Shutting Down

Hello everyone. Unfortunately, I have to bring you the news that Ginger HDR is shutting down as a product. The philosophy behind Ginger HDR was to always try new things (HDR Tonemapping, alternating frame HDR, Magic Lantern RAW, etc), and unfortunately none of those ever turned into a market that was significant enough to justify the development time and cost.

If you need more serials, the store will continue to be open through February 28, 2014, and the license servers will stay running until April 30, 2014. Also, support will still be available via email through that time.

There is one more update which you can find on the downloads page. It fixes some Premiere CC performance issues, improves the debayer quality, and fixes pink highlights that some cameras were seeing. Also, the interface for the Merger and LicenseManager were switched to OpenGL so that might cause configuration issues on older machines.

Finally, I’d like to thank everyone who supported this venture. For me, the joy of Ginger HDR was the spirit of experimentation and trying new things. I’m always inspired by the continuous stream of innovative features from the Magic Lantern team. It’s great to see that the culture of innovation is alive and well in the video industry, and you all have my best wishes in your future ventures.

Magic Lantern RAW Video

Magic Lantern RAW Workflow

As you have probably heard, Magic Lantern has done it again. They figured out how to get RAW video directly from several Canon cameras, including the 5Dmk3 and 5Dmk2. The one aspect that I thought could use improvement is the workflow, and that’s what you can see in the video.

The latest version of Ginger HDR can load the .RAW files directly into both After Effects and Premiere Pro, so you can start editing without doing any transcoding first. It also includes the WAV files as audio, and doesn’t have any problems with videos over 4GB in size that were split into multiple files. As a disclaimer, this workflow is very new and hasn’t been extensively tested, so please let me know if anything goes wrong.

There are several other updates as well:

  • The optical flow algorithm for Magic Lantern HDR has been rewritten almost from scratch, and now is much faster and more stable. Fewer cases of “the warbles”.
  • The RAW debayer has been improved. The latest version has fewer chroma errors and zipper artifacts.
  • Miscellaneous big fixes. Many cases where it used to crash now cause error messages.

To get these features just make sure to delete the any older versions and then get the latest. At the moment the latest version is 2013-06-07.

True RAW/DNG/HDR Import in Premiere Pro, plus Tags

There’s been a new update on the downloads page, listed at (2013-01-02). Please try it out.

The main new feature is that now RAW and HDR files can be loaded directly inside Premiere Pro. For the raw extentions (DNG, CR2, etc) as well as the HDR formats (EXR, HDR, PFM) you can import the files directly without making a GNR file first.

Ginger HDR now support more of the tags in a CinemaDNG image sequence.
- The sequence frame rate will automatically switch to framerate specified in the image metadata.
- Timecode will be imported in Premiere Pro

Finally, there are several other features added for the Ikonoskop camera:
- Audio is now imported as well. The Ikonoskop stores the audio data inside each DNG file and the importer will now play that audio file.
- Monochrome camera files are now supported

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.

Minor Updates (2012-08-10)

If you go to the download sections there’s a new version of Ginger HDR (2012-08-10). The differences are:

  1. The one major fix is that in some cases, with the Magic Lantern Wrapper workflow, renders would crash when the clip didn’t have Audio.
  2. The Magic Lantern Wrapper workflow has been fixed in 16-bit mode in AE. With the previous version the 8bpc and 32bpc modes looked right but the 16bpc mode was too bright. That issue is now fixed. Of course you should always be working in 32bpc mode anyway…
  3. The rules on batch merging Magic Lantern files have been changed. For HDR brackets, you need to have a similar file name with a 4 digit number. The same rule was there for Magic Lantern HDR video, but that restriction has been removed.
  4. There was also an issue with the Merger and error reporting. When an error would occur, it wouldn’t do anything. Now it displays an error. So if you tried to process Magic Lantern files and nothing was happening, the new version should work for you.

In other words, nothing major, and you should only need the new version if you were having problems with the old one.

Updated Magic Lantern Workflow with Wrappers

For those of you Magic Lantern fans there is an updated workflow for you. With the Magic Lantern HDR workflow you are shooting every other frame with high or low ISO. With the previous workflow you have to spend a long time generating a huge amount of EXRs. So I’ve found that it doesn’t scale well to larger productions.

