This post is not technical. This is very simple. What really is the difference in quality between all the different flavors of ProRes? Currently there’s Proxy, LT, SQ, HQ and 4444. Proxy, LT, SQ and HQ are all 4:2:2 at 10bit, but at very different bitrates. I saw a comment by Shane Ross on his blog Little Frog In High Def and it might be the simplest method I’ve come across:
Transfer a clip as ProRes, then the same clip as ProRes LT. Layer them on the timeline, one on top of the other. Then right-click on the top clip and choose COMPOSITE MODE>DIFFERENCE MATTE. That will show black, and then possible specks of video. The specs are what is different…the compression difference. On my tests, I had VERY little specs. Like a very light snow. Means it’s pretty close.
Read the rest of Shane’s post, which is about Log and Transfer for Canon DSLR footage here.
I’ve used all the different ProRes formats and there definitely are differences. But the biggest suggestion I can make is to keep them all the same, no matter which one you choose for your edit. You want to render as little as possible. If you have a ProRes HQ timeline, everything in your timeline that is not HQ will need to render. Not really a time saver. Here’s a quick offline/online tip using the ProRes codecs:
When using Log and Transfer (or MPEG Streamclip or whatever you use) create one set of files at ProRes Proxy and another set of files at ProRes HQ. Give them the same names, but keep them in different folders labeled Proxy and HQ. Cut your offline at Proxy (you can move all the HQ files onto another hard drive if you’re running out of space). When you’re ready to move to the online stage, reconnect to the folder of HQ files. Since they have the same names, time codes, resolution and reel numbers, FCP will reconnect instantly. It doesn’t know the difference. For me, this has been one of the biggest benefits of moving to ProRes from the DV/DVCPRO HD/Uncompressed HD online workflow.