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Advanced Final Cut Pro Techniques: ProRes 422
With the release of Final Cut Studio 2 and Final Cut Pro 6 (FCP), Apple introduced ProRes 422, a new codec that gives high definition (HD) quality at standard definition file size. You can also convert your HD, HDV, DV, etc., footage within FCP to ProRes 422, which I have done, to gain the codecs benefits. There are a couple of caveats if you are capturing in ProRes 422 via AJAs io HD, which Ill touch upon below.
Apples ProRes 422 codec is a 10-bit HD/SD compressed format that has been proven to be just as high of quality as the original footage, and in some cases it is better. According to Apple, it also provides 4:2:2 chroma sampling, full-frame resolution (HDVs 1440 x 1080 will be set at 1920 x 1080), variable bit-rate and more. Check out the white paper here .
Because its so easy on your processor and drives, its useful for those who arent on the high-end Apple systems.
Though its nice to know that FCP 6 supports cutting high-end, processor/memory/storage-hungry HD, not all of us can afford to buy enough RAID drives and RAM to do this. So, you can convert your HD footage to ProRes 422 via the AJA ioHD and not have to worry about owning fast, large drives to edit the footage.
However, if you want to capture HD footage via ProRes 422, according to Apple, youll need to pick up either a Mac Pro Quad (or 8-Core) or the Power Mac G5 Quad. Unfortunately, not much else is powerful enough to handle this kind of conversion on the fly. Check out this page for more details.
The most common use for ProRes 422 is to convert existing footage, be it native HDV, DVCPro HD, even DV, to the codec for more powerful editing. There are two ways to convert your existing timeline to the ProRes 422 codec, either via Media Manager and select the appropriate option, or select your Sequence Settings option and go into the QuickTime Video Settings and click on the Compressor Settings. There, you can change it to any type of codec, including ProRes 422 (145 mbps) and ProRes 422 HQ (220 mbps).
Then, click on Advanced to ensure the frame rate is right. If you need to change that, you can use Cinema Tools or Nattress Filters. Its easier on your drives and processor; I prefer using this codec to photo jpeg at 75% (pjp 75) quality (4:2:2, YCbCr), though eventual QuickTime Movie file sizes will be nearly double that of pjp 75.
Once youre done, you can go to File>Export>QuickTime Movie (QT Movie; this will create an FCP-style QT Movie), or you can export to Compressor to convert to a QT Movie for the web, a great DVD or whatever you wish. Keep in mind, though, that if you use ProRes 422 or the HQ version, your file size will be bigger than, say, native HDV or DV, but still smaller than HDCAM and other high-end HD formats. You can learn more about QuickTime Conversions here.
One other benefit, RED Digital Cinema recommends using ProRes 422 when cutting footage acquired on the upcoming RED ONE, unless you wish to cut in REDCODE. This also proves that ProRes 422 is an excellent codec from Apple, whether using it upon capture and conversion, or converting your existing footage for more powerful cutting.
Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.
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