FCP X: 5 Tips to Faster Exports

Posted: October 14, 2012

A question I get asked frequently is how to improve export speeds from Final Cut Pro X. This varies, depending upon a variety of conditions, but here are five tips you can use to speed things up.

1. Optimize media. Renders and exports are significantly faster when using optimized media (which means it is converted into ProRes 422), rather than editing camera native formats (like H.264 or AVCHD).

2. Finish rendering. When the time comes to export, if rendering is not complete, Final Cut will render all remaining clips during export which slows things down.

Final Cut Pro X Tips

3. Export using ProRes 422. This format matches the format you used for optimizing – FCP X doesn’t allow you a choice. By exporting in the same format, you avoid wasting speed in transcoding from one format to another. And, from an image quality point of view, you won’t be able to tell the difference when looking at ProRes 422 vs. ProRes 422 HQ.

4. Export a Master File. I always want to view my exported file to make sure it looks and sounds OK before compressing it. This allows me to verify that everything is good. So, I always select Share > Export Media to export my files.

NOTE: Here’s an article with details on how to export a Master File.

5. Export to a different hard drive. When you export to a different hard drive than the one containing your Event folder, the computer can copy the media from one hard drive and record it on a different drive which is much faster than reading and writing to the same drive.

Yes, it is easier to share everything with one click, but it isn’t faster, and you lose the ability to spot problems with your file before wasting time compressing then.

This is the system I use and it works well for me.

Comments
45 Comments to “FCP X: 5 Tips to Faster Exports”
  1. Ben says:

    Very helpful, thanks!

    • Jake says:

      This is very helpful information, but here’s my question. Final edited files exported in ProRes tend to be gigantic. So assuming I am distributing a 30 minute (or longer) digital video file to friends and family, what would you recommend for output from the Master file?

      • Joe says:

        Hi,
        ProRes “is a line of intermediate codecs, which means they are intended for use during video editing, and not for practical end-user viewing….xxx” http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ProRes, you would rather use (the widely compatible H264 codec for sharing with your audience. Use the “Share” function in FCPX (file/share/apple device 720p or 1080p and copy to an usb stick – or the “Add Destination” command and choose any format like the “Youtube” or “Vimeo” or DVD format etc.

  2. William Hohauser says:

    Update to 10.0.6 and experience background exporting via the new share menu. It seems faster than exporting was in previous versions and you can continue to work on other projects while the master file is being made. That in itself speeds up my work.

  3. Richard Day says:

    I was trying to export a master file actually matching the source — mp4 from EyeTV. I had unchecked Optimize Media, and the Inspector seemed to indicate that my timeline was indeed mp4. But on trying to export, Master File said “Source: ProRes 422″ and NOT “Source – H.264. I was just trying to chop out a few chunks from my EyeTV footage — and avoid a transcode on the export.

    Does Master File export ProRes — or some other codec — and not allow the original source to be exported without transcoding? (Of course, fades and other effects not involving straight cuts would have to be rendered and encoded).

    Thanks!

    • Larry Jordan says:

      If you add any transitions or effects, FCP X will transcode the entire movie to ProRes 422. This is because you can’t switch between codecs within the same movie – the codec needs to be the same throughout.

      However, if all you are doing is cuts, it should export in the camera native format.

      Larry

  4. KB says:

    I cannot find a convo thread on this subject:

    I am trying to export a 4min video for web from FCPX and need the final video to be approx 45mb. I am doing the following but getting horrible results:
    1. I’m exporting to Apple devices 1080p H.264 Faster Encode and end up with a .m4v video at 295mb (video looks good)
    2. Then bringing that video into QT pro or MPEG Streamclip to compress it small enough for web
    3. I get the file to 45mb but it is pixelated

    Thoughts?

    • Larry Jordan says:

      KB:

      You can’t get there from here. H.264 is a VERY compressed format. What you are doing is compressing the file, then RE-compressing it. This will ALWAYS yield terrible results.

