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Will We Have RAW Video DSLRs in the Next 12-18 Months? How It's Possible with Current Technology

11.17.12 @ 12:16PM Tags : , , , ,

We’ve featured some great reviews from Dave Dugdale in the past, but this time we’ve got a completely different video to share: a prediction about the future of the camera industry. Whether realizing it or not, I’ve written a tremendous amount about the camera industry and where I think it’s going, but most of my predictions are short term and usually based on some sort of concrete information. Either way, let’s speculate for a bit, is it possible that we could see RAW video DSLRs in the next year or two? Click through to check out Dave’s video.

Before going further, Dave makes it pretty clear on his website this is a complete guess, and that this is just a bit of speculation:

This is quite a bold prediction! I respect Dave immensely for putting this sort of speculation out there — and in a video no less. So what do I think? Well, I’ll play devil’s advocate for a bit. What would it take for the major companies to put RAW video in a DSLR, and what might it look like?

First off, why the DSLR form factor? There are still plenty of people who want stills and video in one package, like Dave mentions in the video, and many of them like the size and weight that DSLRs bring to the table. They don’t necessarily want to have to use two cameras, and they may want to get into RAW video without a great financial investment (by the way, this is the best way to get people into a higher-priced camera system — just look at what Canon has done). It actually makes a lot of sense to introduce RAW into a DSLR first to work out the kinks with a budget RAW workflow. People are far less forgiving when they’re spending a lot of money on a bigger video camera type form factor, and they’re going to expect everything to work the way they want it to in the $10K or above price range.

If they actually wanted to do this on DSLRs, they’re probably going to start with 1920 x 1080 RAW — 2K is certainly possible, but since it’s more of a cinema format, I would expect 1080 first. They’re not going to do 4K RAW on a camera like this firstly because of heat (look at RED and their fans), and secondly because of the data rate. I believe they would all need to create their own compressed RAW format, similar to their own still image compressed RAW formats (Sony’s current compressed RAW format is more based around cinema/TV applications). Uncompressed RAW video takes up insane amounts of space, even at 1080 (as we know from the Blackmagic Cinema Camera’s 2.5K), so this is a must if you’re going to try to get RAW into the hands of more people. This would ideally be a variable bit rate codec, and if it was user selectable, that would be even better — though that wouldn’t necessarily have to be the case.

So what’s the easiest/best way to get to RAW 1080p from a higher pixel size? If you want to keep the same field of view, pixel binning is really the best option. This is how Kinefinity is getting their 2K RAW image from 4K on the KineRAW camera, and it’s much better than line skipping — which is responsible for a lot of the issues we see with video on DSLRs. As an added bonus, pixel binning also helps with noise, and you’d able to get a cleaner image overall than you’d be getting using the full 4K or higher resolution. This image isn’t going to be as sharp as getting a 4K RAW file and downsampling in post, but again, this is a DSLR, so there have to be some compromises to keep the price down and to keep the size of the camera down.

Where would you put all of this data? Well, if you compress it enough, you could theoretically get the video onto high-speed CF cards (Canon has already been working on patents for this sort of thing). This would certainly be the best option to keep the file sizes down, and if they put SSDs inside some sort of housing, it’s probably going to raise the price considerably. The thing is, most CF cards, even if they claim high-speed, are rated more for their burst speeds, rather than sustained data rates. They could recommend only certain cards for their cameras, and they could also create their own custom CF cards that would also be usable for future cameras. RED contracted out high-speed CF cards for the RED ONE originally because almost none of the cards they tested could handle the 28 or 36 Megabytes per second that the ONE was spitting out (let’s not even get into RED spinning hard disk drives, as they had their own set of issues). They could also develop a way for two CF cards to be inserted simultaneously and work in a RAID to improve speed. This is what Aaton is doing with SSDs and the Penelope Delta. Keeping the media non-proprietary definitely makes things less confusing and far cheaper for lots of people (which is what a potential DSLR buyer would be looking for).

