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Which Format Should I Choose For Proxies?

Adobe Employee ,
Jun 20, 2019

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You create proxy files for a number of good reasons. Maybe your machine is just not powerful enough to edit your 4K drone footage very smoothly. Perhaps you have to create a portable version of your show. Maybe you are collaborating with others and they need copies of your files.

Regardless of the reason, you need to make a choice.

  • Which format do you use for creating these files?
  • Should you avoid creating proxies altogether and simply transcode?
  • Should you transcode and use proxies?

Most Editors Avoid H.264 for Proxies

Most editors prefer to use Cineform, DNxHD/HR, or ProRes formats for their proxy files in Premiere Pro.

So why not H.264? The hard truth is that H.264 is terrible to edit with. Period. So when you're creating proxies for being easier on your machine, why throw one of the hardest codecs to decode as your proxy format? It doesn't make sense.

The case for H.264 Proxies

A case where H.264 proxies sort of makes sense to me is when you have a large amount of footage and a small amount of storage and you need a very "portable" version of your project. If you're in this position, make sure your storage is very, very fast portable storage or you're going to be back where you started from with a badly performing timeline.

Why Use Intraframe Formats?

Cineform, DNxHD/HR, and ProRes are all cross platform, visually lossless, professional quality "mezzanine" (some editors refer to them as "intermediate") codecs. These formats are referred to as intraframe formats, not interframe formats. Explanation: Intra-frame vs Inter-frame Compression Intraframe formats are equally great, though some have their preferences for formats, quality choices, and frame sizes. NLE software from any manufacturer (Premiere Pro included) will have much better performance during playback with these intermediate formats. That's why they're great choices for both transcodes and proxies.

What are Interframe Formats?
Interframe "Long GOP" codecs (.mov or .mp4 wrapped H.264 or H.265, typically) are the dominant consumer format. You likely handle them every day. Consider that mobile phones, DSLR/Mirrorless cameras, drones, VR cameras, screen captures, webcams, and more all use these formats. Because these formats create such a highly compressed video file, they are exceedingly difficult for your computer to handle, especially regarding playback and file handling. This fact doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

Transcodes instead of Proxies?

From my perspective, having transcodes (simple copies) to Cineform, etc. is an even better scenario than proxies for some because you have the benefit of much better playback performance, and you can use smart rendering to make your Cineform exports lightning fast. Fixing mistakes on watch down can be easily repaired and a re-export takes a fraction of the time a H.264 export would take. 4K ProRes transcodes might playback just fine on your computer (especially at lower resolutions) so you may not need the performance proxies can give you.

That said, if your system is just not powerful enough to play back transcodes with performance and/or fractional resolution to your liking, simply create proxies. It goes without saying that you should test all of this before wasting time and storage in creating a full set of transcoded files.

By the way, if any of the transcoded files play back with difficulty, you can always create individual proxies for those files as you are editing.

Both Transcodes and Proxies?

The best scenario, I think, is to have both proxies and transcodes—but that's a personal preference. I love having the ability to have super awesome playback performance (using intraframe proxies at HD frame size) with the added benefit of being able to pull off a smart rendered export. Perhaps I should buy stock in high speed storage companies.

Storage Note: Transcodes and Proxies
You do indeed use a lot of storage up with source files, transcodes, proxies, preview files, etc. At least with transcodes and proxies, you can safely delete them when the project is complete. My advice is to always have a lot of high speed storage prepared in your studio for just these purposes.

So what format will you choose? Let me know in the comments below. Please also let me know if you have tips, ideas, or advice.

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Which Format Should I Choose For Proxies?

Adobe Employee ,
Jun 20, 2019

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You create proxy files for a number of good reasons. Maybe your machine is just not powerful enough to edit your 4K drone footage very smoothly. Perhaps you have to create a portable version of your show. Maybe you are collaborating with others and they need copies of your files.

Regardless of the reason, you need to make a choice.

  • Which format do you use for creating these files?
  • Should you avoid creating proxies altogether and simply transcode?
  • Should you transcode and use proxies?

Most Editors Avoid H.264 for Proxies

Most editors prefer to use Cineform, DNxHD/HR, or ProRes formats for their proxy files in Premiere Pro.