      A MUCH better option is to export a Master File, which uses ProRes 422. Then, compress the file using Compressor, or MPEG Streamclip to compress. Your MPEG Streamclip settings are probably OK, the bigger problem is compressing something that is already compressed.

      Keep in mind that you are trying to squeeze a very large image – 1080 – into a very small size – 10 MB / minute. You will have MUCH better image quality if you reduce your image size to 720 during compression.

      Larry

  5. Joe says:

    Hi, the AIFF/Caf bug guy.. – it worked out btw. after a reboot the next day the rendering issue was gone.

    Regarding Pro Ress 422 (HQ) or not, the difference I can see is that the HQ file is a bit darker (transcoded with mpeg stream clip), and the Original 5dm3 H265 All-I file as well as the transcoded 422 (non HQ) file by FCPX are a bit lighter almost milkier.

    As there might not be more/less visible noise this does worry me and is just another reason for me not to work with fcpX.
    The bit sizes and file siszes are huge in difference as well obviously.

    Do you see an issue here larry? I do lots of grading / effects / titles / animated credits etc. so the larger the container or the”Waterbucket” the better the output…(?)
    thanks
    Joe

    • Joe says:

      sorry H264 of course (typo)

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Joe:

      I’m a bit confused. First, I would not use MPEGStreamclip to judge transcode quality. Second, the H.265 codec has been approved (as of January), but does not yet exist as a product.

      The only difference between ProRes 422 and ProRes 422 HQ is bit rate, which would yield better compression and reduced artifacts when dealing with clips that contain lots of motion. H.264 is a highly compressed and artifacted video format.

      I would expect more noise artifacts in H.264. Also, unless you are recording to a hard disk directly from your camera, the Canon can not record all I-frame data to a memory card – the bandwidth of the memory card is way too narrow.

      Which is why I’m confused.

      Larry

      • Joe says:

        Hi Larry,

        Sorry for the confusion, H265 was a typo. I meant H264. Good to hear H265 is near!

        I use the Canon 5d mark 3 with films Intra Frame ALL-I at 91 Mbits/s aprox. That can be recorded to memory cards…
        A better solution will be to record for ex. to Blackmagics HyperDeck Shuttle when the FIrmware upgrade allows clean HDMI output…

        So your saying Pro Res HQ would be a better starting point for compressing it again if the footage contains lots of motion etc. As I do lots of grading, fx etc. the higher data rate of HQ might justify the larger data size…

        The comparison was comparing the original H264 recording from the canon 5d 3 to the result of the FCPX import transcode to Pro Res 422 – to the result of MPEG streamclip transcode to Pro Res HQ. The HQ was a bit darker (contrast wise). (3 open QT windwos nest to each other.)
        The h264 was to source material so I didn’t expect of course the others to have more artifacts but was surprised to find the HQ result darker (a bit darker only and not worse in Quality!!)

        Do you recommend not to use Streamclip or better recommend Compressor for the task? I used Mpeg Streamclip to Batchprocess (since QT 7 can’t do this), and assumed since it used the Quicktime Engine there was no difference in result… also the Canon Log & Transfer transcode codec (plugin) didn’t work on my system and then I heard it produced unsatisfactory results (slow and some users reported missing data / videomaterial)

        My Best Reagrds
        Joe

  6. Alex Ojeda says:

    Hi, Larry,

    Im trying to export a couple of projects. Im getting huge outrageous export times. Im also following your tips for faster exports, which I found browsing the web trying to solve this isues, but havnt notice real difference, I guess because of the huge export times.

    Im running on FCP 10.0.8 and a brand new Mac Pro OSX 10.8.3 12 Cores 2.4 ghz and 24 RAM.

    I transcoded all my footage upon import to ProRes422.

    A 4 minutes video clip, with text, footage and a few effects, transitions was giving me over 8 hours of export time. I had to cancel out of that. I tried to use compressor and after waiting for a few hours its finally showed that the export failed.

    I try epxorting to H264 and Proress422HQ and Proress422 (so it doesnt need to transcode) but having the same issue. Huge amount of time to export, and failed attempts.