That being said, I’m very pleased to announce the Ginger HDR Wrapper workflow. Originally, I wanted to create an importer that would load the .MOV directly and merge it to HDR automatically. But this isn’t feasible for several reasons.

Instead, I added a short preprocessing step. You batch process your input set of MOV files in the Merger, and it creates a bunch of tiny GNR (Ginger) files. You can then import that GNR file directly into After Effects and Premiere Pro, and the plugin will do all conversion for you. It even includes audio.

The one catch is that the render times are quite slow. On my machine, at 720p, I’ve found that 1 second of video takes 1 minute to render. Yeah, not fast. So the best workflow that I’ve found is to shorten the clip and perform HDR Tonemapping (and other color operations) in After Effects. Then render them out and import the rendered clips into Premiere Pro.

Also, if you are previewing at half-size then the importer doesn’t perform optical flow, which makes playback much faster. On my machine I get playback around 7fps which is slow, but workable. So you should be able to import the GNR files directly inside Premiere Pro, edit at half res, and then replace the GNR files with the rendered After Effects files as they come available. I haven’t tried it, but it should work.

While it’s not fast now, it should be much faster in the future. The optical flow algorithm was rewritten completely about a month ago and hasn’t been fully optimized yet.

For those of you who prefer to export a sequence of EXRs, you can still do that. But now that I’ve tried this workflow I personally can’t go back. So please try it out and let me know how it works for you.

XMP Data? Maybe.

One question that pops up every so often is XMP data. Right now the Merger doesn’t support XMP data for Timelapse sequences. There are two use cases for XMP data, one which will never be supported and one which might if enough people ask for it.

The first use case is that some people like to change their raw file settings in something like Photoshop. So if you open a RAW file in Photoshop and change the “Fill Light” setting then it will save that information into an XMP file. Then when you reopen the file in Photoshop you’ll start at your old “Fill Light” setting.

The question that I get asked is if the Merger will support this information, and the answer is no, never. Settings like “Fill Light” and “Vibrance” don’t have a real meaning. They are just specific to how Photoshop (and other Adobe products) process RAW files. And they don’t release their formulas, so I wouldn’t know what to do with a “Fill Light” slider even if I read it from an XMP file.

The only two values that the Merger reads from the input files are Exposure and ISO, and there are valid reasons why you would want to store changes in an XMP file. As an example, some people shoot in Bulb mode with an intervalometer, and the RAW image will just store “Bulb” as the exposure time. It makes sense to overwrite that value with how long the exposure actually was in an XMP file.

So, when it comes to XMP data, the only values that the Merger reads from the input files are Exposure and ISO. If enough people ask for XMP metadata support for those two fields then I’ll add it. But XMP metadata support for the various application-specific fields like “Clarity” will never be supported.

Ginger HDR Updated

Hey guys. As you can tell by the dates on my posts, it’s been a bit quiet here lately. There has been a fundamental change in the core philosophy of Ginger HDR. Originally, Ginger HDR was just an HDR Tonemapping plugin. But going forward you can think of it as a collection of tools for the emerging world of HDR video. I realize that statement sounds like vague marketing BS, but it will make sense once you see the next few updates. Btw, these features will be free upgrades for existing users.

In general, the goal has been to have incremental updates as Ginger HDR progresses to get you new features as soon as possible. Unfortunately, a bunch of unrelated features decided to all happen at the same time (as you’ll see below). It took me a few months to get it all sorted out but I’ve finally got a new version for you with some major changes. And in the next few weeks there are going to be some really cool updates as well, but those will have to wait. In the mean time…

Ginger HDR Plugin Changes

  • The main change is that Ginger HDR is now two plugins, an Advanced and a Basic version. After getting feedback from users, most advanced users liked the plugin but complained that the learning curve was a bit steep. And they found that it was hard to figure out how to get good results because there were just too many options. I wanted to make it easier for beginners without removing functionality that advanced users need, so the natural thing was to create a Basic version. Here are the parameters:

    It uses the exact same underlying algorithm as the Advanced version, but has fewer options. There will be a post coming shortly explaining how to use the new features.

