Don’t Lose Access to Older Media in macOS Catalina [u]

[ Updates:
12/11 with corrections for how I define codecs and media
12/13 with a statement from Bill Roberts of Adobe
12/16 with more information on support for Linear PCM
12/19 with a response from Blackmagic Design
12/21 with a more detailed response from Avid
12/22 with a more detailed response from Adobe
12/23 with a note on stock footage problems and disabling auto-updates
6/10/19 with the name of the next macOS: Catalina (v. 10.15) and links to related articles. ]

With the release of macOS Mojave (10.14), Apple is continuing its conversion to 64-bit applications that it first began many years ago. In the next major macOS update to Catalina, announced at the 2019 WWDC, this conversion will affect media which relies on older 32-bit codecs. We are all used to applications which may not be compatible with an operating system upgrade, but with an upcoming release of Catalina, some of our older media won’t be compatible either.

CODEC: A mathematical algorithm that converts light and sound into binary ones and zeros to allow us to store media in a computer and play it back. Media is recorded and played back using encoders and decoders which are based upon these codecs. There are codecs for stills, audio and video, each optimized for different tasks.

What this change means is that if you try to play media which uses one of these older codecs in Catalina, the next version of the macOS AFTER Mojave, your media WILL NOT PLAY!

NOTE: To be very clear, Apple confirmed that “macOS Mojave — including all dot releases of this operating system — will be the last major version of macOS to support the legacy 32-bit codecs identified in this article.”

This is because these encoders are like mini-applications that require support from the operating system in order to convert the binary data of our media files into sound and light. Older codecs which use 32-bit encoders and decoders won’t have the support they need to play, which means you lose access to any media stored in one of these older formats.

The media is not 32-bit, but the encoders/decoders, which are required to play or record the media, are. These older codecs, which are built upon the QuickTime 7 framework, include:

You may have seen the ominous warning in Final Cut about legacy media. Apple released an update to their KnowledgeBase website which includes MUCH more detail on what codecs are affected and which ones are not.

Here’s the link: https://support.apple.com/en-us/HT209000

WHAT THIS MEANS

The short answer is that, depending upon the codec, we may need to convert any older media using soon-to-be-dead codecs into a codec that is more future-proof.  These supported codecs include:

This gets complex because codecs which are created outside of the QuickTime framework will work. Codecs that are built on the QuickTime framework, will not.

[Update 12/13] CLARIFICATION ON LINEAR PCM AUDIO

After reading this, Philip contacted me asking about ongoing support for Linear PCM audio, because it wasn’t on the list. I reached out to Apple for a clarification and learned:

The reason Linear PCM was not included is because it isn’t a file format or codec in the traditional sense, but rather a way to digitally represent audio signals as computer-accessible data.

AIFF and WAV are both file formats that typically contain uncompressed PCM audio data. At the system-level, Apple will continue to support PCM-encoded audio data — including PCM data within the formats listed above.

NEXT STEPS

For all future projects, take a look at the currently supported codec list and make sure you are shooting in a format that will be supported in the future. (Apple’s webpage lists these – and there are a lot of them.)

For past projects that are stored using an expiring codec, you need to think about converting your media files into something that will last for the longer-term. (This continues to reinforce our past conversations that archives need to be actively managed, they can’t just sit on the shelf.)

Apple has announced a new, up-coming version of Final Cut Pro X (shipping in the first-half of 2019) that will help identify these legacy codecs, then convert them into ProRes. As well, Apple Compressor can convert legacy formats into ProRes (or other formats) for both individual clips or batches.

NOTE: Apple also suggests using QuickTime Player X for conversion, however, not all transcodes using this method convert to ProRes, my recommendation is to avoid using it.

I’m also expecting third-party developers to announce tools to help find and convert these legacy media files, but nothing is announced yet.

ffMPEG is also a potential solution but, as Jon Chappell points out below, while ffMPEG works technically, there are a number of legal issues that make using it problematic.

