Apple Releases ProRes RAW

Posted on by Larry

Last Thursday, when Apple announced a new version of Final Cut Pro X, they also announced a new version of ProRes, called ProRes RAW. Both will be released later today.

While the update to Final Cut got most of the attention, the new version of ProRes RAW is significant. Let me explain why.

BACKGROUND

ProRes was first introduced more than ten years ago – yup, I was surprised, too, when I learned this. When it was introduced, back when Final Cut Pro 6 was still current, if my memory serves, it was designed as a post-production format to help editors deal with all the different codecs and format issues that we wrestled with daily. At its introduction, it just consisted of ProRes 422.

Now, that single codec has expanded into an entire family of six codecs:

As you know, ProRes 422 is the default optimization codec in Final Cut Pro X, while ProRes 422 Proxy is the default proxy format.

While ProRes was invented as a aid to the post-production process, what happened was that camera manufacturers discovered it was also an excellent acquisition format. Today, most high-end cameras – and digital recorders – offer the option of recording camera native files in some version of ProRes.

ProRes provides camera manufacturers with many advantages:

But, while every version of ProRes was 10-bit, no current versions of ProRes were designed to handle all the data in a RAW file.

SKIP FORWARD TO TODAY

ProRes RAW is specifically designed as an acquisition format. In other words, it needs to be implemented by camera manufacturers or digital media recorders.

NOTE: At the same time today that Apple releases ProRes RAW, Atomos is releasing a free firmware update for their Sumo and Shogun Inferno digital recorders which will allow them to record directly in ProRes RAW. Here’s a link to learn more.

As well, FCP X 10.4.1 and Motion 5.4.1 also support ProRes RAW natively.

What ProRes RAW provides is all the efficiency of ProRes with all the camera sensor data of a RAW file.

NOTE: RAW files are direct data dumps from the sensor. Log files are RAW files which are modified to squeeze as much sensor data as can fit into a Rec. 709 color space. ProRes RAW could replace both of these formats, but, again, needs to be implemented either by the camera manufacturer or a digital recorder, such as Atomos, that’s connected to it.

At its release, ProRes RAW will be supported in software only in Final Cut Pro X and Motion. However, just as ProRes is supported today in many different devices, platforms and software, Apple expects ProRes RAW to rapidly increase in support as well.

NOTE: In addition to Atomos, DJI has announced that an upcoming firmware update will allow owners of the Inspire 2 drone with Zenmuse X7 Camera to enable ProRes RAW recording. No release date was announced.

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW TODAY

There are two flavors of ProRes RAW:

The difference between the two is a slightly higher data rate for the HQ version.

You can NOT transcode a RAW file into ProRes RAW, it must be created when the original image is recorded at the camera or digital device. Once created, it can be transcoded into any other format, just as we can transcode ProRes 422 today.

The big benefit to ProRes RAW is that it allows us to directly access the RAW image data from the camera sensor, then edit, color correct and output using the same high quality codec without transcoding. This allows much greater flexibility in color grading and finishing – especially for HDR workflows.

Unlike all other versions of ProRes, ProRes RAW uses a variable data rate, which means that the data rate will vary as the complexity of the image increases. This variable data rate means that files sizes for the same duration video may vary as well.

ProRes RAW is not removing data, instead it is encoding the hard-to-manage RAW data into a much more efficient format.

NOTE: According to Apple’s press materials, ProRes RAW is about 1/3 the size of an uncompressed RAW file and can be easily edited on a relatively recent MacBook Pro laptop. It also supports multicam editing, with the number of simultaneous streams depending upon your hardware.

If you are principally working in HD, working with ProRes RAW is nice, but not essential. However, if you are shooting or planning to shoot projects that are destined for HDR output, ProRes RAW is something that can make your media management, editing and archiving easier and more efficient. Depending upon what and how you are editing, an even more significant benefit is the performance that allows for more streams of real-time playback, faster rendering and faster export vs. other RAW formats.

ProRes RAW is a brand-new release. It will take a while before we hear which other applications and hardware will support the format. Currently, no other software platform has announced support.

EXTRA CREDIT

Apple has released a white paper on this new codec that is well worth reading for more detailed information: ProRes RAW White Paper.


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10 Responses to Apple Releases ProRes RAW

  1. Anonymous Grammarian says:

    This is a great breakdown, Larry! Just one quibble: they may have called it “ProRes RAW”, but it doesn’t change the fact that “raw” is not an acronym and should not be in all caps in regular usage — it just perpetuates confusion about what raw files really are.

    • David Kong says:

      I was a bit dismayed to see that Apple turned raw into an acronym. I think, at this point, I’m going to just give up fighting that battle. Now that Apple has officially called their codec ProRes RAW, I think that it’s a lost cause.

  2. David Kong says:

    Thanks for the article, Larry! This is very helpful.

    One small note: All flavors of ProRes are VBR, not just the new RAW ones. They don’t vary as widely in bitrate as something like h.264, they do vary depending on the footage being compressed. See: https://www.apple.com/final-cut-pro/docs/Apple_ProRes_White_Paper.pdf

  3. liquidblueocean says:

    CinemaDNG is Adobe’s baby. Since Apple’s announcement, I could see them siding with Blackmagic Design and NEVER implementing ProRes RAW in Adobe Premiere.

    Compressed CinemaDNG RAW already exists since 2014 but Apple conveniently ignored it in their whitepaper. It was invented by Blackmagic Design, extending CinemaDNG, and is in their cameras and works with Da Vinci Resolve already. Maybe this is where Apple decided they needed to do the same, but with lots of the usual marketing pretending again that they are the first inventor.
    I think this article needs updating, because it’s just passing on Apple’s word.
    https://www.blackmagicdesign.com/media/release/20141120-01

    CineForm RAW also has existed for ages, now owned by GoPro and later open-sourced, though it never gained much traction. It’s in FFmpeg though.

    • Larry says:

      Liquid Blue Ocean:

      Thanks for the comment. My guess – and I don’t know – is that Apple did not want to replace CinemaDMG, but to extend the ProRes family. The last time I checked, Apple was offering free licenses for ProRes, so I don’t think this was a money issue.

      Also, since several cameras and digital recorders have already announced support for ProRes RAW, I suspect Adobe will support it at least on the Mac platform. ProRes on Windows, though, is still problematic.

      Thanks for your comments and the link.

      Larry

  4. Andy says:

    Nothing stops you (if you have SDK) to convert to ProRes RAW outside of the camera.
    This can be done in order to eg. save space, improve workflow etc. This is also exactly what Cineform RAW does- converting eg. uncompressed RAW streams into smaller Cineform RAW. You just need to “understand” and have access to original RAW data (which is for example impossible for RED RAW). Sony RAW, ARRI RAW, DNG RAW etc all of this can (if needed) be encoded to ProRes RAW (assuming required tools will show up). At the end its nothing that much different than transcoding between already debayered images. You just deal with RAW data, not RGB one (+you have to keep all metadata which is very important).

    • Larry says:

      Andy:

      These are good points, however, from a practical point of view, since these conversion tools do not yet exist, this remains possible in theory, but not in practice.

      Larry

  5. Andy says:

    Not all ProRes modes are 10bit. 444 and XQ are 12bit. They can also be RGB, rather than YUV.

    • Larry says:

      Andy:

      You are correct. For some reason, even though I knew that ProRes 4444 and 4444 XQ were 12-bit, I forgot to write it.

      Thanks for the correction.

      Larry

  6. Pingback: Il ProRes RAW di Apple – Videoreflex.org

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