Adobe Addresses ProRes Support on Windows

Last month, after a major security vulnerability was announced in QuickTime Player for Windows, Apple quietly confirmed that they were dropping support for it. No update will be issued to fix this gaping issue, or any others. QuickTime is dead on Windows.

So what’s the big deal? Who uses QuickTime anyway? Well, it turns out that a bunch of pro apps — especially those that need to support ProRes — use QuickTime as both an encoder and decoder.

The developers of these apps are now scrambling to implement their own solutions, thereby eliminating their dependency on QuickTime. David McGavran of Adobe:

Today we’re pleased to announce that Adobe has been able to accelerate work that was already in progress to support native reading of ProRes. This new capability is fully licensed and certified by Apple, and barring any unforeseen issues during pre-release, these fixes will be included into an update to the relevant products in Creative Cloud shortly.

Over the weekend, I visited Edmonton to see Beyoncé kick some major ass in the freezing cold and rain. While I was there, I got to meet up with Colby Ludwig and Gus Bendinelli; Gus is a cinematographer based in Los Angeles.

Over coffee, he mentioned that the industry made a big push several years ago to establishing ProRes as the across-the-board standard. Everyone — from those using DSLRs to shoot an indie film, right up to major movies shot on the ARRI Alexa and RED cameras — uses ProRes. Back when everyone made the switch, it seemed like a perfectly sensible choice: it’s a very high quality compression format, so it isn’t always necessary to transfer unfathomably large raw video files. It’s also well-supported on both Macs and PCs, with a wide variety of industry-standard software, and is the format Apple requests for iTunes Store submissions.

While ProRes is closed-source, Apple has licensed the encoder and decoder to lots of software and hardware companies. Some companies, like Adobe, chose instead to use Apple’s QuickTime SDK and (legitimately) piggybacking on its included ProRes codecs. Without a safe QuickTime for Windows, applications that the industry relies upon — like, say, Adobe’s suite — cannot read from or export to ProRes-encoded files. Apple has now expedited their licensing to Adobe of a software implementation of ProRes that doesn’t rely upon QuickTime, and Adobe is rushing to get it into updates to Premiere and After Effects.

This is a pretty crappy situation for movie editors who have a Windows-centric workflow. Apple really ought to have better handled the decommissioning of QuickTime, and Adobe ought to have licensed the ProRes encoder instead of assuming future reliance upon QuickTime.

Update: Ryan Holmes, a director, editor, and film colourist:

For Apple bungling EOLed ProApps reference: Shake, FCP7, XServe, Final Cut Server, and Aperture. Bad track record with PR for ProApps

The loss of Aperture still stings.

This reminded me of one additional thing Gus told me about: QuickTime Animation files were previously popular in the film industry until support for the file type was effectively discontinued. I can’t find an official end-of-life notice, but it was deprecated over the past few years, apparently because of licensing conflicts.