June 23, 2015

GoPro's CineForm Codec Is Now an Industry Standard

GoPro Logo
Lovers of the CineForm intermediate codec just received some very welcome news.

SMPTE, the Society of Motion Picture and Television Engineers, announced earlier this month that they have standardized GoPro's CineForm codec, dubbing it ST 2073 VC-5, the new open standard for video acquisition and post production. While I'm certainly not the most qualified person to write about the intricacies of video compression, I do know that CineForm offers some of efficient compression available today. It's also extremely versatile in that it can accommodate multiple types of wrappers like AVI and MOV, and it even has its own variation of compressed RAW, which makes CineForm an economical fit in many existing post workflows. Lastly, it isn't restricted by spatial resolution, which means that CineForm will continue to be supported as our workflows take on higher and higher resolutions.

In the press release from the SMPTE, David Newman, senior director of software engineering for GoPro, said this about the standardization:

SMPTE standardization of the GoPro CineForm codec as the new VC-5 standard is big news for the entire production and post production industry, as well as for GoPro and its customers. By further developing the VC-5 standard, we are building a new ecosystem for the industry in which we’re enabling cinema-level acquisition quality, while also providing cinematographers the workflow technology to finish their films. We are standardizing core codec technologies, and making them extensible to even support future camera formats and future post production workflows.

CineForm SMPTE

Here are the main features of CineForm:

  • Full-frame (no blocks) Wavelet compression for highest image integrity
  • Unrestricted spatial resolution (4K and beyond)
  • Up to 12-bit arithmetic precision
  • RGBA, RGB, YUV, and RAW chroma formats
  • Standard wrapper interfaces including AVI and MOV for broadest compatibility
  • Cross-platform (Windows / Mac) workflows and file compatibility for mixed post environments
  • Compatible with the most popular professional applications including Final Cut Pro, Premiere Pro, After Effects, etc.
  • Visual quality equivalent to uncompressed workflows but with much lower cost
  • Performance-optimized compression eliminates need for specialized hardware
  • Support for ProRes, DNxHD, DPX, uncompressed, and virtually all RAW formats

Workflow enhancements include:

  • Source format normalization to a common intermediate from virtually all camera or source files
  • Batch pre-processing during format conversion
  • Real-time renderless color workflow using Active Metadata
  • Stereo (3D) workflow compatible with most industry applications
GoPro CineForm Studio

As for the question of what this means for filmmakers, there are a few different aspects to consider. For one, it's likely that CineForm is going to become more and more popular as a capture format. I expect to see both camera and external recorder manufacturers incorporating CineForm encoding into their products fairly soon, and maybe some even adopting CineForm RAW as a capture format. In fact, CineForm RAW has already been adopted by Kinefinity in their KineMAX 6K camera system.

Another possibility is that CineForm will gain in popularity in relation to other intermediate mezzanine codecs like ProRes and DNxHD. Thanks to its high quality, efficient compression, and overall versatility in terms of support for various file types, resolutions, and even RAW, I can see CineForm becoming a mainstay in many post production piplines in the years to come. CineForm can also be used as a finishing codec. Here's a quick video from Adobe's Dave Helmly showing how CineForm can be used as a high-quality master as well as a tool for project and media management within Premiere Pro.

Lastly, GoPro's high-end CineForm Studio Premium and Professional applications have officially been discontinued by the company, although they will continue to support current licenses through the end of the year. You can read more about the standardization over on the SMPTE website.

How do you guys think that CineForm's standardization will effect the world of post production and digital cinematography? Let us know down in the comments!     

Your Comment

20 Comments

Good news all around. I remember wondering what would happen to CineForm when GoPro purchased it, happy to see it will be sticking around for all to use. GoPro certainly has the power to continue to support and improve the codec over time, continuing to make this a win for all.
With GoPro's large customer base by the number of camera's they sell, consumer support will also be important, so I expect others to follow for compatibility.

June 23, 2015 at 10:07AM

1
Reply
avatar
Tim Ryan
Filmmaker
246

I would like to see some dslr/slr cameras implementing Cineform raw instead of the h.264.

June 23, 2015 at 11:18AM, Edited June 23, 11:18AM

0
Reply
avatar
Edgar More
All
1192

That's great, would love to see Gopro's firmware updated to capture Cineform. Because right now everything has to be transcoded. 3k/4k footage is uneditable in Premier (scrubbing) is very choppy.

June 23, 2015 at 12:27PM

9
Reply
avatar
Vladimir Druts
Founder & Director at Intangible.co
385

Linked press release is from June 2014. Not exactly new news

June 23, 2015 at 5:25PM

0
Reply

Very good news, ProRes needs to run through quicktime and DNxHD is limited by resolution. Cineform is also more efficient and I love it's flexibility. Hope the whole industry starts using it.

