Codecs are an extremely important part of every editor’s workflow. Various codecs are used when shooting, editing, color correcting and exporting footage. When exporting a licensable clip, the right codec will show off your footage beautifully online and also ensure the clip is editable on the other end, once it has been licensed and downloaded.
To review, a codec, which stands for compressor decompressor, makes video files smaller, usually by carefully throwing away data that isn’t needed. The right codec keeps the critical data required for high image quality and, most importantly, includes enough information so that the footage can be edited and color corrected later. This is particularly key when you’re exporting clips to license – the file needs to be small enough to be stored and shared. But it also has to include enough detail and information that the purchaser can further edit, color correct and manipulate the footage as they work it into their production.
There are a ton of codecs out there with a variety of pros and cons, depending on their intended use. While there are no codec requirements for licensable clips on Nimia, we do recommend using either the ProRes family of codecs or DNxHD/DNxHR family of codecs as your export. When your clip is approved, a copy of this file is automatically converted to H.264 for playback in our marketplace. Keep reading for more information on these preferred codecs, plus a few newly released codecs that should be on your radar, if they aren’t part of your workflow already.
ProRes (Mac users)
Apple ProRes is one of the most popular codecs used in professional post-production. The ProRes family of video codecs has made it both possible and affordable to edit and export full-frame, 10-bit, 4:2:2 and 4:4:4:4 high-definition (HD), 2K, 4K, and larger video. Apple ProRes is primarily compatible with Final Cut and is recommended to use only with Macs – PC workarounds can be expensive, time consuming and unreliable.
- ProRes 422
- ProRes 422 HQ
- ProRes 444
- ProRes 444 XQ
ProRes RAW is the latest Codec from Apple. Released in the spring of 2018, ProRes Raw has shaken the industry by bringing RAW video to the masses. The ‘RAW’ in ProRes RAW means you’re capturing full or near-full sensor readout such as ISO, white balance, and color space. So you are able to manipulate a lot more sensor data when editing, saving badly exposed shots. ProRes RAW ultimately creates a bigger file size but, thanks to advanced the compression, playback when editing handles much better and is easier overall on your system and workflow than many of the previous ProRes and competing codecs. The major current downside to ProRes RAW is its limited integration in camera systems and editing software outside of Final Cut – but that will change soon. Mac users should be on the lookout for ProRes integration when updating software or purchasing new equipment.
DNxHR stands for Digital Nonlinear Extensible High Resolution. This codec, developed in 2014, was engineered for multi-generation compositing with reduced storage and bandwidth requirements. The codec was specifically developed for resolutions above 1080p, including 2K, 4K and 8K resolution. If you are a PC user, this family of codecs make up today’s industry-standard – they work with any media resolution and quickly go from proxy to full-quality master for delivery.
- DNxHR LB – Low Bandwidth (8-bit 4:2:2) Offline Quality
- DNxHR SQ – Standard Quality (8-bit 4:2:2) (suitable for delivery format)
- DNxHR HQ – High Quality (8-bit 4:2:2)
- DNxHR HQX – High Quality (12-bit 4:2:2) (UHD/4K Broadcast-quality delivery)
- DNxHR 444 – Finishing Quality (12-bit 4:4:4) (Cinema-quality delivery)
H.265, or HEVC, is another codec designed for web-based streaming at the highest resolutions. The next step up from the former standard of streaming video codecs, H.264, H.265 uses less bandwidth and the compression is more advanced, meaning the video streams faster and the image is higher quality. H.265 is also adjustable, meaning you can fine tune the output depending on the bandwidth and your desired outcome. Want to ensure viewers can stream 4K over a mediocre Internet connection? No problem. Want the best picture quality? That’s also possible, just adjust accordingly. While H.265 is not ideal for licensable clips, we do recommend using it to showcase your 4K, 6K and 8K reels and clips online.