How to Display High-Quality Full-screen Video in Final Cut Pro

Posted on by Larry

This tutorial shows three different ways to display video full-screen in Apple Final Cut Pro. The first uses a single monitor, the second uses two monitors, while the third connects two or three monitors to provide the most accurate color and image quality.

In the old days, if we wanted to monitor our video to see exactly what it would look like for color grading, we needed to buy an external video monitor. While video monitors are still necessary for HDR media, there are now computer monitors which will work very well as a grading monitor for SD and HD media.


If all you have is the single monitor attached to your computer, you are not out of luck.

In the lower right corner of the Viewer is an icon with two arrows (see screen shot above). Click this to enlarge the Viewer to fill the frame and hide the rest of the interface.

Use keyboard shortcuts – like the J-K-L keys – for playback.

To return to the interface, press ESC.

I have used this techniques for years and it works great.


If you have two monitors, two new icons appear in the top right corner of the FCP interface.

Feel free to experiment with displaying the Timeline or Browser on the second monitor. Pick whichever screen layout works best for you.

(Click to see larger image.)

NOTE: Click the View icon (top red arrow) to change the number and orientation of scopes on display. Drag one of the dividing lines (middle and bottom arrows) to change the size of the scopes.


Both these first two techniques will work regardless of the resolution or color space accuracy of the monitor. But, if you need to trust the colors that the monitor is showing, you need to set its resolution and color space.

Recently, I purchased a BenQ PD2725 computer monitor to act as my color grading monitor. Why? Because it supports 100% of both sRGB and Rec. 709 color spaces. (Other monitors that meet these specs will also work.)  While I’m writing a review of this monitor separately, here’s how to use it as a color grading monitor.

NOTE: DataColor makes color calibration tools so you can verify the accuracy of monitor colors. If absolute, precise accuracy is critical, look into their Spyder series of calibrators.

My system currently includes a 16″ MacBook Pro (M1 Pro SoC), plus LG HDR 4K and BenQ PD2725 monitors. For this tutorial, I’ll switch the BenQ to be a video monitor.

NOTE: I’m not sure if this works when the monitor is connected via Thunderbolt. I know it works when the monitor is connected via HDMI or DisplayPort.

For best results, you need to change two settings:

Monitor Resolution

From the resolutions displayed, pick the one indicated by a red arrow that equals or exceeds your project. This is important. Choosing a non-standard frame size disables this feature. For video, there are four important horizontal resolutions:

NOTE: 5K monitors would also support 4K (4096 x 2160) and 5K (5120 x 2700) resolutions.

Monitor color space.

If you principally edit vertical video, also rotate your monitor 90° by changing the Rotation setting (bottom red arrow). Most, but not all, monitors support physical rotation; their stands, however, may not.

These options vary by monitor. However, while the wording may change, choose:

Close the Display settings to automatically save your choices.

NOTE: After writing this I realized I was unclear on whether we need to set color space on both the Mac and the monitor, just the Mac, or just the monitor. I’ve contacted a couple of monitor vendors to learn more and will update this when I have more complete information.


These last two steps are done inside Final Cut.

Go to Final Cut Pro > Settings > Playback and make sure the monitor appears in the A/V Output menu. If not, make sure the monitor is connected via HDMI or DisplayPort.

Finally, choose Window > A/V Output. When you do, the output of the Timeline will appear full screen (i.e. without video scopes) in the monitor. You’ll need to re-enable this setting each time you relaunch FCP.

NOTE: If A/V Output is gray, recheck the monitor resolution to assure that it equal to or larger than the size of your project and that it matches one of the video resolutions. Also, try changing how you connect the monitor, for example, try HDMI or DisplayPort. There are Thunderbolt to DisplayPort converter cables, which are not  very expensive.

To disable the monitor display, uncheck Window > AV Output.


Is using a third monitor for video proofing essential? Well… it depends.

NOTE: Keep in mind that, like all video since forever, you have no control over the color quality of the consumer’s monitor. All you can do is guarantee that “it is OK leaving here.”

The good news is that using this last monitor setup provides an accurate way to monitor color for most projects without going to a lot of additional expense.

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2 Responses to How to Display High-Quality Full-screen Video in Final Cut Pro

  1. Geoff Addis says:

    Hi Larry,
    I came across this YouTube piece that advises against using an HDMI connection when making adjustment to the dynamic range of photos. Although it is aimed at photographic use, but perhaps it is worthwhile for our consideration if using stills in the video. Here’s the link …

    Best regards,


    • Larry says:


      This is a fascinating video – thank you for sharing. The short answer is, for best color results, connect your monitor via DisplayPort or USB-C. Based on what the video covered, it may still be possible to get the full color range using HDMI, but it might require a call to the support folks that developed your monitor to get the correct setting.



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