Faster Ways to Export H.264 and HEVC Video from Final Cut Pro

Posted on by Larry

In January, I looked at how rendering affects export speed in Final Cut Pro. Specifically, I wondered whether Final Cut Pro exported faster if you rendered the timeline before exporting.

The short answers are:

This week, Flick sent me an email wanting to render using HEVC (or H.264), since all his projects deliver in that format to the web. He was looking for a way to save time.

However, FCP does not support rendering in either HEVC or H.264, as the project render files options shown in the screen shot above illustrate.

My guess is that the compression architecture using in both H.2645 and HEVC (Long-GOP) significantly degrades performance, especially on older systems. So, you can only render into variations of ProRes or uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 media.

This created two new questions for me:

  1. Are export speeds different if you first render a project using ProRes 4444 or ProRes 422?
  2. Is it faster to compress a file using FCP or Apple Compressor?

Since both FCP and Compressor use the same compression engine, image quality should be the same, but, perhaps not the speed. This weekend, I decided to find out.


Here’s what I learned:

This last finding was the one that surprised me.


I created a ten-minute 4K project composed of 33 different ProRes 422 4K clips; with effects as shown in the screen shot above.

The primary storyline contained eleven 4K clips, using straight cuts and no effects.

Compound clip 1 contained eleven 4K clips with the following effects:

Compound clip 2 contained eleven 4K clips with the following effects:

I then fully rendered this project using first ProRes 422, then ProRes 4444. Finally, I timed how long it took to export this project in six different codecs:

NOTE: There are two ways to export H.264 media: File > Share > Export File and File > Share > HEVC – High Efficiency Video…. HEVC can only be exported using the HEVC menu option. The HEVC option is slightly faster for both H.264 and HEVC. (The ADD H.264 option only exists if you have installed Audio Design Desk software on your system.)

I exported H.264 and HEVC using single-pass compression settings, where choosing that option was available. This engaged hardware-acceleration for faster encoding. ProRes rendering and exporting always uses hardware-acceleration.


Click to see larger image.

TABLE NOTES: Speed Difference compares the speed of exporting a different codec to the render format. While interesting, the more helpful results are indicated by total compression time. Note how similar compression speeds were for H.264 and HEVC, regardless of render file format or video bit-depth.

This table shows that:

NOTE: Compressor treats batches differently than Adobe Media Encoder, which processes all formats of the same file at once. Compressor processes them sequentially. Media Encoder will be faster at compressing batches of the same file.


I was not expecting export speeds to be this consistent between codecs. I was also very surprised to see that creating a batch of files in Compressor – though more convenient – is not faster than compressing each file individually.


When picking the best render format, keep these thoughts in mind:

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