Pick The Right Version of ProRes

Posted on by Sudd

[ Updated: Nov. 19, 2020, with more details on proxy files. ]

Here’s a question I get almost every day: “I’m shooting [insert name of video format] what version of ProRes is best for my project.”

ProRes is an excellent codec for editing and finishing. It is 10-bit, which means it provides 1,024 shades of gray or shades of each color per pixel. It has a high bit-rate, which means it retains excellent image resolution. However, there are six versions of ProRes, each of which vary in bit rate (and file size). In order of bit rate and potential image quality, these are:

Which one is best for your project? Based on my research, conversations and experience, here’s what I recommend.

NOTE: From an audio point of view, all six versions of ProRes have the same excellent, uncompressed audio quality.


ProRes Proxy is designed to create small file sizes providing very efficient editing. It is not optimized for image quality. ProRes Proxy files CAN be full frame (i.e. the same frame size as the original file). However as implemented by Apple, default proxy files are 1/2 the resolution of the master file to reduce file size. So, a master file of 1920 x 1080, creates a proxy file of 960 x 540.

With FCP X 10.4.9 and later versions, we can now choose proxy files that are 1/2, 1/4 and 1/8 the resolution of the master file using either H.264 or ProRes Proxy codecs. Smaller files have reduced image quality, but are ideal when media needs to be shared between remote editors.

ProRes Proxy is the best choice for:

The proxy file resolution may be reduced, but FCP X is designed to display it at the same frame size as the original file. This allows Transform and Cropping effects, among others, to be applied to a proxy file, yet still translate perfectly when switched back to the master file.

NOTE: Here’s a tutorial on the new Final Cut Pro X proxy workflow in version 10.4.9.


ProRes 422 LT is a format that I don’t use at all. While it has good image quality because it includes every pixel in the image, I find it too hard to create, given how other ProRes options are integrated with Final Cut Pro X.

I definitely don’t recommend setting render files to ProRes LT. Higher bit rate versions are a much better choice.

If I were to archive a standard-definition video project, I’d consider this format. I probably wouldn’t use it, but it would be worth considering. Why consider it? Because ProRes 422 LT generates the smallest file size of all the high-quality ProRes formats.


This is the default and workhorse video format for all optimized media in Final Cut Pro X. It is an excellent balance between image quality and editing efficiency.

ProRes 422 is the best choice for:

The trade-off for using ProRes 422 is that the files are large; about 1 GB per minute. However, when I’m editing, I want the best image quality with the fastest performance. I’ll compress the master file down into something smaller for distribution after all the editing is done.


This is the best format to use when your camera actually records ProRes 422 HQ. File sizes are bigger, however, about 1.5 GB per minute.

The only difference between ProRes 422 and ProRes 422 HQ is the data rate. And, unless you are using really good lenses with really good lighting, you won’t see a difference between ProRes 422 and 422 HQ.

What you will see is that your hard disks are filling up faster than normal.


The difference between the 422 family and the 4444 family is how they deal with color. Image resolution is the same between the two. 422 color sampling creates one color value for every two pixels. 4444 color sampling provides a color sample for each pixel. The 422 family is 10-bit. The 4444 family is 12-bit. More bits equals a more precise range of colors and grayscale values.

The reason you don’t need this higher-quality color sampling for video is that almost all video cameras use 422 color sampling, which means that you don’t improve your color by converting camera images to 4444; you just move it into a larger color space.

ProRes 4444 is the best choice for:


This is the newest member of the ProRes family. It is a very specialized, high-quality format that is designed more for cameras than post.

ProRes 4444 XQ is best for:

If your camera doesn’t shoot ProRes 4444 XQ, converting your files into this format won’t get you anything.

Here’s an article I’ve written that explains this codec in more detail.


In short, here’s what I recommend:

Following these guidelines can decrease your stress and your hard disk requirements, without damaging your image quality

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60 Responses to Pick The Right Version of ProRes

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  1. Hi Larry, thank you for the article.
    I’m colorgrading 4444 footage from Alexa and wondering what’s the best roundtrip:
    – Delivery from Davinci in 4444 to make the less conversions possible.
    – Delivery from Davinci in 422HQ so the 4444 to 422 conversion is Davinci who makes it.

    The final delivery from the editor with Premiere for tv broadcast is H264.
    Thanks a lot.

  2. John Durst says:

    Compressor won’t convert avi, wmv or mts formats. I’m using Wondershare to convert . . . but it doesn’t offer conversion to ProRes422. So, to what format, for later conversion by compressor to ProRes 422? I chose converting to Mov-4K Video, the highest quality Wondershare offers, but am I wasting time and resources? (Its old footage, certainly not 4K!).

  3. John says:

    Great article!! exactly what I need to know without too much waffle in the middle! Thanks a lot.

  4. Jesse says:

    What about exporting? In general, would you recommend compressing down to H.264, or would something like Pro Res LT be a noticably better quality render?

    • Larry says:


      It depends upon what you want to do with the export. If you are done and ready for distribution, h.264 is fine. It you plan to continue editing it want a master for archiving, Prores 422 is a better choice.


  5. Tim says:

    I’m starting computer-originated 2D animation, so your detailed explanation of ProRes 4444 was perfect for me, thanks. But what are the file sizes of the 4444 family compared to 422?


  6. Ryan Chen says:

    Can’t thank you enough for making this so clear

  7. Ben says:

    Great article Larry!
    I’m creating timelapses in After Effects from 14 bit RAW files (photos). I’ve used great quality lenses and taken my time to edit them well in LRTimelapse + Lightroom. I want the highest possible quality exports before I combine the various clips in Premiere Pro to make a short film.
    Would you recommend exporting them as 422, 422 HQ, or 4444?

  8. Diego says:

    Hi Larry,

    Thanks for the great article!

    I’m conforming a few 4K clips in Apple Motion and exporting them as 1080p to import in FCP. I will be creating a composition using MotionVFX 3d tracker in FCP instead of Motion just for convenience (it would be more time-consuming in motion). Also my Mac cannot handle 4k with GPU intensive effects so I need to convert the footage.

    Because I’m adding one extra step of compression in my workflow should I go with prores 444 instead 422 ?

    • Larry says:


      You can use ProRes 4444 – it is visually lossless and preserves the most “quality.” However, depending upon the source media, ProRes 422, or 422 HQ may be sufficient, and save you a lot of disk space. Do a test and see if you can see a difference in the results.

      Because I have lots of storage space, I’d use ProRes 4444 for this intermediate work. But, you may have less available storage and ProRes 422 looks “good enough.”


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