Best video format for exporting video for display on large screens?Posted by Neil Orman on February 12, 2024 at 3:13 pm
Hi. First, do people agree that Apple ProRes is the best format for exporting a video to play at an event, on large screens? I’m a video producer at a nonprofit, and need to export a video to share with our AV vendor, to play at a conference. I’ve typically exported videos for this purpose in ProRes, but wanted to confirm people agree ProRes is best, and then ask if it matters which ProRes type one chooses, with options like Apple ProRes 422, 422 HQ, 422 LT, or 422 Proxy?
Thanks very much for any feedback on this.
February 12, 2024 at 3:28 pm
I don’t do this but when clients ask I always advise them to test a few days ahead of time using the very same equipment they will be using when you play it back to an audience. If the equipment fails on the day of show because for some reason it doesn’t like ProRes (or whatever format) it doesn’t matter how good the quality of the video format is.
The best format is the one that will play properly on the playback equipment being used at that moment.
Having said that, ProRes is excellent. I think 422LT would be sufficient. I would think you should not use a proxy. I would also carry a couple of versions of Mp4 including something really light in terms of file size. It’s an excellent Distribution Codec. I’ve always considered ProRes an editing Codec.
February 12, 2024 at 3:44 pm
If you are editing on a Mac, ProRes is the way to go for your editing codec but then you need to it into something that your customer wants.
Apple has never made ProRes writeable (recordable) on Windows, though it will play easily. As long as you aren’t interested in supporting some form of HDR, you can compress the video using the H.264 codec, the audio as AAC, and store them both in an MPEG-4 container. Those formats will play on just about everything. But this is not designed for projection.
With deliverables, I have always asked my client, “What format do you want this in and what kind of a container?”
For a theatrical release, the following is important: DCDM (Digital Cinema Distribution Master), DCP (Digital Cinema Package) and KDM (Key Delivery Message) — the cinema ‘non-standard.’
For DCP, the video track is encoded frame-by-frame in JPEG-2000. This is a lossless compression codec mastered at 24 frames-per-second (FPS), with high-resolution picture quality. The audio file is a 24-bit linear PCM uncompressed multichannel WAV file.
Most DCPs have a bitrate of around 250 Mbps. The majority of digital projectors at theatres can’t handle anything higher. Digital cinema servers run on Linux operating systems, which means DCP hard drives are formatted in Linux EXT3.
A digital cinema package can be around 200 GBs in size or larger. The DCP for Spider Man: No Way Home was around 500 GB and included the 3D and 4K versions of the 2h 28m-long film).
February 12, 2024 at 4:14 pm
I really appreciate the quick and helpful replies, Mark and Dennis! Mark, that’s great advice to ask the client, or the AV vendor in this case: “What format do you want this in and what kind of a container?” Depending on who gets the question, from the AV company, it’s particularly helpful to consider all those specifics you shared on things like DCDM (Digital Cinema Distribution Master), DCP (Digital Cinema Package) and KDM (Key Delivery Message); so I can understand the options even if they don’t know, or don’t care too much. In the past, I’ve usually exported 2 options include one of the ProRes options, like 422, or one of the H.264 presets PPro offers like ‘High Quality 1080…’. But I haven’t put much thought into the nuances beyond that. Mark or Dennis, do either of you (or any others) have any take on how ‘high quality’ H.264 presets like that are, within PPro? I gather H.264 is never ‘high quality’ enough for projection at an event, right? So I’ll need to make sure I offer a better PC-friendly option, if H.264 is way too compressed no matter how ‘high quality.’ This isn’t for display at a movie theater, but the screens in the convention center or hotel ballrooms tend to be pretty big just the same. So I’ll try to work with the AV vendor to offer the truly highest quality, PC-friendly option I can, in addition to the ProRes option, using the type of considerations you two have mentioned. Thanks again!
February 13, 2024 at 7:21 pm
H.265 for HEVC would be my choice.
BUT, need to know:
1. How large a display and what’s it’s resolution and expected view distance?
2. Your client hardware (device displaying the footage).
3. Media in which you plan to transfer the footage.
For some bizarre reason (think Apple) Microsoft charge $1 for HEVC codec for Windows PCs. HEVC is a lossless compression.
Stick to ProRes if you’re (and client) all Apple based, don’t care about file sizes, and need it to work well in Adobe Pr.
EDIT: MP4 will be restricted to 4K content but is the MOST compatible and should work on anything. H.265 HEVC limit is 8K 300 FPS HDR10.
February 13, 2024 at 7:58 pm
Thank you Rob! This is really helpful. I’m waiting to be connected to our AV vendor, and will make sure to ask these good questions. I’m hoping they’re on an Apple platform like you said and I can just choose ProRes, like you said, but it’s great to know your preference for H.265 if they’re not. On the ProRes point, do you have any preference among the different ProRes flavors. I read somewhere that ProRes 4444 is the least compressed of the different options, if that even matters with the enhanced quality ProRes already offers. Thanks again.
February 13, 2024 at 9:15 pm
No matter what container you use, if the video is to be projected, you want a codec that is not long-GOP and not lossy. Or, at least not so lossy that the viewer is going to see, right away, that they’re looking at mud swimming in mud.
Again, go to your customer/end user. There is a real reason why “film” (or digital film) projection is using a lossless JPEG image for each frame. They are looking to create the 24-frame-per-second perfect quality of a 70mm film projector. So, for projected display, that is what you are “”competing” against—the viewing audience is going to expect that for something cinematic.
Now, if you are smaller than that, there are lots of alternatives but the delivery specification should always be given you by your client.
February 13, 2024 at 9:21 pm
The selection of which ProRes flavor to use will vary based on how the original footage was captured.
No point in using ProRes 4444 (XG) if you aren’t capturing with it … things like 12bit per channel color support, 16bit Alpha.
Many captures are ProRes 422 HQ … very common.
February 13, 2024 at 9:29 pm
Thanks Rob! You raise a good point too about how the footage was captured. In this case, it’s an award video driven by the multimedia I get from the awardees, mainly still photos with a few video clips here and there from Youtube videos of them, downloaded from links they suggest. So none of it is footage I shot, in this case, and I’ve just used a standard 1080p sequence (not wanting to go any bigger, because the multimedia they send isn’t always super hires) at 30 fps.
February 13, 2024 at 9:35 pm
Thanks for another helpful reply, Mark! I was just telling Rob that this an award video driven by multimedia I get from the awardees, which is mainly still photos with a few video clips here and there from Youtube videos of them, downloaded from links they suggest. So none of it is footage I shot, in this case, and I’ve just used a standard 1080p sequence (not wanting to go any bigger, because the multimedia they send isn’t always super hires) at 30 fps. So for my PPro sequence anyway (and the AFX comps within it), I’m stuck with those specs for this year. But I produce this every year and will consider your points on a more film-like look going forward. And I’ll definitely consult with out AV company (although we’re really the ‘client’ on this one) about picking a container that neither long GOP nor lossy. Thanks again!
February 13, 2024 at 9:43 pm
A few options:
Based on limited info, suggest ProRes 422 (no need for HQ) or H.264 MP4.
Otherwise, you’ll need to interrogate each media file source to determine lowest common denominator and go with that. If Pr doesn’t provide enough search for “Media Inspector Tool” … free and very useful.