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iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max are getting Apple ProRes. What it is and why it's a big deal

CNET logo CNET 9/21/2021 Patrick Holland
a circuit board: Whether you're a filmmaker, a cinematographer or you just love shooting video, the iPhone 13 could give you more creative options. Patrick Holland/CNET © Provided by CNET Whether you're a filmmaker, a cinematographer or you just love shooting video, the iPhone 13 could give you more creative options. Patrick Holland/CNET

Apple's iPhone 13 is getting an exciting upgrade later this year. The company unveiled four versions of the new iPhone at its September event, mirroring last year's iPhone 12 collection with a standard, Mini, Pro and Pro Max models. Among the iPhone 13 upgrades, one feature in particular will capture the interest of anyone who loves to shoot video: Apple ProRes. 

Read more: CNET's iPhone 13, 13 Mini13 Pro and 13 Pro Max reviews

Apple ProRes optimizes videos and is especially useful for people who color grade or use editing software like Final Cut Pro X or Adobe Premiere Pro. (The feature garnered Apple an Engineering Emmy Award in 2020.) The iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max will be the first phones to support the Apple ProRes video codec. But the feature isn't available to test at this time and will be out later this year.

a hand holding a cell phone: Whether you are a filmmaker, a cinematographer or you just love shooting video, the iPhone 13 could give you more creative options. © Patrick Holland/CNET

Whether you are a filmmaker, a cinematographer or you just love shooting video, the iPhone 13 could give you more creative options.

ProRes video files have a lower amount of compression compared to the more common H.264 and H.265 codecs currently used on the iPhone. ProRes protects the image quality of the video while allowing for fast encoding and decoding.

There could be other related benefits for ProRes on the iPhone 13. It's likely that you'd not only be able to record videos in ProRes with your iPhone but also edit them, which you currently can't do.

If iOS supports ProRes editing, it's not too fanciful to imagine ProRes support coming to the iPad and its larger, more edit-friendly screen. When the M1 iPad Pro was released, a common complaint reviewers and YouTubers had was that it lacked MacOS-like pro apps such as Final Cut Pro X. Maybe ProRes support is the missing piece? We'll see. In the meantime here's everything you need to know about Apple ProRes.

a hand holding a small camera: The iPhone 13 could take video shooting to another level. Patrick Holland/CNET © Provided by CNET The iPhone 13 could take video shooting to another level. Patrick Holland/CNET

What is Apple ProRes?

It's a video codec Apple made in 2007. ProRes can compress a video into a small file while retaining a lot of the image quality and color. It's a widely used codec optimized for editing software like Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro and Davinci Resolve.

Why would you want Apple ProRes on an iPhone?

In recent years, video cameras such as the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K have been able to record video and save the file as ProRes on an SD card or hard drive. This makes it faster to edit because you don't have to spend time optimizing the file. 

Currently, there are a number of people who use iPhones to capture footage for films and videos, professional or otherwise. Filmmaker Steven Soderbergh shot two feature-length films with an iPhone. I often supplement video I shoot with a dedicated camera with footage I shot with my iPhone for CNET review videos. ProRes video would allow Soderbergh and other iPhone filmmakers to retain better image quality and color, which would give them more latitude to adjust both in post-production.

Which iPhone 13 models support ProRes?

Both of Apple's new Pro models, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, will get support for ProRes video later this year. Meaning, Apple followed the same playbook it used for the iPhone 12 when it launched Apple ProRaw photos.

What is a video codec?

Pretty much all videos get compressed when you record them. Raw uncompressed video takes up an enormous amount of disk space. A codec like Apple ProRes compresses that video into something smaller without deteriorating the image quality too much. Other codecs include H.264 and H.265, which are currently what's in use on all phones.

What's the difference between Apple ProRes and H.264/H.265 video codecs?

Imagine folding a piece of 8.5x11-inch paper to fit into an envelope. To fit it into a smaller envelope, you need to fold the paper more. But the more you fold a piece of paper, the more creases it will have.

Video codecs work in a similar way and H.264/H.265 videos use more compression to create a smaller file. But the downside is the image quality isn't as robust and it takes a long time to encode an H.264/H.265 video.

Apple ProRes uses less compression to retain more of the image quality and color, and encode and decode faster. But that means it has a larger file size. ProRes was intended for post-production workflows like editing and coloring. H.264 and H.265 are designed to be easier to share.

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