Production Sound & Video

Spring 2018

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by James Delhauer 32 And that is why it was so exciting when a new version of ProRes was announced at the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) trade show in Las Vegas in April. Released as part of a joint venture between Apple and Atomos, ProRes RAW hopes to bridge the gap between convenient, easy- to-edit lossy compression formats and their larger, more robust lossless counterparts. A RAW file format is one that contains unprocessed or minimally processed data directly from a digital image sensor. These formats typically result in video files that are untenably large and, in most cases, are too dense for real-time playback or processing without expensive top-of-the-line workstation computers. This sort of compression has been restricted to edit-unfriendly non-intermediary codecs, such as the proprietary formats developed by Red and Arri or the more widely available but processor- and storage-intensive CinemaDNG format. Apple, it would appear, has taken aim to change that. In ProRes RAW, Apple seemingly hopes to introduce a new standard that blends the ease of use of the original ProRes family with the post-production flexibility of a RAW file format. In short, this will give ProRes users the capability of accessing information directly from a camera's sensor during the intermediate and editorial processes. This information includes the sensor's white balance, color tinting, ISO and dynamic range up to 12RGB bits and sixteen alpha bits. The result is more mainstream access to expensive high dynamic range technology—a process by which multiple exposures can be blended into a single image to maximize both highlight and shadow detail. Moreover, resolution support has been increased to beyond 8K, though the current cap has not been specified by either Apple or Atomos. Somewhat astoundingly, this has all been done without a significant increase in file size over existing ProRes formats. INTRODUCING Though technology in our industry is an ever-evolving force, there are some constants that we have come to rely upon. In 2007, Apple unveiled the ProRes family of video codecs—a series of lossy video compression intermediate formats intended for use with the company's Final Cut Studio bundle of post-production applications. The core concept was to introduce an easy-to-use, processor-efficient file type that editors could work with quickly while maintaining a high standard of image quality. The result was a "visually lossless" intermediate codec that celluloid film scans and larger digital files alike could be converted to for the purpose of real-time playback editing in a nonlinear environment. With a wide variety of future-thinking features such as 8K video resolution support, 10-bit sampling depth and variable bitrate encoding, the original four ProRes codecs quickly outshined their predecessor—the simply named Apple Intermediate Codec—and rivaled the capabilities of Apple's main competitor: Avid Technology's DNxHD. In 2009, the addition of two new ProRes formats increased these capabilities to 12-bit sampling depth at higher bitrates, making the codec that much more versatile. Though initially intended for sole use with Apple's suite of proprietary software, ProRes grew far beyond its original intended purpose. Recognizing the value and efficiency of a high-quality but low-size intermediate codec, other companies began licensing ProRes for use in their own platforms. Adobe Systems quickly integrated it into their Premiere Pro, Media Encoder and After Effects applications—direct competitors to Apple's Final Cut Pro, Compressor and Motion platforms. Avid Technology, despite having its own intermediate format, added ProRes support into Media Composer—the application that has been the industry standard for nonlinear editing since its release in 1989. In the last decade, almost the whole industry has followed suit. ProRes has become an integral part of daily life for those of us who work in cinema and television. Platforms critical to Local 695 video engineers such as Pronology's mRes, AJA's KiPros, EVS's XT3, IN2CORE's QTAKE, Atomos recorders, Adobe System's Media Encoder and Blackmagic Design's DaVinci Resolve, all offer ProRes encoding and decoding as a standard feature. More and more camera systems that we provide data management services for offer it as a native capture format. In my personal experience on more than two dozen broadcast series, ProRes has been the preferred format on the majority of them. My experience in this regard hardly deviates from the norm. ProRes RAW

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