Hey guys, I have some questions about what file formats that is best to use and how to improve my workflow.


I have shot and used the JPEG format but what I hear is that the image lose a lot of quality. So I thought I'll shoot the the frames in Dragonframe as RAW files.

So the question is, when I shall export the image sequence is it best to export them as RAW files or as TIFF? If not, during what stage do you convert the RAW files to another file format?
Anyway, after Dragonframe I always go into after effects, add the effects that I want and then on to the editing in premiere pro.

Any help here is appreciated.
Thanks.

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If I am animating for a client I shoot Raw files.  (I don't "Export" from DF, I just go to the folders where the images are saved when I want to Import them in another program.)

When I import the image sequence into After Effects (at least, the older CS5 version I have) it has to convert the Raw files into something else before importing, so that is the point where I convert.  A window comes up, and I can set brightness, contrast etc before converting and opening the image sequence in AE.  My versions of AE and Photoshop won't work directly with Canon Raw files, or save them as Raw after working on them, but I can save in an uncompressed format to preserve the quality.    I do most of my greenscreen keying in AE so I usually save the keyed image with a transparent background, either as a Tiff Sequence with Alpha or as Uncompressed Alpha QT mov file.  Those can then be loaded into other software like TV Paint where I layer them with the background, crop, and re-size.

The original Raw files are still safe in their folder.  Usually I send those original files to the client and they can do the post production tweaking themselves, so they have the maximum leeway to match them to the rest of their film.  I can't key out the green screen, colour grade, crop, or anything else and still keep them as Raw files though, so sometimes we agree on another format.

I am a bit confused about this as well. My questions are:

  • How noticeable is the difference between RAW files and JPEGs? Really?
  • Does this justify shooting RAW all the time, or just sometimes, in which case when would it be justified? When do you consider having the ability to tweak the image so much in RAW is justified?
  • The files are enormous, so any tips on handling?
  • RAW files are at maximum pixel numbers (on my Canon 600d), but JPEGs can be shot with lots fewer pixels while still being bigger than 1920 X 1080, so saving lots of storage space. But if I shoot only slightly bigger than HD, does that mean when the picture is reduced to HD it will be of inferior quality compared to a frame shot at highest resolution?

I hope I am not hijacking the thread. My question is basically the same - one hears that JPEGs lose a lot of quality over RAWs, but can you actually see it?

What format do you save your RAW files into when importing them into AE, Nick? The RAW box gives various options, and I have in the past imported as TIFFs slightly bigger than HD. Is that what you do?

This sort of goes to the storage issue as well. One ends up with folders of RAWs and TIFFs and it all gets huge very quickly.

This is all to say I have been going back the other way, to JPEGs as the preferred capture format. Please tell me if I am going wrong!

Simon, I can give a little general info I've picked up, as well as working with RAW images quite a bit. Jpeg is already compressed, and if you blow them up and look close, you can definitely see it, especially around the edges of shapes. If you do any editing or effects work on jpegs this compression will compound, like making a copy of a copy of a copy when the first copy already had visual distortions in it. They get amplified each time. So you want to keep compression out until the very end as much as possible. 

Of course this is really only important if you're doing a big job that you want to look really professional, or if you're going to be doing some level of post production effects like compositing. If it's more of a small personal project you might decide to start with jpegs and it isn't important if you get a slight bit of compression artifacts. 

Personally I don't use AE, but I do some post production of different kinds, and I always like to start with RAW files and develop them in Lightroom, which is designed to take advantage of the extra latitude RAW files provide. You can pull a heck of a lot more information from a RAW file than you ever could from a jpeg. Example, if you underexposed, you can often fix it if it's RAW files, to an astonishing degree in fact – almost like magic. But if you're using jpegs it's as if the info just isn't there at all, almost as bad as if you had severely overexposed and got nothing but solid white in areas. 

Thanks, Strider. Very useful. I am working on a big project and have started with RAW files, but some colleagues said they only used JPEGs and didn't notice much difference.

I think I will follow your advice and use RAWs for anything that might be composited....oh, that's quite a lot!

Thanks a lot for the tips and the discussion guys, this made me get a little more grip on it. I'm gonna try to shoot in Raw and possibly use TIFF when exporting. JPEG doesn't sound very good, atleast not for the projects I'm working on.

With a jpg at maximum quality (12 in Photoshop and 100 in TV Paint), minimum compression, it's pretty hard to see any of those compression artefacts at all.  They are obvious on a heavily compressed jpg,  little blocks of pixels and stray pixels in an area that should be all one colour, but I shoot Large Fine (Or Ultrafine if there is a setting on the camera called that) and when I go in at 400x magnification to paint out the support rig, I don't see any of those stray pixels in the green near the edge.  And once my post is done, the image gets shrunk down to HD anyway.

But like Strider said, the Raw image has much more info hidden in it, and you can change the exposure a lot if you need to.  It makes a big difference if a shot is over or under exposed.  Darken down a Jpg that was overexposed and it is just like putting sunglasses over it, it all goes darker and there is no more detail in the highlights, the white just goes grey.  Lighten an underexposed jpg and the blacks may become dark grey, but you won't see much more detail in them like you would if you had shot with a little more exposure time or higher ISO setting.  I was able to save some dark dull stills for backgrounds that I took in the city in poor conditions ( hand held standing on a lamppost to get the height, so too unsteady for a longer exposure) only because they were Raw. I could brighten up the images so they matched with my foreground animation, and there was lots of detail in the shadows that came out. 

Thanks, guys. Really useful info.

Yeah, I did exaggerate a bit. For me, when I saw what Lightroom allowed me to do with my pictures, I knew it was exactly what I wanted, and I wouldn't consider doing a film with jpegs after that, but then I'm looking for the artistic effect, the powerful cinematography, you know? I suppose if you're not trying to do anything special with lighting effects or trying to make it look artistic, jpegs will work fine as long as they're highest quality. For me a lot of the magic happens after the images are shot and I'm developing – there's a certain alchemy that happens there that jpegs just don't allow. 

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