Working with Apple ProRes Codecs

Apple ProRes is an extremely flexible post-production format. The post-production possibilities with Apple ProRes range from offline editing on a MacBook Pro to advanced “digital negative” workflows for theatrical releases on film.

Maximizing Performance by Adjusting Real-Time Playback Quality

After you have captured to an Apple ProRes codec or transcoded from another format to an Apple ProRes codec, you can take advantage of the exceptional real-time playback performance of Apple ProRes files. With RT Extreme, you can set a project’s sequence for real-time playback at different levels of video quality.

At high-quality, real-time playback settings, Final Cut Pro displays video and effects at full resolution. Medium-quality playback shows video at half its full dimensions, to reserve processor power for more video streams and effects. The Apple ProRes format has been engineered not only for excellent decoding speed at full-resolution playback, but moreover to provide exceptionally fast speed at half resolution. This latter mode provides tremendous value for practical editing productivity.

To adjust real-time video playback quality to medium quality
  1. Make sure a sequence is open in the Timeline.

  2. In the RT pop-up menu, choose Medium in the Playback Video Quality section.

Note: Additionally, if you are working with native file formats with very large frame sizes, choose Unlimited RT from the RT pop-up menu. For more information, see the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

Sample Apple ProRes Workflows

The following sections provide examples of workflows that use Apple ProRes codecs at their core.

Mastering REDCODE Projects

After final grading in Color, you can render to the Apple ProRes 4444 codec and send the project back to Final Cut Pro for conforming and output. REDCODE is a 12-bit, 4:4:4, full-color format. By grading the native R3D files with float processing and then rendering to a 4:4:4 format for editing, you retain the maximum possible quality.

For more information, see Working with REDCODE Media.

Capturing Directly to the Apple ProRes 4444 Codec

You can capture from an HDCAM SR deck via dual-link 4:4:4 HD-SDI directly to the Apple ProRes 4444 codec, retaining full color information.

This workflow could include material shot on the Panavision Genesis and Arriflex D-20/D-21 cameras.

Mastering DPX or Cineon Digital Negative Projects

This could include film-scan workflows or digital cinema cameras (such as the Thomson Viper FilmStream and the Vision Research Phantom) that deliver DPX image sequences for the post-production pipeline. Apple ProRes can be the finishing and mastering format, or it can be used as a very high-quality offline format for digital intermediate workflows that will be finished in DPX for film output.

Transcoding Directly to an Apple ProRes Codec on Ingest

Ingesting or transcoding directly to an Apple ProRes codec is particularly convenient if your project involves multiple camera formats and you want to standardize on a single codec for post-production. This includes retaining the quality in 4:4:4 digital cinema formats by transcoding directly to the Apple ProRes 4444 codec.

Compositing and Visual Effects Projects

The 10-bit, 4:4:4 color space plus an alpha channel is especially useful for compositing and effects projects in both Final Cut Pro and Motion. After the motion graphics (with or without an alpha channel) are created in Motion, they can be preserved in the Apple ProRes 4444 format all the way through to the finish. For more information about preserving the alpha channel in Final Cut Pro, see “Sequence Settings and Presets” in the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual. For more information about Motion, see the Motion User Manual.

Offline Editing with Apple ProRes Codecs

The offline/online workflow allows you to use temporary, low-quality copies of your footage during editing and then finish your project with full-resolution media. Lower-resolution media files require less hard disk space and less computing power to process transitions and effects. This means you can edit on an inexpensive computer or a portable computer and then finish at full resolution on another system.

Depending on your project and your budget, you could use any of the Apple ProRes codecs for offline editing. On the high end, you might use Apple ProRes 4444 as a very high-quality offline codec for digital intermediate workflows that will be finished in DPX for film output. For a typical HD or SD video project, you can get high quality and superb playback performance with Apple ProRes 422 (LT) or Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) as your offline format.

All Apple ProRes codecs maintain the source frame size and aspect ratio throughout the offline and online editing phases.

Here are possible offline scenarios using the Apple ProRes format:

  • Ingest media as Apple ProRes files: In this workflow, you transfer the media to an Apple ProRes codec using the Log and Transfer window, complete the offline edit in the Apple ProRes codec, and then retransfer from the source media using an online-quality Apple ProRes codec (or a different format) to create the master version of the project.
  • Transcode media to Apple ProRes files: In this workflow, you transcode the media files from an existing Final Cut Pro project to an Apple ProRes codec using the Media Manager in Final Cut Pro (or using Compressor or Final Cut Server), complete the offline edit in the Apple ProRes codec, use the Media Manager to create a master version of the project, and remaster the project in the final media format.

Using Apple ProRes Codecs in Native Workflows

If you are editing HDV or Sony XDCAM formats natively, you can choose to create render files using either the native MPEG-2 codec of your sequence or an Apple ProRes codec.

For more information, see “Rendering and Video Processing Settings” in the Final Cut Pro 7 User Manual.

Choosing the Appropriate Apple ProRes Codec

The following table matches specific camera, recording, or film-scan formats with suggested workflows and corresponding versions of Apple ProRes.

Acquisition format
Workflow
Most appropriate Apple ProRes codec
REDCODE
REDCODE workflows
Apple ProRes 4444
HDCAM SR
REDCODE
Projects recorded in 4:4:4 RGB mode and transcoded directly to the Apple ProRes 4444 codec on ingest
Apple ProRes 4444
DPX image sequences
Projects that generate DPX image sequences, including those using film-scan workflows or digital cinema cameras
Apple ProRes 4444
Sony HDCAM SR
Projects recorded on Sony HDCAM SR in 4:4:4 RGB or 10-bit 4:2:2 color mode
Apple ProRes 4444 or Apple ProRes 422 (HQ)
DVCPRO HD
Online master phase of projects that don’t use effects or compositing
Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) or Apple ProRes 422
AVC-Intra
Online master phase of projects that don’t use effects or compositing
Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) or Apple ProRes 422
HDV
Online master phase of projects with heavy effects
Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) or Apple ProRes 422
Any format
Motion graphics or compositing projects that require an alpha channel
Apple ProRes 4444
Any format
Workflows that involve offline editing on a MacBook Pro
Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy)
Multiple camera formats
Projects requiring standardization on a single codec for post-production
A single Apple ProRes codec (depending on source and delivery formats)