ProRes RAW Explained – Plus Footage

At this NAB show, we caught up with Atomos’ Jeromy Young and he walks us through the brand new ProRes RAW format and everything there is to know about it. Let’s dive right in!

ProRes RAW
ProRes has always been the go-to standard (on a Mac, at least) when it comes to NLE-friendly postproduction workflows since it’s not only an aquisition codec but an intermediate and possibly a delivery codec as well. The all-new ProRes RAW is no exception, it’s RAW for the masses.

Apple ProRes RAW

Atomos and Apple have teamed up to develop this new format. It’s designed to simplify and streamline the sometimes cumberstone RAW workflow. Every camera manufacturer has its own RAW format and you’ll need to adapt to all kinds of workflows here. The only exception would be cinemaDNG here but that’s not a very NLE-friendly format, too. ProRes RAW, on the other hand, has usability right built-in. It is designed to cover everything from capturing straight to editing and grading. It gets you the usability of ProRes combined with the flexibility of RAW. But keep in mind: Only Apple FinalCut Pro X 10.4.1 supports this new format for the time being. Others will follow, that’s for sure.

ProRes RAW

Sensor data processed in-camera.

Video cameras normally process the RAW sensor data (individual sensels in a Bayer pattern) internally and create RGB video pixels which are then being compressed to the recording codec. The processing is baked in and can not be manipulated afterwards. The ProRes RAW workflow on the other hand takes all the RAW data and records it straight to the ProRes RAW format. This enables you to manipulate the demosaicing within FinalCut Pro X. Since the ProRes format is NLE-friendly, no additional rendering or transcoding is needed. You can start editing, grading and fine-tuning right away.

ProRes RAW

ProRes RAW workflow.

Two flavours of this new format are available: ProRes RAW could be seen as the equivalent to ProRes 422 HQ in terms of data rate. And then there is ProRes RAW HQ, which is the ProRes 4444 XQ of RAW. We’re looking at a compressed RAW format here and this actually makes a lot of sense. Uncompressed 12-Bit RAW will urge the need of bringing vast arrays of very fast SSDs to your shoots in order to keep up with the data rate.

If you want to dig deeper in to the inner workings of ProRes RAW, this whitepaper (PDF) created by Apple might be worth a closer look.

Atomos, Apple & DJI

The more recent Atomos monitors/recorders have ProRes RAW support built-in already. You can download new firmware versions which enable the support for ProRes RAW for the Shogun Inferno and Sumo 19 monitors/recorders right now. You can download these here. These firmware updates enable you to record very high quality RAW data up to 12-Bit (depends on your cameras’ capabilities, of course) straight to ProRes RAW. Furthermore the freshly announced Atomos Ninja V is at least capable of recording ProRes RAW, too. It’s not licensed for that yet but I guess it’s only a matter of time (and a matter of cameras being able to output RAW over HDMI).

ProRes RAW

A bunch of cinema cameras capable of outputting RAW data. Is yours among them?

DJI have some updates ready for their X7 camera, too. You’ll need to wait just a littler for this, though. It should be ready in May this year. I’d say compressed and ready-to-edit RAW straight from a very portable drone camera sounds pretty impressive!

All in all ProRes RAW could be the solution for others to follow. No more different proprietary RAW formats for each and every camera and no more ridiculously large file sizes with uncompressed RAW formats. Let’s see where this is leading us in terms of RAW and HDR workflows.

Links: Apple whitepaper (PDF) | Atomos.com | DJI.com

What do you think of this move by Apple? Does RAW finally become mainstream? Share your thoughts in the comments below!