HDR, RAW, and Cinema DNG Workflow in Premiere Pro

Update (again): There was a bug that caused some stability issues in the previous version. If you have the 2012-12-04 or 2012-12-05 version, please update to the 2012-12-06 version.

Today I’m happy to announce a significant update: We can finally play HDR, RAW, and CinemaDNG files (almost) natively in Premiere Pro.

First a quick disclaimer: This is new functionality, so there might be some bugs. If you run into problems please email me and I’ll take a look ASAP.

Anyways, the workflow is pretty simple. First, you have to go to run the Merger (I really should rename that program) and choose the appropriate Create Wrapper option. Then you select your files/settings and click Go. Then it will create the .GNR files.

The option is really fast because it doesn’t actually load the files. Rather, it just loads one of the files (to make sure that it can understand the format) and then verifies that all the files are there. You can then load the .GNR file in Premiere Pro or After Effects.

Why almost native?

It’s not a truly native workflow because you have to do the extra step of creating the GNR file. But it takes seconds and requires virtually no extra disk space. Also, if you have to import hundreds of sequences, you won’t have to manually set the frame rate on every one.

One obvious question: Why not create a regular native plugin? The problem is After Effects. Let’s say that you have hundreds of clips, and you need to do some post on a few of them in After Effects. You would want to use the same importer with the same settings in both programs to avoid eternal color matching issues. Unfortunately there is no way to tell After Effects that you want to use a 3rd party importer for an extension that After Effects knows how to load. So the workaround is create a new extention (GNR).

However, it might still be useful to create a native plugin as well. It’s more work over here (there are some GUI issues) but that functionality can be added if there is enough demand for it.

Is RAW HDR?

Sometimes, no. Increasingly, yes. Ginger HDR is about creating viable workflows for HDR video in its many forms. We are used to needing some form of computational photography approach to get HDR data. For example, taking a bracketed set of 3 images, one stop apart. Or shooting video with every other frame being brighter and darker.

But HDR isn’t defined by how you capture your data, rather it’s defined by how much usable range you end up with. I define the cutoff between an HDR and an LDR image as 11 stops. In ideal cases in a perfectly dark room with generous assumptions an sRGB display can theoretically hit 11.7 stops. Most SLRs in the past 5 years shoot around 11 stops. So if you have a camera the gets 11 stops per shot, and you shoot a 3 shot bracket with 1 EV step, you get an HDR image with 13 stops of usable range.

However, if you purchase a Red Epic/Arri Alexa/Black Magic Cinema Camera, you get 13 (or more) stops just by turning on the camera and hitting record. Also, many SLRs are now recording with ever increasing amounts of dynamic range. For example, the Nikon D800 can hit 14 stops: Why the Nikon D800 is almost perfect for HDR. Side note: The HDRI Handbook 2.0 is almost out and it looks fantastic.

So Ginger HDR is about more than tonemapping. It’s about creating a viable workflow for HDR Video. Sometimes that means creating innovative new features, and sometimes that means filling obvious holes in other programs. And creating a RAW/HDR workflow for Premiere Pro (and potentially other hosts…stay tuned) is one step along that path.

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