What is Raw Footage and When To use It

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After seeing everything that happens on shoot day — the lighting, the high-end cameras, the set, all of it — it’d be easy to imagine raw footage as a close-to-finished video that just needs some color correction and some trimming before it gets turned into the final product. Much like, say, editing a personal photo or video quickly before posting to Instagram. 

 

But raw footage is much more “raw” than you might expect. In fact, if you were to be given a hard drive of all the raw footage from your video shoot, it’d be overwhelming without the right tools or expectations. It’s a massive amount of large, individual files, unviewable without professional software, and all out of order. If you were able to open some, they’d look a little dull, and flat. The sound? Rough, nothing like what you’d hear in a final video.

The beauty of raw footage is that despite its initial appearance, it has everything a professional editor needs to transform it into a visually stunning story. 



What is Raw Footage? 

Raw footage is all of the unprocessed, unedited video files gathered from the video shoot that come directly from the camera (which is why it’s also sometimes called “source” footage). It contains everything — all the colors, details, lighting, etc. exactly as it was captured by the camera’s sensor. In that sense, it’s the purest form of footage you can get.

 

It’s done that way on purpose, and professional video production companies intentionally shoot raw video, because it gives them exceptionally high quality results and enormous creativity when it comes to making your video exactly what they’re looking for. 

 

We should note that there are two ways of talking about “raw footage.” Sometimes, it means we’re simply talking about the source material we gathered from the shoot. But often, and more specifically, we’re talking about the RAW file type. Whether it’s RED’s R3D RAW or ARRI’s ARRIRAW (we use one or the other depending on the camera we choose for the shoot), it’s referring to the uncompressed, unprocessed file formats that come from those specific cameras. There are differences between RAW file types, because every camera is a little different, but no matter what, the RAW files give us the most control over every aspect of the footage, especially when it comes to color. 

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Benefits of Raw Footage

Here are the three main advantages that raw footage delivers:

 

Exceptional quality

High-end cameras often shoot in either 4K or 8K, much larger than you need for the edited version so that even after you resize, cut, edit, and add effects, the quality is still there. In other words, raw footage gives you way more than you would ever need, so that you get to decide what stays and what goes. 

 

Creative flexibility

A camera shoots not just in sizes much larger than necessary, but captures way more data (like lighting, color, images, etc.) than necessary, precisely because it’s meant to be edited later. With all that material and information, a professional editor has countless options available to them, so they can craft the exact framing, color, lighting, style, and narrative they want for your video. 

 

Storytelling Ability

Especially when more than a single camera is involved, after a shoot you’re left with lots of little scenes, but no story. The editor’s magic is in weaving all of those scenes together into a story that makes you forget you’re even watching a video. Countless different stories can be told with the footage available, and our goal is to find the one that achieves our goal in the best way possible. 

 

Do I need Raw Footage?  

After the video is done, we love to give our clients the raw footage. After all, it’s theirs, they paid for it!

 

There are many reasons a client might want the raw footage for themselves, the main one being that they can repurpose the footage for a different or later use. They may want to include some of the footage in a future video, use it to create other digital assets with in-house expertise, or simply hold on to it and evaluate its use in the future. 

 

Like most video production companies, because storing video requires a lot of space, we opt to deliver a hard drive with all of the files for a small fee. We charge for the drive, shipping, and transfer time, which usually is no more than $500. But whether you decide to have your own drive or not, we always keep a backup of every project for two years. 

 

How BX Films uses Raw Footage 

There’s a whole lot more we could say about the topic, and if you want to get into the details and talk shop, we’d love to! And if you have more questions about how raw footage factors into the video production process, we’re happy to answer them. It’s all part of the collaborative process. 

 

Of course, if you’d like to start a little higher level and discuss the vision for your next video, we’re all ears. We’d love to get cranking on your next exciting project.

Jeremy Miller

Jeremy Miller

Jeremy is the intellectual funnel of the team, taking BX’s big ideas and distilling them into strategies, concepts, scripts, and articles. Jeremy’s diverse background includes a degree in philosophy, years as a financial planner, Notre Dame Law School, working on the ground floor of a new SaaS product and years at a full-service marketing agency doing work for regional, national, and global brands. All that comes together at BX to push our brand forward and capture the essence of the brands we work with — whether it’s scriptwriting, concepting, or strategy