Choose the Version of ProRes Best Suited to Your Project

No matter what kind of project you’ve been involved with over the years it’s more than likely that you have used ProRes, or any other type of intermediate codec at some point in time, for primarily capturing, editing, delivering or for archival purposes, or all of the above. With the Apple ProRes format, you can work in a broad range of frame sizes, frame rates, bit depths, and even color sample ratios.

However, the question what flavor of ProRes one should use for an a particular project remains. Currently, there are six versions of ProRes: ProRes Proxy, ProRes 422 LT, ProRes 422, ProRes 422 HQ, ProRes 4444 and ProRes 4444 XQ. Each one is meant to be used in different scenarios and shooting situations. Larry Jordan already made a great breakdown of the different ProRes workflows based on his research, conversations, and experience.

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For instance, ProRes Proxy is designed for very efficient editing and often is used on older computers with slow hard drives and poor overall system performance. The format is also quite beneficial for multi-cam editing where performance is the main priority, not the image quality. According to Apple’s ProRes White Pater, ProRes Proxy intended for use in offline workflows that require low data rates but full-resolution video. The target data rate of Apple ProRes 422 Proxy is approximately 45 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps.

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ProRes LT retains better overall image quality compared to ProRes Proxy as it includes every pixel in the clip and it doubles the bitrate of the latter. The target data rate of Apple ProRes 422 LT is approximately 102 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps. I’ve used this version of the codec in the past for multi-cam editing on a late 2007 Macbook Pro, and it works like a charm, even with 12 clips loaded in the FCP’s Multiclip Viewer.

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ProRes 422 is the default and workhorse video format for all optimized media in Final Cut Pro X. It is an excellent balance between image quality and editing efficiency. It’s the go-to choice for the majority of the DSLR shooters as well. The target data rate of Apple ProRes 422 is approximately 147 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps which make the format the best choice for most of the 8-bit video formats such as H.264, AVCHD,  MPEG-4,  DVCPro, etc. It’s 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.

Sure enough, ProRes HQ is the most popular ProRes flavor with widespread adoption across the video post-production industry as it supports full-width, 4:2:2 video sources at 10-bit pixel depths, while remaining visually lossless through many generations of decoding and reencoding. This is the ideal format to use with the GH4, for instance, as it supports 10-bit 4:2:2 color subsampling.  The target data rate of Apple ProRes 422 HQ is approximately 220 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps.

ProRes 4444 features full-resolution, mastering quality 4:4:4:4 RGBA color and visual fidelity that is perceptually indistinguishable from the original material as it provides a colour sample for each pixel.

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Apple ProRes 4444 is a high-quality solution for storing and exchanging motion graphics and composites,  lossless alpha channel up to 16 bits. It’s most suitable for VFX work, Chroma Keying and heavy color grading manipulations.The target data rate of ProRes 4444 is approximately 330 Mbps for 4:4:4 sources at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps. It’s a wise choice as codec when you want to save a ton of hard drive space retaing the highest possible image quality and color fidelity by transcoding your BMCC Raw in ProRes 4444, for instance.  As-a-rule-of-thumb, ProRes 4444 is the best choice for video that originates on the computer such as screen captures, Motion projects, After Effects projects, Photoshop sequences or video that requires an alpha channel.

ProRes 4444 XQ is the latest add-on to the ProRes family. It is a very specialized, high-quality format that is designed for high-end post production workflows and facilities. Like standard Apple ProRes 4444, this codec supports up to 12 bits per image channel and up to 16 bits for the alpha channel. Apple ProRes 4444 XQ features a target data rate of approximately 500 Mbps for 4:4:4 sources at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps. It’s highly unlikely to use this codec on a daily basis as a regular DSLR shooter working on a small independent project, unless you are hired by a major Hollywood studio shooting with the latest generation of the Arri Alexa XT cameras on the set of the next big blockbuster Hollywood production.

[via Larry Jordan]

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