ProRes SD in Practice
UPDATE: Testing has been completed. Different conclusions have been drawn. Final results are here.
One of the new workflows introduced by Apple in Final Cut Studio 2 is a lightweight codec called ProRes 422. According to Apple’s ProRes White Paper:
Apple ProRes 422 is changing the rules of post-production. The combination of industry-leading image quality, low data rates, and the real-time performance of Final Cut Studio 2 makes ProRes 422 the ideal format to meet the challenges of today’s demanding HD production workflows.
If you read the White Paper the emphasis is almost entirely on HD, even though an SD variant ships with FCS2. After some testing I think I understand why…
ProRes422 SD seems quite lossy. After 3 generations I’m seeing a definite softening of details. It’s graceful, similar to analog degradation in the more modern analog tape formats, but it’s there. It’s enough loss to say I don’t consider it a finishing codec – I’ll be staying uncompressed. For editors out there who ran digital
analog component rooms – I’d compare it to D2 running through a digital switcher. I used to go 6-8 generations on that format in a well-designed edit bay. I didn’t take ProRes SD that far – but I don’t have much hope it would fare any better.
I’ll be posting a full-blown review of ProResSD in the next two weeks – but one word of warning about a proposed workflow I’ve seen discussed online: Putting DV footage into a ProRes timeline (or “promoting” as you would into an Uncompressed 8-bit or 10-bit timeline) is a good way to give your footage an untimely death. I’ll be re-testing my results to be sure, but for now I’d advise against it (especially if you plan on running it through Color).