So, while I don’t think this is going to happen in the next year or two based on how slow many of these Japanese companies are moving, it’s theoretically possible with current technology. Heat would still be an issue in such a small camera package, but 1080 or 2K would be a lot less taxing than using the full 4K or higher. I personally think Sony, Nikon, Canon, and Panasonic could all develop a camera capable of RAW video like this in a DSLR size, but you can’t expect this to look like RED footage, it would look a lot more like KineRAW footage, but more compressed. As for cost, I think they could actually keep prices down around $2,000-$4,000 if they incorporate the technology into future, more expensive cameras. Sony is basically doing this with their slightly compressed RAW format on the F5/F55 cameras, which came from the F65.

I would most be excited about a RAW full-frame DSLR. For me personally that kind of look is something you can’t get with smaller sensors — even if the shallowness can become unmanageable at times. It’s a bit more difficult keeping focus with bigger sensors when you’re using medium to long lenses, so this would be another way that they could differentiate their product categories. For more professional shoots, you might want to stick with the Super 35mm format and a larger, more fully featured camera for sanity purposes, so that’s also a way costs could be kept down and more expensive cameras would still have their place. Unless the sensor was perfectly 4K, they may have to actually crop that full-frame sensor for binning purposes, but we’ll save that technical conversation for another day.

With all that said, would you buy a DSLR in that price range if it could do RAW video that looked somewhere close to the KineRAW? How about sensor size, would you want Super 35mm (APS-C) sized or would you want to shoot with a full-frame 35mm sensor? How about form factor, how big is too big for a camera like this? Would you be fine with the Canon 1D X or Nikon D4 form factor, or prefer something more like a Canon 5D Mark III or Nikon D800 in size?

Again, this is really just fun speculation, so let’s try to keep the conversation somewhere in the positive realm.

Link: First RAW DSLR Video Camera in 12 Months — Learning DSLR Video


We’re all here for the same reason: to better ourselves as writers, directors, cinematographers, producers, photographers... whatever our creative pursuit. Criticism is valuable as long as it is constructive, but personal attacks are grounds for deletion; you don't have to agree with us to learn something. We’re all here to help each other, so thank you for adding to the conversation!

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  • Is there any chance in it being a firmware update on the existing canon dslr`s as i have a 550D and being able to shoot RAW would be absolutely wonderful rather than having to upgrade my dslr? If they do a firmware update for RAW video, i wouldn`t mind having to pay for it.

    • There won’t be a firmware update for RAW video because a lot of what needs to be done is in hardware, so unfortunately it’s a lot more complicated than a simple software/firmware solution.

  • Jeff Akwante on 11.17.12 @ 1:30PM

    I said NAB 2013… no doubt.

  • That seems possible, although I can see Sony rushing more to compressed 4K formats in their lower end cameras/DSLRs, as they have already laid out their RAW options as professional tools. Also, since Canon has already jumped on compressed 4K with the 1DC, it seems like the big companies already have a strategy in place – push 4K into the consumer space and provide RAW for pro gear. In a lot of ways it makes sense because the DSLR market is inherently tied to consumer electronics and which is going to be an easier hurtle: hyping 4K to consumer markets or raising consumer awareness of the benefits of a RAW workflow for video? No brainer.

    • Yeah I would tend to agree with you, 4K compressed is more likely than 1080p RAW, unfortunately. Though Blackmagic might have them worried, so you never know. Ideally there would be two product segments – 4K and RAW, but you’re right, someone like Sony needs to sell 4K TVs, so it makes sense that their cameras would be able to at the low end.

  • “They” should take the form factor, sensor, nd’s, xlr’s etc from the C100 and add 1080 Raw and 60/50P for $5000. That would be the perfect thing for me.

  • For me, as an inspring cinematographer, RAW on DSLR would be almost salvation :)

    I’m currently shooting videos with Sony SLT-A35, but 18 Mb/s AVCHD is not doing well with intense color corrector. I would love to shoot videos in RAW on DSLR, because I’m not convinced to buy professional camera (like FS100 for example) in the near future, so I want to stay with a DSLR.

  • Joe thanks for continuing the conversation over here at noFilmSchool. You truly have way more technical knowledge on this issue than I do! You bring up some great points.

    It’s fun to speculate, and since I know some people over at Canon watch my videos, I think we might be able to give them some ideas that they might not be thinking of.

    Clearly companies like Canon who want to keep their lead in DSLR video space must be working on a prototype or concept camera already after getting caught off guard from Black Magic in the spring.

