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Digital Bolex's Lab-Style RAW Software Will Be Your CinemaDNG Workflow Workhorse

By coincidence or not, it seems like each camera announced to use CinemaDNG as its RAW shooting format is poised to change the world in its own way. The Blackmagic Cinema Camera and the ~$3K Digital Bolex D16 seek to put quality acquisition tools in nearly anyone’s hands, while the future-bound Aaton Penelope Delta and open source Apertus Axiom bear their own technical notabilities (and nobilities). Clearly it’s time to really start wondering about CinemaDNG. As of now, the license-free format is being adopted by way more cameras than NLEs, and workflow questions, concerns, and schools of thought and technique abound. There’s hope and then some, though — just over the horizon the RAW processing software shipping with the Digital Bolex D16 just might change the world in its own way, too.


There’s plenty of CinemaDNG workflowing tutorials online, with at least one going as far as batch-commanding Adobe Lightroom to spit out each frame of footage as a 16-bit uncompressed Photoship .psd file to be reimported for editing and grading — but I’m sure not everyone wants to do that, and “everyone” seems to be the deal-breaker for Digital Bolex. How complicated does post workflow truly have to be with RAW? Can’t it be both powerful and intuitive? Of course, it already is in many cases — but a dedicated central solution is largely absent for CinemaDNG specifically. Well, the Digital Bolex project has been busy — on its own solutions, as well as its first complete short, below.

When comparing RAW to compressed workflows, the problems with most of the RAW workflows seemed to be:

  1. You can’t start editing your [CinemaDNG] footage right away… [because] most NLEs still don’t incorporate the ability to import a CinemaDNG sequence, so you have to do one or more transcodes during post in order to use your RAW footage to its best ability.
  2. The online process is so problematic that many people go to post houses to finish their films, even though they have capable computers and software at home. Using XML to match an edited sequence back to the original raw footage almost never works correctly in existing software.
  3. The extra drive space from all the different versions of the footage makes the hard drive space issue for raw much worse than it has to be. RAW takes up more space than compressed video, without question. But having to transcode multiple times increases the space issue exponentially.

So with these problems in mind, we came up with three mantras for the new [Digital Bolex post] software:

  • Keep it raw as long as you can.
  • Transcode only once.
  • Transcode only what you need to transcode.

Give a warm (preliminary) welcome to Digital Bolex’s upcoming post software. Combined with back-to-front fluency in CinemaDNG specifically, the post software is going to be something special for the philosophy behind its interface: Digital Bolex is designing the software almost like a virtual floor plan of a post house or development lab, complete with “rooms.” Alternatively, it could be thought of as categorizing processing functionalities by the steps of the post process in which they occur.

The Copy Room is where you download the footage from cards to as many designated drives as you like. The software then reads the footage and compares it to the original cards to verify that all of the copies have been made correctly, before giving the user a big green check mark, indicating that it is safe to format the cards.

The Organize Room is where you label, categorize, and rename clips, edit file trees, incorporate script supervisor notes, and general organizational things.

The Color Room can be used both before and / or after the edit room. It is intended to let you apply your one light look non-destructively to a groups of clips, and then after a rough cut of the footage is complete you can go back and do a more refined color pass.

The Edit Room allows you to edit and play back your Cinema DNG footage in real time. To allow computers that are older to work well with the large files we have chosen to show the images in black and white while the image is playing, and render the color on paused frames.

The Export Room allows you to export your edit either as one file in a condensed rough cut, or as separate clips according to your edit. You may export to many different formats including Quicktime ProRes 444 [or DNxHD].

The idea is that you can have several people working on the same project simultaneously, using the same CinemaDNG files, and the only file that need to be sent from one computer to another is small and contains nothing but metadata. The assistant editor can be naming and categorizing clips while the editor is assembling sequences, while the DP setting looks for scenes. Hopefully this will create a friendly collaborative workflow for raw projects. On smaller projects where one person might be the producer, DP, and editor the “room” divisions define the work that is done and the work still needed to be done.

To quote Keanu Reeves: Whoa. As far as I can tell, this is the most significant support any CinemaDNG-sporting camera company is co-creating (with German media management developer Pomfort) for use with its own product. But that’s the other thing about it, the software won’t be just for its own product — DB CEO Joe Rubinstein tells me it will be available through Pomfort separately, not necessarily with the D16 exclusively. It goes further. Digital Bolex is so involved with CinemaDNG, the company’s own Elle Schneider is actually building the new CinemaDNG.org website. No other camera company (in digital cinema history, really) has ever so closely contributed to a format not self-developed, not to mention the infrastructure around it — and for a free RAW format, at that.

