You’ve just purchased a shiny new Blackmagic URSA Mini Pro or Pocket Cinema Camera and are looking forward to the benefits of shooting camera raw. Oops! Final Cut Pro doesn’t support BRAW. Sure, you could use DaVinci Resolve, but you’d rather stay within your preferred editing ecosystem. Fear not, Color Trix has your back.
The developer of the Color Finale product line of professional color tools for Final Cut Pro has just released Color Finale Transcoder, a camera raw import utility. I’ve had a chance to establish a relationship with the company after my review of Color Finale 2. As a result I had a chance to test out several advanced builds prior to the release of the final product. Although Transcoder was still in development, those beta builds were quite stable, which makes for a solid release product.
Expanding camera raw format support
Camera raw formats are proprietary recording methods controlled by the original manufacturer. The exception is CinemaDNG, which is now considered an open standard, but was originally developed by Adobe. For any NLE to support a raw format, it must integrate the components necessary to turn the sensor data into RGB video. Or you have to use a separate application to convert the camera files prior to the edit, such as DaVinci Resolve for BRAW or the ARRIRAW Converter for ARRI’s format.
Final Cut Pro currently supports Apple’s ProRes RAW and RED’s REDCODE. Installing Color Finale Transcoder adds integrated support for BRAW, ARRIRAW, DNG, and CinemaDNG to Final Cut Pro. Since the majority of users will most likely be concerned with BRAW files, that’s obviously the sweet spot. However, CinemaDNG is also common for older Blackmagic cameras and a favorite for drones.
Color Finale Transcoder is not an effects plug-in, but an application that is accessible as a Final Cut Pro workflow extension linked to the Transcoder application that’s running in the background. Select Transcoder from your installed extensions to open its import window. Then navigate to the folder of camera raw clips using Transcoder’s file browser.
Select any supported clip and it will be displayed in the viewer. You can scrub or step through the clip and trim the in and out points. There’s a display color space selector and a toggle to resize anamorphic footage. If you select image sequence files (CinemaDNG or ARRIRAW), the browser will automatically detect the first frame of the image sequence. The full sequence is then displayed as a movie clip in the viewer.
Camera raw adjustments
The business side of Transcoder in on the right side of the panel, where you adjust the transcoding parameters. These include the desired ProRes format (from Proxy to 4444 XQ) for optimized media, along with size (resolution) and color space. Since you are working with camera raw formats, you can transcode in SDR, as well as several HDR color spaces. BRAW files can also make use of six of the Blackmagic-specific color spaces.
The available raw controls depend on the camera format and are determined by the SDK provided by the camera manufacturer. Consequently the Color Finale Transcoder parameters differ for each format. Copy and Paste buttons appear at the bottom of the interface, so if you have a folder of files of the same format, simply adjust one file and then copy-and-paste those settings to the other files.
These settings will be “baked” into the new, optimized media file. If you are concerned about preserving dynamic range for later color correction, then you can transcode to an HDR color space or also ARRI Log-C (BRAW or ARRIRAW files). If you select the Log-C color space, then the result is a flat, log-encoded clip. Back in Final Cut Pro, apply a Log-C LUT in the inspector or use the Custom LUT effect. Alternatively, if you are grading with the Color Finale 2 plug-in, set its internal color management to treat the clip as log.
If you select one of the HDR formats instead, but are working in a Rec. 709 Library, then use Final Cut’s HDR Tools effect or color correction to control the dynamic range through tone mapping or grading. Naturally you can also cut with the transcoded files in Final Cut Pro and then send an FCPXML to Resolve. There you can either relink to the raw files or use the transcoded media for a final grade.
Getting your clips into Final Cut Pro
After adjusting levels for each of the selected clips and optionally trimming the in/out points, click Import Selected Movie. You may import a single or multiple clips at once. A dialogue window opens to pick the Final Cut Pro Library destination. Alternatively, you can drag the clip from the Transcoder window into any open Event.
Either process transfers FCPXML data in the background and runs Final Cut Pro’s background rendering task. This renders the raw file into Final Cut optimized media. The clip will appear offline in the Event browser until rendering has finished and the new file has been saved to that library’s media location. The length of background rendering will depend on camera raw format type, resolution, and other factors.
Bear in mind that camera raw recordings don’t have the benefit of in-camera video noise reduction or detail sharpening. This means you may need to apply noise reduction, like Neat Video. Whether or not this is necessary will depend on lighting conditions, ISO settings, and so on. Recording in a camera raw format doesn’t relieve you of the need to properly light and expose the scene during production!
Color Finale Transcoder adds a much-needed tool to any Final Cut Pro editor’s kit. It supports recent macOS versions including Big Sur and works on both Intel and M1 Macs. If you are unsure whether Color Finale Transcoder is right for you, simply download and run a trial version. It’s good for seven days, but images will be watermarked. You can download sample clips from the Blackmagic Design and ARRI websites if you don’t already have your own.
Color Finale Transcoder is an excellent solution for Final Cut Pro editors who need to integrate these camera raw formats without the need to add and learn additional applications. Remember that this is a 1.0 release with more features coming in the future. Use the in-app feedback to send in bug reports and feature requests.