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October 24, 2011

Codecs: Part II

Written by Jeff Sobel

 

In my last blog post we talked about some basic video codecs and their history.  This time we’re going to talk about a couple of popular post-production codecs, Apple ProRes and Avid DNxHD.
Last time we talked about capture codecs like DV or DVCPRO and delivery codecs like h.264.  The two codecs we’re talking about today are post-production codecs. ProRes and DNxHD aren’t codecs used in cameras and they aren’t what you’d post to the web, burn to a disc, or send to someone for viewing.  They’re used during the post-production portion of the workflow.  These codecs are capable of virtually lossless quality at high bitrates (for online editing) or very good quality at lower bitrates (for offline editing).  They use algorithms that are very easy for modern computers to decode to minimize the impact on the computer’s CPU, resulting in the computer being able to devote more of its resources to FX processing than to playback of the raw video clips.  Post-production codecs are also designed to maintain the integrity of the video when multiple processes like FX, keys, and composites are layered.  This is something the more heavily compressed capture and delivery codecs usually fail at.
There’s a correct tool for every job.  When you’re editing and finishing a video, the correct codec is probably a post-production codec like ProRes or DNxHD.  So do yourself a favor, and transcode to it before you begin working in your editor; you’ll get more power out of your editing system, fewer headaches and higher quality.  All at the expense of minimal time transcoding (a good time to make a fresh pot of coffee) and some extra file size (quality hard drives are affordable these days).

Next entry: Beam Me Up - Video Light Painting in Motion

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