Blackmagic Design Announces Advanced New RAW Codec at IBC

Blackmagic Design announced the public beta of Blackmagic RAW, a new codec that combines the quality and benefits of RAW with the ease of use, speed and file sizes of traditional video formats. Customers can download the public beta for use with URSA Mini Pro cameras via the Blackmagic Camera 6.0 Beta Update. In addition, DaVinci Resolve 15.1 Update, which includes support for the new RAW format, is also available free of charge from the company’s website.

Blackmagic Design notes that traditional RAW codecs have large file sizes and are processor intensive, which can make them difficult with which to work. Some video file formats are faster, but suffer quality problems due to the use of 4:2:2 video filters that reduce color resolution. Blackmagic RAW solves these problems with an intelligent design that moves part of the de-mosaic process into the camera where it can be hardware accelerated by the camera itself. 

The result is efficient encoding that gives customers 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. Because the processor intensive partial de-mosaic is done by the camera hardware, software such as DaVinci Resolve, doesn’t have to do as much work decoding the files. In addition, GPU and CPU acceleration make decoding of frames incredibly fast resulting in extremely smooth performance for editing and grading.

Blackmagic RAW is more than a simple RAW container format. Its intelligent design actually understands the camera and the sensor. Image data, along with the unique characteristics of the image sensor, are encoded and saved into the RAW file, giving users better image quality, even at higher compression settings, as well as total control over features such as ISO, white balance, exposure, contrast, saturation and more.

Blackmagic RAW features two types of file compression options, either constant quality or constant bitrate encoding. Users can prioritize image quality or file size. Blackmagic RAW Q0 has minimum quantization and yields the highest quality, while Blackmagic RAW Q5 uses moderate quantization for more efficient encoding and a smaller file size. Blackmagic RAW 3:1, 5:1, 8:1 and 12:1 use constant bitrate encoding to resulting in the best possible images with predictable and consistent file sizes. The ratios are based on the unprocessed file size of a single frame from the camera’s sensor, making it easy to understand the relative amount of compression being used.

DaVinci Resolve 15.1, which was also released, includes full support for Blackmagic RAW. The performance of Blackmagic RAW is much faster in DaVinci Resolve than with other RAW formats. This makes editing, color correction and visual effects incredibly fast. In addition, working with single files instead of folders full of still image sequences greatly simplifies media management. When the RAW settings are changed in DaVinci Resolve, a .sidecar file can be generated or updated. When opened in other software applications that support Blackmagic RAW, the .sidecar file, containing the RAW settings made in DaVinci Resolve, will be automatically used to display the image. If the .sidecar file is removed then the file will be displayed using the embedded metadata instead. This innovative new workflow gives customers a non-destructive way to change RAW settings while working between different applications.

The final release of Blackmagic RAW is expected to ship in several weeks’ time once further testing is complete.

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