Consider this before you shoot RAW on a Canon 5D mark III

Shooting RAW on the Canon 5D mark III DSLR is still very popular. You get stunning 14-bit moving images for a fraction of the price of a “real” RAW camera and the advantages of a full-frame sensor that is good in lowlight. But like many other shooters I learned that it’s not always a good idea to use the 5D mark III RAW for a project. Here I’d like to share some points to consider.

I recently wrote an article outlining the latest development on the Magic Lantern RAW hack for the 5D mark III: Shooting RAW on a Canon 5D mark III in 2014 – What you have to know
In this article I mentioned that using the 5D mark III as a RAW camera is not suitable for productions with bigger budgets as the workflow will slow you down and it is not laid out for professional production. I’d like to elaborate on that.

Certainly there are many great features Magic Lantern RAW provides aside from RAW itself like it improves the overall usability of the camera, runs independently on an SD card, gives you more camera information (eg.: battery status), zebras, peaking, etc.
If you’re interested to shoot RAW on a Canon 5D mark III then we have a step-by-step guide for that: LINK

Above the text here’s a little advert I recently shot on the Canon 5D mark III with its RAW functionality.

Planning and pulling off this project as a 2-man crew was fun and also challenging. But I didn’t expect the camera I chose would slow down the production so much. After this project I realised that it could be unwise to choose Magic Lantern RAW for some commercial productions, so I thought I should share the experience since we’ve written a lot about that camera on cinema5D so far.

In summary I think out of the 2 weeks I needed to shoot this project I lost about 4 days to the 5D. In other words I think I would have been 4 days faster with an Arri ALEXA for example. In a production environment booking even a small crew for 4 additional days usually costs more than renting a more expensive camera. This is of course a different situation and decision from project to project, so let me just share some of the points to consider.

What to consider:

  • The 5D mark III was not designed to be a RAW cinema camera. It is a photo camera and its ergonomics will not always work for you.
  • RAW means a lot of data, means more time and storage needed. And working with image sequences…
  • Accurately checking data can mean downloading and transcoding first, which can be time consuming. On-camera playback is limited.
  • We had a card failure on a Lexar 1000x card. It fried.
  • Exposure displayed is not always right.
  • No timecode.
  • Bugs. Camera freezes. Resets settings…
  • complicated RAW workflow

Production notes:

image013Above I mentioned the most important things I ran into during my production and now I’ll go into those in more detail.

IMG_2770The idea of this production was to put the bonsai tree into a stylised environment to convey how many factors are necessary for life to work. For that I shot each transition to the next stage as a RAW sequence and merged them in post. RAW gave me the control over colours that I needed which I pushed to the extremes. For example at no point was the tree actually brown as it is shown at the beginning and also it wasn’t as green as it is at the end.

image015The 5D mark III was not designed to be a RAW cinema camera

A cinema camera’s ergonomics work great because its designers spent years to perfect it. The Arri products are a symbol for that approach and the 5D mark III is just a photo camera that lacks exactly this aspect. In a demanding shooting environment it can in my experience not hold up to the standards and will slow you down in one or another way that you didn’t expect.

image014Accurately checking data can mean downloading and transcoding first

One of the biggest issues for me during this production was to check and evaluate recorded data. I had to check that the transitions were seamless and that everything was 100% there before I went on to build the next stage. Even with the new and updated in-camera playback feature it is not easy to tell how well a shot has turned out.
2So what has to be done is ejecting the card, getting the footage into the editing machine, transcoding (which can take a while) and only then you’re able to use the data in your editing software. This was a hassle to say the least. And when you have to do it 100 times a day then you see that you lose a lot of time.
If checking the data is critical, and the built in preview is not enough, then the 5D mark III RAW will definitely slow you down.

There is a new app that allows you to preview RAW files on your computer directly from the card. The app is called MlRAWviewer and we talk about it in the Tips section here. The app might help you preview files more quickly, but it is still very buggy (tried version 1.1.7 and 1.2.2 which still crashed on my machine).