  • vinceGortho on 11.17.12 @ 2:47PM

    Raw in dslr is a good dream. But I would’ve been happy with avchd and sharp, REAL 1080p in my now riddened 5D3. Apparently that’s worth $6400 in the c100. Blackmagic here I come.

  • Andreas Kopriva on 11.17.12 @ 2:47PM

    Personally I think we may be seeing something more portable and affordable from RED. Let’s not forget that they had something along those lines, pretty much ready and shooting in the 2/3” Scarlet, which was supposed to be $3k.
    The other companies already have too many models in the market in what appears to be a very messy line-up. If Sony were to release a Raw capable DSLR would they be able to charge $3000 for it? What about the FS range then? How would they justify the F5 and the F55′s (still speculated I guess) pricing?
    What would Canon do? They’ve already messed up big time with their cameras. Technically they already have a Raw capable DSLR to be released shortly but it appears that they’re artificially raising the price just because of this feature (1D-C vs 1D-X – apparently, they’re quite similar internally).
    Aaton and Alexa aren’t gonna bother – especially the latter.. they seem comfortable in their niche.
    So that pretty much leaves RED.
    It’s been speculated that they’re working on the next game-changer (which I believe is separate to the Dragon sensor) and they are veterans of Raw filming. They’ll probably crank out a ‘dslr’/SFF camera with a lightfield sensor and a fixed lens for like $3k or so.

  • I dunno Joe I think pixel binning to a lowres “RAW” may be worse than just going ahead and debayering to a very high DR and bitrate codec. “RAW” should have a meaning, and that should be, “lossless native sensor readout.” Anything else is cooked, and “RAW” just gets diluted as a marketing buzzword.

    Pixel binning is extremely lossy; the most common example of its prowress is the Canon 5D3 which everyone who thinks they are an expert must immediately dismiss as “soft” in the same breath. Line skipping is even worse yet you yourself prefer the D800 to the 5D3. Anyone But Canon.

    What we want is information and information is expensive still. Halving in price every 18 months but that still puts a true 4K RAW DSLR for $3000 odd a good three years off or so, especially with a workflow that is similarly convenient and affordable. Direct to ProRes via e.g. Atomos Ninja is a lot more appealing today, and you’re up and running for $1500 or so as long as you have clean HDMI (April for 5D3).

    Buy a camera with good realtime RAW conversion built-in, do proper white balance and exposure with discipline, and keep your workflow comfortable enough that a day’s work doesn’t burn you out.

    • If it looked anything like the KineRAW footage so far, I would take a RAW video capable Mark III over a Nikon D800 to an external recorder.

  • Not going to happen, unless the Blackmagic completely re-invents the market. If anything we’re more likely to see something like the 50Mbps mpeg2 codec in the c300 et al in a DSLR. Canon said their intent with the codecs and raw implementation in the Cinema cameras was to make it easy to put that data directly into broadcast and cinema post work flows, not to re-invent the wheel with a fully raw pipeline. I can totally see sony pushing highly compressed 4k into the consumer market, and thereby their lower end professional cameras, but not raw. Red might do anything cause they are quickly getting squeezed out of the market. That’s what drove their price drop. They had to do something. The cameras going out fastest at the rental houses are the Alexa and the C300. But like I said. I doubt this will happen. Unless the Blackmagic shakes everything up like we hope it will. If that happens, I see prices coming down drastically on the camera’s they have not necessarly adding raw to the DSLR Market. Their original intent in adding video to the 5D Mk ii was because Reuters asked for it for photojournalists. Not cinema.

    • Black Magic still is not in the business of making cameras: they only built the BMCC because other manufacturers were not doing it. If anything, I hope their endeavour spurs innovation in Japan. Indeed, we are already seeing 4K (capable) cameras hitting the market. Bigger is always preferred over better by marketing folk. So it will take some while longer before we will see raw (not RAW) implemented. Also, the insane datarates that raw gives, makes it very limited in use for post production (“hey Canon, my new iMac can’t process this footage!”). Heat inside the body is a different issue – Canon had to drop the hand grip in the C500 just because of extra requirements for ventilation. All-in-all, raw is not going to happen in a 3k DSLR.

  • 12 to 18 months is a good guess I think. The timing is off for anything from the financially slumping Japanese giants to come out in time for NAB 2013. And the DSLRs will get it only after the pro products.

