Normally, when you create a new project in Final Cut, all your settings are fine. But, every so often, in the middle of an edit, you discover that your project settings are wrong. This article explains what you need to know to change them.
NOTE: Project properties determine the image size, frame rate, and render settings for a Final Cut project. Different projects can each have customized project settings.
THE PROBLEM IS THE DEFAULT
Most of the time, when you create a new project, keep things simple and just give it a name and location.
However, under the hood, when you click the Use Custom Settings button, you discover that Final Cut adjusts the project settings based upon the first clip you edit into the project.
This automatic setting can cause problems when you are shooting a different image size, frame rate, or video format than the one you need to deliver. Or, when you are working with multiple video formats in the same project. In these cases, if you edit the wrong format into the Timeline as your first clip, the project settings change automatically. Worse, Final Cut does not notify you that the project settings were modified.
SEE PROJECT SETTINGS
To discover what your project settings are, select the project in the Browser, then go to Inspector > Info. The project settings are listed at the top of the Info panel. In this example, my project is a 720p 59.94 fps HD project.
CHANGE PROJECT SETTINGS
To change project settings, select the project in the Browser, then do one of the following:
This opens the Info tab in the Inspector. Click the Modify Settings button.
This opens the Custom Project Settings panel, where you can change the project properties. When you configure properties after you’ve created the project, the option to have the product automatically match the format of the first clip is no longer available.
IMPORTANT NOTE: If you have clips edited into the Timeline, you will not be able to change the frame rate. To alter the frame rate do one of the following:
A new behavior with the 10.1 release is that when you change the project settings as part of creating a new project, FCP will retain these settings, even if the first clip you edit doesn’t match them. This means that you can set your project settings once, then not worry about them as you start to edit clips.
NOTE: Final Cut will remember these custom project settings the next time you create a new project. However, when you quit and restart Final Cut, project properties will reset back to their default setting of configuring the project based upon the first clip edited into it.
Another trick that I use when creating a new project is to edit a generator into the Timeline as the first clip.
Because FCP defaults to setting the project settings to match the first video clip, and since generators can assume any video format, image size and frame rate, Final Cut displays a project settings dialog asking you to pick the video format for the project.
For me, most of my work is posted to the web, so the format I tend to edit the most is 720p/30 or 720p/60, which is what I’m illustrating here in this screen shot.
Changing project properties after you start editing isn’t difficult, but it can be an unnecessary extra step.
My general advice is to configure a project to match the frame size and frame rate of your final deliverable. As for video format, I always recommend setting render files to ProRes 422 (the default) or ProRes 422 HQ, export the finished projects as a master file, then compress the master file into the final video format you need to deliver.
If you always edit one specific video format, leave the project properties set to configure the project to match the first clip you edit into it. It fast, its easy and it works great.
However, if you edit multiple video formats in the same project, or need to edit a different format than the one that was shot, the best advice is to always click the Use Custom Settings button and set the project properties to exactly match what you need. That way, there are no surprises.
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