    For existing users, you will need to remove the older Ginger HDR plugin and copy over the directory that has the new plugins in it. And then your old projects will load with the “Advanced” plugin and should look exactly the same. Also, there is no separate pricing or licensing scheme. A license of Ginger HDR gives you access to both versions.

  • The other change is there is a new feature under Local Contrast called Fix Thin Lines. As an example, here is a zoom in on a shot:

    It looks fine. But if you use the Local Contrast options you might start seeing thin lines. It’s most common when you really push the values. In this case the Strength is set to 0.5 and the Details is set to 1.5. You normally wouldn’t push it this far but these settings show the concept.

    Then by setting Fix Thin Lines to 0.5 it mostly solves the issue.

    The option essentially trades “thin lines” for “halos”, so if you increase it too much halos will start to appear. But in most cases you can easily find a middle-ground that solves both problems.

HDR Timelapse Features

  • One of the most requested features over the last two months has been support for the Canon 5D Mark III. Well, now it’s supported.
  • Another common issue was that some people were seeing little black dots or black areas if their timelapse had movement. That issue has been fixed as well.
  • On a related note, the HDR merging algorithm has been completely rewritten. It now appears to give much cleaner transitions between the various bracketed image sets.
  • The complete RAW processing library was thrown out and rewritten. The new raw processor includes a custom debayering algorithm for most RAW formats. It also includes a simpler RAW workflow that gives more stable results in highlights. And it’s also much faster.

Magic Lantern HDR Video Features

  • The big change is that the optical flow algorithm has been completely rewritten. The previous version was very prone to “bullet-time” warping artifacts. You would see a distortion field around fast moving artifacts. The new version uses a different optical flow algorithm and seems to work much better. It’s not perfect (and never will be), but you should get much better results now.
  • The algorithm for merging the high and low ISO images has been rewritten. The previous version had numerous issues, especially with weird, highly saturated color splotches around areas with lots of movement. The new version gives you much more consistent colors.
  • The detection for “reversed” ISO images is much improved. With Magic Lantern HDR Video every other frame is high or low ISO. Unfortunately, the firmware will occasionally skip a single frame. As an example, frames 0 to 50 would be high/low and then frames 51 to 100 would be low/high. When that happens, the old merger would get confused and usually show extreme warping artifacts or just white. The new version uses a much more sophisticated algorithm for detecting ISO switching and that problem has mostly gone away.

General Changes

  • The GUI has been completely rewritten. This might surprise you because it should look exactly the same. The previous version used DirectX9 on Windows and OpenGL on Mac. Unfortunately, there are just too many stability issues so I had to rewrite it. Now, it uses old-school GDI on Windows and old-school Quartz 2D on Mac. In the future there will be more complex GUI functionality. The OpenGL version will come back, but there will always be a GDI/Quartz 2D backup.
  • There have been numerous stability and bug fixes as well.

Going Forward

As you can see, it’s been a busy few months. I would have liked to have several smaller updates instead of one big one. But with rewriting so many major systems (the RAW processor, optical flow, HDR merging, the GUI, 5D Mark III, etc.) there was never a good time for an update. But now that everything is settled updates will happen at a greater frequency.

New Ginger HDR Tutorial Videos

Finally, I’ve had the time to make some updated tutorial videos. With the latest version of Ginger HDR, there are 5 sets of parameters that you can use to edit videos, and there is finally a detailed video tutorial on each of them.

  1. Lens Filter
  2. Two Level Merge
  3. Local Adaptation
  4. Filmic Curve
  5. Color Grading

Finally, we’re putting together some more advanced videos that show how to use different combinations of parameters to get better looks, and the first one is on getting more detail from your skies. Enjoy!

Ginger HDR Parameters: Lens Filter

Ginger HDR Parameters: Two Level Merge

Ginger HDR Parameters: Local Adaptation

Ginger HDR Parameters: Filmic Curve

Ginger HDR Parameters: Color Grading

Getting More Detail from your Skies