    Canon just released the C100 and C500 so the C300 is probably next to see an update and I wouldn’t doubt if that update came via firmware. I think they’d be too scared of cannibalizing the C500 if they added raw but I’d still expect something nifty. The 1-DC would seem a more likely candidate to receive a canonraw update but the HDMI output only makes that impossible, methinks. We’ll probably first see internal raw in the second generation Cinema EOS stuff late next year or NAB 2014.

    Sony just updated the FS700, F5 and F55 and the next thing to see an update is probably the FS100 – that is if they don’t consider the FS700 an update and the VG900 a replacement at the bottom of the market. Sony’s not going to disturb the newly released raw recorder any time soon.

    Panasonic could theoretically make a splash but it doesn’t look like they can bothered to give a damn about large sensor video anymore.

    It’s really up to Blackmagic and RED to make the market move in a way that isn’t protective of a current business model. Regardless of whether you intend to purchase the BMC, how Blackmagic handles themselves in the next year is easily the most important development in our industry. What kind of new features will they add via firmware? Is the Super 35 version coming sooner rather than later?

  • VINCEGORTHO on 11.17.12 @ 4:11PM

    I think the only company that can change the game (depending where they get their sensors from) is Sigma. It was rumored a while back they were going to implement video in to their DSLRs but so far, nothing.

  • Yeah the move to RAW in DSLRs may be a hardware issue, but given the track record of the major camera manufacturers, its going to be mostly a political decision.

    I mean, if Canon or Sony put out a RAW DSLR in the 3-4k price range, they would instantly obsolete their entire pro line. So, this sort of advance will have to come from a company with nothing to lose. A startup. Perhaps black magic will have a prototype in 2 years, but then who knows when it would be available. I could see RED doing something like that – make the original $3000 Scarlet they always wanted to make. But Sony and Canon – the two that will eventually bring this feature to the masses, will most assuredly be two steps behind once this tech does finally become available.

    Good prediction though. I’m sure moore’s law agrees with you.

    • Daniel Mimura on 11.25.12 @ 9:49PM

      Oh! I agree…this might instantly make their lineup obsolete! What a perfect business model. They’ll definitely do it then.

      Think about Apple and their ports/interfaces and how quickly they change and become obsolete. This is what they want.

  • This kind of development would help drive down already low prices on existing RAW video cameras for sure! If that capability comes out in a DSLR at that price range, I’d assume the other big guys would have to make price adjustments (maybe not right away, but at some point!) Interesting observation from Dave, seems like a great standup guy

  • I think it’s nonsense to post anything like that – this is wishful thinking put together in a video to generate hits on a website – I f there are no news make some up yourself and IMHO Dave is an amateur with a popular blog

    • The reason Dave has a popular blog is because he posts useful and interesting content in a down to earth way that people of different skill levels can relate to. I think the guy actually makes a point of portraying himself as an amateur to avoid alienating or intimidating an audience that is trying to learn. This video in particular though was clearly labeled as speculation. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      • Good comedy. Raw raw raw. Too funny. Red is compressed. Hobbit is 5 to 1 for the Hobbit. Pure “raw” is too massive and not needed for nearly everyone. Better codecs and specs coming. People feel they got a super deal with the Redmx. Maybe? What happens after 3 months if their BT Redmx has issues. That $4K may not look so cheap. Full Redmx packages can be had for $7500 with all the bells and whistles. Note when buying used, you don’t pay what the person asks. People think the Redmx will go up in price since they are sold out. Nope. It will not happen. Lot’s of competition is coming. Red Scarlet and Epic price adjusted to bring in people. Smart move for Red. Let’s speculate about the 4K interchangeable video camera coming up very soon for $3800. Oops said too much.

  • All it takes is one company to budge and price it at an affordable price. For instance what if NIKON shocked the world with a 3k or 4k dslr that had compressed raw. It wouldnt really undercut NIKON products because they only make cameras unlike CANON, PANASONIC ETC , but if nikon did do this and they sold like HOT CAKES, then canon, sony etc would not have a choice but to put out a competitor.

    The real reason why the none of the 5d’s do 1080 uncompressed out the correct way, is simply because they dont have too.

