Back in September, Blackmagic announced their proprietary Raw codec Blackmagic RAW. The format was designed to provide users with the flexibility and quality expected of RAW recording, all while reducing file sizes and lowering the negative impact on the overall performance of video editing workstations in a real-world environment.
Now, let’s find out how does Blackmagic RAW stack up against CinemaDNG in the tests conducted by James Cooperider who shot several pieces of footage with both codecs while using different flavors and comparing the image quality and usability of both formats.
Before we dive in, it’s worth noting that all the tests were shot with the URSA Mini Pro 4.6K as it’s the only camera supporting both codecs currently. The first set of clips shown in the video were recorded with the CinemaDNG codec, using Lossless as well as 3:1, and 4:1 compression respectively.
According to Cooperider, the CinemaDNG footage and its variations looked rather similar, with no significant differences in image quality whatsoever. It also became clear that with all three CinemaDNG flavors, there was a noticeable amount of color noise spotted when viewing the clips zoomed in. Cooperider also expressed his frustration with the codec, which led to dropped frames and an uncomfortable playback experience when scrubbing through DaVinci Resolve timeline.
The Blackmagic RAW, on the other hand, does not come without quirks either. Among all compression ratios – 3:1, 5:1, 8:1, and 12:1 – the footage looks very similar, again with no significant differences between the available flavors. In fact, all BRAW clips share a slight visual bias toward a magenta tint.
Cooperider also noticed that the images captured while using the Blackmagic RAW seemed slightly softer than the CinemaDNG footage. Furthermore, there was a significant color noise when using the Blackmagic RAW 12:1 codec while shooting at 60 frames per second which seems to be a viable reason to avoid this option for such applications.
Despite the codec’s minor shortcomings, the benefits gained from Blackmagic RAW are unprecedented. Footage shot with Blackmagic RAW presented far less color noise than what was seen in the CinemaDNG clips, not to mention the significantly smaller file size associated with BRAW. In addition, playing back and processing Blackmagic RAW footage was a seamless experience, with no dropped frames, much less taxing on the processor compared to CinemaDNG.
Overall, with the lighter virtual weight that goes into footage shot with Blackmagic RAW, creative professionals should expect seamless editing experience as the codec provides an incredibly efficient encoding resulting in the same quality, bit depth, dynamic range and controls as RAW, but with much better performance and smaller file sizes than most popular video codecs.