First off, huge thanks to Blackmagic Design UK for lending me an URSA Mini Pro (which I sent back) in order to test Blackmagic Raw. In this post, I’ll share a couple of tests as well as some footage I shot using the latest Blackmagic Raw format announced at IBC 2018, which we wrote about in more detail in this post here.
Blackmagic Raw offers significant speed efficiencies and hard-disk space savings by using various compressions ranging from 12:1 to 3:1 in a constant bit rate, and two constant quality (Variable bit rate) options called Q0 and Q5 (which is a bit more disk-space friendly than Q0). These tests are not scientific and my goal with them was to emulate an environment similar to what I’d find myself in an event situation or a run-n-gun documentary scenario with either natural light or challenging street lights or other fixtures I can’t control.
In the first test I wanted to compare all the BRAW compressions in a low-light environment with skin tones reference and a chart.
Key is the overcast sky/sun or lack of – through a slit between the curtains in the studio. Apologies for the colour chart being out of focus, I shot mostly at fast apertures.
The colour rendition wasn’t the focus here, but rather noise levels on skin tones – pay attention to the darker part of his face. For me Q0 showed the best results, being the highest bit rate, but was a bit more noise than I expected. 5:1 and 3:1 are excellent, and 12:1 is still definitely usable despite less detail and some noise, which can easily be cleaned up.
For the second test, which is very similar, I wanted to see how the various compressions behave in an overcast daylight environment.
I wanted to test for skin tones in a daylight environment in the various BRAW compressions in both Constant Quality and Constant Bit rate and ascertain any major glaring differences. No such found.
Q0 and Q5 are definitely more detailed, but even 12:1 is still very usable in 95% of situations. Not a scientific test by any means, but since I shoot a lot in a docu-style with available light, it was important for me to see how skin tones behave in a challenging daylight environment.
In Resolve 15, I simply applied the BMD 4.6K Film to Extended Video LUT, and adjusted exposure slightly to account for the change in clouds/overcast conditions.
Many thanks to my DP Rumen Vasilev for being the model for these tests, and also to VI Rental London for letting us film in their studio and use some of their lenses for these tests.
I wanted to also test a really low-light scenario, so I took the URSA Mini Pro out for a spin on a cold evening out in Central London to test the highest 12:1 compression of the new Blackmagic RAW format and see how it does. Surprisingly, even for ISO 1600 the noise in most shots is quite tolerable, and can easily be cleaned up with some NR.
For run-n-gun and event work BRAW 12:1 is definitely usable and will also save you a ton of card space. In post, I simply applied the built-in BMD 4.6K Film to Extended Video LUT made some WB adjustments as some shots were all over the place due to the tricky lighting at some locations.
Exposure adjustments in some shots were +2 to +2.5 stops, which does raise the noise, but it also shows that you can still push 12:1 without it falling apart.
More tests and footage soon in Part 2. I will also include some downloadable links to BRAW files straight from camera so you can have a play and see how Blackmagic Raw works for your workflow.