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.
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
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!