    Something is way off! any ideas what may be causing this or how to solve it?

    Any help would be greatly appreciated!

    • Alex Ojeda says:

      One last thing, when I open the background render, its shows “transcoding”. But if Im exporting to ProRes422 it shouldnt transcode right?

      I then went to the event browser, and selected a footage clip, in the properties panel on info, it shows H264 Codec linear PCM. Should it say Proress422? Im pretty sure all footage was transcoded to proress 422, it took over a dozen hours to transcode.

      I have no clue whats going one and need those exported files asap :(

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Alex:

      The only thing that would create these lengthy export times – assuming the app is working correctly – is if the project needs to render before output.

      If all rendering is done prior to export, then it may be a bad preference problem. Read this – http://www.larryjordan.biz/improving-fcp-x-performance/ – to learn how to trash preferences.

      Exporting a Master File SHOULD be the fastest way to export any file from FCP X ( File > Share > Master File).

      Larry

      • Alex Ojeda says:

        Hi, Larry,

        Many thanks for your fast response. I really appreciate it.

        The project was rendered before export. I waited a long while to have it rendered, several hours, then play it without the stuttering that occurs when playing it before render.

        I went ahead and trashed the preferences, with this free app that someone at the apple forum suggested: http://www.digitalrebellion.com/prefman/

        Restarted my Mac, launched FCPX, nothing else, and tried to export it again. It takes about 25 minutes to get to aprox 40% of the export done, but from there on it has taked almost half an hour for an extra 2 or 3 %. Its only a 4 minutes clip with some generators and transitions, footage.

        I also tried this other suggestion by a person at the apple forums:

        “NOTE: did find out some help to cut down the exporting times using Compressor…. When you send the timeline (project) to compressor click on the menu APPLE QMASTER.Select Share This Computer Next click the box Share this computer and select asQuickCluster with services. Next under the Services section click on the Compressorbox and then click Options a drop down menu will appear and allow you to select how many processors you want to use. I selected 16! I have noticed a big change in speed improvment’s to export 3 minute timelines in roughly 10-12 minutes :-) When it was 30 minutes in FCP X.”

        I ramped up the instances to 20 instead of 16. But theres hasnt been any real difference.

        When I imported the footage I selected prox and optimized media. Someone mentioned that it would play using Proxy and export using Optimized, and that would make it easier and faster to edit. Wonder if this has anything to do with it.

        Alex

        • Larry Jordan says:

          Alex:

          It sounds like you are exporting directly to Compressor, which I don’t recommend. Instead, export to a Master File, THEN bring that master file into Compressor.

          See if that improves export speeds.

          Larry

          • Alex Ojeda says:

            I went ahead and created a new project. Dropped in some generators and footage, totaling about 4 minutes, and it took about 12 minutes to export as MAster File with FCPX.

            Then I duplicated the troubled project, removed three parts with effects, stacked generators, etc. It had to re-render and that took a few hours, but finally the export took about 16 minutes.

            That being said, how can I build a more complex project if it wont export? I need to simply it in order to make it usable, it seems. I dont understand. It wasnt that crazy on effects and stuff. But something that had to do with those three parts was the problem.

            I guess Ill have to redo them in a light version in the meanwhile, I need to have it ready by Monday

            Many thanks for all your help, Larry. Have a great weekend.

            Alex

  7. Mireya Ojeda says:

    Hello, I keep getting the same error when trying to upload my video to youtube.
    The safe operation youtube has failed.
    Quick time error-50.
    I get the same error when trying to same video to computer.
    Can you help.

  8. David Eaks says:

    By the logic in tip #5, with the below system, would “setup 2″ would be better (assuming a solid external backup plan is in place)?

    Mac Pro 3,1 2.8 eight core, 16GB RAM, Radeon 5770, FCPX, Mtn Lion
    HDD Slot 1- SSD
    HDD Slots 2, 3 & 4- 2TB HDDs

    Setup 1 (my current setup):
    Slot 1) SSD System drive for OS and Apps
    Slots 2, 3 & 4) 6TB RAID-0 for Projects, Events, original media, exports etc.

