Menu

Why Apple ProRes RAW Is A Huge Deal + How It Will Affect The Post-Production Landscape

As some of you may have already heard, a few days ago Apple announced ProRes RAW – the next evolution in their ProRes codec lineup. For years ProRes has been the industry standard acquisition and editing format, followed by Avid’s DNxHD.

A decade or so ago when ProRes first hit the scene, it was big news. Post-houses that were used to working with cumbersome Uncompressed HD files were now able to work with a format that was visually identical, but offered smaller file sizes and far more efficient editing. And of course, the codec eventually made it’s way onto countless cameras, software platforms, and external recorders.

Things have changed over the years though, and RAW recording – which was once a luxury reserved only for the highest end productions – is now common even on prosumer level gear. Cameras like the Blackmagic Pocket or Canon C200 have put RAW in the hands of the lower budget/indie filmmaker, which has been incredible, but also has created workflow challenges for many filmmakers and editors.

RAW poses many of the same issues that Uncompressed HD did all those years ago – namely huge files and clunky post-production workflows.

This is where Apple ProRes RAW comes in.

The basic idea behind the format is to allow filmmakers to maintain small file sizes without having to sacrifice the ability to color grade using RAW. This is truly a win-win, as many filmmakers have reverted back to shooting compressed formats on many projects, as RAW can often be overkill for smaller jobs. But ProRes RAW will allow filmmakers to keep their workflow exactly the same as if they were shooting compressed, but will open the door for the extremely flexible color grading RAW is known for.

When you look at the graph below, which shows relative file sizes next to Uncompressed 12-bit and classic ProRes flavors, things start to look really impressive –

For those of you that wan’t to learn more about how ProRes RAW works, check out Apple’s white paper here.

There have been many other compressed RAW formats over the years – such as RED’s variable .r3d file compression and 4:1 Cinema DNG on Blackmagic’s cameras – but ProRes RAW could have a far bigger impact. The reason being, Apple has the ability (and I would assume the intention) to standardize ProRes RAW across many camera and editing platforms. This is something we wouldn’t see from a company like RED for obvious reasons, as it’s in their interest to keep their technology proprietary.

So if ProRes RAW takes off the same way that the original ProRes lineup did, it will make a huge impact on both the production and post sides of the industry. For one, it may be the thing that finally brings RAW recording to DSLRs and other small form factor cameras, which is something many filmmakers would flip out over. Imagine shooting RAW on your GH5s instead of H264… That could be where we’re headed.

What I’m more curious about though, is how this will effect the post-production landscape. Years ago when Apple abandoned FCP 7 for FCP X and essentially threw the post world into disarray, many of us assumed one of the platforms –  likely Premiere or Avid – would take over and become the new standard.

After all these years though, no one ever really came out on top. Sure, there are loads of Premiere users out there, but many (myself included) were turned off of the subscription model, and generally didn’t love the direction Adobe was headed with Premiere… There were always a lot of shiny features, but none seemed to work all that well. At least in my opinion…

The high end pros reverted back to Avid, unsurprisingly, and then Blackmagic came along with DaVinci Resolve for free, which shook things up even more. Ultimately, this left the market very fragmented.

Today, most editors I know use multiple platforms, and there certainly is no longer one “industry standard” choice for independent productions, as there once was in the FCP 7 days. That said, Apple ProRes RAW could change that.

From my vantage point, more and more filmmakers have been coming over to team FCP X over the years, often after feeling frustrated with Premiere Pro. Many of them end up sticking with FCP X after spending some time with it, and seeing just how robust, stable, and efficient Final Cut has actually become. I wouldn’t say that an overwhelming amount of people have joined the party just yet, but FCP X has certainly been gaining traction again.

But really, if there is ever going to be a reason for filmmakers to make the jump to FCP X it will be ProRes RAW. Keep in mind, I’m well aware that Apple likely has plans to open it up for the likes of Adobe, Blackmagic, and others to integrate it into their software too. But FCP X could still benefit massively for two reasons –

First, let’s start with the philosophical reason: It shows that Apple cares again. For years people were afraid to touch Apple with a ten foot pole as it felt they had abandoned the pro market and were simply going after iPhone sales. And while there may be truth to that, I don’t think it was ever Apple’s intention, at least not in the way that others believed it to be. I think Apple simply had a different vision for where the pro market was heading (smaller productions, fewer traditional post-houses), and wanted to make things more accessible.

With that in mind, I don’t personally believe Apple would be wrapped up in developments like ProRes RAW if they didn’t care at all. I believe this will be a sign – along with all the incredible FCP X updates over the past year or two – that they mean business. The new Mac Pro on the horizon doesn’t hurt matters for them either.

But the other variable to consider, is that ProRes RAW gives Apple the upper hand, technologically-speaking. Sure, ProRes RAW will likely be available on all the major editing platforms, but anyone that’s ever worked with RAW knows that every software will handles RAW files differently. My playback speed on an identical .r3d file is going to be different in FCP X, Premiere, and Resolve, and naturally ProRes RAW is going to favor FCP X.

