Import BRAW into Final Cut Pro using BRAW Toolbox

In this article, we’ll look at a new workflow to import BRAW into Final Cut Pro using BRAW Toolbox. I love editing in Final Cut Pro and I love the quality of Blackmagic Raw (BRAW). But it seemed like the two were never destined to meet. My only way to import BRAW into Final Cut was by round-tripping with DaVinci Resolve.

But very recently a new workflow extension called BRAW Toolbox was released for Final Cut Pro. This enables you to import BRAW clips, edit their metadata and colour settings and bring them into an Event for editing. A big thank you to Chris Hocking of LateNite Films for creating this solution.

You can buy BRAW Toolbox from the Apple AppStore. However, I would recommend you read the full article before taking the plunge. You can jump to the section where I talk about the issues I personally experienced.

If you’re keen to give it a try but don’t have any BRAW clips, you can download some from the Blackmagic Design website.

Launching BRAW Toolbox for the First Time

Once you’ve installed BRAW Toolbox via the AppStore, you need to launch it to go through a quick setup. You only need to do this once.

  • Click Install Motion Templates and grant it access to your Movies folder.
  • Click Install Metadata View and grant access to the ProApps folder.
  • Click Install LUTs to install the LUTs that ship with BRAW Toolbox.
  • Now you can click Launch Final Cut Pro.

Opening BRAW Toolbox

In Final Cut Pro, you need to create a Library. You don’t need to create an Event or Project just yet.

You might want to change the Colour Space settings for your Library:

  • With the Library selected, click Modify in the Inspector. This reveals your Colour Space settings.
  • If you want to distribute your finished project as HDR with a colour space of Rec.2020 in either PQ or HLG, then select Wide Gamut HDR.
  • If you prefer to distribute in a standard colour volume such as Rec.709, then select Standard.

Opening a Workflow Extension

BRAW Toolbox is a workflow extension. If it’s your only extension, you’ll see it’s icon at the top-left of the interface. If you have others, you’ll see a jigsaw piece icon. Click on the icon to open BRAW Toolbox.

Final Cut Pro Workflow Extension

Import BRAW into Final Cut Pro

I’ll show you how to import BRAW into Final Cut Pro before we take a closer look at the interface.

Default Decode Quality

Before you start importing, you can set the Default Decode Quality. It’s worth doing this now, as this setting will be applied to the clips as they’re imported. It doesn’t affect the clip quality, but it will affect playback and sharing. You can change the Decode Quality of individual clips after importing.

BRAW Toolbox Settings menu button
  • Click the gear icon to open the Settings menu.
  • Select Default Decode Quality.
  • If your Project is destined for an HD release, choose Automatic (HD).
  • If you’re releasing in 4K, choose Automatic (UltraHD).

Importing

Click Import BRAW Files and navigate to your BRAW files. Select the clips and click Open.

Just be aware, if you close BRAW Toolbox you’ll need to re-import the BRAW files. Make sure it stays open until you’ve dropped the clips into your Library. You can minimise the window without loosing the clips.

BRAW Toolbox Interface

Now we have some clips ready to go, let’s take a look at the interface.

The interface is separated into four main areas. The Viewer where you can play through your clips. The Clip Browser where you can see a list of your BRAW files. The Inspector where you can see settings for individual clips. Then the Media Management and Toolbox areas at the very bottom.

BRAW Toolbox interface

Viewer

Select one of your clips in the Browser. In the Viewer you can use the transport controls and the skimmer to navigate the clip. The developer has said the typical J-K-L hotkeys will be available in an update. BRAW Toolbox is purely for reviewing and adjusting the pictures; you don’t have audio playback. Later we’ll look at how you save the audio for bringing synchronised clips into Final Cut Pro.

Settings

In the Settings menu (gear icon) you can globally set the Colour Space for all the clips. If you want to work in HDR you can set it to Rec.2020 PQ, for example.

Inspector

On the right is the Inspector where you’ll find settings for individual clips. At the top is the Decode Quality. If you picked a default on in the Settings menu, you can change it here. Below that is the image metadata that’s come from the camera. These settings can be adjusted. Regarding the LUT Source, you might have a LUT that’s embedded in the clip or it might be in a separate sidecar file. You can select either from this menu.

The Custom Gamma Controls are where you have fine control over brightness and contrast. There’s also a Saturation slider.

Copy and Paste Settings

At the bottom of the Inspector are buttons to reset parameters and copy and paste settings.

When clips are shot under the same lighting conditions, you’ll likely want to adjust the settings on one clip and then paste those settings to the others. Doing this in BRAW Toolbox is not dissimilar to how you copy and paste attributes in Final Cut:

  • Select your first clip in the File List.
  • Make your changes under Decode Quality, Camera Metadata and Custom Gamma Controls.
  • Check the settings you want to copy.
  • Click the Copy Checked Items button.
  • Select another clip in the File List.
  • Check the attributes where you want to paste new settings.
  • Click Paste Checked Items.

You can reset checked items. You can also save checked parameters as presets for reuse at a later date. This could be useful if you work in a studio environment where the lighting setup is always the same.

