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Old April 15th, 2014, 06:10 PM   #1
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What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

Panasonic has always been a leader in video formats and codecs. They were on the fore front of the DV native to edit revolution. They were the first to offer 4:2:2 50 and 100mbps versions of DV, called DVCPro. They introduced their next-generation format AVC-Ultra back in 2007, years ahead of Sony’s next-gen format, and even a little ahead of Apple and ProRes. AVC-Ultra has evolved a lot over the years. The most critical part of AVC-Ultra is that nearly all variations are at least 10-bit 4:2:2.

First, you have AVC-Intra. These are Intra-Frame formats, recording every single frame of video in full quality. These run at 50mbps, 100mbps, and 200mbps. The 200mbps variation is 4:4:4 12 bit. Next you have AVC-LongGOP. Still maintaining 10-bit 4:2:2 this LongGOP format runs at 25mbps, 36mbps, or 50mbps. As of this writing Panasonic has also announced AVC-4K. At this point specs are a little vague on what exactly that will look like. We know it will be at least 4:2:2 10b-bit. But it could also be 4:4:4 12-bit. At 4K resolution 4:2:2 10 bit would run about 400mbps in AVC-Intra. At 4K resolution 4:4:4 12-bit would be a whopping 800mbps in AVC-Intra.

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Last edited by Eric C. Petrie; April 16th, 2014 at 12:10 PM.
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Old April 15th, 2014, 10:25 PM   #2
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

While I understand the basic intent of your post, there are some facts that could be better verified...

First, on timing...ProRes was also introduced in 2007, so I don't understand your reference on being ahead of ProRes...and Sony doesn't use AVC-Intra, so the "lead" is really more of a "choice" as Sony has gone ahead with other formats (HDcamSR is MPEG-4 I-frame, but since it was introduced in 2003, the "lead" assertion still doesn't apply).

On the specs, AVC Ultra is a family of codecs including all the AVC-Intra and AVC LongG (as well as AVC Proxy) varieties.

AVC Intra at 50 Mbits/s is not 4:2:2...it's 4:2:0 (and it's less than full resolution).

AVC LongG(OP) is not 10 bit, 4:2:2 in all of its variations, G12 and G6 class are 4:2:0, 8 bit.

Of course, AVC Proxy is just that...proxies. (they don't really apply to the recording format discussion)

AVC-Intra is a great codec, and the quality is very, very good. I just bristle a little when the specs get so generalized that they're not really completely accurate as someone will almost certainly be confused...
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Old April 15th, 2014, 10:29 PM   #3
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

Actually, now that I click on your graphic, I see the info I pointed out is even on there...

I used Panasonic's whitepaper revision from February for reference.
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Old April 16th, 2014, 12:52 PM   #4
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

Thanks for providing additional information. It's always great having someone to keep me on my toes and iron out the details.

You're correct, ProRes and AVC-Intra were both introduced in 2007. However, in from my perspective, AVC-Intra was a far more fleshed out acquisition format at the time of introduction. The original rendition of ProRes was to be a high quality intermediate post codec but it grew into much more over time. Therefore i would say that AVC-Intra was ahead of it, from an acquisition perspective.

I am aware that Sony does not use AVC-Intra (i've been an authorized Sony representative for nearly 25 years). I should have been more clear. I used the term "next generation format", which is vague. To clarify i was intending next gen to refer to formats that are going to be a big part of the companies future at this point. My own perspective is the XAVC is going to be Sony's go-to format of the future, It delivers comparable (to AVC-Intra) 10-bit 4:2:2 specs at similar bit rates. HDCamSR never has been distributed below $30k. But your greater point that in this industry it's not usually a "head to head" so much as companies stair stepping each other i totally agree with.

You are correct, AVC-Intra at 50mbps is the only Intra-frame that isn't 10-bit 4:2:2 (or higher). Thank you for mentioning that as i didn't make that clear.

I was speaking of bit rates of at least 25mbps or higher, as i made no mention of the 12 or 6 formats. My perspective is most people wouldn't acquire their primary footage at these bit rates, thus i didn't mention them. You are correct though, those formats are 8-bit 4:2:0.

Thanks for keeping me honest and on my toes.
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Old April 16th, 2014, 04:17 PM   #5
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

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Originally Posted by Eric C. Petrie View Post
They introduced their next-generation format AVC-Ultra back in 2007, years ahead of Sony’s next-gen format, and even a little ahead of Apple and ProRes. AVC-Ultra has evolved a lot over the years.
In addition to Tims comments above, Panasonic did not introduce AVC-Ultra in 2007 - surely it was AVC-Intra introduced then? AVC-Ultra is very recent, and mainly to cope with systems that are above 1080i(p)/25(30) and 720p/50(60) - UHD and HFR.

Secondly, then at the time you talk about, Panasonic brought out AVC-Intra, Sony brought out the HD variants of XDCAM - they both brought out their next-gen formats (to cope with HD at sub HDCAM pricing) at very similar times, and they were capable of comparable performances.

