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Old February 4th, 2011, 08:04 AM   #1
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Codecs of 2011 - Prores Vs Cineform Vs DNxHD

Here we are in 2011 and I'm going to resurrect this bag of worms if I may.

Obviously, posting this on a Cineform forum is perhaps going to yield subjective responses, but I'm trying to get to the bottom of how the codecs compare.

I've recently been requested to output my work using Prores 422 for a large film event. I explained I've never owned a Mac and that's going to be pretty impossible for me unless I go out and buy one! The response was to output it using Quicktime 'Animation' codec. I ended up with a file 5 times larger than it should be and the results didn't even look that great.

I know that Avid's DNxHD is widely thought to be better than Apple's ProRes codec from looking through various discussions, forums, etc. How does Cineform compete with both codecs and has it become an industry standard used a large film festival events, etc.? I think the concerns the event organisers had are: (1) Will it play properly on our equipment (presumably they're using Macs), and (2) Will the quality be as good as ProRes?

If anyone has any experience/views on using and abusing these codecs, please could you pass on your comments?
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Old February 4th, 2011, 10:15 AM   #2
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For screening purposes quality shouldn't really be an issue. All of the mentioned codecs are capable of storing video at good enough quality at their higher settings to project in a movie theater. The issue is encoding requirements and playback options.

There are uncompressed options that are Mac and PC compatible and work with most software, but the disadvantage is this approach has serious hardware requirements, especially for storage speed.

The advantage of ProRes is that it will decode on nearly any system with Quicktime installed. The disadvantage is that it will only encode on Mac systems with FCP installed, which is rather limiting.

DNxHD can be encoded and decoded on any system that has the free MOV codec installed, but only certain apps will play it in RT out of a dedicated I/O card (For an HD-SDI projector). It is both Mac and PC compatible which is a nice benefit, and the fact that it is limited to 422 colorspace is irrelevent for post-color corrected viewing copies. One thing to watch out for is gamma shifts between Mac and PC playback because it is QT based.

Cineform is nice because it is PC and Mac compatible, and has both AVI and MOV options. It won't play out in RT from certain I/O cards and applications though, and playback at all requires the Cineform codec to be installed. The fact that many people don't already have the Cineform codec installed is what limits this format's use as a distribution and exchange format.

Animation MOV is a very inefficient codec for video, but it can be lossless and cross platform. It is limited to 8bit color, but has alpha channel support. It works much more effectively for titles and motion graphics than live video though, it is more of a worst case scenario format for sending video from a PC to a Mac. (Use ProRes for the reverse)

If you have software that allows export of XD-Cam compatible files, that may be a good way of exchanging data in cross platform.scenarios. The 50Mb version is full resolution 422. Quality will be lower than most of the other methods mentioned above though, and quick playback is not always simple. (Can't just double click to preview it, like an AVI or MOV.)
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Old February 4th, 2011, 11:11 AM   #3
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Thank you Mike, that was a very helpful response that summarised all three codecs.

I can see now why the film event want all the clips to be ProRes. Even though Apple may not have the best codec, they have the most accessible one for decoding, but will only support encoding with Macs + FCP. Very, very clever system that in a way, monopolises film screening events like this.

It's quite limiting that Cineform needs BOTH an I/O compatible card for RT and the codec to be installed.
I take it that ProRes plays RT quite easily with Quicktime installed? That's a big advantage I guess.
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Old February 4th, 2011, 11:26 AM   #4
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Kris,

That is not correct. You need the codec install which every solution you go with. ProRES comes with QuickTime, which has to be installed. CineForm also has a free download, which has to be installed. You don't need an I/O card for RT playback, neither does ProRES. For FCP both RT with AJA cards if that is what you want, but you don't need it for either. CienForm is used as the playback codec for a number of festivals, becuase it doesn't require FCP to produce them, and there are way fewer gamma issues with CineForm.
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Old February 5th, 2011, 07:29 AM   #5
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Gamma issues related

Quote:
Originally Posted by David Newman View Post
Kris,
……and there are way fewer gamma issues with CineForm.
in what way? would you like explain it?

We found that content of Canvas window is lighter when playing than when stopping(CineForm materials sequences in FCP). Why? Any Solution?

Thanks in advance.
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Old February 5th, 2011, 08:11 AM   #6
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Gerry, yes you can control that, ask support (CC Criag.) The gamma issues are in Apple QuickTime, and anything rely on it is affected. FCP uses QuickTime as is impacted greatly, ProRES does the same thing if you setup your timeline with the wrong mode (that is why it a support question, I don't use FCP myself so I can't tell you more.) CineForm is not inherently QuickTime based, so these gamma issues are easily avoided. Many vendors now use our SDK to bypass QuickTime for more speed and direct control over the pixel format and quality (DaVinci, Quantel, Iridas and FilmLight etc.)

Note: Deep pixels in QuickTime are fine, v210 (10-bit YUV) the 16-bit RGB formats don't have gamma issues, only the 8-bit RGB formats do. So if you see a gamma shift you know the tool is using 8-bit, avoid 8-bit tools, and complete to the vendor to use deeper pixels.
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Old February 5th, 2011, 08:40 AM   #7
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I got an idea, Thanks for your patience and kindly help.
I will submit a ticket to support.
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Old August 13th, 2012, 04:16 AM   #8
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Re: Codecs of 2011 - Prores Vs Cineform Vs DNxHD

Hi Gerry.
Would you mind posting how you fixed the gamma shift ?
I have a 100 min feature to preview and with or without the second monitor it gives me the gamma shift.

How do you avoid this using FCP ?
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Old August 13th, 2012, 02:22 PM   #9
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Re: Codecs of 2011 - Prores Vs Cineform Vs DNxHD

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike McCarthy View Post
The fact that many people don't already have the Cineform codec installed is what limits this format's use as a distribution and exchange format.
ehm, if you distribute in Prores or DNxHD you have direct OS codec support?
only under mac, only for quicktime...
every codecs needs install under Windows and Mac...
why people accept easely to install divx to see pirated movies but seems to refuse quality codec install?
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