Why Apple is Dropping Cineform and DNx and How It Affects You
Users installing the newest refresh of Final Cut Pro might have seen a warning that their media won't be supported in the future.
With the latest release of Final Cut Pro, 10.4.4, certain users of older video formats such as HDCAM-SR might have seen a warning message that their video formats, while currently supported, won't be supported under future releases of MacOS. Apple has put out a full support note giving more information and context to help filmmakers through the process.
On top of HDCAM-SR, if you shoot Cineform with your GoPro or use DNxHR, you might be facing some uphill battles with not only Final Cut, but also all of MacOS, in a future release.
Apple's support document is helpful, but a little simplistic in that it recommends simply wrapping up any projects you're currently working on before upgrading to the next OS. That is just not realistic for many filmmakers.
Documentary projects will frequently be edited, using legacy footage, for years. While many filmmakers deliberately avoid updating their OS to avoid issues like this (I know more than one filmmaker still running MacOS 10.8.5, or really OS X 10.8.5), that doesn't work for some. With apps like Resolve that frequently require newer versions of MacOS, not upgrading can cut you out of useful features and workflows. It's much more likely that filmmakers with large Cinform or DNx libraries (or native HDCAM-SR, though those are likely transcoded to something lighter already) will have to go back and transcode all of that footage afresh into ProRes then reconform it in order to keep working.
It's unclear as to why Apple is making this move (or even when). The notice doesn't say which MacOS release won't support these formats, and it doesn't make a tremendous amount of sense why some older formats (HDV, a terrible format that should never have existed in the first place, for instance) aren't on the deprecated list while the popular DNxHR is.
Rumors seem to point towards the likelihood that Apple is developing Final Cut Pro to be able to run equally well on MacOS and iOS, allowing users to move seamlessly back and forth, which will require more limited codecs. But notice Apple doesn't say that Final Cut won't support Cineform and DNxHR, but that the entire MacOS won't support Cineform and DNxHR. Considering how young DNxHR is (and how vital it is to the Media Composer workflow), this is very bold on Apple's part.
Of course, Apple would argue that it has its own ecosystem of ProRes to work in, as detailed in our handy "street names" chart. Cineform and DNx are technically competitors to (and inspirations for) the ProRes workflow, so it makes sense that Apple might not work extra hard to support them in Final Cut Pro.
But Apple doesn't say that "Final Cut" won't support Cineform and DNx. It says that a future MacOS won't support DNx and Cineform. That's massive and it points toward the long-rumored merger of iOs and MacOS into a single operating system that allows users to move projects back and forth between platforms with ease. Media Composer is savvy and will likely find a workaround of some sort to keep its Mac editors happy, but simply linking to ProRes files isn't going to cut it.
With the new release of Compressor, Apple has gone fully 64 bit with the software, making clear that it will continue to support legacy 32bit workflows. It doesn't seem like this is purely about dropping support for 32bit environments since Compressor Apple is clearly able to make applications backward compatible. This decision, like Apple does sometimes, is about moving toward the future and letting go of the past, often sooner than users want.
Apple does state that only software-generated DNxHR files will lack support. This means that if you render to DNx from Media Composer (or Resolve, or any other transcoder), it won't work, but hardware generated DNxHR files from an Alexa or an Atomos should work just fine.
Check out the support document for more.
- Losing support: GoPro Cineform, DNxHD/DNxHR, HDCAM-SR
- In a future MacOS revision
- Back-up your projects now, and convert legacy media before your next upgrade.