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DNxHD Overview

DNxHD is a video codec intended to be usable as both an intermediate format suitable for use while editing and as a presentation format. DNxHD offers a choice of three user-selectable bit rates: 220 Mbit/s with a bit depth of 10 or 8 bits, and 145 or 36 Mbit/s with a bit depth of 8 bits. DNxHD data is typically stored in an MXF container, although it can also be stored in a Quicktime container. On February 13, 2008 Avid reported that DNxHD was approved as compliant with the SMPTE VC3 standard. DNxHD is intended to be an open standard, but as of March 2008, has remained effectively a proprietary Avid format. The source code for the Avid DNxHD codec is freely available from Avid for internal evaluation and review, although commercial use requires Avid licensing approval. It has been commercially licensed to a number of companies including Ikegami, FilmLight, Harris Corporation, JVC, Seachange and EVS Broadcast Equipment.

Implementations
DNxHD was first supported in Avid DS Nitris (Sept 2004), then Avid Media Composer Adrenaline with the DNxcel option (Dec 2004) and finally by Avid Symphony Nitris (Dec 2005). Xpress Pro is limited to using DNxHD 8bit compression, which is either imported from file or captured using a Media Composer with Adrenaline hardware. Media Composer 2.5 also allows editing of fully uncompressed HD material that was either imported or captured on a Symphony Nitris or DS Nitris system. Ikegami's Editcam camera system is unique in its support for DNxHD, and records directly to DNxHD encoded video. Such material is immediately accessible by editing platforms that directly support the DNxHD codec. A standalone Quicktime codec for both Windows XP and Mac OS X is available to create and play Quicktime files containing DNxHD material. Since September 2007 the open source FFmpeg project is providing 8-bit (but not 10-bit) VC-3/DNxHD encoding and decoding features thanks to BBC Research who sponsored the project and Baptiste Coudurier who implemented it. It is included in stable version 0.5 of FFmpeg, released on March 10, 2009.[4][5] (ffmpeg -i <input_file> -vcodec dnxhd -b <bitrate> -an output.mov). This allows Linux non-linear video editors Cinelerra and Kdenlive to use DNxHD.

Technical details

DNxHD is very similar to JPEG. Every frame is independent and consists of VLC-coded DCT coefficients. Header consists of many parts and may include quantization tables and 2048 bits of user data. Also each frame has two GUIDs and timestamp. The frame header is packed into big-endian dwords. Actual frame data consists of packed macroblocks using a technique almost identical to JPEG: DC prediction and variable-length codes with run length encoding for other 63 coefficients. DC coefficient is not quantized. The codec supports alpha channel information.

Key features
Full-width 1920x1080 and 1280x720 4:2:2 chroma sampling 10-bit sample depth I frame-only encoding Variable bit-rate (VBR) encoding Normal 147 Mbit/s and High-Quality 220 Mbit/s for HD resolution at 60i Normal 42 Mbit/s and High-Quality 63 Mbit/s for SD resolution at 29.97 Fast encoding and decoding (both at full size and half size)