Greetings all! Duane Shrode here – WK contributor, with what I hope to be a pretty interesting post. There has been a lot of buzz lately surrounding Magic Lantern‘s work, specifically as it relates to RAW video in Canon DSLR’s. If you’re not familiar with Magic Lantern, it’s an independent group that has been able to hack into Canon DSLRs and unlock amazing features found only in higher-end cameras. Features such as peaking, zebras, audio levels and AGC disable, a built-in intervalometer and HDR bracketing, and a myriad of others. But what I really want to talk about is their latest offering – RAW video.

The long-short of it is: After installing the Magic Lantern firmware (hack) into your Canon DSLR, you are able to record RAW image sequences. These sequences are then broken up into DNG files via another program downloaded from Magic Lantern – raw2dng.exe. Then these DNG files are brought into Photoshop, batch color-corrected/graded, and then saved as tiffs. The final step is to image-sequence import the tiffs into Premiere and cut, film dissolve, and ripple edit to your heart’s content.

A couple of questions that have been posed:

Q: What kind of resolution are we talking?

A: The settings on the latest hack let you ratchet all the way up to 3584 or 3.5k… unfortunately – my fastest card is unable to ingest this much information and I have not heard of anyone having success passed 1920. The 5DMKII and 60D are the only cameras I have experienced RAW with, and they max out at just under 200 frames with 60/mb CF and 95/mb SD cards… but that’s only at 1880. I have heard of people using anamorphic lenses to squeeze those last 40 pixels out with a horizontal crop, but I have yet to try anamorphic lenses on my 5DMKII (plus I don’t want to mod my body in order to receive them).

Q: So what’re the “nuts and bolts” advantages?

A: Since the video sequences, in essence, are built from raw (stills) frames, all of that detail and information is maintained through the ingestion process. This pays dividends in both initial fine detail and latitude to push, pull, and tweak in post. In laymen’s terms, where a video file might fall apart – say after trying to spot expose a dark point or push some contrast back into a cloudy sky… the RAW files are able to stretch much further. This allows for more vivid colors, sharper fine detail, and better image crops.

Sound like a lot of work? It’s not… it actually promotes a little more composition discipline. You don’t want to record clips you know you aren’t going to use – not only is the post process a little more “involved,” but the clips take up quite a bit of space on ye ole’ memory card. Why? Because all that information streaming onto your sensor isn’t being  stifled by compression (especially nice for keying):

At any rate, there’s plenty of tutorials on Magic Lantern, setting up your camera to record RAW, and dealing with the files in post. I just wanted to relay my findings and experiences… and offer my support as someone who has first-hand experience with the new function – and would recommend it to others looking to take advantage of all that RAW video has to offer. Questions/comments/concerns welcomed!