ADOBE, AVID AND BLACKMAGIC DESIGN COMMENTS

This announcement also potentially impacts projects created over the last twenty years using Adobe, Avid and Blackmagic Design software.

Adobe announced this morning that their media apps now support exporting ProRes on Windows – something that has been lacking until today.

Here’s Adobe’s blog post: https://theblog.adobe.com/adobe-pro-video-apps-now-support-prores-export-on-windows/

[Update 12/13] Bill Roberts, Senior Director of Product Management for Audio and Video Products at Adobe Systems, sent me the following email when I asked him about their blog:

“Adding support for ProRes on Windows is part of Adobe’s longstanding commitment to broad format support and connected workflows. ProRes export on Windows has been requested by many of our users and we’re delighted to be able to offer this now in collaboration with Apple.

“Adobe has already made the transition to 64-bit QuickTime. For more details, please go here. As operating systems evolve, we will continue to offer robust native QuickTime support across platforms in our video and audio tools.”

[Update 12/19] Apple this morning added: “We are working with developers to enable official ProRes encoding on Windows. This will ensure that ProRes works great in mixed Mac and PC environment and is the best choice for converting legacy media that is reliant on 32-bit codecs. As you know, Adobe was the first developer to release versions of their apps with this functionality. “

[ Update 12/22 ] Adobe’s Bill Roberts supplied a more detailed response to how their software will be affected by this change. Read it here.

Avid issued an initial press statement. Read it here.

[Update 12/21] As I did with Adobe, I also contacted Avid to learn how Avid Media Composer editors will be affected by Apple’s decision. Building on their initial press release,  Avid provided a MUCH more detailed explanation of how this affects Media Composer, as well as a full list of supported media codecs. Read it here.

In answer to an email, Philip Hodgetts commented: “As you see in the [initial] Avid [press release], their apps will not be bothered by Apple’s end of life of 32-bit QuickTime because Avid’s apps use 64-bit decoders and encoders. Similarly Adobe has moved away from using any third party codecs, mostly developing or licensing their own implementation (as we see today with ProRes).”

[Update 12/19] I also contacted Blackmagic Design to determine what the impact will be on DaVinci Resolve. Here’s the brief response I received from Blackmagic Design. (As a note, I told BMD that I felt their response was a bit scanty and asked them for more details.)

[ Update 12/22 ] As you’ll see from reading both Adobe’s and Avid’s responses there is a confusion in terminology. Apple says it won’t support DNxHD in the future, while Avid says it is here for the long-term. Apple says it won’t support Cineform in the future, while Adobe says it is an excellent codec to use for future-proofing media. The codecs use the same words, but the meanings are directly opposite.

I think the difference is that Apple’s codecs are based on QuickTime 7, while Avid and Adobe’s versions are based on re-writing the codecs to be native, in other words, supporting a 64-bit operating system. However, there’s no easy way to determine, today, which version of the codec your media is using.

[Update 12/23] A NOTE ON STOCK FOOTAGE

(Stock footage clip from Pond5 – note it uses the Motion JPEG B codec, which is deprecated.)

A good place to look first for problems are stock footage clips. Clip libraries have been accumulating clips for many years, using a variety of different codecs. Here, for example, this clip from Pond5 uses the soon-to-be-outdated Motion JPEG B codec.

NOTE: Here’s an article on how to determine what codecs your media uses.

WHEN WILL THIS HAPPEN?

Apple announced macOS Catalina at the 2019 WWDC, in June. I’m expecting its release in the fall, which is the time that 32-bit applications and media will no longer be supported. Apple is being very careful to let us know about this upcoming change to codec support well in advance.

So we have several months to get ready.

WHAT YOU SHOULD DO NOW

[Update 12/23] First, prevent surprises. Make sure auto-updating is turned off for the macOS. Here’s an article that explains how.

Second, make sure you are shooting, editing and finishing all projects in a “future-proof” media format. I don’t think Apple has figured out the entire solution, yet, but this additional information is MUCH better than what we were working with originally.