June 23, 2015 at 6:32PM

0
Reply
Geoff C. Bassett
Director of Photography
230

Hopefully Cineform will become more ubiquitous. Even though the codec is a free download through GoPro's software, it would be nice if it were included on all machines the way H.264 is. Does anyone know if ProRes comes on all Apple machines now?

June 23, 2015 at 7:28PM

11
Reply
avatar
Ty
Cinematographer, Editor, Director
607

I don't see it on their site. Do you have a link? Thanks.

June 26, 2015 at 12:44AM, Edited June 26, 12:44AM

0
Reply
David Gurney
DP
1886

I've been using the Cineform CODEC for several years now, mainly as an editing intermediate format. Good to see that it will become a lot more popular in the coming years.

June 23, 2015 at 11:43PM

0
Reply
Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
29843

This is actually quite a significant evolution in the industry. Moving away from proprietary codecs is an important step for archival and other risk mitigation issues for larger projects.
However, I must admit, GoPro does have some up hill work. ProRes is ubiquitous and accepted. There is not any great reason to move away from it. Dont get me wrong, VC5 is a far better path.. but it's hard to move away from well established workflow that is working well for our needs.

The real power of VC5 is its capability to compress RAW file formats but with a lighter form of compression. RedRAW for example is RAW with a J2K compression over it. Thats why you need a special card to do the real time decoding. VC5-RAW is less efficient if file size. About 5-10% hit in file size for a 7-8 times easier to decode.
Ie imagine editing RedRAW equivalent on a MacBookPro. Well that should be very doable with VC5-RAW files. And as we head in to HDR, RAW workflows will be the native files required.
So you can see how important a codec like VC5 is to our future.

For those interested I interview David Newman while and NAB2015 this year on this subject. Was a informative interview.
http://www.cinetechgeek.com/2015/05/03/nab2015-standards-in-cinema-gopro...

June 24, 2015 at 6:52AM

0
Reply
James Gardiner
CineTechGeek
56

I can think of one major reason to move away from ProRes. Not being able to encode it from a PC properly. Apple wont even sell a license to do it, screw that. Any new standard is welcome.

June 24, 2015 at 4:02PM

0
Reply
Carlos Robles
Senior Editor
74

Does this have better quality than h.264?

June 24, 2015 at 12:00PM, Edited June 24, 12:00PM

0
Reply

Much better

June 25, 2015 at 1:30AM

0
Reply
avatar
Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
591

I've been waiting to be able to convert cinemaDNG to cineform RAW natively one my Mac for about 2, maybe 3 years now. I hope this will encourage GoPro to get on with it already.

June 24, 2015 at 1:40PM

1
Reply

oh great, another new standard. it really doesn't mean much. I think you guys should check out the new MOX format - MXF single file, open source, source code available, uncompressed / compressed standard codecs, 8,16,32 float. I contributed funding to it. intended as archive and working format, will probably show up in recorders cameras since source code is published…

June 24, 2015 at 9:26PM, Edited June 24, 9:26PM

0
Reply
avatar
Steve Oakley
DP • Audio Mixer • Colorist • VFX Artist
473

Brilliant. Ive been using cineform to make 1080p 422 corporate and tvc masters for years and for the last couple years 4k 444 and 422 masters. Great codec. Stable. High quality. Efficient.

June 25, 2015 at 1:26AM, Edited June 25, 1:26AM

0
Reply
avatar
Dean Butler
Writer Director Shooter Editor
591

I reported that they were attempting this a few years ago (it was on Wikipedia). Good on them. Cineform was the premium wavelet codec others only wished they could be. Hopefully BMD jumps onto this. It is a shame GoPro didn't incorporate it into a design, really excellent to bypass inter compression, even if only at 10:1. One day, such a thing may happen. If only ambarella could support this now. Current silicon is running out of puff, but replacement technologies should eventually make thus possible on 4kp50+ even 8kp50+. Years to come. Cineform probably realises that they need to move on with the new holographic filming techniques coming.

June 26, 2015 at 9:33AM

0
Reply
Wayne M
Director of a Life
434

David was a pretty cool guy. He was over at the DIY digital cinema camera projects when he invented the cineform raw version (simple and elegant). Red really needed to license it rather than create JP2k redcode. It is remarkable how little of a machine you needed to edit than Reds codec, and it was there all along.

June 26, 2015 at 9:44AM

10
Reply
Wayne M
Director of a Life
434

Could be nice,.... Assuming that is, that installing GoPro's software doesn't break the rest of the NLE's installed on your editing machine. It used to have a habit of doing that.

June 26, 2015 at 12:06PM

5
Reply
avatar
Stewart Fairweather
Cinematographer
133

How does the Cineform codec have "Support for ProRes, DNxHD, DPX, uncompressed, and virtually all RAW formats"

?????

June 26, 2015 at 4:53PM

0
Reply

It probably has transcoding support. Cineform was a premium quality editing codec with low losses a decade ago.

September 30, 2015 at 9:33AM, Edited September 30, 9:33AM

0
Reply
Wayne M
Director of a Life
434