How could it not? FCP X is literally built for ProRes and ProRes is built for FCP X. If Final Cut doesn’t have the best editing performance for ProRes RAW of anything else out there, I would be shocked. Although I’ll bet DaVinci Resolve will be right up there too.

Really what this means, potentially, is trouble for Adobe. For the last few years Premiere has had the opportunity to completely dominate the post-production editorial market, but it hasn’t. Yes, it picked up a ton of ex-FCP 7 users, but for the reasons already stated, it never fully took over.

Maybe that will never happen again. We may never see another time where a singular editing platform dominates the market like Final Cut Classic once did. But if anything is going to shake things up, it’s going to be ProRes RAW. Not because it’s the flashiest tool out there, or the most exciting to the average filmmaker right this second… But because it will become ingrained in everything we do, from acquisition to edit to final delivery.

What do you think? Let me know your first impressions of ProRes RAW in the comments below.

And for more content like this, follow me on Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!

About Author

Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!

31 Comments

  • FilmedByTylan
    April 7, 2018 at 2:36 pm

    I have only had experience with raw using my 5D MKIII. Sadly I don’t have it anymore, that raw sensor is so lovely. I have an X-T20 and I want to stay in line and get an X-H1 so this really has me looking forward to being able to work with raw again, especially with an efficient coded that isn’t too data hungry.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:18 pm

      Definitely – RAW is something that is often missed when switching back to compressed formats, but hopefully ProRes RAW will help bring it back into your pipeline!

      Reply
  • Rodrigo
    April 7, 2018 at 8:15 pm

    Interesting point of view! The point for me is if it will be possible and easy to convert Cinema DNG and other Raw flavors into ProRes Raw…

    Nice reading Noam!

    Reagrds form Barcelona

    Reply
    • Andrey Valentsov
      April 11, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      I would love that. I’d convert all my old footage in a heartbeat for ability to have smaller files and work with them faster.

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        May 4, 2018 at 7:31 pm

        Likewise – I have way too many drives collecting dust right now.

        Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      Great question – I would assume (in time) it will be easy enough to do so with FCP X or Resolve. But it’s possible initially there might be some workarounds depending on the software you’re using…

      Reply
  • Tyler Prey
    April 8, 2018 at 4:15 am

    With Apple said to be dumping Intel for their own “custom“ CPU’s in their Mac products as early as 2020, all I see is even more fragmentation. Since Adobe seems to favor new tricks and tools over a rock solid release (I agree with you on this), I can’t imagine how they plan on dealing with the porting of CC to a chipset that isn’t x86 based.

    Apple has historically been at its worst, when it has been at its most proprietary, and keeping the ProRes codec from PC users makes life harder for everyone, no matter what kind of computer you own.

    I’m excited for ProRes RAW, but I’d be way more excited if Apple would license its full use to all the customers who have paid for it as a licensed recording codec in their cameras.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:20 pm

      Great points, Tyler. Thanks for this.

      Reply
  • Jamie LeJeune
    April 8, 2018 at 5:03 am

    According to Apple’s own white paper, there will be no control of WB and ISO in ProResRAW files before the debayer in FCPX. That’s not what the entire industry expects from a raw workflow. Why not mention this in your article? Surely you read the white paper before wiring and posting this, right? People who don’t know any better will be clamoring for something that may not be better for post. Given the data rates and the fact that you can’t record in downscale, there just isn’t much data rate savings compared to 12bit ProRes4444 log files that are more flexible in terms of workflow and that functionally hold just as much color and dynamic range information as a ProResRAW file. That’s the relevant comparison, not to true raw formats like cDNG or .r3d or Arriraw

    Reply
    • Andrey Valentsov
      April 11, 2018 at 9:41 pm

      Prores RAW is a true raw format like cDNG or .r3d or Arriraw. The fact that FCP X doesn’t have familiar tools for ISO or WB control doesn’t prove anything.

      First of all, I’m pretty sure that current WB and exposure controls in FCPX color correction plugins will give you identical results to dedicated RAW plugin controls. The only problem now is that exposure or WB sliders don’t match camera settings (they are doing their thing, but you can’t know exactly how many F-stops or WB degrees are you pushing you footage).
      Second, I don’t see any reason why “camera calibration” information which will solve previous issue will not appear with first cameras that support Prores RAW.

      Reply
      • Noam Kroll
        May 4, 2018 at 7:32 pm

        To add to your point – I would also assume that in time we will get all the RAW controls natively in FCP X/Resolve. Thanks for the note!

        Reply
    • RagdollOp
      April 17, 2018 at 12:22 am

      What does Blackmagic’s Grant Petty think about ProRes RAW? https://youtu.be/yQHH-o_rmK8?t=6m33s

      Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:21 pm

      Thanks for sharing, Jamie. Looking forward to actually playing with some ProRes RAW files and doing some side by sides with ProRes 4444.