For many shoots the limited new playback functionality mentioned here might be sufficient, but if you’ve got a client who wants to see the results it might be difficult to use the 5D mark III RAW.


We had a card failure on a Lexar 1000x card.

We’re not sure how it happened. The Lexar cards are usually quite ok and eventually Lexar replaced the card within a week. But when a card fries on the mark III then there’s no way to get it back as on other more secure systems.

Exposure displayed is not always right.

The image displayed on the live-view screen is not correct in terms of exposure. The RAW recorded actually seems darker.

No timecode.

Developers are working on embedding timecode in the RAW footage, but so far there is no usable method to use it. This can make workflows and syncing sound more difficult. An option is to use the sound that is embedded in the new .MLV format (more on that here).

Bugs. Camera freezes. Resets settings…

It happened sometimes during the shoot. The camera freezes and the only way to get it to work again is to remove the battery. This happened more often than we wished for and slows you down. Luckily it usually happened between takes. Unfortunately when the camera had one of these lockups it also reset some settings, including where it saved the files. So then we recorded to the wrong card, the camera froze again, etc. This slowed me down a lot and can be embarassing in front of a client.

There are other bugs each new firmware version brings. Others get resolved.

Complicated RAW workflow

In your considerations about the right camera you shouldn’t forget the complicated RAW workflow required when you use the 5D mark III. I just mention this because some people forget that shooting RAW means a lot more data and work involved. But this is also true for other cameras that shoot in a RAW format. Since the recent updates and new apps to convert RAW files the workflow on the 5D mark III has been made less complicated. You’ll find more details in our 5D mark III RAW guide.

Final Thoughts

The 5D mark III RAW can certainly be a valid tool to create stunning footage, there’s no question about that. If you’re a single operator shooter and if you have a tight budget, if you do an indie production or just want to create something beautiful with limited possibilities, then the 5D mark III can get you far.

But I would not recommend the 5D mark III Magic Lantern RAW hack to professional and commercial productions. If you’re not specifically in need for a very small, full-frame, RAW camera then I’d recommend to choose a different tool.

I hope you could benefit from the information in this post. If you have any questions I’ll answer them in the comments.

 

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Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson
Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson

Some thoughts, questions and suggestions on those article: Checking data: why do you need to download the data to check it? It can be playbacked directly from the card reader using mlvrawviewer. With plugins the mlvs can even be edited directly in premiere to test cuts. You could also record to an external hdmi recorder as an alternative solution. Exposure not correct: my bet this is due to you not sticking to the real iso values. Multiples of 100. Also it’s correct you can’t judge what you get from the live view picture alone but if you know how to… Read more »

Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson
Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson

What about exposure differences being related to you using in between iso modes? 100,200,400,800,1600 etc. Are the real values that have an affect on the sensor/raw stream. The other ones are just digital compensation that applyes to the h264 video files.

Eduardo Aguiar
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Thanks Sebastian, beautiful work by the way. I really wanted ML to work for me but as a documentary filmmaker with scarce resources it really is a nightmare to use this option.

dio
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dio

have you rented an alexa before?

erimski
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great article! i would totally disadvise from this workflow for commercial work / bigger projects after I’ve been through this process for a series of architectural videos. the results and possibilities are great, no question – but the postproduction workflow is hell when you have to work against a deadline. and I underestimated the amount of disk storage you need after transcoding raw to DNGs/Prores. in the you have to see and decide for yourself if it is worth. maybe for most webvideo work the normal video mode of the 5DM3 is sufficient…

Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson

I would agree the file sizes present a challenge though one possibility there is to develop prores or dnxhd files from the raw negatives and throw them away. Throwing away the originals offcurse is traditionally a big no no but if you have to choose between internal codec and developed prores/dnxhd files it might be worth it.

Member

I was tempted to spend my money on a Mk3, but the margin of error with the Magic Lantern hack, as gorgeous as it is in RAW, worried me. I have two paying clients in the coming months, including one for a narrative piece of fiction, I can’t take that kind of risk. I’ve got a Black Magic 4K showing up in the next 24 hours. I look forward to testing the tried and true ProRes codec on it for a commercial gig.

Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson

Problably a wise choice. Even though there are great tools out there to set up a good and a effective workflow for ml raw the learning curve can be quite steep to get there.

Raoul
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Raoul

If one used a Ninja Star for recording, what would the file format options be … I assume not RAW, but ProRes?

Would this result in a larger ProRes file – due to the fact it was recording RAW output from the 5D?

Would the IQ be higher in that scenario – compared to not using ML RAW and just recording the regular 5D3 output into an external recorder like the Ninja?

Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson

The format would be the same as without ML Full hd 8 bit 422. But these files could be useful as instant “proxies”/backup and if you need instant playback and don’t have time /access to a computer on location to preview the mlv-files.

Raoul
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Raoul

Oh, so that would be the only advantage to using an external recorder like the Ninja.

Sebastian: Although I appreciate this exercise, why put yourself thru the stress of trying to shoot RAW with ML on a paying commercial project? Using the 5D3, Why not just record ProRes on an external recorder like the Ninja 2 — as opposed to the headaches with ML/RAW? Do you feel you get that much more headroom for grading with RAW which you could not have achieved with ProRes?

Raoul
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Raoul

I should add that I am a one man band documentary shooter using a 5D mk iii and contemplating the purchase of a Ninja 2 and recording in ProRes LT (as I just upgraded to a new 12 core Mac Pro and love the ProRes format).

So just interested in hearing any “real life” end user experiences of the mk iii and ProRes file format recorded externally.

mannfilm
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I’m sorry, but this article is totally useless for 99.5% of all production. It was a two week, studio, FX video shoot requiring seamless transitions. Very unusual, has nothing in common with almost all production. Note that all his complaints are even more applicable to film acquisition, so I guess film is not a professional medium??? He himself admits to hard re-sets and then forgetting to check his settings on re-start? On a paid, 2 week, controlled studio shoot??? MLraw exposure sometimes not right? This issue, and solution, has been known for months. Did not know about MLrawviewer, which has… Read more »

Hisham
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Hisham

totally Agree with You

dio
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dio

the expense of using an Alexa is huge and you might as well shoot on film at that point.

Oscar
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Oscar

Nice work anyways :)

Kevin
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Kevin

Agreed. I have done only 2 projects in ML RAW simply because of the potential of losing data, no playback and time. One project I did a couple takes in RAW and a couple with h.264 as backup and playback. For those who have no choice, you really have to carefully gauge if RAW is the right medium for the project. The two that I did were projects where the budgets were low, crew was minimal and we had some serious lighting challenges. Dynamic range was paramount for any chance at a decent image. With clients you know well and… Read more »

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[…] RAW video capture on some Canon DSLRs) but is it really practical tool for shooting a paid gig? Here’s Sebastian Wöber’s first hand account of shooting professionally with ML RAW. (Cinema5d […]

Michael
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Definitely nice work.
I agree with most of Sebastian’s points -having shot an indie short film on 5D3 raw, we ran into similar problems.
The camera freezing up was a very minor issue and didn’t cause any issues.
However, we fried two out of six Lexar cards costing us entire scenes.
Still loving the format though: Capturing a winter camping scene at night lit partially by a campfire worked out beautifully with a minimal lighting setup.

Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson

That makes me wonder if the lexar price really reflect the quality you are getting. I have pushed my KB cards hard. On my latest shoot we shot over 3h of footage each day for three days strait with my two 256gb Kb cards. One 1066x and one 1200 x. No damaged or lost footage.

