Understanding the Difference Between Raw, Log, and Uncompressed Footage

Can you view raw footage on a monitor?  What's baked into the image by Log recording?  What's the advantage of having uncompressed footage vs compressed footage?  With more and more cameras offering a variety of outputs and formats, it's easy to lose track of just what you're getting with each option and what they ultimately mean for the final image.  Well, lucky for us, there are folks like Andy Shipsides at AbelCine looking to clarify and explain the differences, as he does in this very informative breakdown for HDVideoPro.

With a new wave of cameras offering raw outputs or Log recording (Arri Alexa, C500, Sony F3, RED Epic on the high end, and upcoming cameras like Blackmagic Design's Cinema Camera and the Digital Bolex on the more affordable side), it's important to understand just what you're getting:

Raw is not Log because Log is in a video format, and raw is not video. Raw data has no video processing baked in and has to be converted into video for viewing. Log is video and has things like white balance baked into it. They're very much not the same; however, they're both designed to get the most information out of the sensor. Raw is getting everything the sensor has to offer; likewise, Log curves are designed to get the most tonal range out of the sensor. While they're very different formats, they have the same general application. Both raw and Log can be uncompressed, but that depends on the recording device. These terms, and many others, have all become part of our vocabulary in this digital cinema world.

For the full breakdown, check out the article here, it really is a must read for folks wanting to get an informative and concise answer to these questions.  As these options become more accessible, it will be interesting to see just what impact they'll have on people's creative process, or whether folks will opt for the immediate gratification of built-in looks.  Do you think these options are must-haves?  If you've recorded in Log or worked with a raw workflow, what impact have they had on your shooting?  Let us know!

Link: RAW, Log, and Uncompressed -- HDVideoPro

[via AbelCine]

Your Comment


This post was duplicated a total of three times on the NoFilmSchool facebook page. Just a heads up.

June 6, 2012 at 6:11PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Thanks Sam -- that's not good. Looking into it...

June 6, 2012 at 9:08PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Ryan Koo

Hm well since I haven't shot on anything apart from a DSLR, I shoot RAW and process my final image. So curious to see the end result of Log-shot footage. Is it easier to work with in post?

June 6, 2012 at 6:13PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Hope you're talking stills. No DSLRs shoot raw out of the box?

June 7, 2012 at 8:46AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Actually you're right, I have no idea what I'm talking about haha.

June 7, 2012 at 3:22PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I'm not, necessarily, against a 'baked-in' look. As I've stated on a few other posts, I'm not afraid of committing to a look and getting as much in camera, as possible, as far as effects go. But, I shoot S-log on the F3 to a AJA KiPro Mini as ProRes HQ which, gives me quite a bit of room to play in post... leaving me to wonder if shooting raw is really necessary for all but the most demanding work. I shoot stills on the 5D as raw and wouldn't think of doing it differently but, I haven't shot raw video so, I don't know exactly what the possibilities are there. An HQ Pro Res 422 give me about all I need, post-wise, in a very easy workflow.

June 6, 2012 at 6:26PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


I should have said, " leaving me to wonder if shooting raw is really necessary for anything except the most demanding work."

June 6, 2012 at 6:42PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


It's nice for those of us artists who are less technically minded to be taught things this way. Excellent article, E.M. Please keep your eyes peeled for stuff like this! :-)

June 6, 2012 at 8:08PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


As expressed by the folks at AJA, think of it like this: Log RGB is like a film negative whereas Liner RGB also known as only RGB is like a film positive-- if you want to bring it back to analogue terms haha. RAW is purely transmitted data NOT video. However Log RGB can more accurately emulate 35mm film properties than video properties natively, thus allowing you to bypass the tediousness (including the massiveness file sizes) of dealing with RAW data in order to extract a 35mm film look. Of course RAW also has its many benefits: light information... all that jazz, which can be further manipulated.

June 6, 2012 at 11:20PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


No doubt on the difference between Log profile and Raw format. Rather, do you think the log profile can replace a 10 or 12 bit depth (in raw or in a codec)?

June 7, 2012 at 2:46AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


sorry the oftopic but this is a project that deserves atention and donation...

June 7, 2012 at 10:40AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


For me, it depends on the project. If it is a smaller short film or something with a quick turnaround time, I will shoot in Marvels/Prolost picture style and make the image on camera as close as possible to the final product. But if I am working on something complicated/important/etc, I will shoot in cinestyle and then do some grading in post.

In general, I was raised with the mentality that everything should be done on SET, and as little as time as possible should be wasted "fixing it in post". I feel that the whole shooting as flat as possible and leaving all the creative decisions to the colorist and editor is just lazy film making

gonna get grilled in 3..2...1

June 7, 2012 at 10:44AM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

john jeffreys

While I do agree that only bad DP's say "we'll fix it in post" Shooting as flat as possible and leaving all the creative decisions to the colorist are two completely different things, Log is used when you filming situations when you want the full dynamic range, having an extra stop in highlight retention is not a post creative decision, its a decision by the dp about the ease of highlight roll off that he or she would like.

Also there are much worst acts to describe lazy filmmaking than shooting log

June 7, 2012 at 12:58PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM


Yeah, especially when there are outdoor shoots with limited resources to control the image to your liking. That's not lazy...it's just that you might not have half a dozen 18k's and condors...you want to get as much as you can out of what you shoot b/c you can't control it sometimes.

As much as I like the weather getting nicer here in seattle (only like 2-3 months of consistently clear skies)...I kind of dread some outdoor work that's not in the shade...the usual grey overcast skies are god's gift to low budget filmmaking.

June 11, 2012 at 5:41PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Daniel Mimura

to complement Andy's piece, there is also an excellent intro article by Jay Holben on the same topic:

"Raw Deal: What Does It Mean to Record Raw Imagery?"


some excerpts from the article:

"There are several other steps that the image goes through before it is recorded:

- The white balance setting is applied
- Colorimetric interpretation algorithms are applied
- Gamma correction is applied
- Noise reduction is applied
- Antialiasing filters are applied
- Image sharpening (compensating for antialiasing) is applied
- Image compression algorithm is applied
- Color dissemination (dictated by compression algorithm) is applied

When you shoot in raw mode, you bypass all of these functions and simply record the raw data from the sensor. You’ll use specialized software in post to essentially set these image processing values yourself, providing greater control and flexibility over the look."


"Some people get confused between raw interpolation and color dissemination. Keep in mind that raw records only one-third of the color information needed to create the final image. Each “pixel” (photosite) has information on only one color; the other two colors have to be interpolated to complete the picture. You cannot have 4:4:4 and raw; these are mutually exclusive terms. If the image has been debayered and the color information has been interpolated—meaning it is no longer raw—then your camera and/or record format can choose to represent all of the interpolated (and captured) color information (4:4:4) or discard some (4:2:2, 4:1:1. 4:2:0, etc.)."

June 7, 2012 at 3:06PM, Edited September 4, 7:54AM

Carlos Molina

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July 24, 2013 at 9:13AM, Edited September 4, 8:21AM


The link doesn't work--perhaps the article was moved? The original article is here: http://www.hdvideopro.com/technique/miscellaneous-technique/formats-expl...

January 29, 2014 at 8:53AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


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