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Tip #1083: Pick the Right Version of ProRes

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

ProRes provides lots of choices – all supporting 10-bit, high-quality images.

The Apple ProRes logo.

Topic $TipTopic

Apple ProRes comes in a variety of formats. Which one should you pick for your projects? Here’s some advice.

NOTE: Much this tip is taken from the Apple ProRes White Paper (Jan. 2020). (Link)

Apple ProRes is one of the most popular codecs in professional post-production and, as of Oct. 2020, it also won an Engineering Emmy Award for its quality, licensing and innovation. The ProRes family of video codecs has made it both possible and affordable to edit full-frame, 10-bit, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4:4 high-definition (HD), 2K, 4K, 5K, and larger video sources.

ProRes codecs take full advantage of multicore processing and feature fast, reduced-resolution decoding modes. All ProRes codecs support any frame size (including SD, HD, 2K, 4K, 5K, and larger) at full resolution. The data rates vary based on codec type, image content, frame size, and frame rate.

Here are the current formats:

  • Apple ProRes RAW. Captures data from the camera sensor. Existing media can’t be converted into ProRes RAW.
  • Apple ProRes 4444 XQ. The highest-quality version of ProRes for 4:4:4:4 image sources (including alpha channels), with a very high data rate to preserve the detail in high-dynamic-range imagery generated by today’s highest-quality digital image sensors.
  • Apple ProRes 4444. An extremely high-quality version of ProRes for 4:4:4:4 image sources (including alpha channels). This codec features full-resolution, mastering-quality 4:4:4:4 RGBA color and visual
  • fidelity that is perceptually indistinguishable from the original material.

NOTE: Apple ProRes 4444 XQ and Apple ProRes 4444 are ideal for the exchange of motion graphics media because they are virtually lossless, and are the only ProRes codecs that support alpha channels.

  • Apple ProRes 422 HQ. A higher-data-rate version of Apple ProRes 422 that preserves visual quality at the same high level as Apple ProRes 4444, but for 4:2:2 image sources.
  • Apple ProRes 422. A high-quality compressed codec offering nearly all the benefits of Apple ProRes 422 HQ, but at 66 percent of the data rate for even better multistream, real-time editing performance.
  • Apple ProRes 422 LT. A more highly compressed codec than Apple ProRes 422, with roughly 70 percent of the data rate and 30 percent smaller file sizes. This codec is perfect for environments where storage capacity and data rate are at a premium.
  • Apple ProRes 422 Proxy. An even more highly compressed codec than Apple ProRes 422 LT, intended for use in offline workflows that require low data rates but full-resolution video.

WHICH TO PICK?

  • Use ProRes RAW if your camera or external storage can record it from the sensor.
  • Use ProRes 4444 for images recorded using HDR values, or for media created on the computer. (For example using Motion or After Effects.)
  • Use ProRes 422 for images recorded using a camera for Rec. 709 (HD) media.
  • Use ProRes Proxy where image quality is less important than small file size; for example in screening and rough cuts.

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2 Comments
  1. Rick Llewellyn
    Rick Llewellyn says:

    I am curious why you recommend Prores444 for HDR and not Prores 422HQ or just ProRes 422? I presume it makes a difference in the recommendation whether we’re talking about an input format to color correct or a final output for a master.

    Reply
    • Larry Jordan
      Larry Jordan says:

      Rick:

      The shorter answer is the ProRes 4444 contains accurate grayscale and color information for every pixel.

      ProRes 422 – any version – contains pixel accurate grayscale values for every pixel, but averages color values across 2 pixels. This format is used by all non-HDR cameras, but losing 50% of my HDR color is not my preference.

      Larry

      Reply

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