Importing BRAW Clips into a Final Cut Pro Library

Once you’re happy with the changes you’ve made to the colours of your BRAW clips, you can bring them into your Library. You can do this in two ways, as synchronised clips that contain the video and audio, or as a multi-cam clip. If you want multi-cam clips, open the Settings menu (gear icon) and check Create Multicam Clips.

Save Location for Audio Files

Because BRAW Toolbox is focused on the images rather than sound, you will need to choose a save location for your audio files. Click Choose Audio Folder and navigate to where you want to save them. Personally I’d always choose the same folder as my original BRAW files.

Creating an Event

Next, click Prepare BRAW Files and click OK.

The icon in the media management area beneath the Inspector turns green. Drag this onto the Library icon in the Final Cut Sidebar.

Green drag box

This creates a new Event called FROM BRAW TOOLBOX. It contains your BRAW clips as synchronised files, so the sound comes along with the pictures. Or if you checked the multi-cam option, each file is a multi-cam clip with the video and audio together.

New Event from BRAW Toolbox

New Project

Now you have the Event created by BRAW Toolbox, create a Project so you can start editing.

You should set the Colour Space of your Project to match the one you chose for your Library:

  • Select the Project in the Browser.
  • In the Inspector, click Modify.
  • From the Color Space menu, make your selection.

Adjusting BRAW Settings in Final Cut

If you want to adjust the BRAW settings once the media is in Final Cut:

  • Double-click a clip to open it in its own Timeline.
  • In the Inspector, select the Video Inspector tab.
  • Click Show Parameters.

You should see the same settings that you had in the BRAW Toolbox. In the Inspector some of the settings can be keyframed, which you might find useful.

Editing to the Project Timeline

Double-click your Project to open it as a Timeline. Select a range from one of your BRAW clips and edit it to the Timeline.

Depending on how the clips were shot, you might be prompted to choose your Project settings. For example, 12K footage from the URSA Mini Pro is not a distribution standard recognised by Final Cut. In that case you’ll probably want to choose an 8K or 4K resolution. Check what aspect ratio the footage is, as the native sensor shape of the URSA Mini Pro is 17:9. Once you’ve chosen your Project Settings, the clip appears on the Timeline.

At this point I started having issues with my ageing Intel iMac, I’ll talk about this a little later in the article.

You can now edit the clips as you normally would in any Final Cut project.

BRAW Clip Metadata

If you want to see the metadata associated with a BRAW clip:

  • Select a clip on the Timeline.
  • Choose the Info Inspector.
  • From the menu at the bottom of the panel choose BRAW Toolbox.

You’ll see a list of all the camera metadata embedded in the BRAW file.

BRAW Toolbox Effects

You might have noticed a new BRAW Toolbox category in your Effects Browser. It seems that this is not for our use, but simply needs to be there for the workflow extension.

Sharing the Project

Once you’ve finished editing and you want to export your movie for distribution, do the following:

  • Select one of the BRAW clips on the Timeline.
  • In the Inspector select Global Settings.
  • Make sure it’s set to Force Full Decode Quality.
  • Share your project as normal.

The Toolbox Area

As well as using BRAW Toolbox to import BRAW into Final Cut Pro, it also has other workflow features.

With the BRAW Toolbox workflow extension open, take a look at the Toolbox area at the very bottom of the interface. From the menu you can see there are various options for converting a Project to an XML for DaVinci Resolve, relinking BRAW clips and converting BRAW clips to MOVs or Proxies.

BRAW Toolbox workflow menu

For all of these options, you need to drag the corresponding Event into the Asset area to the right of the menu. For FCPXML conversion via CP, you need the free CommandPost app.

Issues I Experienced

When trying out new software I can only talk about my personal experience using the hardware I have available. At the time of writing this article and making the video above, I mainly used an old Intel iMac. I also had access to my wife’s M1 MacBook Pro. These are the issues I experienced…

BRAW Settings not Available

When working on a BRAW clip from the Final Cut Browser, I couldn’t access the settings in the Inspector. This was an issue on my Intel iMac, but not the M1 MacBook Pro. The developer has recommended setting a lower Decode Quality when editing. If you’re concerned whether your Mac can handle the workflow, see the developer’s speed check advice in the Troubleshooting Guide.

Missing BRAW File

I experienced the ‘Missing BRAW File’ error message on the MacBook Pro. To remedy this I clicked Select BRAW File in the Inspector. But you should follow the tips in the Troubleshooting Guide.

Final Cut Pro Hanging?

The next time I launched Final Cut it seemed to hang for a while before it finally opened. I’d trashed the previous Library with the BRAW files, so that wasn’t the issue. I uninstalled and re-installed BRAW Toolbox to see if that made any difference. Because the BRAW Toolbox Uninstaller didn’t seem to work I manually uninstalled the workflow extension, Motion templates and ProApps components myself. But when I re-installed BRAW Toolbox, I was unable to replicate the hanging issue.

If you have any questions or experience undocumented issues, check out the links on the developer’s Support page.

Conclusion

While my experience of using BRAW Toolbox wasn’t without issues, I am cautiously optimistic. This is only the first version of a game-changing tool and I’m sure the developer is listening to customer feedback and working on the next update.

I edit in Final Cut everyday and I love the quality of Blackmagic cameras. If your workflow requires you to import BRAW into Final Cut Pro, then BRAW Toolbox has the potential to save you a lot of time and effort.


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