I'm currently searching for new codecs that are better suited for production than the ones we are currently using. So far we used QuickTime Animation and PhotoJPEG. The latter always proved as something "rocksolid" and never made any problems. Though its lossy and has no alpha, thats when we used Animation but that codec is a dinosaur when it comes to compression and bit-depth. I generally dislike all the built-in QuickTime codecs as they either dont deliver all the formats options or are just not pracitcal in a multi OS workflow. The whole Pro-Res family is a no go as it can only be encoded on a mac (except for the beta version of the ffdshow ProRes encoder).

So far I'm very happy with JPEG2000 using the j2k plugin from fnordware, the format has all the good things from legacy JPEG and Animation and has even more features but the downside is the fact that its an image sequence which is not so nice to handle as a single container file. The crippled JPEG2000 codec in QuickTime is no option.

So what I'm searching is a codec that can be used with container formats like .avi or .mov (or any other container, it really doesn't matter), with a good compressability in the range of lossless JPEG2000, atleast 16bit per channel and support for an alpha channel. E: And of course lossless if that wasn't clear so far. Otional lossy compression like JPEG2000 has, would be great but not necessary.

I hope someone can suggest me something, its no problem if the format needs a plugin for After Effects, Premiere etc. it just needs to be compatible with CS6 and not be restricted to Windows or Mac.

  • What is your usual use case for QuickTime Animation and PhotoJPEG? Are these temporary intermediate files, archival, etc? ProRes can be decoded and encoded with any OS that FFmpeg or FFmbc supports (not that I'm recommending ProRes).
    – llogan
    Dec 12, 2012 at 17:00
  • I'm aware of that but using FFmpeg with Adobe products wasn't actually a nice experience. Maybe that has changed, I haven't used it in quite a while. The usecase is like the title said "production", means we do our animations in After Effects, maybe cut some needed footage and toss the files around the network. Those files will never leave our office and are only meant for use during the actual making of the product.
    – timonsku
    Dec 12, 2012 at 17:02
  • "production" is a vague description.
    – llogan
    Dec 12, 2012 at 17:05
  • See my edit, maybe that clarifies it for you. Key features are named in the last paragraph. As long as it fullfills this stuff I'm ok with any codec.
    – timonsku
    Dec 12, 2012 at 17:07
  • Maybe editing is a better word.
    – timonsku
    Dec 12, 2012 at 17:08

3 Answers 3


Ut Video is an editor friendly lossless video codec and is a good choice for in house production as an intermediary. It is fast, open source, actively developed, supports RGB(A)/ULRA (for your alpha channel requirement) and YUV colorspaces, and is available for Windows, OS X, and Linux. You can install it on Windows and it will show up in Adobe Media Encoder, After Effects, etc. I don't know if it will fit all of your needs, but it is worth a try.

  • Sounds promising! Though one question, how is the workflow betweens OS's? As far I can see it integrates into the AVI output module on Windows but not the QuickTime module but it looks like its using QuickTime on OSX, will I be able to use a Ut AVI in OSX and a Ut Mov in Windows? I'm off work for the next weeks and don't have a Mac at home to test this out myself.
    – timonsku
    Dec 14, 2012 at 18:59
  • @PaulGreen I have not personally tried it in OS X yet.
    – llogan
    Dec 14, 2012 at 21:38
  • 1
    I did a test in Windows, the compression ratio was ok, the encoding speed was quite good though. If a workflow between OSX and windows works I'll accept this as the answer. Though I'm always open to more suggestions.
    – timonsku
    Dec 15, 2012 at 2:15

Targa (TGA in the format options menu in AE) is a lossless codec that works with video (most people who know it know it from early days of image compression). It has better file compression ratios than Animation, but retains alpha support (32b/p). Its main advantage is that it's faster than animation.

PNG (as used in pictures on the internet) also supports alpha (32b/p) and is lossless with a smaller file size than Animation.

The BBC developed a lossless codec, er a "specification" called Dirac which they want to use for broadcast, so it ought to be pretty fast. The downside is that you need to compile the codec (confusingly called "schrodinger") yourself (there may be binaries out there).

