16 Jun magic turns on raw
A few weeks ago the team at Magic Lantern found a way to read out the image buffer on a number of Canon cameras and save the raw files from the buffer directly onto the CF card bypassing the cameras internal compression and processing. This has been well documented on their web site.
Next Friday I have a shoot coming up for my Formula One Portrait series in a dark and small environment, this would be a situation the full frame 5D Mark III would excel compared to the Blackmagic Cinema Camera. The image quality the hacked 5D produces is so compelling that I had to see if the software was stable enough to be used.
To install the latest Magic Lantern version I followed this guide. The first thing I noticed was how far Magic Lantern has come since I first used in 2 years ago with a 5D Mark II. The UX is very professional and intuitive. The major benefit of the Mark III is that is has two card slots. After enabling the boot flag in the firmware one can simply install Magic Lantern on an SD card. If the SD card is inserted the camera will run Magic Lantern, if not it will run the stock Canon firmware. This makes is very easy to fall back in case something does not work during a shot.
To test I filled up 2 64GB Komputerbay cards with about 20 minutes of footage. To convert the files to CinemaDNG I used RAWMagic from the same team that produces the 5DtoRGB tool. The transcode is very fast and writes files that can be processed in Resolve, Lightroom, ACR, etc. After the conversion is finished I used the same workflow I have for the Blackmagic files. Load the files into Resolve, colour correction and export ProRes HQ for edit. If required a round trip back into Resolve.
The images are amazing and are so much better than the h264 files. I had no single dropped frame during recording. There is a lot of talk in the forums about capturing bigger than 1920×1080 files, for my projects that is a lower priority, I am happy with 1080p. The write speed is about 95 MB/s which the Komputerbay cards support. If and when 1080p+ is available using cropped sensor I will have a look at it again. For the time being the Magic Lantern raw hack gives me full frame, very clean high ISO videos files with amazing resolution and 14bit colour depth. It is a shame in a way that the files have to be raw.
There are still a few issues and most of the software I used during the test is in an Alpha stage. The sound is recorded, but it looks like the files can not just be dropped into the timeline as they are much longer than the footage. For my shoot on Friday I won’t need the sound as it will just be b-roll for an upcoming interview. There are also issues with grading software that is using LUTs. For instance I shot using the Marvel Advanced picture profile and wanted to use Film Convert to match with footage from the Blackmagic. Film Convert did not produce the right image as it was missing the profile and the raw recordings obviously do not care about picture profiles. Resolve also has no LUT for the file. I was in touch with the guys at Film Convert and they will come out with a profile tailored to Magic Lantern raw.
Well, I made up my mind and will use Magic Lantern raw alpha during the shoot on Friday… but I will have the Blackmagic in my bag, just in case.