    Setup 2:
    Slot 1) SSD System drive for OS and Apps
    Slots 2 & 3) 4TB RAID-0 for Projects, Events and original media
    Slot 4) 2TB Single drive dedicated for exporting to

    Or any other recommendations? I sure do a lot of “share master file” from 2hr timelines

    Thanks!

    • Larry Jordan says:

      David:

      My system is, essentially, configured as your Setup #2. However, you won’t see any significant change in performance between Setup 1 and Setup 2. For me, the benefit is organizational, not performance.

      Larry

      • David Eaks says:

        Thanks Larry, that’s just want I wanted to know. With no appreciable performance benefit I’ll stick with my current setup, as my organization methods are already in place.

  9. Leon says:

    1- Is there any way for us with limited systems and HD space to have FCPX render projects in ProRes 4:2:2 (Proxy) or other smaller file size format? Currently, the smallest render format that I can get it to render in is ProRes 4:2:2(LT). [But it allows export in ProRes 4:2:2(Proxy)]

    2-Is there a way to also reduce the file size of importing footage from a DV camera in events? My events folder is growing huge from imports from my Canon A1 which I record in SD. Is there a way to import in a way that the imported file sizes are smaller?

    Thanks for any help in keeping my storage to a minimum.

  10. Santosh says:

    Hi,

    I’m using FCP 7, and I’m converting .mov files in Mpeg stream clip to get rid of rendering. Some time, the footage is around 50GB and it’s really a trouble to convert all files before importing into FCP.
    is there a way to directly import the file into FCP withour rendering problems?
    Thanks

  11. Brad says:

    Larry,
    Just wanted to thank you for all of your training and advice. I recently discovered editing and I have been honing my skills in hopes of becoming a full-time editor. Your resources have been a gigantic help for me on this journey. I appreciate all that you do!

  12. Je' Levaunt says:

    So currently I am exporting a 6:48 video fully rendered to a master file. I am using ProRes 422 HQ Codec and it begins to export with the initial time of about 6 minutes around 71% it gets down to about 160 seconds then it starts to count back up. now its on 73% but at 7 and a half minutes, and counting.

    • Larry says:

      Export times are always calculated by FCP as if all remaining frames are exactly like the currently exporting frame. This means the export time varies depending upon the complexity of effects that FCP encounters during the export process.

      In other words, I never really trust the estimated export time.

      Larry

  13. Hi

    I used to shoot and edit underwater video using fcp7. It was sd footage and this machine used to take about 2-2.5 * run time to when running export thru compressor

    Ive just shot some video using a cannon s110 compact camera . It was AVCHD but on import it it transcoded my 36gig of original material to about 80 gigs of “High Quality” video

    I cut together a 20 minute video – almost no effect just half a dozen lower third titles – fairly plain ones

    I selected send to compressor and choose to compress with the video sharing service HD 720 settings

    I am now, according to the share monitor, just under 5 hours ijn with 6 3/4 hours more to go and have only transcoded 42%.

    So thats 5 hours to transcode about 8 minutes of video.

    I’d love to be told what i have done wrong here. Any suggestions anybody ?

  14. fadhli says:

    nice information. i want to ask about rendering, which video type that doesn’t need rendering? it is avi, mov, mp4, etc? thanks :)

    • Larry Jordan says:

      All video, regardless of format, requires rendering (which means to calculate new video) whenever you apply an effect or a transition. Sometimes this rendering can be done in real-time using fast GPUs, other times it requires writing a file to disk. Some formats (ProRes, for example) render very quickly. Others (H.264, for example) render more slowly due to the math involved.

      Larry

  15. Les says:

    Hello,

    We will be displaying our film festival work on a local movie theater screen next week. My question is what might be a good export format and setting for this purpose? The projector is capable of 4K resolution. The theater capacity is 142. Our compilation on the timeline is 5 shorts totaling about 55 minutes. Also, if I do everything optimally, what is an expected export time, given we have an early 2009 iMac with 8 gigs ram, and an external HD? Thanks for any help!

