More and more we’re starting to see ProRes popping up as an acquisition format. The codec has had popularity from 3rd parties like AJA, Blackmagic Design, and Atomos for a few years now. But then we started seeing it natively in cameras from the likes of Arri and Blackmagic. Now even the big old digital camera brands, Sony and Panasonic, have started adding it into their cameras. So what exactly is ProRes and why is it in everything.
ProRes is a format that was invented by Apple. It debuted in 2007 with Final Cut Pro 6. At the time Final Cut was starting to gain some very serious headway into ultra high end post production. But there was one glaring issue: no mastering format of their own. The big intermediate codecs of the day were Avid DNx and CineForm. Apple decided they need to have their own solution. Hence ProRes was born. ProRes is an all Intra-Frame, minimum 10-bit, minimum 4:2:2 codec. But then a funny thing started happening. Camera manufacturers started using more internal compression to compensate for the large amounts of data that H.D. created. We started getting these really great cameras at very reasonable prices but they used low quality internal recording codecs. Companies like Panasonic and Sony wanted to protect their high-end cameras by reserving their best formats for the higher-end market.
Enter AJA with the Ki-Pro. The Ki-Pro recorded ProRes to SSDs from an HD-SDI input. The original Ki-Pro was designed more as a studio ProRes deck. Something to put into a rack or an edit desk. But AJA had the idea to market it as a mobile device as well. People loved the idea but weren’t thrilled about the form factor. Next came the Ki-Pro Mini. The Mini was perfectly designed to mount onto the back of a tape-based camera and instantly turn it into a non-linear tapeless ProRes camera. Then the products starting popping out more. Blackmagic Design, Atomos, and others began putting their own spin on mobile ProRes recording. Both Avid and Adobe began to support it natively. At this time Atomos released their first recorder in 2011. Around the same time Arri began shipping the Alexa camera with internal ProRes recording. The Alexa set a new standard for 1080p digital cinema cameras. And it showed the benefits of recording in a ready-to-edit format as appose to RED and their everything-RAW approach. Soon ProRes was synonymous with high quality codec. Blackmagic Design released several cameras with internal ProRes recording. If you purchased a Canon Cinema EOS camera there was a good change you hooked an external ProRes recorder to it. And now we have Panasonic putting ProRes in their new 4K VairCam and Sony, after 2 years of pressure, putting ProRes into the F5 & F55 cinema cameras.
There are several flavors of ProRes. As previously mentioned all ProRes formats are Intra-Frame and all are a minimum of 10-bit 4:2:2. ProRes Proxy is 35mbps, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame. ProRes LT is a 100mbps 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame format. ProRes is runs at 150mbps, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame. ProRes HQ delivers 220mbps, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame. Finally ProRes 4444 is a 330mbps, 4:4:4, 12-bit, Intra-Frame codec. All of these bit rates are based on 30 frame per second recording. If you were to record 60 frames per second you would need to double the mbps. ProRes HQ and ProRes 4444 are capable of recording 4K resolution. If you were to shoot in 4K you would multiply these data rates by a factor of 4x. There fore, at 4K ProRes HQ, 4:2:2, 10-bit, Intra-Frame, would run around 900mbps. And PreRes 4444 at 4K, 4:4:4, 12-bit, Intra-Frame, would be over 1200mbps. These are crazy-high data rates that really just show that ProRes as near limitless. Between ProRes’ limitless nature, high image quality, and extremely consistent cross platform behavior it’s no wonder we’re seeing larger adoption then ever before. It’s the closest thing to a universal high-end video format there has ever been. Post by Eric C. Petrie