Adobe Premiere Pro CC has native support for CinemaDNG (including that of the Blackmagic Cinema Camera), so how good is it? This article explains the CinemaDNG workflow with Adobe Premiere Pro.
Does Adobe Premiere Pro CC support the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera?
Let’s start with some bad news (There’s more than one): The compressed CinemaDNG RAW files from the Pocket Camera are not readable. You get the following error:
This also means, without further updates from Adobe, the compressed 4K CinemaDNG RAW files from the Blackmagic Production Camera will also not be readable.
This is a crying shame. Why? Because, as I’ve written in Comparison of RAW Processors for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera, Adobe Camera Raw (ACR) 8.1 and 8.2 can import compressed CinemaDNG files from the Pocket Camera. The Adobe Premiere Pro CC interpretation of RAW is still via ACR, so what’s the problem?
Only Adobe knows. It works in AE, but not in Photoshop. That leads us to the next topic.
About Adobe Camera Raw
The need for Photoshop
Here’s the second bad news: CinemaDNG implementation requires Photoshop. If you want to change the RAW settings, ACR opens up in Photoshop.
Wait a second. If I wanted to work with images one at a time, wouldn’t I use DaVinci Resolve instead? As I’ve shown in the above article, Resolve is easily the best RAW processor available for the Blackmagic Cinema Cameras. Does the new Adobe Premiere Pro CinemaDNG implementation change anything in ACR? No. The latest version (updated on 16th September 2013) is 8.2, but the implementation is still as of 2012:
Contrast this with the Adobe After Effects workflow, which has ACR built-in.
Supported color spaces
So, what color spaces are supported? Here’s the list:
No Rec. 709. Bit depth is up to 16-bit.
What about camera metadata? Here’s what ACR shows:
Adobe writes additional metadata as sidecar XMP files, so be sure to uncheck that option. Better yet, don’t make any changes.
Adobe Camera RAW retains white balance and tint (+14) settings, but not exposure or sharpness settings:
As you can see, there’s no support for ISO or Gamma (no Rec. 709 Video mode and no Film mode either).
Once you’ve processed CinemaDNG files in Adobe Camera Raw, you’ll need to export them (transcode, in other words). This is tedious, because you’ll need to do it one shot at a time. If you save changes in ACR, the changes don’t reflect in Adobe Premiere Pro automatically (even manually for that matter). So, what’s the point?
To drive the nail(s) in the coffin, ACR can only export to the following file formats:
Do not use Adobe Camera Raw for CinemaDNG processing. At the time of this writing, it does not support critical features that you have taken the trouble to set in the first place.
Does all this mean you can’t use Adobe Premiere Pro at all? Of course not. You can still import CinemaDNG natively and edit with it. That’s what I’ll be covering next.
The Adobe Premiere Pro CinemaDNG workflow
Before we go ahead, please read the following (if you haven’t already):
- How to import video into Adobe Premiere Pro
- How to export from Adobe Premiere Pro
- The CinemaDNG Workflow
Importing CinemaDNG into Adobe Premiere Pro
Finally, some good news. All you have to do is find the sequence (Premiere Pro finds the image sequences automatically) in the Media Browser, right click and select Import. You will get a thumbnail view, and you can even scrub through it with the mouse.
Now, some bad news again (temporary). Say hello to the Hulk:
When you don’t point your mouse over the thumbnail, it takes on an ugly greenish hue. The same thing happens when you drag the footage into a timeline (The right way to do it is select the footage, right click and choose New Sequence from Clip). It shows up green in the timeline, and in the monitor. However, when you play back your sequence, it looks normal. When your playback stops, it turns back into the Hulk again.
How do you get rid of this? Update to the latest version of ACR, which is 8.2 in Photoshop CC. Don’t use Photoshop CS6. Once you’ve done that, Hulk is gone forever.
To access ACR from within Premiere Pro, right click on the footage and select Edit Original. Even if you make changes in ACR, they don’t show up in Premiere Pro, so don’t bother. It is useful, though, if you want to check the latitude or potential of a shot before committing it to the final edit.
Uncompressed CinemaDNG can be edited like butter in Adobe Premiere Pro, especially with the hardware Mercury Playback Engine turned on. On my iMac 2013, I had real-time playback at Full resolution. That’s impressive, considering the data rate of the BMCC RAW file is 150 MB/s. However, my project was only a few minutes long, so don’t expect that for large and complicated projects.
On the whole, I’d say you should be able to get 2.5K full resolution playback with a two-disk RAID 0, or 2.5K half resolution (which is great for editing) on a single disk. Even quarter resolution doesn’t look bad on a 27″ 2560 x 1440 monitor (click to enlarge):
On a laptop you shouldn’t have any problems at all.
Exporting your project
More bad news. ACR is unreliable for camera color information; so unless you’re happy with the default settings (as shot), color correcting CinemaDNG files in Premiere Pro is not very productive. Those who own the Blackmagic Design Cinema Camera luckily have a free version of DaVinci Resolve. But if you’re an editor who has just had CinemaDNG files thrown into your lap, this is a freaky scenario.
The solution? Get Resolve. As I’ve written here, the simplest way to move the project to Resolve is via EDL (CMX3600) or Final Cut Pro XML (XMEML). The latter works okay, even with basic transitions and some speed ramping. I had to restart my computer a couple of times to get Resolve 10 beta to work well with XML, but it does. As of Resolve 10, you can choose to Automatically set project settings and Automatically import source clips into media pool:
The cool thing about this workflow is you still have access to the native CinemaDNG files, the Film or Video gamma mode, and all other settings like white balance, etc. All you have to do is start grading!
Should you use Adobe Premiere Pro for CinemaDNG or not? Answer: Yes, you should, but only if you have Resolve to back you up. Here’s the workflow:
- Shoot CinemaDNG but bake-in a look in camera (Video, Film or LUT).
- Edit CinemaDNG natively in Adobe Premiere Pro, with the baked-in look.
- Export an XMEML and import into Resolve.
- Change camera settings if necessary, and grade.
- Export your master from Resolve.
- If you want to round-trip, export clips and XML, though you will have to come back to Resolve if any more grading needs to be done.
Any other workflow is just a pain in the ass. What can Adobe do better? First of all, get gamma and LUT tools into ACR, and get ACR into Premiere Pro! If they can achieve that, one can export from Premiere Pro directly, without needing any other application.