FCP 7: Choosing Codecs: Animation vs. ProRes

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the November, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]


Douglas Steick asks:

I enjoyed your Soundtrack Pro & Motion training on Monday and did get some workflow issues resolved, however I did not ask this:




First, I crop, resize, and clean-up various video formats (mostly infrared imagery from sensors, ranging from 1288 × 1024 to 5K × 5K) with After Effects to 1920 × 1080.mov files.


Second, these .mov files are run through Motion to add various text treatments and then sent to Compressor to create the “final” .mov files.


Third, these “final” .mov files are imported into FCP.


Goal is to deliver the best image quality possible for delivery as an interactive Blu-ray Disc.


With this workflow I have used the Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) codec for all steps.


While reading your “Picking the “Right Version of ProRes” article, I was particularly interested in the statement: “We use the Animation codec when we want to move files between one application and another, for example, between After Effects and Final Cut. Then once it’s in Final Cut, you render it into the final version you need for your project.




Should I be using the Animation codec out of both After Effects and Motion, and importing those files into Final Cut with it’s project settings set to Apple ProRes 422 (HQ) and decline the offer for Final Cut to reset the project settings when the Animation file lands on the timeline? Or should FCP be set to the Animation codec? Then send to Compressor for the H.264 (I am actually using the x.264 codec) for Blu-ray authoring?

Larry replies: Doug, great question. The short answer is no.

Here’s a medium answer.

The Animation codec is for FCP 6 and earlier. For FCP 7, you should be using ProRes 4444, which is virtually lossless and higher quality than Animation.

Here’s a longer answer:

When exporting your files from After Effects, export them as ProRes 4444 – highest quality, can include alpha channel data, greater bit depth than most other video formats. Only downside is large file size.

Bring those files into Motion and do your processing. Since you’ve already scaled and converted them in After Effects, there is no benefit to exporting them from Motion. Just save the Motion file — very small and VERY fast — and import that into Final Cut for final editing.

When you are done editing, export as a self-contained movie and compress that to H.264 in Compressor. This should be much faster and retain more quality — especially in the shadow areas of your image.


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One Response to FCP 7: Choosing Codecs: Animation vs. ProRes

  1. David says:

    Hey Larry, I know this is an old article but I was searching for something else and came across this. With the release of Motion 5, gone was the option for 8, 16, or 32-bit projects because all projects now operate in 32-bit float space. Great, but the option for dithering is also gone. This has created a huge problem when it comes to banding on vignettes and gradients. Sure, adding noise helps some, but exporting at full resolution, best quality, and all that jazz at ProRes 4444 still gives hideous banding. The only solution for me is to export to Animation and then go from there.

    This is no big deal since you can ‘export using Compressor settings’ but from when first I came across this issue last year till today I still haven’t found a reason why ProRes 4444 isn’t giving the quality you would think it should in this case.


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