About Digital Cinema Formats

The newest professional video category is that of digital cinema cameras and formats. These cameras have large imaging chips (16mm, 35mm, or larger), which allow for the use of cinema lenses with accompanying high image quality and depth-of-field control, as well as high imaging resolution, progressive field image capture, and advanced light sensitivity. Digital cinema cameras record at least 1080 lines per frame. Most of these cameras also record at 2K and 4K resolutions, requiring a proprietary RAW format or DPX image sequence capture. Digital cinema cameras capture 4:4:4 RGB color.

Many digital cinema cameras, such as the RED ONE camera manufactured by the RED Digital Cinema Camera Company, record their own proprietary RAW formats. Some digital cinema cameras can record to other formats. For instance, the Panavision Genesis camera is often configured to record to a Sony HDCAM SR deck. In this case, the media format corresponds to the recording deck, not the camera. The Thomson Viper FilmStream camera, on the other hand, records straight to DPX image sequences, making the process very similar to a digital intermediate (DI) workflow.

Final Cut Pro workflows for digital cinema formats include ingesting native RAW camera media as QuickTime files, ingesting from Sony HDCAM SR video decks, and ingesting DPX image sequences. (See the Color User Manual for more information about DPX image sequence workflows.)

Recording format
Example cameras
RAW camera formats
RAW image files contain uninterpreted, bit-for-bit digital data from the camera’s image sensor when the images are captured. Along with the pixels in the image, the RAW file also contains data about how the image was shot, such as exposure settings and the camera and lens type. This information is also known as metadata. Using RAW formats, you can grade and finish using the most accurate and basic 4:4:4 RGB data about an image.

  • Vision Research Phantom

  • Silicon Imaging SI-2K

Sony HDCAM SR is capable of recording in 10-bit 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 RGB, with a video data rate of 440 Mbps in SQ mode and 880 Mbps in HQ mode. Several digital cinema cameras use Sony HDCAM SR as their recording medium.
  • Panavision Genesis

  • Arriflex D-20

DPX image sequences
Digital Picture Exchange (DPX) is a common file format for digital intermediate and visual effects work and is an ANSI/SMPTE standard (268M-2003). Visual information is stored as a series of high-resolution still images.
  • Thomson Viper FilmStream

  • Vision Research Phantom

  • Arriflex D-20 (with optional hardware)