    BMCC if it ever actually happens will change the game indeed, but lets just see first. Im actually like the IDc canon , i just wish the 4k had more Frame rates, but i think it is a lovely camera, If magic lantern every hacks the 1dx to making 4k, just imagine how many refurbished $4.5k cameras would be sold

  • Headlines to which the answer is yes. But not next year.

  • I think this is very optimistic! I suspect that in this time frame we will hopefully get high bit rate compressed 4:2:2 formats at 10 or (hopefully) 12 bits. For many users this would be more than adequate and preferable in terms of storage requirements.

  • I´ll make a popmagix sigil for that! =D

  • how about GoPro camera, 4k Cineform RAW MFT…. i plastic body… $2K

  • i think gopro will come out with a dslr that does 4k.
    they have a cineform codec and they have the china connections.
    it can be done. they will do it.
    i also see panasonic getting in the game as they realize its too later for the af100 and the gh series.
    they will put out a 4k camera.
    if jvc can put out a 4k camera for 5 grand why can not these other companies do it?
    black magic will make a 4k camera probably in 1 year after the 2.5k camera is everyones homes.
    kine raw guys will have to sell their 4k camera close to or under jvcs 4k camera.
    they have a lot to prove and they could take it all if the price was right and if it was under 4-5 grand.
    companies will still buy red, alexas, sony high end stuff, but why would individuals pay that kind of money when in the future they will be able to get raw 4k super35 for under 5 grand?
    in the beginning when computers were being sold they were very very expensive only the rich people could buy them. now their is more computing power in an iphone than some of the computers that were sold for 10k-$30k. its crazy but thats technology for you.

  • I think both the technology and appropriate pricing of hardware are available right now to make a product like this. The only factors holding back the creation of a product like this are business related.
    The 1D X can already shoot at a rate of 12 FPS when recording 18MP still images in 14-bit raw files. If the same camera were to make use of an electronic shutter in conjunction with a lower resolution sample (either via cropping the active area of the sensor, or via pixel binning across the same surface area), I could see the camera shooting at least 24 FPS of 1080p images. With that camera’s buffer size, it’s feasible it could continue shooting for maybe thirty seconds or so, which is enough for most short productions.

  • Is there any DSLR, other than the Canon 1DC, that currently records internally at 8 bit 422?

  • I am sure that Canon will come up with a really EXPENSIVE RAW DSLR in the future, My prediction is, nobody will care.

  • If aome of Sony’s APSC cameras can sell for msrp of 500$, why cant just blackmagic buy those sensors (probably 100$ or something) put it in the BMCC Box and write code for it. A 16megapixel photo shooting, 4K XAVC capable, RAW or Prores/DNXHD in video mode. It will be awesome and lowlight and have great DR (check out the Nex 5N’s reviews). BLACKMAGIC PLS START BUYING OLD SONY SENSORS!!! Keep the bocy design..I LOVE IT! The first real Instagram camera.:D

  • I wouldn’t be surprised if we see a camera with a medium format body style, dual XLR inputs, capable of compressed 4K, RAW HD and something like 20mp stills in the next 18 months. I think there is so much competition right now that it only makes sense. Perhaps it is only wishful thinking but Canon made some major coin with there 1-2 punch of the 5D and 7D.

    I think there is major pressure on them now to again wow the market with a dominate camera. If not them then someone else will sieze the opportunity. Sony in particular has been incredibly aggressive as of late. I still think they have a significant disadvantage in terms of glass. Canon and Nikon having strong advantages there. As stills shooters become more familier with high quality motion production this may become less of a factor.
    I recently was on a shoot with the Rokinon lenses in use. The optical quality looked excellent and an entire set of Rokinon cinema lenses can be had for the price of a single Canon L lens.

    An alternative view is that a professional stills camera is not the same thing as a professional filmmaking camera. It might make little sense to create a “super” camera that meets the needs of these two diverse groups while maintaining an attractive price point. Raw video at least in the near future may be deemed too challenging in terms of workflow and storage for the DSLR shooter. I think the wild card here is the competition amongst the manufacturers.

  • I don’t want rain on Dave Dugdale’s parade but the dude has to be kidding to talk about shooting RAW for his amature needs and followers… There is just no need to have all these rookies running around thinking they need to shoot video in RAW next year or 18 months….. It’s just a big wet dream and a forest gump moment “oh Jenny”…..
    I think Canon, Sony etc already have the technology to shoot “RAW” video in a DSLR but will make more money by slowly leaking technology with their software/hardware in increments… Definitely a few more years with this Dave it’s a premature ejaculatiion comment to get heard on the Internet..

