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More on Cineform

I recently had the opportunity to spend time with the team from Cineform. Many of you probably know Cineform for their high-quality intermediary codec, and their HDV workflow add on for Premiere Pro.

At HD Expo this past month, I got to meet David Newman and some of the other Cineform people, and I got to see Prospect 4K in action for the first time, and it completely blew me away.

Before I can go through and explain exactly what Prospect 4K is, I first need to explain a little bit about the concept of RAW. It’s been in the digital photography space for quite a while, but this is the first example I’ve seen of a video RAW workflow on a desktop editing platform.

The basic idea of RAW is that your camera receives an electronic signal from the CMOS or CCD sensors, and then performs some processing on that signal to make it look the way you expect. Now, the signal from the sensors is often very rich, and a lot of this information is thrown out as “unnecessary” in order to get the look of the finished image. The idea of RAW is to get the raw data off the camera, and then let your computer do the processing. This enables doing things like white balancing after the picture has been shot. It also enables pulling detail out of a partially underexposed shot. The benefits of RAW in the still photography world are well documented, and Adobe has been an industry leader with Camera RAW in Photoshop and Lightroom.

What does this mean to video? Well, imagine the same thing, except at 60 frames per second! The white balance (and other painting done in the camera’s menus) are stored in a data file, and the video file stores the raw camera sensor data.

This idea is still relatively new, and there are only a handful of camcorders that can record to RAW files, but the transition to tapeless acquisition should accelerate this. Right now, the RED camera is probably the most prominent camera to record RAW, and that’s a (roughly) $18000 – $36000 camera.

What Cineform has developed is an engine that replaces the playback engine in Premiere Pro. They’ve also developed a version of their Cineform codec called Cineform RAW, which enables realtime playback of RAW files. I’ve seen both 2K and 4K RAW files playing back real time on a (beefy) desktop PC.

The beauty of RAW is that all color correction can be done by manipulating the data file for each clip, and that manipulation happens with NO RENDERING. That’s right – no red bar on the timeline. This can help two ways in a high-end workflow – first, it enables the editor to see what the DP’s vision was during shooting, but it can be turned off when it’s time to create a Digital Intermediate for coloring. Second, depending on your budget, it can eliminate the need for a DI entirely. For under $10,000 (that’s including a really beefy PC, Production Premium, and Prospect 4K from Cineform) you can have a full 4K ONLINE editing system.

Be sure to check out Cineform at NAB, especially if you are interested in the RED camera, and are looking for different workflows.


    Hi Karl,

    Thanks for the nice write-up, and you remembered a lot of details. Only small correction is the name of the product which is Prospect 4K. Aspect is our HDV accelerator and is limited to 8-bit processing, for the prosumer market. Our Prospect line is HD and up to 4K supporting 32-bit float rendering and 4:4:4(4) encoding for 2K & 4K, targetted for small production houses and independent filmmakers.

    Thanks again,
    David Newman
    CTO, CineForm

    seriously i wasn’t think it have about 60 frames

    $18000 – $36000 camera.

    oh my
    high price!

    it sound a new idea but i think need more time to be there

    What I would really like is for Adobe to pursue native support for R3Ds inside Premiere Pro- as hard and fast as they can.

    Red will be releasing an SDK once they get camera firmware build 16 stable and are out from under the deals they have with Apple and Assimilate.

    Apple had a one year exclusive deal with Red for Final Cut Pro and they dropped the ball by doing pretty much nothing with it. They didn’t increase the resolution or bit depth handling ability of FCP to even match what PPro CS3 can do.

    Premiere Pro could handle Red generated material better than Final Cut Pro and that might be the boost that it needs to step it up to the big show.

    There are a lot of Red cameras out here (#351 is sitting across the room from me) and there are a lot of feature and television productions that are seriously looking at shooting with the Red.

    Here in Vancouver the five features and two television series I know of that are looking at going Red are all looking for an AVID workflow… but are open to options. Unfortunately, in their mind that is option, singular, in the form of Apple.

    There is probably a six month to a year window where Adobe has the chance to show that they are a contender with an NLE and not just Photoshop and After Effects. Sometime toward the end of this year Avid will shut that window. They are running scared and hungry so don’t underestimate them.

    You and I may know that Premiere Pro can stand toe to toe with Final Cut Pro but I have yet to talk to a single producer, DP or editor for film and television in Vancouver who gives it any mindshare at all. It doesn’t even occur to them to look at it.

    Everyone switching to Red has to modify their workflow and that leaves them open to new platforms. Drag and drop editing of R3Ds would force them to add Adobe to that short list of the new. It might not directly sell as many seats as P2 support but by making it a serious alternative to Final Cut and AVID for film and television… THAT could sell a lot of Production Premium Suites.

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