Popular Video Codecs for File Exchange

You can use video compressed with nearly any video codec in Motion. Bear in mind that when you are working on a project in Motion, it is best to use high-quality codecs with a minimum of compression. Highly compressed video files, such as those compressed using the MPEG-4 or Sorenson codec, are probably going to be unsuitable for creating high-quality work.

Note: Motion works in the RGB color space. Any clips you use in Motion that were captured or recompressed using a Y′CBCR codec, such as DV, the Apple ProRes family, or Uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2, are converted to the RGB color space when used in a Motion project. Clips that are exported from Motion using a Y′CBCR codec are converted back into the Y′CBCR color space.

Apple ProRes

The Apple ProRes family of codecs provides a variety of versatile, adjustable compression formats to serve nearly any post-production workflow. There are five different Apple ProRes codecs, from Apple ProRes 4444, which includes an alpha channel, to Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy), an offline format used by Final Cut Server for proxy movies.

Apple ProRes 4444 is the default export codec for Motion because it is virtually lossless and includes an alpha channel to preserve transparency in your projects. For more information on the Apple ProRes family of codecs, see Final Cut Pro Professional Formats and Workflows, available in Final Cut Pro Help.

Uncompressed 8-Bit and 10-Bit 4:2:2 Video

Video stored using these codecs undergoes no data compression, but some color resampling may occur depending on the source video format. Because compression usually results in video artifacts, using no compression guarantees the highest level of quality. Unfortunately, it also guarantees enormous file sizes.

Note: Uncompressed 8-bit and 10-bit 4:2:2 movies cannot have alpha channels. (Alpha channels define levels of transparency in your movie and are useful if you’re delivering an effects shot for use in someone else’s composition.)


The Animation codec was developed for computer-generated imagery, which often has large areas of uniform color and little, if any, noise. It is a lossless codec, which means it doesn’t degrade quality or add artifacts to your video when it applies compression.

Video footage, which generally has more grain, noise, and variations of texture and color than animated material, may not be compressed as much with the Animation codec as with other methods. Because some lossless compression is better than none, this codec is used more frequently than Uncompressed.

Note: Animation movies can have alpha channels. This codec is the most common QuickTime format supporting alpha channels.


A high definition video format that can be used to capture video digitally from FireWire-enabled DVCPRO HD compatible decks. Don’t confuse this format with DVCPRO 25 or DVCPRO 50, which are both standard definition formats. This format supports a number of frame sizes and frame rates, including a 24p format that offers variable speed via a variable frame rate technology. DVCPRO HD uses 4:2:2 color sampling for high color fidelity, and has a fixed data rate of 12.5 MB/sec.

Note: DVCPRO HD movies cannot have alpha channels.


The DVCPRO 50 codec is used to capture video digitally from FireWire-enabled DVCPRO 50-compatible camcorders and decks. Although it’s similar to the DV codec in that DVCPRO 50 is imported as YUV encoded video, it produces considerably higher quality video since it uses less compression. (DVCPRO 50 uses a 3:3:1 compression ratio, versus DV’s 5:1 compression ratio.) DVCPRO 50 also uses 4:2:2 color sampling for high color fidelity, as opposed to DV’s 4:1:1 color sample rate. DVCPRO 50 has a fixed data rate of 7 MB/sec.

Note: DVCPRO 50 movies cannot have alpha channels.

Apple M-JPEG

There are two Apple M-JPEG codecs, M-JPEG A and M-JPEG B. These are variable data rate codecs similar to the ones used by video capture cards. If you need to deliver more heavily compressed material to keep files small, consider these codecs. M-JPEG is a lossy codec and results in artifacts in your final video. The severity of these artifacts depends on the data rate you choose.

Several capture and playback cards on the market can play back either M-JPEG A or M-JPEG B in real time without re-rendering the material, or at most, doing minimal re-rendering. This makes file interchange very fast. Before you use either M-JPEG A or B, consult the manufacturer of the capture card you’re using to find out which one you should use.

Note: Apple M-JPEG movies cannot have alpha channels.


JPEG is similar to M-JPEG, except that the compression artifacts can be less severe at similar data rates. JPEG movies may play back in real time on your system, depending on your system’s speed and the data rate of the movie.

Note: JPEG movies cannot have alpha channels.

Third-Party Codecs

There are several manufacturers of video-editing solutions, most of whom use different variations of the M-JPEG codec. Many make software-only QuickTime codecs that you can install in your System folder, enabling you to play back movies with little or no re-rendering. For more information, contact the manufacturer of the editing system.

Note: Most third-party codecs cannot have alpha channels.