What all this means is something significant for CinemaDNG users at large, present and future. If it’s as elegant as it sounds, this software could best even Blackmagic’s powerful native integration of CDNG in DaVinci Resolve, by sheer intuitiveness. The live collaboration sounds like a key plus, the ‘room’ scheme keeps putting light bulbs above my head — and, it’s built from the ground up to manage and manipulate CinemaDNG footage. All of which could make it the must-have “RAWare” in the emerging CinemaDNG market, perhaps by default.

As of right now, the software is Mac-only upon launch, which may or may not coincide with that of the D16 — a beta-type version will definitely be included with the D16, while a commercially available more ironed-out version will come later. A Windows version should also be in the works. There are no price point details at this time. As a last note of DB’s community activism, Mr. Rubinstein tells me the software has no definite title yet, but welcomes suggestions — so if you’re good with catchy app names, head on over to the Digital Bolex site and pitch some!

What’s it to you guys, what do you think? What standard practices do you see settling into position as CinemaDNG proliferates — and do you think this software will find its way in?

Link: The Digital Bolex Software + Workflow

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Description image 63 COMMENTS

  • Jeff Akwante on 01.17.13 @ 3:17PM

    Honestly why is anyone still talking about this camera?

  • That’s good news! I’m glad someone is investing energy in building a good workflow solution for CDNG files. It sounds like an interesting and user friendly workflow. Let’s see how it work in reality and how well it integrates with Resolve for the BMCC users.

    I still hope there will be some kind of RAW compressed workflow with the BMCC at some point.

    • If I’m not mistaken there’s already lots of options for decent and editable workflows for dealing with cinemaDNG in Adobe products. After Effects can allow you to easily pre-grade as you ingest a sequence with the Raw import tools. once there the sequence can be further graded with whichever plugins you’d like to use (Red Giant etc.) or save our the After Effects project file to import into Speedgrade or Premier. At any point you can simply re-import to adjust the Raw import settings and even save the After Effects project out as a new version with the adjusted pre-grade.

      I have a feeling the “everyone” they’re after are the established market that Adobe has ;)

      • I’ve worked with CineaDNG with the ikonoskop camera in After Effects and its not easy to do batch work. It is very labor intensive. Maybe I was doing something wrong. I welcome this software a lot.

  • Sorry, but why do you ask ?

  • This is really smart on their part – they are software people. BMCC has pretty much stolen their thunder so why not make the best and easiest Cinema DNG tool available and charge for it. Smart move guys.

  • Wow lots of information here! Great post

  • I have no faith that this camera will come to market. And if it does, the goodies that will be announced at the next NAB will pretty much make it obsolete before it launches.

    • Hi, isn’t that a little cruel? Surely the same could be said of the BM before it ships in quantity. But I am fascinated by “goodies” at NAB, especially the notion of 4K consumer camcorders – is that what you had in mind?

    • Kenneth Merrill on 01.18.13 @ 2:42AM

      I’m afraid I kind of have to agree. This camera would have been a huge hit five months ago when it was supposed to launch. Unfortunately they are having to spend so much time creating products just to make it work that affordable and competitive solutions are already forthcoming (and note that I am NO fan of the BMCC). Besides, this camera suffers from the same issues the BMCC does: no compression AT ALL. That means all of the budget-spenders (like myself) who are trying to stay financially stable will spend money and time on hard drives and workflow solutions what they would have spent if they had just purchased a scarlet or C300. Only there will be a lot more pulling out of hair.

  • I would love nothing more than to see the Digital Bolex team succeed at this but my spidey senses are tingling and have been for awhile as far as this camera project goes. They are either in way over their heads and will never be able to pull things together to make a real product that sells or by the time they do pull it together they will have missed the boat. There have been some serious mis-steps with their project (getting in bed with the wrong people etc.) and some of their comments show a significant lack of understanding of how to build a camera from the ground up and how to create a successful business model.

    I really, really hope I’m wrong if for no other reason than those who invested in them actually get their sexy new camera sometime in the next 6-12 months.

    • What serious mis-steps are you referring you?
      Thanks

    • I think the mis-steps are mostly an illusion. Bear in mind that these guys have been probably the most transparent of any company, even more than Red, and happily share their mishaps with us (my favourite was the perfectly working sensor board which wasn’t measured properly and wouldn’t fit in the case). They always say what steps they are taking to move forwards, and their other posts (such as this one on nofilmschool) show real astuteness. Sony or Apple, or even Red, wouldn’t ever show us “the one that blew up”. Best.

