Should You Film In RAW: The Pros, Cons, And Alternatives

Should I film in RAW? That’s a familiar query popping in the minds of filmmakers. The word RAW exists in the photography world, so the filmmakers often resort to reading photography blogs to find the answers before he opts for it. 

This article discusses the various aspects of RAW, including its definition, suitability, pros, cons, and alternatives. Read on to understand all that and answer your million-dollar question, Should I film in RAW?

What does RAW video mean?

A RAW video means that it is unprocessed. It is a RAW image format, and the digital image file format can either be uncompressed, untampered, or loosely compressed image or video data

In addition to capturing a lot of the image details, the RAW video needs further processing. That’s why they are often referred to as digital negatives since they resemble the old photo negatives. It is very similar to how the photo negatives need further lab processing to produce the final images. You don’t need a lab to process RAW files. All you need is a computer.

You will need to put into treating those files through post-production software to get the final output. It carries out various processing options. They include demosaicing, exposure adjustment, noise reduction, applying gamma curves, and sharpening. That provides you excellent control and flexibility to ensure that the image looks just as much as you would like it to look.

Pros of Shooting in RAW

Shooting RAW has a long list of advantages, so let’s get into them fast.

1. Adjusts White Balance Easily

Upon shooting in RAW, you get a lot of information about the image, including a record of the white balance. White balance is a feature that works hand in hand with color to ensure that your vision is as awesome as possible. 

When the image is in RAW format, you can adjust it to get the best results possible. You can rest assured that the adjusting process is simple and snappy.

2. Solves Exposure Issues

In some situations, you may come across cases of either over or underexposed images. It is a common occurrence when filming events, and all of a sudden, everything seems to be moving fast. So, what happens if exposure gets compromised and you end up with either under or overexposed images?

With RAW images, you don’t have to worry since you have the data necessary to correct the exposures. You get to recover clipped shadows and blown highlights as well. The fact that the quality of the image remains intact is the icing on the cake.

3. Edge Refinement and Noise Reduction

You may hassle yourself with improper video processing, sharpening, or noise reduction when shooting regular video, as the other formats may not give you many options of how to fix the problem. 

However, if you shoot RAW, you can use programs such as Resolve. They sharpen and fix noise in ways that cameras cannot due to their design limitations. Consequently, you get an image with great details. It happens only because a RAW image has innumerable data information.

4. High Quality

A film’s quality is crucial because it can be a turn on or a turn off for your audience. So, you ought to look for a way of shooting that will never compromise the quality.

A good option is choosing RAW since it will record all the information that the sensor can get. As a result, the files will be of high quality, and the images will be excellent.

As much as even the other formats will do the images justice, settling for the RAW give you an edge over others. It is distinctly different from a scenario where the camera automatically processes the images.

5. Excellent Brightness

Different formats record different levels of brightness. For instance, JPEG can record up to 256 levels of brightness, often referred to as 8 bit. 

On the other hand, RAW captures 12 bit or 14 bit, which means the brightness levels range between 4096 and 16, 384. 

The more the levels, the better the image quality since the more the steps from your image’s black to white transition.

It becomes easy to adjust the brightness, contrast, recovery, fill light, blacks, and exposure to many levels. The adjustments are smooth to the extent that the image quality can only improve. 

6. Gives Professional Results

When it comes to professional quality deliverables, hiding even the slightest shortcomings becomes hard, if not impossible. Issues like blown highlights and banding tend to be more prominent on prints.

That’s where shooting RAW comes in to ensure that you get the best results. Thanks to the control that the option offers, managing and eliminating such problems become easy.

7. Simplifies Work

Today the cameras do all the complex computing while shooting RAW. So, it skips a significant part of computer processing and makes the playback smooth.

These benefits allow you to work efficiently. Your work becomes simple even when dealing with a large volume of images since they can process them simultaneously.

8. Various Color Spaces

There are different color spaces ideal for various purposes, mainly when exporting the video. Shooting RAW allows you to adjust them accordingly.

All the algorithmic controls can be done in the post smoothly.

9. It Offers Room For Mistakes

Sometimes, all you need when editing videos is a second chance. It might come if you don’t like the final clip, or you accidentally overwrite a portion by saving the new one over the original one.

Under such circumstances, all you can wish for is to redo that. It is impossible with many formats since you can’t undo the changes or go back in time and change what you have done.

Fortunately, shooting RAW ensures that you never have to deal with such an ordeal. After all, editing is more of making adjustments than changing the original data.

The RAW video comes in handy when you are shooting on the run when you have little control over the white balance and exposure. 

Cons Of Shooting RAW

As much as shooting RAW has a lot of advantages, it also comes bearing a few drawbacks. Let’s discuss them.

1. It Will Slow Your Camera

Due to the fact that RAW files store a lot of information, their sizes are relatively big. Therefore, there are high chances of the files exhausting your camera’s buffer within a short time.

