The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Oct/14

22

MOX: Do we need an open source codec?

Over on IndieGoGo there’s a project for MOX – an open source mezzanine codec for (mostly) postproduction workflows and archiving. The obvious advantage over existing codecs like ProRes, DNxHD and Cineform is that MOX will be open source, so there is significantly reduce risk that the codec might go away in the future, or stop being supported.

Technically the project looks reasonable and feasible. There is a small, but significant, group of people who worry that support for the current codecs may go away in the future. There’s no real evidence for this, other than that Apple has deprecated old, inefficient and obsolete codecs by not bringing them forward to AVFoundation.

I have more concerns for the long term with an open source project. History shows that many projects start strong, but ultimately it comes down to a small group of people (or one in MOX’s case) doing all the work, and inevitably life’s circumstances intervene.

MOX is not a bad idea. I just doubt that it will gain and sustain the momentum it would need.

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7 comments

  • Steve Oakley · October 22, 2014 at 2:42 pm

    Thats not a question, its a statement. The follow up is how soon will it be delivered ?

    20 years from now, will an open source media format with source code be a viable file and readable ? or will something locked into a black box codec like QT or DNxHD simply become unreadable because the IP to unlock it is not available.

    we have been asking vendors by name to deliver a documented container & codecs and they have all failed. At some point taking things into the communities hands is simply what its going to take. if some hardware vendors making cameras jump on because of the easy support, the rest will follow. MOX is just as good a camera format as it is for post and mastering.

  • handygeek · October 22, 2014 at 6:23 pm

    My take is that its worth some collective risk to try.

  • Matthew Sorrels · October 22, 2014 at 8:15 pm

    The simple reason we need it can be summed up with: Apple.

    Right now they refuse to release a 64-bit version of Quicktime for Windows. So every single media app on Windows needs to use a bitbridge of some sort. That’s fine for 320×240 movies, but starts to become a giant problem at 1080p and even worse at 4k.

    Let’s not forget their lack of support for writing Prores files on Windows, which they are refusing to do because they are at war with Microsoft.

    Ok, maybe you aren’t a Windows or Linux user. Prores support for even 12 bit color channels is spotty at best. I’m not even sure what supports anything but 10 bit. It might be a long time before we ever see 32 bit float channels. And it has no lossless mode at all. Is there a lossless codec included with Quicktime at all now? How long before Apple drops support for even more Quicktime codecs even on the Mac.

    DNxHD’s 4k support is still just a press announcement. I’m not even sure they have ever said if they will make it available to everyone and not just Avid customers. But it’s just a codec and not a file format. Which means you may have to deal with the Quicktime bitbridge. Will it support anything except 4k? Will they let you go higher than 4k?

    Cineform is very nice but GoPro is still keeping the higher quality versions bundled with the pro versions of GoPro Studio. $299 to $999 for a codec is a bit much.

    Open source projects do tend to have their own host of issues, this one may not be an exception. I’m also not so sure about every direction MOX is taking either, some of them seem likely to produce some headaches long term. That said, we DO really need a better post production workflow movie file format. This seems like a reasonable start.

  • Ryan Holmes · October 24, 2014 at 8:47 am

    @Philip – “I have more concerns for the long term with an open source project. History shows that many projects start strong, but ultimately it comes down to a small group of people (or one in MOX’s case) doing all the work, and inevitably life’s circumstances intervene.”

    You’ve just summed up all of my problems with open source projects, especially ones related to our industry. Further, who sets the standards for what is and is not supported? Each coder will fork the source for his/her purposes thereby providing “options” without any stability or testing. To me, open source raises the age old question: which do you have more of time or money? For many things in post, time is money. And the more time spent troubleshooting, downloading firmware, or verifying if you’re drivers work with the latest nightly build are too much of a use of my most precious resource – time.

    Though, one successful area I’ve seen open source work (and I’ve used) is Magic Lantern with Canon cameras. But support and workflow have only just recently become simpler. So for the first 3-4 years it was a serious time investment to get it up and running.

    @Matthew – ProRes 4444 XQ does 12 bits per channel and 16 for Alpha. That’s as close as they get to lossless, and visually you’d be hard pressed to tell a difference, IMHO.
    https://www.apple.com/final-cut-pro/docs/Apple_ProRes_White_Paper.pdf

  • igor Ridanovic · October 24, 2014 at 11:20 pm

    Open source product could face a development fatigue for sure, but there is no guarantee that a commercially developed product will remain viable either.

    A product based on IP owned by a single company like in case of Quicktime could be phased out or even changed overnight. If Apple decided to drop support of Windows implementation of Quicktime for strategic reasons they would not be held accountable and the end users could not do much about it.

    On the other hand, formats based on publicly available specification like JPG and DPX have a potential to prosper and live a long life.

  • James Gardiner · November 4, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    This is an obvious road to take. But then again it already has in some ways. For example, MOX is NOT a codec, it is a container with re-defined definitions as to make it more useful.
    MOX will only implement a standard container that wraps around already well known codecs making it easier to use. It will flow better with better known workflows etc..

    So I do hope it happens. We need it. I am not a fan of a codec that is wheeled like a weapon against the creators competitors. The creators motivations are not only to make useful to the user, but un-useful under certain constraints…

    We need a movement towards good unencumbered codecs. Codecs that can be backed as source code into an archive making it truly format compatible going forward.

    This leads me to inform this thread that SMPTE has been working on such an animal called VC5. Its still under SMPTE review and all that I can mentioned is to read the blurb on the SMPTE website

    VC-5 Mezzanine Compression
    https://kws.smpte.org/kws/public/projects/project/details?project_id=15
    It is 12 bit, can compress Bayer (RAW). Is based on Cineform (Well respected) and once done, we should have a reference codec released to the world..

    If anything, MOX should be interested in it too.

    James

  • Rodney · November 6, 2014 at 3:42 pm

    MOX appears well worth my $20 to give it a push toward success. Brendan’s record of success with previous efforts and experience with the Open EXR format are are nice hedge.

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