    I’m all for external recording via HDMI etc onto SSD for now to overcome buffer problems to CF or SD cards…

    As for a Pro offering 4:2:2 8Bit is plenty good for video next few months I.e 5DIII (10Bit I wish)… Anything more go buy a Professional Video Camera and leave the real work for men not 12 year olds shooting lol cat videos or unboxing 600D’s

  • I’ll tell you guys, when we announced the Digital Bolex at SXSW last year a Canon representative came up to me and personally thanked me for what we were doing. He said people have been asking them to do something like the D16 for a long time but it just wasn’t possible in their product road map. Companies like these don’t have “fly by the seat of their pants” products or departments, they have detailed product roadmaps that they have hundreds of millions invested in.

    In today’s world innovation often comes from the smaller companies and takes years to reach the bigger ones.

    I’m not saying it’s impossible for a big company announcement about a raw DSLR at NAB or in the next 18 months, I’m just saying if it wasn’t already in their product road map there is little chance an employee, a group of consumers, or even a competitor like Black Magic is going to change their plans.

    Large camera companies are moving consumers through a specific pipeline, first you purchase a video enabled point and shoot for $200 and eventually end up with a DSLR for $500 – $3500. Out of all the people in the world that shoot video / moving images what percentage shoot raw? How many of them would move from their current raw format motion picture cameras to a raw DSLR? Why would a current video enabled point and shoot consumer upgrade to a raw camera?

    I believe strongly that raw is the future, which is why it’s the only format in the D16, I believe one day even point and shoot cameras will offer raw moving pictures, it’s probably inevitable, but it will take much much more than 18 months. At Digital Bolex we like the long view :)

    For those of you that think raw is only for professionals please read “The Long Tail” by Chris Anderson. The world of professionals and amateurs is merging faster than ever. I went to NFFTY (National Film Festival for Talented Youth) last year and the films I saw were better than many thesis projects from college students less than 10 years ago. And all of the filmmakers… 12 years old.

    OK End of Rant :)

    • BornCorrect on 11.22.12 @ 2:41AM

      The Long Tail by Chris Anderson was a comedy piece look at the reviews. The last video I saw posted by a 12 year old was a fat kid rubbing Nutella and food on himself and jiggling his boobies while using his iPhone and annoyingly shot vertically which was shared by millions on facebook. 12 year old winning an oscar for cinematography that will be the day. I would pay to see Dave Dugdale give the award and a prize 4K camera in 12 months… Lol

  • Henri Heinonen on 11.22.12 @ 4:11PM

    It doesn’t sound so unrealistic to have 4K RAW video DSLR in 2013 or 2014. Why not?
    - Just put a 5 TB HDD in that camera to record all that huge amount of data!
    - 22 nm technology is already possible. Use it to reduce heat.

    Compression is not needed at all, because we can use fast and huge HDDs.

  • Some may be ‘announced’ before Dec 2013, but they will not be available till probably June 2014. Mark my word.

  • I have been screaming this for years. Many of us cannot afford most of the camera’s out there. For those of us doing film and commercial work, all we want is a 2K raw DLSR full-frame camera. Here are the reasons why. 1.) – it can be done in a price range we can afford, especial with black magic’s raw coming the price range will have to been in the 2-4,000 range. 2.) As Joe mentions, a full frame has a certain film look about it that can be very cinematic. 3.) Yes raw 4K is optimal, but raw 2K is something we can actually work with. Conclusion, It still amazes me that the 5D can produce a film look comparable to that of RED. I KNOW the RED is million times better at the color and contrast and all that jazz. All I’m saying, is that it gives a competing ‘film look’ with its full frame sweetness. I know there will be draw backs like Joe mentioned like keeping focus when in longer focal lengths; but, for film people like me, this is what we have been wanting for a lone time. A full-frame DSLR, ‘film look sweetness,’ with raw 2K so we can actually color grade it!!!!

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    I’ve got some ideas for your blog you might be interested in hearing. Either way, great site and I look forward to seeing it develop over time.