Very Important Disclaimer
I have received quite a few requests for a simplified Magic Lantern RAW guide, and this article is in response to these requests. I don’t use Magic Lantern personally, simply because I don’t shoot professional video with DSLRs.
It is critical that you understand and listen to the advice given by Magic Lantern:
I, too, am just simplifying instructions others have written and linked to, and in no way endorse the use of Magic Lantern on your camera. This is a risk you must take on your own. Proceed if and only if you understand the risk and can live with the consequences.
If you’re having problems following this guide, don’t ask me additional questions. If you brick your camera or get into trouble, I am not responsible.
I do not endorse Magic Lantern or use its software or firmware. These instructions might become redundant when a newer version is released or whatever. It’s your responsibility to stay updated. If these terms are unacceptable, stop reading, and don’t follow this guide.
In Part One we looked at what Magic Lantern is and how you can install it. In this part we’ll look at what you do after you have RAW enabled on your Canon DSLR.
What can you expect with Magic Lantern RAW?
Here are three different kinds of videos to help you understand the quality you can expect from Magic Lantern RAW:
Nature and Landscape footage:
As you can see, the footage is quite better than what you can expect from Technicolor Cinestyle on a Canon DSLR. For many people, the ‘risk’ of installing Magic Lantern RAW is worth it, for this reason alone.
Magic Lantern file and data rates
The data rate of Magic Lantern raw video is limited by the media card in your camera. It can vary between 20 MB/s to 100 MB/s.
Typically, for a Canon 5D Mark III, the data rate is around the 85 MB/s mark (14-bit RAW, 1920×1080 at 24 fps). For cameras recording in a lower resolution, the data rate is bound to be lower.
Don’t forget to take into account that some Magic Lantern RAW video resolutions are lower than 1080p or even 720p, and need to be interpolated (unless you are delivering standard definition).
The files are written as *.raw videos (every start-stop will record one *.raw clip or file), and these can’t be opened by any NLE. What to do, then?
Magic Lantern RAW to DNG
Download either of the following:
The *.raw files will need to be converted to DNG frame sequences (*.dng raw format). This will not change the file size. Note: DNG is not CinemaDNG. These are ‘regular’ DNG raw frames like you’d get from a still camera.
If your card didn’t have the exFAT file system, you’ll have been limited to 4 GB per clip; but not to worry. You can follow these instructions from Magic Lantern:
Rename the files as file1.raw file2.raw .. etc
Use command line:
copy/b file1.raw+file2.raw+…. filenew.raw
Drag and drop the RAW video files to the raw2dng app/exe file and it will extract the DNG frames in the directory where the raw2dng file is located. What you’ll end up is a folder full of DNG frames. Here’s a video that explains this process for Windows:
And here’s the Mac equivalent:
Now comes the hard part.
Magic Lantern RAW post production workflows
What can you do with DNG frames? If you’ve read Deconstructing RAW, you’ll know RAW files have to be debayered. Here are some applications that can do this:
- Adobe Camera RAW/Photoshop
- Adobe After Effects
- DaVinci Resolve
- Capture One
- RAW Therapee
Here’s a Photoshop-based workflow explained:
On the other hand, here’s an After Effects-based workflow explained:
Here’s one with Lightroom (it’s in German, read the text here):
One more. There are people working on converting the *.raw files into CinemaDNG directly. One example is RAWMagic, currently only available for Macs.
Confused already? That’s the problem with RAW in general. You should be ready to deal with the idea of setting aside time to investigate which application debayers to your satisfaction.
Every software follows a different paradigm, and some softwares like RAW Therapee offer more than one way to debayer the same RAW file! This gets technical very quickly, so if you’re the ‘give me a preset and let me be done with it’ kind of person, follow whatever your role model is doing.
The only advice I can give is, keep things simple. Converting *.raw to *.dng is bad enough and keeps me away from Magic Lantern RAW. Others have more time on their hands.
What do you debayer your DNG files to? Here are some options:
- TIFF or DPX (three times the file size as DNG)
- Prores (did somebody say Blackmagic?)
- JPEG or PNG image sequences
If you’re trying to take advantage of RAW, with the latitude it gives you as far as dynamic range is concerned, I do not recommend anything short of a TIFF or DPX-based workflow.
Here are the possible steps involved:
- RAW to DNG
- DNG to Intermediary codec
- Interpolation or ‘Up-rezzing’; and/or Cropping
- Color correction
Don’t forget to take into account your data and storage requirements. 85 MB/s is 300 GB per hour. TIFF or DPX would hit 1 TB per hour.
Here are some important links that you should read:
- Magic Lantern RAW Post-Processing Beginner’s Guide
- RAW video post processing
- RAW video and Magic Lantern – Beginners’ Guide
How to uninstall Magic Lantern raw
This is simple, but also a bit tricky. Removing Magic Lantern might not remove it completely, as this thread discusses.
Magic Lantern resides in your SD or CF card. Format the card, and that should be enough. However, the ‘bootflag’ will still remain in your camera. Here’s Magic Lantern’s fix:
Simply format the card. The bootflag will be still there, but it will not affect normal operation (except for EyeFi cards).
To remove the bootflag (for using EyeFi cards), run Firmware Update from a ML card and follow the instructions.
In Best Practices, Magic Lantern advises as follows:
Never simply delete Magic Lantern files from the card!
If you do, the boot flag will remain on the card. The camera will continue to look for Magic Lantern, but will not find it, and will not boot. To remove Magic Lantern, format the card instead.
If you make this mistake, don’t worry. Remove the battery momentarily, format the card in your external card reader, place the card back into your camera and restart it.
Magic Lantern does make other ‘persistent changes’ (in addition to bootflag) to your camera, which you can read about in the FAQ.
Magic Lantern tells us:
To the best of our knowledge, all these settings are restored to default values when you run Clear camera settings and Clear custom functions from Canon menu.
All persistent changes can be seen in ML source code by examining the calls to prop_request_change. Some of the changes are not persistent (for example, LiveView zoom level), and they were not included in the above list.
Do you need Magic Lantern RAW?
Only you know the answer to this. Ask yourself:
- Do you have one of the cameras in the list?
- What is the resolution you’ll get with Magic Lantern RAW at 24p? Would you need to interpolate (uprez) your video, crop it, etc.? Is this acceptable to you?
- Is the frame rate acceptable to you?
- Are you willing to take the risk of bricking your camera?
- Do you shoot continually in scenes that demand a higher dynamic range?
- Can you handle the data rates from Magic Lantern RAW?
- Do you have the additional post processing time to convert the files to DNG and then to another intermediary codec for editing?
- Do you have the additional time and resources to color grade your footage?
- Do you have the necessary software, or are you willing to invest in the necessary software?
- Can you get all this functionality with a different camera/software combination for roughly the same price?
Why I am thrilled to have the option of Magic Lantern RAW, but am not using it
Two simple reasons, really:
- I don’t like DSLRs for their limited video capabilities.
- The workflow is too convoluted. I simply don’t have the time to go through many intermediary codecs because I prefer a native workflow. If I really wanted to shoot RAW, I’d do it on R3D, Arriraw or Sony RAW.
I might install Magic Lantern RAW only as a ‘backup’ on an important job. I don’t have to use it if I don’t want it. However, it is extremely unlikely (I’ll have to be really desperate) that I’ll rely on Magic Lantern RAW for a professional job.
Having said that, I don’t think I speak for everyone else. There are an infinite type of projects where Magic Lantern RAW on a relatively cheap Canon DSLR is just what the doctor ordered. After all, image quality is the holy grail, and in that respect, Magic Lantern RAW delivers big time.