  • Looks good. They may end up a software company. Lot easier raising money for that :-)

  • What these guys are building is a digital version of the bolex hence digital bolex.
    The vintage look, the raw workflow, no rolling shutter. CCD alternative.

    The future of digital would be sensor technology, and from what I can see the digital bolex is using a sensor unlike many if not all consumer cameras out there.

    CCD has a look that CMOS simply does not have.

    I think this camera would look fantastic for the right kind of film and filmmakers.

    It has an aesthetic that the BMC would not be able to replicate, and that is why I think the Bolex will succeed, if only niche at first.

    Also if this camera does succeed it will mean so much to independent cinema and developers. I’m rooting everything for these guys.

  • Too bad they misspelled “DIGITAL” in the credits. (DITIGAL BOLEX”

  • I really hated that short film. Looking forward to seeing what this camera can do in capable hands!
    Although, what more does it offer over the Ikonoskop?

  • The Digital Bolex buzz has been in the internets for about…. a year now? Still no camera?
    This kind of post telling me about situations i will face in the future with a camera whom availability is still a big “?” make me nervous.
    I imagine a guy who preordered this guy a year ago reading this and saying “give me the f….ing camera and then i will worry about CDNG!”
    :D

  • Jayy Slocum on 01.17.13 @ 7:39PM

    MANE!!!! FORGET GET ALL THIS WHEN IS THE DAMNNN CAMERA COMING OUT, this is directed towards the company, dont post another dammmn post about workflow, future cams or printers until you get a working camera out.

    Its one thing to go through ups and downs as a kickstarter, but its a whole other thing when you update your blog with details about a damnnnnn leather carrying case, excuse my language, i barely curse on here, but enough is enough damnnnnnnnnnnnnnnn

  • If they pull off what they are doing for the price it will be awesome. I’ve pre ordered a BMC but am hoping to get my hands on a bolex down the track. I simply can’t shoot and make films how I want to with a rolling shutter. Imagine trying to shoot Bourne on a DSLR or BMC? Software sounds awesome. Seeing as I haven’t invested I’m probably more patient (and maybe hopeful?) than others. Really glad they have a CCD sensor in there. I’ll take no rolling shutter over an extra stop of dynamic range… or I’ll get both cameras :-) Hopefully both good for different things.

    • I agree – I will most likely get a high end dslr for photography anyway and will make sure it does decent video (FF camera with clean HDMI out is a must). The Bolex will probably be my dedicated movie-camera – due to the sensor though.

  • I am really looking forward to getting my Digital Bolex and love the sound of this software.
    Better that they get the camera and post software right than ship something that is half arsed.
    When I backed this project I did not expect the camera to ship that year. Building a camera from the ground up is not easy especially for a start-up company. BMD is only starting to ship now and they announced the BMCC not long after the D16 project was funded. BMD has been around for many years and is a well-established and respected company and they had many delays also.
    As far as it being obsolete before it is released I personally think that it is a niche product and will be collectable and does not need to compete with the other brands.
    For now I’m more than happy shooting 5d mk 111 & BMCC pro res for no budget work. BMCC 2.5k low to medium and hiring for bigger projects.
    The Digital Bolex project was never about making a shit load of money and mass producing a camera, it was about getting raw out there to the low budget indi film maker.
    In actual fact if it was not for this project the big corporations may not have moved as quickly on higher resolution and RAW formats and be feeding us more crippled cameras.
    Thanks Digital Bolex

  • Anthony Marino on 01.17.13 @ 8:24PM

    What a tricky market, there’s a lot riding for both BMCC and this DB camera. Seems like the perfect time for Red to give us something compatible (spec wise). I do believe if that happens its lights out for both these guys. My 2 cents. ;)

    • jordan carr on 01.17.13 @ 9:14PM

      Or one could say that red does not need to….being that nothing that shoots raw is shipping in volume.

      • Anthony Marino on 01.17.13 @ 9:26PM

        That’s certainly a fact. But if ever Red wanted to enter this relm they would be way way ahead of the game. They have a solid brand, Reds a proven company. If these cameras are as successful as we think, I can’t see why red wouldn’t enter this market, after all they’re in the business to make money. ( I think ) ha

        • Hi Anthony, your comments are very surprising because Red did enter this realm but couldn’t deliver – that’s what the original Scarlet 3K for 3K was all about, a project which even at those specs was delayed for years. They eventually threw in the towel, saying 4K would be the future and used the lesser Epic chips to form the 4K Scarlet camera at lesser maximum framerates, disappointing the thousands who had patiently waited. Their new Dragon chip is extremely exciting, but has been delayed beyond their original projections.
          In this context, I think BM and Bolex are doing very well and their cameras will become perceived as “16mm” Red.

