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Old May 21st, 2009, 04:12 AM   #1
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Getting camera manufacturers to use Cineform RAW?

OK. I now know what my perfect camera would look like. A Panasonic GH1 recording Cineform RAW.

RED and Silicon Imaging have shown us the future and I'm very unimpressed that the "big" manufacturers haven't seen the light yet. The future of video capture is compressed RAW. And Cineform RAW seems like the best option.

So, the question is: How do we persuade Canon/Panasonic/Nikon/Sony/etc to implement Cineform RAW on a chip and to stick it into a camera?

I've written to Nikon to ask them to please consider implementing Cineform RAW. I'm planning to write to Canon and Panasonic. Perhaps if enough people write to these manufacturers then maybe they'll get their act together? Modern sensors can produce gorgeous images but squishing all that detail into a 17Mbps AVCHD stream just ain't cool! Modern-day camera geeks are spoilt by shooting RAW on stills cameras.

Is anyone planning to do a hardware hack on the GH1 to output RAW Bayer data (I think I remember reading that there is an Irish company planning to do an "Andromeda-style" hack on the GH1). Perhaps if someone can produce a hacked GH1 as a proof-of-concept then the manufacturers may take notice?

RED are doing a great job and they should be highly commended. But, frankly, the Canons/Nikons/Panasonics of this world could clean the floor with RED if they put their minds to it. Take a sensor from a Canon 5DmkII, bump up the frame readout speed, enable face recognition during movie mode and record to Cineform RAW. My perfect camera. End of story.

Last edited by Jack Kelly; May 21st, 2009 at 04:36 AM. Reason: fixing typo
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Old May 21st, 2009, 07:14 AM   #2
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Hey Jack,
Yup - couldn't agree more but then they wouldn't sell their multi thousand dollar high end cams then.The great thing about these small DSLRs - and they may not have the ergonomics to shoot video or the manual control - is that one can shoot discreetly without drawing unwanted attention.It is becoming a real pain to take photos or film here in the UK without being hassled by someone who thinks you are up to no good.A DSLR form factor would prevent me having to take my 35mm DOF adaptor or sturdy tripod.Gorillapod would do just fine most times and the codec would be great.
Heck Cineform is darn near the best thing short of uncompressed there is.But consumer type cameras with RAW from the big boys - unlikely.Would step on too many toes I fear - but I am with you mate.
You are so right that what is required from these modern DSLRs that shoot video is for some enterprising person to figure out how to tap into the uncompressed senor data stream a bit as you mention, like the Hydra/Andromeda project.The Panasonic GH1 is just about perfect except for the codec.It is small in size and does 24p.Perhaps if the HDMI were enabled by somehow then one could get to record to Cineform.
How do sensors output data anyway.Analog or Digital?Could be worth the risk if someone knew how to channel all that RAW data out of the camera untouched.If that were possible then potentialy this could be the bargain of the year.But I dream..............Having said that the Hydra project got nipped in the bud didn't it.Someone got nervous.

Quote
'Reel-Stream is proud to announce the Hydra Uncompressed Digital Acquisition system for the AG-HVX200. Based on the same concept behind the Andromeda system for the DVX100, Hydra extracts the pure full RGB(4:4:4) data available directly from the imaging block of the HVX200. This allows for uncompressed RAW recording at up to 14-bit RGB linear color, 2K resolution, and extended latitude among other advantages. Hydra functions at all frame rates normally supported by the HVX200. Preliminary specs include up to 86dB digital dynamic range, and photographic latitude comparison tests (including DVCPROHD, DVCPRO50, etc) will be posted on our website.'

14 Bit?86 dbs.That's insane.

Who else is willing to dare this with a GH1??????This recorded to Cineform RAW would be a game changer.Who is the Irish Company?Let's get a pool of people willing to back this.I'm in......
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Old May 21st, 2009, 10:24 AM   #3
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Completely agree with everything you say, dude!

A question for the Cineform guys: is there any news regarding the development of a single chip for encoding Cineform RAW?!? Or would it be possible to run a Cineform RAW encode on an off-the shelf CPU like the Intel Atom or maybe an Atom plus a fast GPU for doing the number crunching?!?
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Old May 21st, 2009, 10:28 AM   #4
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Another factor for camera vendors to consider. CineForm RAW is extremely CPU/FPU/ASIC light, it would uses far LESS power per pixel than AVCHD or JPEG2000 (aka. REDCODE.) The power factor for light battery operated device is of extreme importance. CineForm just doesn't done have the hardware department to do the ASIC, but the big camera vendors do. We are totally open to this.