    Les

    • Larry says:

      Les:

      Export as ProRes 422, or ProRes 422 HQ. Play the movie from a computer into the projector.

      Assuming everything is rendered, I would assume exporting would take no more than 2x real time.

      Larry

      • Les says:

        Larry,
        Thanks so much for your very prompt and helpful response! I saw it a couple hours after my questin but didn’t have chance to reply. We have no option to run it from a computer. I assume you are talking about using the master file option in FCPX, but I’ll have to use DVD or BD.

        To explain further, we imported 5 individual, finished shorts into the timeline so we could have the option of adding some additional tweaking, titling, credits, background music and an introduction sequence in order to create a presentation program. But our first test burn, using ProRes 422HQ seemed to introduce some artifact in some of the shorts; for instance, a B&W short was more blown out in the white areas than in the original clip.

        I’m wondering now if we shouldn’t have just used a BluRay authoring /burner app to assemble the shorts rather than bring them all into FCPX as a group? I’m hoping to hear that our approach using FCPX is acceptable however.

        Thanks again,

        Les
        For
        Downtown Initiative for the Visual Arts
        Eugene, OR

        • Larry Jordan says:

          Les:

          It really depends upon what your source codec was. ProRes 422 HQ should not introduce artifacts, or brightness changes in a clip, unless your Timeline settings don’t match the clip for codec, frame rate or image size. In which case, the artifacts are most likely injected during the format conversion process.

          Keep in mind, too, that if the files were sent to you as h.264 files, unless they used a VERY high bit rate, you are compressing an already compressed file, which will always look ugly.

          Ideally, the filmmakers should send you an uncompressed file for further editing, at which point, you are no longer compressing a compressed file and your output should look great.

          Also, for projection, Blu-ray has seven times the resolution of SD, all things being equal.

          larry

          • Les says:

            Thanks again, Larry. This was very helpful.

            Most of the contributors sent h.264 1920 x 1080p files but of fairly disparately- sizes even accounting for their lengths. It’s hard to tell the bit rates using the metadata I get with them but I think I have an app that will reveal much of it.

            Not sure if you are saying I should use import settings that match the known codecs of the clips, or just try to match them when outputting the whole Timeline. I think you are saying match upon import and use ProRes 422 HQ for all? But I will be outputting directly to BluRay, and my burner.

            Meanwhile, I’m going to try to match similar file types on multiple Timelines to see if that helps.

            Cheers!

            Les

  16. Hal says:

    What is the difference between ‘export media” and “export using compressor settings”? They appear to be the same to me. Thanks

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Hal:

      File > Share > Export media creates a master file of your project in a video format that matches the format you edited. At the end, you are left with a master file. This is, generally, the highest-quality and fastest way to export a project.

      File > Share Export Using Compressor Settings sends the export of your project to Compressor to compress according to settings that you provide. This is a faster way to compress a file, but at the end you only have the compressed file. If you need multiple versions of your projects – one for YouTube, another for DVD, a third for a website – you would need to do this three times — or apply multiple compression settings in Compressor to the initial file.

      For me, having a single master file is preferable, however, both options will work.

      Larry

  17. Suha says:

    Is there a way to limit the data rate in FCPX? FCP 7 has an option when exporting to restrict the data rate to a certain Kbits/sec
    Does FCPX have that option?

    • Larry Jordan says:

      Suha:

      While you would not want to do that when exporting a master file, you can do this using a Compressor setting, which FCP X uses during export.

      Larry

      • Suha says:

        can you please explain how this is done?

        Thanks

        • Larry Jordan says:

          Suha:

          Only by writing a new article, as it requires knowledge of both FCP X and Compressor. (I’ll add this to my list.)

          An easier way may be to use one of the existing built-in compression presets, which you can access from FCP X > Preferences > Destinations and drag the Compressor settings icon from the right window to the left.

          At which point, you can select from any number of built-in compression settings.

          Larry

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