DJI is first out of the gate to adopt what will likely be a massive new format—ProRes RAW—for the Zenmuse X7 camera.
Apple ProRes has its detractors, but it's hard to argue with its position as the dominant intermediate codec for a large swath of (especially indie) post-production. Add to that capturing directly to ProRes with RED, Alexa, Blackmagic and monitor/recorder solutions and you have a very commonly used format with a lot of installed awareness and history. While RAW has been around a while for video (RED really got it going with its RAW video .r3d format around 2008), it's currently a space of competing formats with .r3d and Arriraw at the top and Cinema DNG trying to be the "universal" standard.
With DJI's announcement today that the company will be supporting the new ProRes RAW, we also get the news that there is going to be a ProRes RAW, which will presumably be Apple's attempt to create a raw video format that will be supported by the widest array of companies and simplify post-production workflows. Obviously RED isn't trying to get ARRI to switch to .r3d, but having so many formats makes it harder for post tools to keep up as new features and tweaks are rolled out, as we saw recently with the rollout of IPP2 for RED.
“We are thrilled that the Zenmuse X7 has become the first aerial camera to support Apple’s new ProRes RAW standard,” said Paul Pan, Senior Product Manager at DJI. That's a great achievement. However, unless we missed a major wave of announcements, this is now the first camera of any sort (not just aerial) to support the brand new ProRes RAW standard which is getting its first public announcement alongside the firmware release. Details are sketchy on the format at present, and as it's relatively late to the game (and without FCP being a behemoth like it was when ProRes was originally released), we don't know if this will become market dominant or just add more crowding to the field, but it's an exciting bit of news nonetheless.
If you aren't familiar with the Zenmuse X7, our own Randall Esulto did a great review of it last fall. It's a camera designed by DJI dedicated for lightweight aerial work, with interchangeable lenses and a Super35mm sensor size. Along with ProRes RAW, the original Cinema DNG format will get a bump from 12bit to 14bit recording. While bit depth is only part of the equation, if the sensor has the ability to capture an expanded range of brightness this should allow for a wider latitude to be captured to the file and will make the creation of aerial HDR work easier. This release also upgrades the platform to exFAT, which will help with working in either macOS or Windows environments and offer a new, larger 32GB file size limit.
14-bit CinemaDNG and ProRes RAW capabilities are only available to those with have purchased the optional CinemaDNG license. 14-bit will roll out in April, with ProRes RAW coming in May via free firmware upgrades.
Tech Specs for Firmware Improvements
- 14-bit Cinema-DNG RAW
- Support for brand new ProRes RAW
- exFAT file system allowing larger files sizes