They achieved that in very different ways though. Sony took advantage of the efficiencies of long-GOP, Panasonic looked to a more intrinsically complex codec. I'm of the opinion that at that time Sony got it more right, since it allowed them to use lower bitrates for a given quality, which allowed the use of such as optical disc recording - not just solid state. And at a time when pro standard solid state was so expensive, that meant more minutes/GB, so less s/minute!

Now, and with memory far cheaper, the situation is changing, and such as AVC-Intra is becoming more attractive. This is reflected with Sony having now come out with XAVC - on many levels similar to AVC-Intra (they are both based on H264), but the advantage of XAVC is that by leaving setting the standard later, Sony were able to take advantage of the most recent developments in coding technology. For the same bitrate, XAVC should offer slightly better quality than AVC-Ultra, all things equal.

Finally, DVCPro was *NOT* "4:2:2 50 and 100mbps versions of DV" - DVCPro was 25Mbs (as DV) and was 4:1:1 or 4:2:0 (depending on system, NTSC or PAL).

I think you're confusing it with DVCPro50 (50Mbs) and DVCProHD (100Mbs) - the former was indeed 4:2:2. Incidentally, in the PAL world, both DV and Sonys DVCAM were both 4:2:0, and both used exactly the same tape (DVCPro and variants had a different tape formulation and different size cassettes). Largely for those reasons, DVCPro was never very successful in the PAL world, nowhere near to the extent of DVCAM and DV for SD work.
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Old April 16th, 2014, 11:22 PM   #6
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

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Finally, DVCPro was *NOT* "4:2:2 50 and 100mbps versions of DV" - DVCPro was 25Mbs (as DV) and was 4:1:1 or 4:2:0 (depending on system, NTSC or PAL).
The general idea is that the DVCPro/DVCProHD formats are all of the same basic foundation and are based on a common structure. DVCPro50 was considered a distinct format as was DVCProHD (100 Mbits...at least at 720p60/1080i30), but like IMX, HDV, XDcam, and XDcamHD are all based on common MPEG2 lineage and AVCHD, AVC-Intra, etc are all different expressions of the MPEG4 standard, all the Panasonic DVxxx formats are based on the DV codec.

The 4:1:1 vs 4:2:0 DV thing...let's just say I'm glad that period is over...
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Old April 21st, 2014, 01:29 PM   #7
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

I remember DVCPRO 50 in NTSC SD as being 4:2:2 which could be recorded to tape on my SDX-900 or P2 with HPX 500. I do feel the extra Data Panasonic usually creates compared to Sony can be issue in terms of time and money. Storage costs can become noticeable.
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Old April 22nd, 2014, 10:41 AM   #8
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

Hi

XAVC, XAVC-S and AVC-Intra etc are just brand names for H264. It is wrong to call these brand-names a new codec, they are not. Rather than print "H264 Level 5.1 with maximum 100Mbps bit-rate long GOP" or "H264 Level 5.1 all-intra at 200Mbps" on the product guides the manufacturers prefer to come up with something that sounds new or better than it really is. They then often wrap the H264 encoded streams into some form of proprietary wrapper in the hope they can make some royalties when software packages want to support it.

For example an XAVC or XAVC-S file from a new Sony camera will play back fine in Sony Vegas 10 that came out well before XAVC was a twinkle in Sony's eye, therefore it can't be anything new.

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Old April 22nd, 2014, 10:51 AM   #9
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

Good question. I have the AG-PX270 on my desk and can't find record settings in the menu after 8 minutes of poking all the buttons...
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Old July 16th, 2014, 12:08 PM   #10
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

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Originally Posted by Phil Lee View Post
For example an XAVC or XAVC-S file from a new Sony camera will play back fine in Sony Vegas 10 that came out well before XAVC was a twinkle in Sony's eye, therefore it can't be anything new.
Just tried on a 4K XAVC Intra file from the Z100 in Sony Vegas 10. Doesn't work. You may be thinking of XAVC-S, since that uses a .MP4 wrapper instead of .MXF.
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Old July 18th, 2014, 06:31 PM   #11
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

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XAVC, XAVC-S and AVC-Intra etc are just brand names for H264. It is wrong to call these brand-names a new codec, they are not.
Better to say they are sub-sets of H264, which means a lot more than "just a brand name for H264".

They all are H264 - but with many parameters tightly defined.
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Old July 18th, 2014, 06:39 PM   #12
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Re: What the Heck is AVC-Ultra?

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The general idea is that the DVCPro/DVCProHD formats are all of the same basic foundation and are based on a common structure. DVCPro50 was considered a distinct format as was DVCProHD (100 Mbits......
Yes, and as an aside I believe that originally DVCProHD at 100Mbs was implemented by using four DV25 coding chips in parallel.

Ever wondered how the 720p standard first came about? And why it was non-square pixel 960x720?

It's because of the first sentence - Panasonic used 4 NTSC chips in parallel in two sets. A single chip gives 720x480, put two together and rotate and it's twice as many pixels (2x480=960x720). You then need two double sets to double the information to get progressive and 4:2:2.
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