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ProRes video on the iPhone 13 Pro: What it is and why it's a big deal

Apple's video technology from 2007 is the next big iPhone feature.

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Whether you're a filmmaker, a cinematographer or you just love shooting video, the iPhone 13 Pro with ProRes gives you more creative options.

Patrick Holland/CNET

We're a step closer to seeing the official release of ProRes video on the iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max. On Wednesday, Apple released iOS 15.1 developer beta 3 and it included the addition of ProRes in the native Camera app. This comes a day after the app Filmic Pro added the ability to record ProRes videos in its app.

Apple first announced ProRes at its September event, when it unveiled four versions of the new iPhone 13 which mirrored last year's iPhone 12 family with a standard, Mini, Pro and Pro Max models.

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.)

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.

The iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max are the first phones to support the Apple ProRes video codec. But they won't be the only Apple devices that can. The new iPad Mini, like the new iPhones, has an A15 Bionic processor and also supports ProRes videos. Macs have supported ProRes since 2007.

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

There are other related benefits for ProRes on the iPhone 13. You're not only able to record videos in ProRes but also edit them. And that's why the iPad Mini and its slightly larger, more edit-friendly screen is important. The popular iOS editing app Luma Fusion also announced support for ProRes video.

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 was the missing piece? Perhaps there'll be an iOS or iPadOS version of Final Cut Pro in the future? We'll see. In the meantime here's everything you need to know about Apple ProRes.

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The iPhone 13 Pro with ProRes 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 smoother video playback in 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. For CNET review videos, I often supplement video I shoot with a dedicated camera with footage I shot with my iPhone. ProRes video would allow Soderbergh and other iPhone filmmakers to retain better color, which would give them more latitude to adjust in post-production.

Which iPhone 13 models support ProRes?

Both of Apple's new Pro models, the iPhone 13 Pro and Pro Max, support for ProRes video. Meaning, Apple followed the same playbook it used for the iPhone 12 when it launched Apple ProRaw photos. The new iPad Mini also supports ProRes video.

Why don't older iPhone models get ProRes?

Apple says ProRes is dependent on the A15 Bionic processor which has ProRes encoders and decoders on the chip.

When will ProRes for the iPhone be available?

Apple's latest beta version of iOS 15.1 for developers currently includes ProRes. The final version of iOS 15.1 will likely be out in a few weeks. But you can use ProRes via the apps Filmic Pro and Luma Fusion right now without iOS 15.1.

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 color and quality too much. Other codecs include H.264 and H.265, which are currently what's in use on all phones.

What video resolutions and frame rates can use ProRes?

iPhone 13 Pro and 13 Pro Max models with 256GB of storage or more can record ProRes video up to 4K 60fps. Phones with 128GB are limited to 1,080p at 30fps. Keep in mind, ProRes files are large, roughly 6GB for 1 minute of video.

What type of ProRes is supported?

There are several different types of ProRes. Natively the default Camera app will capture ProRes 422 HQ. Apple's ProRes software API allows third-party apps like Filmic Pro the option to record ProRes 422 Proxy, ProRes 422, ProRes 422 LT and ProRes 422 HQ.

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.