Regarding power per pixel. CineForm RAW is a native resolution compressor so it would be compressing 14+MPixels, a lot of pixels, vs the 2MPixel max. of AVCHD. If you use the same in camera scaling, CineForm 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 (ideal) could encode using the same power budget (or less) of long gop AVCHD, although the bit-rate would be significantly higher (a plus to many.) So CineForm RAW (12-bit) might be for the highend DSLR models, 1080p CineForm 444 (12-bit) for the 5D class, and 422 (10-bit) for the GH1 class -- all much better than AVCHD's heavy compressed 4:2:0 (8-bit.)
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Old May 21st, 2009, 10:34 AM   #5
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Completely agree with everything you say, dude!

A question for the Cineform guys: is there any news regarding the development of a single chip for encoding Cineform RAW?!? Or would it be possible to run a Cineform RAW encode on an off-the shelf CPU like the Intel Atom or maybe an Atom plus a fast GPU for doing the number crunching?!?
We are release close with Atom. A single core Atom encodes 1080p 4:2:2 10-bit at 14 fps -- not bad (we haven't tried the few dual core Atoms yet.) CineForm RAW at 1080p is around 20fps. 1080p CineForm compressor plus running Windows XP at near 24p in under 3 Watts. Atom CPUs are amazing. This is why I can predict our power usage in an ASIC would be extremely low.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 01:18 PM   #6
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Jack, its pretty simple: stop buying their cameras.
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Old May 21st, 2009, 02:04 PM   #7
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Jack, its pretty simple: stop buying their cameras.
Yes.

Vote for CineformRAW !

This thread must be sticked :)
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Old May 21st, 2009, 02:57 PM   #8
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David,
I have an Archos 5 internet tablet.You know the thought has crossed my mind that this thing could just about make the perfect Cineform recorder.It has a high resolution touch screen,Atom processor and allows for docking stations to be added that add functionality including usb.How about a product similiar to that? Doesn't look to far off the concept drawing.
Ever thought also of perhaps making a usb stick type product that did the encoding on the hardware and then passed that on to an Archos like product to store - or a laptop.Then you save having to do all the other things involved with producing a full blown recorder.
Archos have also just burst into the laptop market.You know if ever you were looking for a technology partner - they may just fit the bill.But I digress and ramble........

Back to hacking.........
Anyone know anything about tapping a sensor.I gather that on the Andromeda the camera functioned as if it was unaware of the stream being diverted.So all the settings would be fully cotrollable by the camera menus except that we would be diverting the RAW sensor data.I can only assume then that the stream was captured by Juan soldering directly off the Sensor outputs then streaming it over gigabit ethernet.Heck I am willing to trash a GH1 trying to see if this can be achieved but I wouldn't know where to start.Anyone around willing to experiment.Do the Cineform guys have any idea froim a hardware side how to achieve this?Anyone else?

Assuming this could be done then does Cineform require a software frontend like streampix in order to work or can HDlink recognise a gigabit ethernet camera connection?
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Last edited by Henry Olonga; May 21st, 2009 at 03:34 PM.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 08:46 AM   #9
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@David, that's great news that Cineform RAW almost runs at 24fps on a single-core Atom! If a dual-core Atom can run Cineform RAW at full 24/25fps then maybe there's no need to develop a bespoke ASIC?

@Henry: I'd LOVE to see someone hack a GH1 to output the full sensor data (and then to compress that as Cineform RAW). However, I suspect it could be tricky (certainly not as simple as just connecting a gigabit Ethernet port to the sensor). For starters, the uncompressed datarate coming off the sensor will be immense (12 million photosites x 24 fps x 12 bits per photosite = 432 Megabytes per second)*

I have no idea what interface the GH1's sensor uses but this modern Sony CMOS sensor uses 12 x LVDS (low voltage differential signalling) to pump the digital data off the sensor. LVDS is supposed to be a very robust signalling technology so it might be possible to pipe the LVDS signal off the camera over standard twisted pair cables into a "RAW processing box" sitting on the bottom of the camera. A quick bit of googling reveals that there are off-the-shelf "LVDS-to-PCIe" systems out there in the wild. If you're REALLY lucky then might it be possible to simply connect the LVDS outputs from the sensor to an "LVDS-to-PCIe" adapter on your computer??? (In face, PCI-Express is an implementation of LVDS; but I doubt PCI-E runs at the right clock rate to interface directly with a sensor). I'm not an engineer so I have no clue if I'm anywhere near in the right ball park here! Of course, even if you successfully got the sensor data running into a computer then you'd still need to write the software to get that data into a (software) Cineform RAW compressor.