The shooting speed, frames per second, will not change. However, due to the lack of buffer space, the time taken by the camera to write the image on the memory card will be relatively long.

Nevertheless, there is a solution if you need to shoot fast sequences. You should look for a camera with a larger buffer or a faster memory card.

2. Requires A Lot Of Space

You can expect the size of an image in RAW format to be 2 or 3 times that of other formats such as JPEG. After all, they contain a lot of uncompressed information about the image.

Fortunately, if you buy a hard drive or memory card with a big storage capacity, this will not be one of your worries.

3. Proprietary Format

If you are keen enough, you will notice that the extensions of RAW formats for ARRI cameras and RED cameras are .ARI and .R3D, respectively. ) Therefore, the respective manufacturers are the only ones with information regarding the processing. 

There are high chances that they either use reverse engineering or licensed software to process the RAW files. Why should that bother you? Since change is inevitable, you can’t assume that it will be easy to use the files for years to come. 

4. You Will Process Images After Shooting

With shooting RAW, filming is not the final stage. After recording an event or scene, it is necessary to process the images using your computer for you to get the final output.

Therefore, you will need additional time to carry out the processing. Nevertheless, the results that you get make it worth every second spent.

5. Incompatible With Software

Don’t expect wide compatibility when working on your RAW files. The compatibility issue is quite significant because images from the latest models of various digital cameras are hard to process using the existing software. Therefore, you might have to wait until the company updates that software.

6. Dynamic Range

RAW doesn’t have a distinctly spread out dynamic range. You can’t use HDR as we write. Standard Log C files do far more than RAW can offer.

Should You Film In RAW Video?

So, weighing the pros and cons of using RAW answers your question, “Should I film in RAW?”. 

The DSLRs or mirrorless cameras support the RAW format and become the ideal choice for shooting RAW. However, filmmakers using high-end ARRI, RED, and Blackmagic cameras prefer Log C formats.

For videographers, RAW ensures that you reap all the benefits of this digital image format. You get to adjust all the features, including exposure, to ensure that you have the best quality. 

It would mean fixing blocked shadows and blown highlights within a matter of seconds. Overexposed skin tones and distracting reflections become a thing of the past. 

If the light intensity is not even throughout the scene, make sure that you settle for RAW. It will ensure that it fixes the issues. Otherwise, you will have to face dark shadows and blown highlights. If you can’t tell the white balance, again, think RAW. Go for it if you will do dramatic editing later or if you plan to print the results.

When you Shouldn’t Film in RAW?

Nevertheless, a time comes when shooting RAW is not the better option. Given how many resources the RAW files use, ranging from memory to storage, you should only use it if it is necessary. 

So, if you don’t intend to adjust your original video extensively (for example, home videos of cat videos), then do yourself a favor and go for other formats. 

If the video is too long, RAW shooting may not be ideal either. Otherwise, post-processing will require a lot of time and effort.

What Are Your Alternatives If Not RAW?

Are there any alternatives to RAW that can achieve the same uncompressed sharp look? Well, RAW means raw, but for the alternatives, we have to resort to some compression technique that is difficult to distinguish from the RAW format when it comes to the footage’s quality.

So, under such circumstances, what are your options? Here we list some of the popular ones.

1. Intermediate Codecs:

An intermediate or mezzanine codec is the best video encoding option for professional video editing. They have minimum compression and uncompromising quality. File sizes are comparatively smaller than the RAW files, good enough to smooth sail through the Adobe Premier Pro editing programs. They are perfect for HDR ( high dynamic range)  videos.

Some of the noted ones are listed below.

  1. Apple Prores

Apple Prores uses a patented Prores technology that compresses the RAW data from the camera sensor. It comes in Apple Prores RAW, 444, and 422 options. They provide minimal compression without compromising the quality of the video. It is the most preferred choice for filmmakers and is an intermediate codec.


If you use windows you have an excellent option. AVID DNx HD is very similar to Prores but can also run on Windows.

3. GoPro Cineform

It is also excellent for higher resolution videos 4K or above. The GoPro CineForm in another intermediate codec works on Windows as well as Mac.

4. Lossless Video Codec:

Lossless video codecs compress data through algorithms, thus enabling a faster data transfer. It also enables substantially lesser file size compared to the RAW formats. Thus processing a low bandwidth makes the playback, render and export significantly fast.

Also, Lossless codecs are excellent for HD resolution edits shown on platforms like YouTube or other video streaming platforms. However, it will not hold good for movie screenings.

Some of the popular ones are –

  • H.264 lossless
  • H.265 lossless
  • Motion JPEG lossless
  • Quicktime RLE
  • CinemaDNG to name a few.

Final Words

Depending on whether you choose to shoot RAW or not, you now know what you are getting yourself into.

Keep in mind that every option has its benefits as well as drawbacks. Therefore, choose wisely by weighing the ups and the downs and consider what you intend to shoot in the process.

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