A new, higher quality version of ProRes is immediately supported by the ARRI Alexa
Apple have announced a new flavour of ProRes: Apple ProRes 4444 XQ. It is similar in features to Apple ProRes 4444 except that it brings a higher target bit rate of 500 Mb/s to the table (for 1080p video at 29.97 fps). Previously ProRes maxed out at 330 Mb/s for ProRes 4444 so this new mode features much lower compression. Apparently the compression ratio in the new XQ mode is as low as 4.5:1. There’s no indication of what the X in XQ means. I’m guessing it is short for Xtreme but it could be short for Xtra too I suppose. My suspicion is that over time ProRes 4444 XQ will become more well known as just ProRes XQ.
Apple are promoting the new format for use in animation and CGI, making much of the support for 12bit colour depth and lossless alpha channels, however these features are not actually new to ProRes. I expect Apple are looking to draw peoples attention to these features as they are a good match for the increased bitrate and they want to get across the message that this new flavour of ProRes will be really useful for computer generated imagery.
The news of the new flavour of ProRes was fast followed by an announcement from Arri that ProRes XQ will be supported on the Alexa XR and XT cameras. This will surface with the next software update packet: SUP10. The software update is scheduled for an open beta in July and will be released properly in August.
Using ProRes XQ will of course mean that the space on your media will be used up much more quickly, increasing your media costs but it is expected that it will still be a popular choice for those working with Log-C and wishing to carry out more extreme grading or those who are shooting footage for VFX work. Of course for those who find the costs of media are not significant it may prove popular anyway for the slight extra quality it gives and lets not forget that there are of course still cost savings to be had over shooting in raw, so it may also end up finding a home where productions can’t quite stretch to shooting raw and are looking to compromise.
It’s great to have different codec options on cameras like this as media costs can be a significant headache sometimes and having the flexibility to choose the level of codec that best suits the amount of data your production is capable of handling is certainly good news for users. It also can’t hurt Arri to have such a great way of making sure that the camera is flexible enough to work across a wider range of the diversity of productions and budgets that are out there!
Check out the table below where Arri shows the different features for the various flavours of ProRes. Oddly all with a framerate of 29.97 fps but it does give you and idea of how the modes compare to one another: