It’s a welcome announcement: Apple finally allows Windows apps to export files using its proprietary ProRes codec. Adobe was one of the first companies to announce support for exporting Apple ProRes on the Windows platform for such ubiquitous Adobe applications as Premiere Pro CC, After Effects CC and Adobe Media Encoder CC.
So what’s so great about that? Among the few pro codec technologies designed for editing, Apple’s ProRes has continued a place atop the field in popularity. Whether for acquisition, VFX production, delivery or archiving, ProRes continues to prove its usefulness, even if Macs don’t lead the creative space the way they did a few years ago.
ProRes, however, is Apple’s own codec; announcements like this happen only whenever the Cupertino-based company decides it has something to gain.
A Little History
ProRes was designed, and continues to exist, without the blessings of an open industry standards body like SMPTE. Stepping back to look at the whole industry, adopting ProRes in the first place didn’t seem smart for a standards-aware group like motion image producers, who adhere to strict specs when submitting content to broadcasters, cablecasters and others.
(If you’re curious as to what goes into Apple’s popular codec, you can check out their recent white paper here: https://www.apple.com/final-cut-pro/docs/Apple_ProRes_White_Paper.pdf)
One simple reason ProRes is so important: at its debut in 2007 as part of Final Cut Studio 2, both the app and Mac hardware quickly became hugely popular. The post industries embraced Apple’s approach. The main competitor in the NLE space – Avid’s Media Composer – was then a closed system with pricey hardware. (However, Avid’s competing codec for editing, DNxHD, is standardized as SMPTE VC-3, so it’s comparatively an open format.)
With its proprietary software riding high, Apple had no reason to make ProRes easy to use with Windows’ NLEs. So, while importing ProRes media was possible on Windows, exporting ProRes has been something of a chore, and not doable directly from Adobe applications, for example. To do so, you needed to use other third-party apps to export ProRes video — a time consuming, extra step. The Windows version of QuickTime has never been able to encode it.
How times have changed. These days in post, even many die-hard Apple Macintosh users have moved to Windows machines for editing, VFX and postproduction. The cold, hard (as in cash) and inescapable fact is that today there are more powerful, cost-effective solutions available on the Windows platform than on Apple gear. Apple also uses AMD for graphics, while Windows machines support both AMD and NVIDIA GPUs (the latter is often required for top 3D animation packages). Since so many vendors make Windows gear, competion keeps prices low while offering configuration options not found on Apple gear.
For anyone up on their NLE history, Apple’s flub debut of a completely redesigned Final Cut X alienated many professional editing and post houses and individuals when carefully built up editing rigs and NLE plugins became nearly useless overnight.
Taking a cue from the debacle, Adobe played its Premiere Pro product expansion more or less in the open, querying filmmakers and other content makers to find out their needs. It’s quickly gained market share over the past few years, both in the U.S. and abroad.
That said, Avid Media Composer still turns up in most Hollywood-level edit suites, while Blackmagic Design’s DaVinci Resolve continues to rise up in the professional post world for its unique, highly-capable suite of components.
So What’s This All Mean?
Support for ProRes on both macOS and Windows will help streamline video production between the two platforms, while making final output a lot simpler. In addition, ProRes server-based remote rendering with Adobe Media Encoder is now possible.
Premiere Pro is already well-known for being format-friendly and with this new update, the app can finally add ProRes 4444 and 422 export directly from Premiere Pro, After Effects and Media Encoder from both the MacOS and now, at last, from computers running Windows 10.
Who knows why, after over a decade, Apple is making life easier for the world of PC-based editing? Maybe the company is finally learning to play well with others.
The end result is that this is great news for anyone creating media today, whatever your platform of choice.