The Blackmagic Cinema Camera offers another interesting tool for the indie filmmaker. Although most users will probably opt for recording QuickTime files, the camera includes the option of recording 2400-pixel-wide image sequences in the CinemaDNG format.
The camera ships with a copy of DaVinci Resolve 9, which is obviously Blackmagic Design’s preferred method for converting and grading these images. Since CinemaDNG is an open photographic raw standard, quite a number of applications can open and read the files, including Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime and others. Additionally, many photo-centric applications can also decode the raw format, allowing greater flexibility in controlling dynamic range and color temperature. Some of these applications include Lightroom, Photoshop and Aperture, as well as Resolve and After Effects.
I tested a variety of grading solutions using the five CinemaDNG raw shots posted by John Brawley from the short film “Afterglow”. This clip contains 21 examples of what you can do with this format through a variety of photo, grading and editing software. In some of these examples, I controlled the raw image adjustments and the grading all within the same software. In others, I used Resolve or Lightroom to process the images and then subsequently graded the final look in a cross-section of different applications.
None of these examples are meant as the perfect grade. They are simply variations showing natural looks, over-the-top looks and stylized, effected looks. Each of these styles (with the exception of the effects shots) could have been achieved with any of the selected applications. I present them merely as different means to achieve the same end.
One method that I found to work quite well, is to use DaVinci Resolve to change the raw files from the “as shot” metadata to BMD Film color/gamma. Then export these files as source footage. This creates flat, log-adjusted files similar to the appearance of ARRI Log-C. These files are easy to grade in many applications and, in fact, respond well to the same LUTs used to correct ALEXA Log-C files.
Oliver Peters, editor/colorist
John Brawley, director of photography
(Cinematography section, “Afterglow” thread)