      Reply
  • Remo
    April 9, 2018 at 9:03 am

    And the fact that is will not be available on non-OSX systems like the other ProRes flavors certainly doesn’t help make it any more interesting… (escpecially since Apple pro-hardware really sucks right now and nothing good is on the horizon until later in 2019)…

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:22 pm

      This is the one variable that I think could hold it back (at least initially), but also might help bolster the new Mac Pro sales – whenever they are released next year.

      Reply
  • Mark Grgurev
    April 16, 2018 at 10:44 pm

    This really doesn’t have much of a benefit over compressed RAW formats like BMD’s 3:1 or 4:1 or Red’s 5:1 though.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:40 pm

      I think the biggest benefits will be in how it affects workflow. Red RAW and Cinema DNG aren’t as universal as ProRes. If we can eventually get to a point where we have one standard format across cameras, editing platforms, delivery systems, etc. we will be in good shape. ProRes RAW might have the ability to finally get us there, but we will see!

      Reply
  • liquidblueocean
    May 1, 2018 at 9:27 pm

    Agree with Mark Grgurev.

    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.blackmagicdesig

    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.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      May 4, 2018 at 7:53 pm

      It’s really hard to know where things are headed, but I do believe we will see ProRes RAW in Resolve – they are a very open system! Maybe not, Premiere Pro, but we shall see.

      Reply
  • Malik
    May 23, 2018 at 6:15 am

    I agree with most of the stuff over here. Adobe’s ace card is after effects , it’s unparalleled. If Apple comes up with something of that caliber, I might switch.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:36 am

      It might happen eventually, hard to say… But right now it looks like Resolve is leading the race.

      Reply
  • Pete
    May 23, 2018 at 6:16 pm

    I am a greenhorn..I’ve spent the last few days trying to read about codecs because I stumbled across a YouTube video about ProRes RAW, and couldn’t grasp these technical details.

    I found your writing very helpful!
    I also like your ideas that Apple does care.
    I like the company and products.
    Maybe the arc needed to take awhile, and users were angry while some work needed to be completed.

    I am going to read your other articles and continue to watch your writing. Thank you Noam…

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      June 13, 2018 at 3:39 am

      Any time, Pete. Thanks for reading!

      Reply
  • Fausto Cantarella
    June 15, 2018 at 6:42 am

    Beautiful article. I totally agree with you. I also work in ProRes (422LT) because I have a non-professional Panasonic morrorless. Soon I hope to have money to switch to a Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K. Having the possibility to record in ProRes directly in 4: 2: 2 with 10bit in the room and NOT to render anything is fantastic! Get your files from the room card and throw them into FCPX. If later on Blackmagic implememta via firmware the possibility of recording in ProRes RAW on the Pocket Cinema Camera 4K would be great! On one thing though (IMHO) I do not agree with you. When you say: “Imagine shooting RAW on your GH5s instead of H264 … That could be where we’re headed” here I think both Panasonic and Sony will never give the chance to have an internal recording in ProRes RAW on an A7S or an GH5. This is because they have a series of Cine Camera like the FS5-7 …. or the Varicam LT etc … and they would have no economic interest in making a gift like that.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      July 13, 2018 at 3:08 am

      Thanks so much for your thoughts, Fausto! And I agree – it may be wishful thinking for Sony/Panny to adopt ProRes RAW, but you never know…

      Reply
    • Timo Flink
      August 12, 2018 at 3:57 pm

      Well, you can presumably use Ninja V to record ProRes RAW from GH5S.

      Reply
  • christopher shivers
    October 10, 2018 at 10:07 pm

    What do you think of Blackmagic new raw codec, Blackmagic raw?

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:24 am

      Just wrote an article on it! Check out my homepage.

      Reply
  • lenny martinson
    November 1, 2018 at 7:08 am

    ProRes RAW. Great idea. However, it still does not even gets close to the 16 bit raw that we capture with our Sony F55, and F5 both most amazingly beautiful cameras that came out back in 2013. Workflow? Not a problem with Resolve 15 even on any reasonably recent laptop, plays, edits and renders incredibly fast. Not saying ProResRAW isn’t great, just saying 16 bit from Sony beats the crap out of it.

    Reply
    • Noam Kroll
      November 14, 2018 at 5:42 am

      Where do you see the biggest gain in 16bit? Thanks for the note!

      Reply
  • Il ProRes RAW di Apple – Videoreflex.org
    December 12, 2018 at 10:29 am

    […] di concludere questo articolo veniamo ad una riflessione che abbiamo trovato riportata anche sul blog di Noam Kroll (vi assicuriamo però che siamo arrivati alle stesse conclusioni partendo indipendentemente nel […]

    Reply

Leave a Reply