The Raw Deal

We currently have two different types of sensors on the market—one is the CMOS Bayer pattern (I urge you all to do some research on Dr. Bryce Bayer and his patent) like that of the ARRI Arriflex D-21, Vision Research Phantom, RED Digital Cinema RED ONE and Silicon Imaging SI-2K. The alternative is a striped CCD like the Panavision Genesis, DALSA Origin, Thomson Grass Valley Viper and Sony F35. Each sensor gathers imagery slightly different, and each manufacturer has chosen a different way for those images to be recorded. All techniques seem to work, but there’s a discrepancy, of course, about what’s being called raw and the post workflow each system uses.

As Francis Bacon was famously quoted, "History makes people wise." We all must turn to the history of filmmaking and see how it applies to this new landscape. Using traditional film postproduction as an analogy, the camera would acquire a raw image much as a film camera captures a latent image on unprocessed negative. Now this raw image would be of full dynamic range and require processing to be viewed. Where you process these files is your choice; however, with the potential storage size of a full day’s worth of dailies ebbing on multiple terabytes, we all can foresee in the future that a post facility may take up the responsibility of the labs, or perhaps the labs will have grown and morphed into a digital-processing factory filled with massive computers generating processed files, potentially storing the original raw file for the online or final-answer print process.

"The plus side of capturing a completely raw file is that it’s archival," says Phil Jantzen of Vision Research. "Also, the demosaicking algorithms are getting better all the time."

With that statement, consider this: The software you use on week one of a shoot may be different and better by week three or week six, and at the end of post, it possibly could be a completely new beast all together. This opens up great opportunities for cinematographers to get a higher-quality image as post progresses. Of course, there’s some caution to be yielded with these options, but ultimately it’s not about changing our minds, but more about refining our vision. With any luck, intelligent heads and smart decisions will prevail.

What about raw files in post? How do we deal with all these bits and bytes—the potential for many terabytes even petabytes and exabytes? Where do we store them? What behemoth computer system can deal with all this data? This has been an ongoing question and a hot topic among producers, camera manufacturers, post houses and studio heads. Which way do you go; what software works best; or is it a combination of software that we use?