Poking around looking for some information for a client on workflow, stumbled across this little bon mot – Apple has released a FREE ProRes codec for Mac & Windows – it is mentioned on this page towards the bottom, and there are links for the decoders included:
Analysis follows after the jump.
The Good News – now that there is cross platform support, this means that if you want to capture to ProRes and share with folks doing compositing, compressing, or other video related tasks on Windows, they can now read the format. This opens up BIG doors for workflows, since before this Avid’s DNxHD codecs were your only choice for high quality, cross platform film formats that were 10 bit and full raster and compressed. The catch was that hardware to capture or convert to DNxHD is pricey, and software based conversion is slooooooooow. If you have Final Cut Studio 2 and a BlackMagic or Kona card, you can capture in real time to ProResHQ (or an AJA IO HD works as well).
Also, for Mac based clients that don’t have Final Cut Studio 2, they can now read ProRes files without having to upgrade. They can’t edit in real time with ProRes on Final Cut Studio 5.x or earlier I’m GUESSING, but at least they can work with it and read it as a QuickTime codec. I’ve been surprised how many folks haven’t upgraded in Hollywood.
The Bad News: Decode ONLY, no encode. This is a bummer for cross platform closed loop workflows – you can capture to ProRes, deliver to Windows based clients as ProRes, but if they need to hand something back it’ll have to be in a format other than ProRes. This is probably as good a compromise as we’re going to get from Apple on this – ProRes and Final Cut Pro exist to sell more Macs and other Apple gear – so why would Apple create or give away ProRes encoding capabilities that would only foster more Windows sales, and negate their Mac only advantage?
I haven’t played with it yet, but I’m presuming it is full ProRes support that will include the higher datarate, higher bit depth (10 not 8 bits), higher quality ProResHQ codec – which is a GREAT codec for high quality work. Testing at the facility where I was working earlier this year showed that ProResHQ is better than the Panasonic D5 tape format – which is pretty damned nice itself. I’m curious as to how good the performance is on Windows, and what happens if you try to drop it into Premiere, for instance.
OK, I need to go play with it, and I’ll share any particularly interesting tidbits I come up with, but this is good news.
The fact that Apple is releasing this now, a few weeks before IBC, also opens up the door for speculation as to what else they might have up their sleeves for IBC. But Apple officially doesn’t do trade shows any more – they weren’t at NAB, and they aren’t going to be at IBC with a booth either. There will probably be some presence, I’d speculate, at the big Final Cut Pro SuperMeet that Michael Horton is organizing, but no booth. Hmm.
OK, but in closing and summary, a day with a FREE ProRes decoder for Mac and Windows is a VERY good day indeed.
UPDATE – if you want to know more about ProRes in general, check out Apple’s white paper PDF on ProRes.