums showing Komputerbay card weirdness.
5. Much like Doctor Who, raw video goes through a lot of space in a short amount of time. For me, at 1920×1038 (1.85:1 ratio) at 23.978fps, each .dng file comes in at 4MB. That’s just under 100MB a second! Not bit—Bytes! So, 32GB gets you about 7 minutes of raw video. This then needs to be copied to your hard drive (that takes time), then put into a CinemaDNG format by an application like RAWMagic (that takes more time), then converted to a video format for editing (this could be the most time consuming process of them all). If you’ve never worked with raw files before, you might be in for a reality check. To put that in perspective, the Sony FS100 records 1080P video at 28Mbps. The AVCHD compression gets me roughly 88 minutes to a 16GB card. With raw video on a 5D, I get 3 and a half minutes of video on the same size card (well, one is SDHC, and the other is CompactFlash, but you know what I mean).
In short: Be mindful of the true cost of raw.
Here’s a quick visual to show you what this hack is capable of (granted it’s a compressed image, but the video still shows the power of raw):
I’m blown away by the sharpness and quality of this raw footage. I tweaked white balance, fill, recovery, black level, hue, sat, and added sharpness via Adobe Camera Raw. So it’s not right out of camera, but I definitely didn’t stress over the color corrections (even though the image could be pushed really far). I took these samples very non-chantly while Meag and I ate our meals outside in downtown Keene, so it’s still not quite a stress test of the firmware. I did manage to hit an error after I filled the card—the LCD on the top handle was reading out as if I had space left on the card, until I rebooted (then it fixed itself to say “0”).
I’ve uploaded the ProRes422HQ file to get the best quality possible on Vimeo. Overkill? Yes! But it’s also one less step for me.
My workflow was as follows:
-Record 1920×1038 @ 23.978 (FPS override) to Lexar 32GB X1000
-Run files through RAWMagic
-Import to After Effects (command+i, direct to the first .dng file, tweak parameters in the camera raw module, import as sequence)
-Interpret footage from 30 to 23.978 (right click on file to see the option…I’m not sure why it default interprets as 30p)
-Render to ProRes422 HQ
-Import into Premiere, cut, export ProRes422HQ
Here’s a Flickr set of before and after screenshots running the DNG files through adobe camera raw.
The screenshot only shows one tab, so you can’t see my hue/sat adjusts, and sharpening. I added anywhere from 25-50 sharpening. Apply all, click done, and you got yourself some DNGs ready for import!
Please specify a Flickr ID for this gallery
Pixel artifacts must be from the extreme variance in speed (and inevitable death of the card). I may seem like I’m being really harsh on the company, but they were quite rude with me when I was insisting that the performance wasn’t as advertised.
You can find before and after photos of the color adjustments on my Facebook page.
It sure is nice having a raw video upgrade to my DSLR for free! In the end, you can’t complain with that price point (well, the 1000x card cost money, but that’s the only investment). Would I shoot anything professionally on this thing? Nope, and probably never. I’ve never used Magic Lantern raw in a professional setting, and I most likely never will. Don’t get me wrong, the Magic Lantern team did an amazing job building this thing, but they’re not the ones that have to do tech support if something goes wrong. So for now, professional projects will be created with professionally backed products (if my FS100 breaks, Sony better have a fix!).
But for personal projects, absolutely! I’ll keep it in my kit, and if there’s a day where I’ve got a perfect shot, but just need more latitude, I’ll prompt the client and let them know the risks, and how round about the workflow can be. If they’re still interested, and it’s not that important of a shot, I might go for it (maybe ‘never’ wasn’t the right word)!
In the meantime, I’ll keep experimenting. Having the ability to correct moving images like I can with raw camera files, without putting tens of thousands of dollars down on a higher end cinema camera…well that’s absolutely astounding. We all owe a big thank you to the Magic Lantern team!