Third, don’t panic. Developers, including Apple, have either created or are creating tools that will help find and convert affected legacy formats into 64-bit media.

Fourth, take a look at your archives and start thinking today about what you want to save and what you want to let go. This is also time to start budgeting for hardware that can speed media transcoding.

Fifth, if you use these older codecs, plan on keeping at least one high-performance system running a current or older version of macOS and NEVER upgrading it, so it can  serve as a media conversion system. It took us 20 years to digitize most of our 2″ video tape – I expect it to take about that long to convert older digital assets as well.

You’ll also need to think about where to store these new files, as they will most likely be bigger than the files you are storing now, who’s going to handle the conversion and how you are going to pay for it.

With the next version of macOS announced, it IS time to start reviewing your archives and planning for the future.

EXTRA CREDIT


59 Responses to Don’t Lose Access to Older Media in macOS Catalina [u]

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  1. Philip Snyder says:

    Hi Larry,

    I did not see Linear PCM in either the supported or unsupported the Audio Format lists. Do you know what its status will be?
    Thanks,
    Philip

  2. Larry – excellent suggestion on keeping one system “un-updated” to use with legacy media. I am still transferring a lot of 2″ Quad tape so your suggestion that will be 20 years might be optimistic. Thanks for all the tips.

  3. Mark says:

    Larry,

    I was planning to purchase the new Mac Mini with Final Cut pre installed. Should I hold off on Final Cut until the new version is released in 2019?

  4. Mike Janowski says:

    Even more reason to keep an armada of older machines in working condition…not the least of which is to be able to point to my, say, G5 running Tiger (10.4.x), and say “Now THERE was a machine designed to run!”

  5. Wondering if someone (including Apple) would release a full-feature, 64-bit version of Quicktime Pro 7 that can work with both 64 and 32-bit codecs. That seems like a simple way to resolve many of these issues?

    • Larry says:

      John:

      Yes and no. QuickTime X replaces QuickTime 7, so they have released a 64-bit version of QuickTime 7. What QT X does not have is the ability to manipulate files the way QuickTime 7 Pro did – a lack of features that I miss deeply. However, you might look at Pro Media Tools from Digital Rebellion as a replacement: https://www.digitalrebellion.com/promedia/

      However, support for 32-bit anything – at this moment – appears not possible for technical reasons. The current plan is to provide some sort of utility that will help us find and convert older media. How that is to be implemented is still in active discussion.

      Larry

  6. helge.malmgren says:

    In early 2011 iMacs (iMac12,1) you can squeeze in an SSD drive while keeping both the original hard drive AND the Superdrive. So I have two of these on my desk, harbouring OSX 10.6.8, 10.12 and 10.13 on four different startup disks. For really old software I use a G4 Mac Mini with OSX 10.4, which also allows me to run Classic. Maybe I should by another old iMac and put in the freezer for future use when the other ones die. 🙂

    • Larry says:

      Helge:

      I’m reminded of Steve Spielberg’s love of film. When the world moved to digital he purchased something like 20 Moviola film editors to keep on hand so that he would not have to switch to digital. It would be hard to argue with the filmmaking prowess of Spielberg – proving, yet again, that technology is simply a tool for the creative arts.

      Make sure you have a large freezer.

      Larry

      • Larry-

        Steven may have loved film like most of us, but I believe that was done in deference to his chief editor, Michael Kahn.

        Some of us born before 1960 had a hard time acclimatizing to computers. Those folks mostly went into real estate. The rest of us got Atari ST’s or Amiga’s and moved on to PC’s or Macs from there :-). If I hadn’t gone that route in the late 80’s, I would be trying to interest you in that lovely bungalow up in Laurel Canyon.

      • Michael P. says:

        Yes, but I am concerned that Mr. Spielberg’s purchases (assuming they might be for actual film editing) and others with the same intent, may sometime (soon?) may be in vain should workprint or even camera stock cease to be manufactured or processed. Is that a possibility, do you think?

