FCP X: Preference Settings That Matter

Posted on by Larry

In my training videos, I talk a lot about preference settings in Final Cut Pro X, but I haven’t written a lot about them. So, in this article, I want to explain which preference settings I change and why I change them.

NOTE: If you need more information about what each preference option means, please refer to the Help files in Final Cut Pro X.

GENERAL TAB

The General tab defaults are good as they are. I like that Final Cut automatically makes backups of the library database (but not the media contained in the library). I always leave this checked.

While we can store library backups anywhere, the files are small and I generally leave them in their default location in the Home directory.

And the default setting for timecode – Hours:Minutes:Seconds:Frames – works just fine for me.

EDITING TAB

Here are the settings I use for the Editing tab.

PLAYBACK TAB

The rest of the settings on this screen are fine and I leave them alone.

IMPORT TAB

This is the most important, and complex, preference screen. Everyone’s situation is a bit different, so your needs may be different from mine. But, here are the settings I use:

DESTINATIONS TAB

Here, again, everyone is different; which is why I’m glad Apple gave us so many choices.

I output virtually everything I create as a master file, review that export, then, after I know that everything exported OK, I’ll move it to Compressor – or Adobe Media Encoder if I’m creating MP4 files – for final compression. I would rather spend a bit of extra time making sure the export is OK before compressing it. Others may be on tighter deadlines and want to do everything at once.

I’ve discovered it is less painful to catch and fix mistakes when you are the only person who knows they are there.

A NOTE ON OUTPUT FORMATS

I always output my projects to match my project render settings which, by default, are ProRes 422.

NOTE: If you did not optimize your media, then choose “Same as Source,” to output your camera native files.

Almost all video formats use a form of color compression called “Chroma-subsampling.” This is the term that describes 4:2:2, or 4:2:0 color. For this reason, there’s not a lot of reason to output a higher color format than your render files.

For most video, you won’t be able to tell the difference between ProRes 422 and ProRes 422 HQ; except that ProRes 422 HQ files are about 20% bigger.

The only exception to this is when I am editing files that were created on the computer, for example, screen captures when I am demonstrating software. Here, I’ve discovered that changing rendering settings to ProRes 4444 and outputting ProRes 4444 files makes a big different in image quality.

So, all my camera video is output at ProRes 422, while all my screen capture videos are output at ProRes 4444.

SUMMARY

Most of the preference settings in Final Cut Pro X are fine. And, if you haven’t spent time optimizing yours, don’t worry. The default settings will keep you mostly out of trouble. But, if you want to tune the performance of your system, now you know the settings that I use.


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12 Responses to FCP X: Preference Settings That Matter

  1. Gregory Minton says:

    Just to share the info, I have seen the ‘Remove silent channels” work.

    I had a bunch of footage shot on a semi-pro SONY AVCHD camera. The audio was recorded using an external 2 CH wireless microphone system via the camera’s 3.5mm TRS input. The camera would record MIC 1 on the left channel and MIC 2 on the right channel of the stereo audio soundtrack. So you would end up with footage that had 1 silent channel and 1 good channel both panned hard left and right.

    FCPX kindly removed all of the silent channels from the AVCHD files, left the 1 good channel containing the audio intact, and converted it to a mono soundtrack. Saved me a bunch of time if you are ever in that situation.

    • LarryJ says:

      Gregory:

      Cool. That would mean that this feature is designed for those clips that need to be transcoded (converted) from their camera native format during import into Final Cut Pro X.

      Nice to know.

      Larry

  2. Aaron Walker says:

    Hey Larry. Thanks for all you do!!
    “Then, switch to original/native/optimized files just before final export.”
    Does this mean that if if the light switch at the top-right of the viewer is set to ‘better performance’ and ‘proxy’ that FCPX will export a lower-quality version of the video than if it were set to ‘higher quality’ and ‘original/optimized’? AKA, does FCPX not “know” to export the absolute highest quality unless we tell it to? (When I export, I use Command+E, as you do, for highest quality).
    My impression is that it should always export highest quality regardless of how we choose to work with our media in the edit – Am I being naive? 🙂

    • Aaron:

      I can think of several reasons why I’d want to export rough cut files as proxies – just to save time and space.

      So, FCP X gives us a choice of what we want to export. This means that, yes, you’ll need to specify proxy or optimized before exporting.

      Larry

  3. Alexi says:

    Audio: Remove silent channels is not a good option when
    making DCPs at 5.1 in FCP X. You need all 8 channels even
    if two of the channels are not used, you can have the volume turned
    down to accommodate the need for 8 channels, but FCP X has to see
    them there.

  4. Pingback: FCP X: Ключевые настройки параметров (перевод) | The Editor's Stories

  5. Patrick Pagano says:

    Larry….have your latest book…..very helpful.
    When I import some footage in FCPX, it looks fine until you
    play it back. It flickers. Is is because the footage was
    from another movie that was copyrighted ?

  6. Great review! I was trying to decide how I want to work the ‘save in Libraries situation’. I’m looking to free up some space by only keeping media in the file structure that is accessible, and not duplicating it. Let me know if you have any more tips on this! 🙂

  7. noel says:

    Hello Larry!
    I have always enjoyed reading you and listening to you.
    Why would you send to compressor or encoder after your final export. Isn’t it enough to have and deliver the file right out of fcpx/

    Thanks and cheers

    • Larry says:

      Noel:

      Well, that depends. You need one format for broadcast, another for cable, another for YouTube, another for streaming, another for your website, another for Vimeo… you get the idea.

      There’s no single format that works perfectly everywhere – you are always creating derivatives.

      Larry

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