Michael
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Markus, yes, I’m wondering too. It prompted me to finally talk to Lexar and as Sebastian mentioned, their customer service is good. My two busted cards will be replaced. The tech on the phone gave a ‘non-UDMA7’ compatible card reader as a possible cause for the broken card. I was using a Lexar UDMA7 dual slot card reader, but supposedly you might require a firmware upgrade for it before it’s really UDMA7 compatible. That’s a bit odd. All other cards were definitely fine in all sorts of other card readers. Anyway, that’s almost another thread. Back to 5D3 raw: Grading… Read more »

Guest

you should use light room and convert them into jpg…..your failure to select the correct card not ml-canon fault sdd cards fail too
use cinema profile and ett you won’t need to check exposure

Andrew Baldwin
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Hi Sebastian, As you know, I am the main developer of the MlRawViewer tool. The tool is in active development, and I try to follow, respond to, and resolve all issues people have with it both on the relevant Magic Lantern forum thread (http://magiclantern.fm/forum/index.php?topic=9560.0) and the open project issues tracker (https://bitbucket.org/baldand/mlrawviewer/issues) During the last 6 months, I have made 10 new update releases for it, for Mac and Windows. I am, naturally, a bit sad that you didn’t try to take advantage of all the easy and free support opportunities to resolve your problems with the program before you came… Read more »

ddwilfork
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ddwilfork

You rule.

George Sealy
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Thanks for posting your review and your work is really great. I have considered ML with the 5DIII over the past several months. Anyone who looks at the video it produces has to be impressed. But your article confirms what I thought about it — the work flow can be very tedious and requires a lot of patience. I would give it a try when I have a controlled situation and no pressure. I think I could do some good things. We do more documentary style video. It is in the field, unscripted, and there are no ‘do overs’. For… Read more »

ddwilfork
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ddwilfork

I don’t know which is worse – the spot or the article. Of course it would have been easier to use an Alexa. But I’m guessing budget was an issue. At the end, despite you seeming to have had more problems in a controlled situation than I’ve had in 8 months shooting ML RAW in the field, you had a spot you could use. I’m glad you always have blissful experiences with camera kit on your ad shoots. I’ve had Epics die, F65s suddenly become white noise generators and Alexa (yes, even Alexas!) fall over and overheat. We still got… Read more »

Hisham
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Hisham

You are right the hundred thousands film camera had its faults and bugs too and it happened in many big budget films too it happens that much in my career that i cant count but last time it happened we had a Problem with red cam and it delayed our shooting 3 hours !

Hisham
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Hisham

— simply the Pro Golden rule to solve all Your Problems is to think before You Shoot :) — thank You for Your review and sharing Your thoughts with us , i am very new to using ML ” almost one month now ” but i worked in the field for a very longtime 24 years.. so from my little experience in ML and my long one in the media field i can say easly that .. You are totally wrong ..wrong in my opinion first thing i noticed that You wanted a professional results and workflow but You approached… Read more »

Markus Haraldsson
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Markus Haraldsson

Trial and error can in many instances be the best way too lern. I also use that approach even on “real” projects however if I choose that approach I expect things to brake, not work and take extra time. I think what made me react to the article was that you seemed suprised that that would be the result. Also I didn’t feel you went back afterwards and analysed/researched those things that went wrong to see if there were solutions to be found for those issues. I guess you might say that you don’t have the time or interest in… Read more »

Ulrich A. Sterling
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http://blog.planet5d.com/2014/04/can-magic-lantern-raw-deliver-superior-quality-swiss-air-marketing-yes/ id be very interested to hear the behind the scenes story of how well/not well MLRaw worked for these guys. the workflow kinda sucks until you hget the hang of the roundtrip through resolve.. funnily i never had any issues with Lexar Cards but my KB64 is totally bugging out even just shooting h.264 these days. just ordered two new 64 1066 lexars

Marius
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Thanks for the tips, very useful materials.

Bader
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Bader

” Exposure displayed is not always right.
The image displayed on the live-view screen is not correct in terms of exposure. The RAW recorded actually seems darker. ”

That is beceause you guys have exposure feedback based on JPEG data, i had the same problem until i found out that you need actuall feedback from the actuall RAW stream, its on JPEG on default so switch it to RAW and you will exposure correctly

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[…] A warning: even though the CHOICE was simple, the process is VERY FAR from simple, and can go wrong at almost any point. Here’s a little something to read and discourage most people from this path. […]

John Thompson
Member

No, really..???