          • Anthony Marino on 01.18.13 @ 8:48PM

            Hi Saied. Believe me when I say I hope this company succeeds. If a consumer electronics giant put something like the DB on the market (for half the price) it would sell like hotcakes I’m sure. Thinking on business terms the only company in my humble opinion to get into the ring now is Red. It’s a huge market, the Fs100, flagship DSLRS, the new c100 and the BMCC. if this DB hits the market it too I’m certain will grab some buyers. I was just wondering if Red has maybe rethought their position. I just don’t see how they could sit on the sidelines, hell we’re in a bad economy, people need 3 or 4k for $3/4,000 grand. Haha. Right?

          • Anthony, I think RED has become a bit arrogant. They make good money selling high priced products to professionals that can pay far more than the rest of us (that may have this as a hobby only)

            With their first attempt, they tried to incorporate a zoom lense as part of it, plus their proprietary codec’s require some serious horse-power. Digital Bolex is not giving you a lens, and is only doing RAW (no processing required, just dump the data). I think this is a wise move.

            I hope they succeed, and from reading their blog – I think they are looking good.

  • Well, I think it’s safe to say that none of you spend any time at PV

    http://personal-view.com/talks/discussion/2568/digital-bolex-raw-camera-for-2500/p11

    This camera will never materialize.

    • I guess you just hang out on the wrong sites.
      If you met with Joe you’d see how passionate and authentic he is and how this project is legitimate.

      • If “Joe” was leading the project, that might matter.

        “We had made a connection and tried discussing it with another producer of high end card readers, but they eventually came back to us with a proposal for us to buy several thousand of their existing readers(not thunderbolt) that could be branded Bolex for a hefty price. I told them we weren’t interested in that

        We’re talking to someone new now Hopefully we’ll have more news on that soon.

        Would USB 3 be just as good as thunderbolt? Or is Thunderbolt a necessity?”

        Are you f****** kidding me?

        • Thyl Engelhardt on 01.20.13 @ 9:47AM

          In the given context of the discussion, Joe was asking this question to get a feeling for what his customers use right now. Adoption of USB3 is also not so fast, and a lot of people bought Macs in the interregnum that only have Thunderbolt.

        • Maybe not asking the right question, but there is some marketability in having Thunderbolt, so the question is valid enough. They have been very open with the aspects of this that are new to them, and what is causing delays. I wouldn’t write them off just yet.

        • Also, keep in mind that people are not able to put in a sensible comment in the forum you referred to. One of their mods deleted my post that simply pointed out some explanations to various concerns the people on the thread were highlighting. I have absolutely no affiliation with this company but felt it was a very one-sided conversation. I have requested the moderator comes to his senses and bring my post back…

    • I did go to your link but don’t fully understand what you are trying to say. Are you alleging some form of skullduggery?

  • jordan carr on 01.17.13 @ 9:13PM

    Where is the camera?

  • Pretty sure they said the first hundred pre-orders will be out this quarter, it will be good to see the footage roll out and see what people think of the ergonomics.

  • Christoph Ulsamer on 01.18.13 @ 4:36AM

    As for now, I do like the CinemaDNG to Premiere option offered by http://19lights.com/wp/
    The HDR tool is quite handy, but I found the CinemaDNG Merger the perfect tool to get my Ikonoskop A-Cam files straight to Premiere.
    Maybe have a look at that.

  • Id rather had a fast way to make a quick pregrade precut to get rid of the raw filles you dont need and save space (kind of a consolidate), and then export an offline proxie file (the size is in comparisson to the RAW filles neglectable and way easier to edit with collor). Then when your edit is donne you could
    then just relink to the raw files en do the endgrade in the LAB.

  • I will bookmark this post in the “Stuff I will read when the RAWvolution finally happen” folder.

  • hahha,,,digital bolex strikes again,,,there is no camera,,,but there talking about 4k in future???aaahaha,,this thing has been the biggest scam in the camera marketplace,,there is no digtal blex,,only a plastik model.there still running with that short video,,,but i dont even know if it was filmed with there camera,,,this is amazing,,,te d bolex is a sham in my opinion,,,,,

    • You are entitled to your opinion. I think these are some passionate people that are not necessarily experts in all aspects of the business of creating a camera, but they seem to be making steady progress. I do think they are making the common mistake of most start-ups, being waaaay to optimistic about timelines though.