So why not H.264? The hard truth is that H.264 is terrible to edit with. Period. So when you're creating proxies for being easier on your machine, why throw one of the hardest codecs to decode as your proxy format? It doesn't make sense.

The case for H.264 Proxies

A case where H.264 proxies sort of makes sense to me is when you have a large amount of footage and a small amount of storage and you need a very "portable" version of your project. If you're in this position, make sure your storage is very, very fast portable storage or you're going to be back where you started from with a badly performing timeline.

Why Use Intraframe Formats?

Cineform, DNxHD/HR, and ProRes are all cross platform, visually lossless, professional quality "mezzanine" (some editors refer to them as "intermediate") codecs. These formats are referred to as intraframe formats, not interframe formats. Explanation: Intra-frame vs Inter-frame Compression Intraframe formats are equally great, though some have their preferences for formats, quality choices, and frame sizes. NLE software from any manufacturer (Premiere Pro included) will have much better performance during playback with these intermediate formats. That's why they're great choices for both transcodes and proxies.

What are Interframe Formats?
Interframe "Long GOP" codecs (.mov or .mp4 wrapped H.264 or H.265, typically) are the dominant consumer format. You likely handle them every day. Consider that mobile phones, DSLR/Mirrorless cameras, drones, VR cameras, screen captures, webcams, and more all use these formats. Because these formats create such a highly compressed video file, they are exceedingly difficult for your computer to handle, especially regarding playback and file handling. This fact doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

Transcodes instead of Proxies?

From my perspective, having transcodes (simple copies) to Cineform, etc. is an even better scenario than proxies for some because you have the benefit of much better playback performance, and you can use smart rendering to make your Cineform exports lightning fast. Fixing mistakes on watch down can be easily repaired and a re-export takes a fraction of the time a H.264 export would take. 4K ProRes transcodes might playback just fine on your computer (especially at lower resolutions) so you may not need the performance proxies can give you.

That said, if your system is just not powerful enough to play back transcodes with performance and/or fractional resolution to your liking, simply create proxies. It goes without saying that you should test all of this before wasting time and storage in creating a full set of transcoded files.

By the way, if any of the transcoded files play back with difficulty, you can always create individual proxies for those files as you are editing.

Both Transcodes and Proxies?

The best scenario, I think, is to have both proxies and transcodes—but that's a personal preference. I love having the ability to have super awesome playback performance (using intraframe proxies at HD frame size) with the added benefit of being able to pull off a smart rendered export. Perhaps I should buy stock in high speed storage companies.

Storage Note: Transcodes and Proxies
You do indeed use a lot of storage up with source files, transcodes, proxies, preview files, etc. At least with transcodes and proxies, you can safely delete them when the project is complete. My advice is to always have a lot of high speed storage prepared in your studio for just these purposes.

So what format will you choose? Let me know in the comments below. Please also let me know if you have tips, ideas, or advice.

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Jun 20, 2019 1
Adobe Employee ,
Jul 09, 2019

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What's your choice in format for proxies? Let us know.

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Jul 09, 2019 0
Adobe Community Professional ,
Jul 09, 2019

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Personally, when I use proxies I take the included Cineform ones. They work beautifully. If they're at times larger than the H.264 originals for space on disc. But they can be deleted at the end of the project as you can make them again if you revisit that project.

The t-code/smart-rendering you do can also be a slick process. Proxies and t-codes take a bit of time to make, and some storage whilst working ... but the working time is vastly improved. So it seems worthwhile to plan the time. And of course, MediaEncoder can work over-night without charging overtime ...

Neil

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Jul 09, 2019 2
New Here ,
Oct 31, 2020

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I've been making proxies using h.264 purely because I can share the online with my clients via our web browser / cloud... they are quick to download for remote editors too. Timelines can be sticy though so I might tak your recommentdation to make both proxies and transcodes. By the way, if you are reasonably clever in Macos Automator, you can get FFMPEG to create all of this for you automatically when you drop new content on your drive. Then you just attach as needed in Premiere. Creating them in Premiere requires way too many steps! Thanks for your article.

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Oct 31, 2020 0
Ann Bens LATEST
Adobe Community Professional ,
Oct 31, 2020

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I seldom use proxies as my camera shoots intraframe. My machine can handle the 4K footage natively.

But if I do need proxies I would choose Prores. Smaller file compaired to CF. And Prores seems to run a tad more smoothly then CF.

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