Anonymous
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Anonymous

Mmm, yeah, thanks. I think you should always use gear suitable for every single proyect, but for a lot of people out there, it’s a great production value resource. I think this setup it’s part of the indie movement, more accurate, to the non wealthy kind, let them have fun, but hey, thanks for your thougs, usefull and well exposed.

Adriano Castaldini
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Adriano Castaldini

Hi, thanks for your review. A question: which are the alternatives to have a good low-light camera + RAW? Thx

Adriano Castaldini
Member
Adriano Castaldini

Dear Sebastian, I finally decided to go for 5D3 + ML for RAW workflow. It’s my very first DSLR, then I’m very doubtful about what I really need for my “minimal kit” shopping bag. So, I need – once again, I know… – your precious and kind advices. This is the shopping list I’ve thought: -BODY: Canon EOS 5D Mark III (2400€ amazon.it) -MEM. CARD: SanDisk Extreme Pro CompactFlash 256GB 160MB/s (460€ amazon.it) -SSD DOCK: Lexar dual-card reader USB3 (50€ amazon.it) -BATTERY: Canon LP-E6 (60€ amazon.it) -BATT. CHARGER: Canon LC-E6 (60€ amazon.it) -VIEWFINDER: Varavon Multifinder for Canon 5D Mark 3… Read more »

Adriano Castaldini
Member
Adriano Castaldini

Hi Sebastian, hi everybody, I can’t find a solution to this Magic Lantern issue: I had a “movie recording stopped automagically” message (when I tried to shoot in crop mode). This is my set: -firmware downgraded to 1.2.3; -2015Apr28 Nightly Built; -SanDisk Extreme Pro CF 256GB (ExFAT formatted via OSX Utility Disc – NOT in camera) and this is the UNIQUE card in the camera (ML files are stored in the root directory) so the card is in SLOT 1 (so no Low Level Format option possible); -Canon Menu: Movie rec. size 1920×1080 24p ALL-I; -Magnification: x5 (ISO and STOPS… Read more »

 Zakk Fairley
Member

Hi Sebastian, I having doing some work with RAW on Mark iii as well (mostly scenic outdoor montages). I have used some tips from other video producers and mixed in my own steps as well. I am curious to know what you use to transcode the RAW files, what format you transcode them to, and finally what/when you use for grading the clips? For myself, I first use the ML RAW2DNG.exe from their site. I convert the RAW files to DNGs. Next I bring them into LightRoom to do grading. Finally I bring the the files into AfterEffects as image… Read more »

bubathy.k@gmail.com Bubathy
Guest

All the points you said is correct. But to rectify these for some extent if you try connecting ATOM NINJA ASSASSIN monitor and try external recording in 4K. You get time code , 5hours raw continues recording. Pls go in the web site of atoms.com
Do not compare canon with ARRI. ARRI HAS ITS PROFFESSIONAL QUALITIES.

 Ugarte Carlos
Member

Hi Bubathy.
Atomos Ninja Assassin can record 4k footage but cannot record raw unless you purchase the Atomos Shogun or the latest “Atomos Shogun Flame” with HDR capabilities.
Best
Carlos

Member

What a brilliant article. Kelvins are more relevant in this application then I have ever scene. I own a camera XF300. What do you recommend as my next upgrade with RAW?

 Lars Ebbesen
Member
Lars Ebbesen

Multiple CF-cards would solve a lot of your issues. Shoot a take, or a couple, swap, transfer while shooting some more, rinse and repeat.

Adriano Castaldini
Member
Adriano Castaldini

Dear Sebastian, I really need an advice. The problem’s title basically is “red dots FOR MY BAD”. This is the story: Yesterday I had my first real-&-long RAW-video session with 5D3 + Magic Lantern. It was early morning, I had no extra light, then I saw nothing via viewfinder (and HDMI external Ikan) so I decided to crank up the ISO to 12800 just to see the scene, finding the positions, the POVs, etc. (in video mode, 5D3 alerts you if you use ISO >1600 i.e. the white number turns yellow-bold on camera’s screen, but I didn’t know why). The… Read more »