        • Larry says:

          Michael:

          I’m not worried about the pending loss of digital work files. They will be with us forever.

          But, what is now inescapably clear is that media is tied to the operating system. Which means that, over time, as operating systems evolve – not just on Mac but Windows – older media formats run the risk of not being supported.

          This means that, as media creators, we need to know where our media is stored, and actively track it so that we can convert needed legacy files into modern codecs. This is something we never really had to do before, but will now become part of the process of maintaining archives.

          Larry

  7. Looks like “among the missing” for future is Sony XDCAM EX which I used for 10 years.

  8. Sjoerd de Vries says:

    Wondering, I get a mesaage that “old media” not 64bit in my project, but which file? The norrmal video is ok but which file is not 64bit. I like to see a notice which file is problamati

    • Larry says:

      Sjoerd:

      I agree. First, it is important to note that nothing is broken in Mojave. So, as long as you don’t update – and there’s nothing to upgrade to at the moment – there’s no immediate problem.

      Second, Apple has announced that a future version of FCP X – shipping in the first half of next year – will identify legacy media and provide an easy way to convert it into one of the ProRes family.

      I’ve also asked Apple to provide a stand-alone utility – perhaps built into Compressor – that will locate all legacy media on a drive and allow us to convert it to the codec of our choice.

      For now, it is enough to know that changes are coming – next year we should be able to get started in converting it.

      Larry

  9. Michael P. says:

    (BTW, thank you, Mr. Jordan, for this article giving us Mac users the heads up on this issue.)
    But I am still a little confused by the listings of codecs: Does this mean that .dpx image sequence files will no longer be readable by Compressor after Mojave? (I’m planning on having film scanned and saved as DPX image sequences soon.)
    And what about Adobe Cinema .dng (raw) image sequence files that are generated by the camera I use? I can’t tell if they are on either list.
    Any info or direction on this would be greatly appreciated.
    Thank you.

    • Larry says:

      Michael:

      I can’t speak for Apple and I’m not sure of the answer. DPX is widely used in the VFX industry, so if for any reason it is not supported, I would expect a conversion utility to be available.

      I’ve asked Adobe to clarify what, if any, codecs it uses will be affected by the change.

      The bigger issue is that we need to know BEFORE any change in the operating system exactly which codecs will be affected and how to convert older media. Complete answers to both these questions are still forth-coming, which is why I view this article as the start of the conversation, not the end of it.

      We need all our major NLE vendors – Apple, Adobe, Avid and Blackmagic Design – to state their specific plans for what is coming and how to deal with it.

      Larry

  10. Larry, with so many replies and you addressing the issue, which is comprehensive.
    Thank you.
    I have a new imac pro, with the 10.4 not 10.4.4
    My mac guy wants me to upgrade Jan to Mojave. Then of course I could upgrade both fcpx and compressor. My issue is I still have many files on XDCAM, or many other formats as I use several types of cameras with different formats. So from your article will I have to convert them all to proress. ?Plus will I loose the existing files and projects. This issue is quite complex. Do you have an upcoming video on media management come Jan1 to address all these answers.

    • Larry says:

      Morgan:

      First, take a deep breath. You are fine – at least, for a while.

      You have a new system, which is good. There is no harm in upgrading to Mojave. HOWEVER, DON’T upgrade beyond Mojave until we have tools that will allow us to convert any expiring legacy media. All media files work in Mojave. They WON’T work in versions of the macOS BEYOND Mojave.

      So, to answer your questions:
      * It is safe to upgrade to Mojave
      * It is safe to upgrade to the latest version of FCP X
      * Your existing XDCAM media will run on Mojave
      * Your existing projects will run on Mojave
      * You don’t need to convert anything.

      All this changes with the next operating system – which is still months away. So, upgrade now – then hold off any additional upgrades until we learn more.

      Larry

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