Magic Lantern RAW with the Canon 5DmkIII

I know I’m a little late to game, but I decided to finally give Magic Lantern RAW on the Canon 5DkIII a chance. After a few quick tests, I realized this is a total game-changer. Without having access to a RED, Blackmagic URSA, or even a C100/C300, ML RAW is really the next best thing. The clarity between RAW and Canon’s native h264 isn’t even a fair comparison, and the ability to worry about white balance in post is a great feature, especially when dealing with less than ideal lighting situations (read: crazy mixed light sources). On top of that, we’re talking about 14-bit files, which makes color correction much more flexible.

Working with ML Raw is a fairly simple process, but there are a few hurdles to be aware of.

  1. The data. Ohh, the data. Each minute of MLV is about 5GB. Do the math and you’re dealing with a ton of data. For example, the last job I shot was a bit shy of two hours and came in at 560GB. So, you’re going to have to invest in large CF cards. I personally use Sandisk Extreme Pro 128GB and Komputerbay 256GB 1200x cards.
  2. The time. It’s a bit more time consuming because you have to transcode twice. First from MLV to CinemaDNG, and then from CinemaDNG to Quicktime. Ok, well, technically you don’t have to transcode from CinemaDNG since Premiere CC will work with the files natively, but working with ProRes files is much less taxing on your machine. On the plus side (depending how you look at it), the footage is only 1080, so it’s not as bad as transcoding 4k footage.
  3. Second source sound. Do yourself a favor and record your audio separately and not just to camera as drifting can occur. You should be doing that anyway… but I digress.

All that said, I’d like to share a workflow with Resolve and Adobe Premiere CC that works for me.

  1. Use MLRawViewer to open one of the clips. Set your color space to S-Log2*. Set it to export DNG and hit “C” — this will create a batch job and covert the entire folder to CinemaDNG. (*After a bunch of tests, I felt this was the most natural. Though S-Log was a close second. Don’t believe me? Check out this video comparing C-Log, Log-C, S-Log, and S-Log2 graded and ungraded.)
  2. Bring your newly created CinemaDNG files into Resolve. Set the color space for the clips to BMD Film — this is the color space used by Blackmagic RAW and has a much greater dynamic range versus Rec709. Also make sure “Highlight Recovery” is checked for all files.
  3. Now, here’s where you have a couple of options. You can either apply a LUT and export proxies, or export new hi-res masters (either graded or ungraded) as ProRes or DNxHD or whatever you’d like. Personally, I export ungraded ProRes4444 and use them as masters. If you go this route, make sure you set your white balance properly as you won’t be able to change it after you transcode to quicktime.
  4. Import your footage into Premiere. Sync your audio. Edit. Optionally: create an adjustment layer and place on top of your timeline. Apply Lumetri and import one of the 5D LUTs that work really well: EOSHD or Hunter Hampton Richard’s LUT.
  5. After picture lock, bring your timeline back into Resolve and color. Export new masters and re-conform in Premiere.

That’s it. When you get down to it, it’s really not much more complicated than any other workflow. It’s a bit more time consuming, but the improvement in quality is well worth the tradeoff. It’s a “hack,” but it elevates the 5D immensely, and I wouldn’t hesitate to use it for broadcast work at this point.

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