Thoughts on Nikolaj Pognerebko’s RAW Convertor (Revised!)

Note: We can no longer recommend converting ProRes RAW to cDNG. First, because the files sizes are enormous and it is not optimized for Macs, like ProRes is. But most importantly, because it is a nightmare from a color management perspective. Good color management takes us from what the camera saw to what the display is capable of reproducing effortlessly with no guesswork, letting us concentrate on grading. Instead, with cDNG, we are groping around in the dark, making adjustments in the RAW panel on the color page and changing contrast, saturation and exposure without any point of reference. On the other hand, converting from ProRes RAW to ProRes yields a normalized image that lets us focus our energy where it belongs – on the creative aspects of image making. Another issue is that you’ve got to purchase an expensive new license for each individual camera, whereas ProRes is compatible with all camera brands. Proceed at your own peril!

Not a few of us have dreamed of being able to work with native ProRes RAW files in DaVinci Resolve, but realistically, it appears as though that’s not on the horizon. We’d been transcoding to ProRes 4444 with variable success for a while when it was announced last year that a Czech filmmaker by the name of Nikolaj Pognerebko had created an app, available over at the Apple app store, that converts ProRes RAW to cDNG, enabling a true RAW workflow in Resolve. A couple of YouTubers and tech websites have called Nikolaj Pognerebko’s RAW Convertor a game changer, and the response in the filmmaking community has been nothing if not enthusiastic. Curious, we just had to purchase the app for ourselves and take it for a spin. On the plus side: it’s got an extremely simple user interface; the user is offered the choice between lossless cDNG as well as 3:1, 5:1 and 7:1 compressed files and while it doesn’t take advantage of the GPU in Resolve, the footage edits smoothly enough, though exports will take longer.

On the downside, the uncompressed cDNG files take up nearly as much space as ProRes 4444 XQ and the app took around five times longer to transcode an 8.84 GB ProRes RAW clip to cDNG than Apple Compressor required to transcode the same clip to ProRes 4444 XQ (35 sec. vs. 7 sec.) on our M1 Max MacBook Pro. It would be convenient if the developer added the ability to drag and drop ProRes RAW clips directly into the app.

If you’d like to play around with the cDNG files yourself, here you go. There are 24 clips. You might need to place them in a folder before dropping them in the media bin of DaVinci Resolve Studio. Below are the project settings for HDR10:

6 thoughts on “Thoughts on Nikolaj Pognerebko’s RAW Convertor (Revised!)

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  1. Do you apply any sort of colorspace transform to the cDNG once you bring it into Resolve? Whenever I convert my ProRes RAW (from the Ninja V and the Sony A1) using this tool and bring it into a color-managed Resolve project, the footage looks way too contrasty, almost like it’s applying a log -> rec709 conversion on linear footage.

    1. Hi Sturmen. I just use the settings shown in the screenshot, then adjust using either the RAW controls or the HDR wheels in Resolve.

  2. Gotcha. I forgot to illustrate my point: here’s a wipe of the same footage. The left is ProRes RAW -> ProRes 4444 (encoded by Compressor.app in S-Log3/S.Gamut), the right is cDNG converted with RAW Convertor. I have the same color management set up that you do.

      1. Well, the one on the left actually looks quite flat, while the one to the right looks perfect to my eyes. Anyhow, what you’ve got when you first drop the cDNG files on the timeline is a blown-out mess, which you must then correct by adjusting the highlights/shadows. It can be made as contrasty or as flat as you like. From what I’m seeing, though, it looks normal and the colors look identical to the ProRes 4444 version, as they should.

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