If you're a windows, you can download the open-source lossless codec HuffyUV which is much faster. Or if you want to be able to support 12bit/channel colour (and who wouldn't) there's Lagarith - a variation of huffyuv. But when you talk 12-bit colour you're not talking small file sizes any more.

If you're editing in one of these codecs though, you're just making pain for yourself. Better to do your editing in something fast like proRes or Avid dnxHD and then reconform to your high quality originals.

  • Well Targa and PNG are out of the game as they dont offer a container for the sequence, the downside I mentioned why I'm hesitating with JPEG2000 (which imo is superior to both Targa and PNG). That BBC codec sounds interesting, compiling shouldn't be a problem as long as it does a good job, will test that out. A pure windows codec is unfortunetaly no option as I need a cross-plattform codec like I mentioned already.
    – timonsku
    Dec 21, 2012 at 3:06
  • targa and png can be used as a video codec in quicktime .movs, that's why I mentioned them. If you're using After effects it's in the format options of the output module dialogue.
    – stib
    Dec 21, 2012 at 3:20
  • Yes but like I said, the QuickTime codec family is very outdated and slow. Neither the PNG nor the Targa QuickTime implentation is using the full format features. Same with the JPEG2000 codec.
    – timonsku
    Dec 21, 2012 at 19:45
  • lossless x264 -qp 0 -preset ultrafast is going to be a lot faster than dirac. If you're doing something that would incur h.264 patent royalties, then sure, go with lossless dirac or ffv1 instead. But these are slower archival codecs that are a waste of time for temporary files you can regenerate from whatever source you're going to keeping for archival purposes. Jan 15, 2015 at 11:16
  • hang on, that last part about "edit in high bitrate lossy and then xcode to lossless" makes no sense. Unless you're just trying things with those codecs, and then once you get it right, redo the pipeline from source to output without going through any lossy codecs. Otherwise you might as well just leave your data in whatever lossy format you put it in. Xcoding to lossless doesn't recover the information those codecs threw away. Jan 15, 2015 at 11:18

Apple ProRes 422 is very good, however you need a codec on PC to be able to read it and a PC cannot encode it, however it is probably the most widely accepted format within the industry.

Using FFmpeg when working with video editing is pretty much useless, it is designed for web application but not used AT ALL in the professional world.

If you are PC ONLY check out DVCPRO HD codecs, however far inferior to ProRes

  • 1
    A "PC" can encode ProRes as I mentioned in a comment to the question. FFmpeg is used heavily by professionals and is not specific to "web application".
    – llogan
    Dec 13, 2012 at 1:42
  • none of these codecs support 16bpc or higher and both are not lossless and have a bad compression ratio Also agree on FFmpeg, has nothing to do with web, its a project with a wide support of codecs including ProRes.
    – timonsku
    Dec 13, 2012 at 1:54
  • Name one post house that uses FFmpeg to compress high volumes of proffesional videos. You do not need 16bpc for editing, and you do not need lossless for editing. Prores is not bad compression I have no idea where you got that Idea. And PC can encode on PC with plugins but not always successfully, I have had numerous problems with PC encoded quicktimes not playing on Macs Dec 13, 2012 at 2:24
  • ProRes doesn't even compress at all. I could compress an 17GB ProRes 4:2:2 to 1.4GB with LZMA2.. The same sequence was 700MB with (lossless) JPEG2000 compression and 16bit bpc. So no, ProRes is really no option. It's an very outdated codec that wasn't properly updated for years. And yes I do need 16bit if I do color correction. Please name me a post house that does NOT use 32bit in the color correction workflow...
    – timonsku
    Dec 14, 2012 at 19:05
  • Right but at no point in your question do you ask about color correction, and to be honest, unless your footage is shot on film and/or alexa to a codex box, ITS NOT 32 BIT...While yes I would recommend offline editing IN PRORES and then doing an online to DPX sequences, however DPX sequences are not ideal to edit with, thus the need for an offline edit...Prores is highly recommended for this, however since you are not on MAC exclusively I recommended the old outdated DVCPRO HD codecs...maybe we write your question to better guide people to exactly what part of "production" you are referring to Dec 17, 2012 at 19:26

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