I really can't emphasise this enough: if someone hacked a GH1 to record to Cineform RAW then it would be a hugely impressive camera. Even if it was just a one-off proof of concept.

Footnote:
* I don't know if the GH1's sensor does actually output the full native sensor resolution at 12-bits per photosite while the camera is in movie mode. Does anyone know? Does the GH1 just pixel-bin like the D90 or does it actually pull a 12Mpixel image off the sensor 24 times a second, demosaic at 24fps, down-res to 1080/720p and then compress as AVCHD?

For example, this IMX017 Sony sensor can output 12-bit per pixel at 15fps or 10-bit at 60fps.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 11:50 AM   #10
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I like the way you are thinking.All that info is very useful.I suspect that the bandwidth at full res would be prohibitive but it would be about the same as the RED one and they have done it.
I am no engineer either but I would guess that if I were and if one was to make a small form factor like the GH1 - battery consumption efficiency and heat would be major challenges so I would guess pixel binning is not an option but is indeed necessary.I understand the Canon 5D Mark II also reads every few lines of pixels or so and bins the rest.And it still looks gorgeous so I would imagine that the same happens with the GH1 - it would be so much more efficient and also run cooler.
I think you are right Jack.Imagine getting what - optimistically 4K out of this thing (Or at worst amazing down scaled 1920 X 1080 24p) that looked as good as the RED for a fraction of the price.It cannot do exotic frame rates but this would be staggering.I wouldn't care being tethered.The thing is tiny anyways.I am not sure that a laptop expresscard can do 400 odd megabytes a second.Around 250 I think with my magma chassis at 2000 megabits/sec. With pixel binning to get HD it comes down to 120 odd which is manageable.
It would appear that they may actually read the whole sensor as the one marketing point is that they use the extra pixels to manage all the exotic aspect ratios but that means little without knowing how it works.
The only complaint I have with the GH1 is the lack of live HDMI.Period.I love the rest of it.
I think the simpler trick is to get uncompressed HDMI.I think it is doable as I have seen an official Panasonic demo vid of the G1 connected to an LCD outputting live video.They are brothers and probably share the same DNA so no reason why it couldn't be done.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 12:46 PM   #11
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@David, that's great news that Cineform RAW almost runs at 24fps on a single-core Atom! If a dual-core Atom can run Cineform RAW at full 24/25fps then maybe there's no need to develop a bespoke ASIC?
Manufacturers like to have something proprietary in an ASIC. The ASIC should also use even less power than the Atom.
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Old May 25th, 2009, 07:05 PM   #12
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Jack,

An Atom might soon be able to do 1080p RAW soon (which is 2MPixels), but not 14MPixels without an FPGA, ASIC, or desktop class Intel CPU.
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Old May 27th, 2009, 10:38 AM   #13
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We are release close with Atom. A single core Atom encodes 1080p 4:2:2 10-bit at 14 fps -- not bad (we haven't tried the few dual core Atoms yet.) CineForm RAW at 1080p is around 20fps. 1080p CineForm compressor plus running Windows XP at near 24p in under 3 Watts. Atom CPUs are amazing. This is why I can predict our power usage in an ASIC would be extremely low.
Impressive stuff - is this on the medium quality setting?
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Old May 27th, 2009, 11:58 AM   #14
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Impressive stuff - is this on the medium quality setting?
Filmscan-1 using very hard StEM footage.
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Old May 30th, 2009, 12:29 PM   #15
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Just wondering if it would make any sense to run some (or all) of the number crunching on the GPU? Some of the "mobile" GPUs (i.e. GPUs destined for laptops) are really rather powerful.

I know very little about GPUs versus CPUs!
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