Help Desk: Formats Explained

At AbelCine, we offer a class on video formats that covers a variety of different terms and compression formats. One of the more common questions I’m asked is, “What’s the difference between uncompressed video, raw and Log recording?” With so many cameras these days offering different recording options, combined with the popularity of external recorders, it’s no wonder there are a lot of questions about this topic. Recently, I was asked if shooting Log was like shooting raw. A short answer is, “Well, yes and no,” which I know isn’t terribly clear. Raw recording is very different than Log, but they have similar applications. To really answer the question, and to understand the difference between all of these formats, we need a little bit of background. ARRI’s ALEXA camera is unique in that it can output raw, uncompressed and record in a Log format, so I’ll use that camera as an example throughout this discussion. Let’s start with raw, which comes first for many reasons.

The idea of raw recording for motion pictures wasn’t popular until the release of the RED ONE camera a few years ago. RED brought the idea of raw recording to the masses, though they weren’t the first. Both ARRI and DALSA had cameras that could output raw sensor data. Raw recorders weren’t exactly common on-set gear though, so we have to hand it to RED for getting the raw party started in the motion picture business.

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