Technical Knowledge

Understanding the Power Behind Apple ProRes

Mar 11 2021

ProRes is a codec technology developed by Apple in 2007 for their Final Cut Pro software. Initially, ProRes was only available for Mac computers. Alongside growing support by more video cameras and recorders, Apple released ProRes plug-ins for Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Media Encoder, allowing Microsoft users to edit videos in ProRes format too.

The advantages of using Apple ProRes codec in post-production are:

Reduced computer workload, thanks to image compression

ProRes slightly compresses each frame of the captured video, reducing video data. In turn, the computer is able to process the video data quickly during decompression and editing.

 High-quality images

ProRes uses 10-bit encoding to obtain better color information with an efficient compression rate. ProRes also supports playing high-quality videos in various formats.

The following introduces different types of Apple ProRes formats. For information about "color depth" and "chroma sampling", please check our previous articles-What are 8-bit, 10-bit, 12-bit, 4:4:4, 4:2:2 and 4:2:0

Apple ProRes 4444 XQ: The highest-quality ProRes version supports 4:4:4:4 image sources (including alpha channels) with a very high data rate to preserve the detail in high-dynamic-range imagery generated by today’s highest-quality digital image sensors. Apple ProRes 4444 XQ preserves dynamic ranges several times greater than the dynamic range of Rec. 709 imagery—even against the rigors of extreme visual effects processing, in which tone-scale blacks or highlights are stretched significantly. Like standard Apple ProRes 4444, this codec supports up to 12 bits per image channel and 16 bits for the alpha channel. Apple ProRes 4444 XQ features a target data rate of approximately 500 Mbps for 4:4:4 sources at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps.

Apple ProRes 4444: An extremely high-quality ProRes version for 4:4:4:4 image sources (including alpha channels). This codec features full-resolution, mastering-quality 4:4:4:4 RGBA color and visual fidelity that is perceptually indistinguishable from the original material. Apple ProRes 4444 is a high-quality solution for storing and exchanging motion graphics and composites, with excellent performance and a mathematically lossless alpha channel up to 16 bits. This codec features a remarkably low data rate compared to uncompressed 4:4:4 HD, with a target data rate of approximately 330 Mbps for 4:4:4 sources at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps. It also offers direct encoding and decoding of both RGB and Y’CBCR pixel formats.

Apple ProRes 422 HQ: A higher data-rate version of Apple ProRes 422 that preserves visual quality at the same high level as Apple ProRes 4444, but for 4:2:2 image sources. With widespread adoption across the video post-production industry, Apple ProRes 422 HQ offers visually lossless preservation of the highest-quality professional HD video that a single-link HD-SDI signal can carry. This codec supports full-width, 4:2:2 video sources at 10-bit pixel depths while remaining visually lossless through many generations of decoding and re-encoding. Apple ProRes 422 HQ's target data rate is approximately 220 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps.

Apple ProRes 422: A high-quality compressed codec offering nearly all the benefits of Apple ProRes 422 HQ, but at 66 percent of the data rate for even better multistream and real-time editing performance. Apple ProRes 422's target rate is approximately 147 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps.

Apple ProRes 422 LT: A more highly compressed codec than

Apple ProRes 422, with roughly 70 percent of the data rate and

30 percent smaller file sizes. This codec is perfect for environments where storage capacity and data rate are most important. Apple ProRes 422 LT's target data rate is approximately 102 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps.

Apple ProRes 422 Proxy: An even more highly compressed codec than Apple ProRes 422 LT, intended for use in offline workflows that require low data rates but Full HD video. Apple ProRes 422 Proxy's target data rate is approximately 45 Mbps at 1920 x 1080 and 29.97 fps.

The chart below shows how the Apple ProRes' data rate compares to uncompressed Full HD resolution (1920 x 1080) 4:4:4 12-bit and 4:2:2 10-bit image sequences at 29.97 fps. According to the chart, even adopting the highest-quality ProRes formats— Apple ProRes 4444 XQ and Apple ProRes 4444, offers significantly lower data usage than that of uncompressed images.

CitedApple ProRes White Paper.


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