Project settings, which Apple calls “Project Properties” determine the technical specs of your project. In this tutorial, I explain what they are, how to set them and how to change them. More importantly, I explain what can’t be changed.
The Project Properties dialog appears whenever you create a new project. It determines, among other things, the frame size, frame rate, render codec and color space of a project.
NOTE: The shortcut to create a new project is: Cmd + N.
There are two setup options: Automatic and Custom. However determining which you are using is a bit backward. When Use Custom Settings is displayed, you are in Automatic mode. When Use Automatic Settings is displayed, you are in Custom mode. Automatic mode displays fewer options.
USING AUTOMATIC SETTINGS
When you create a new project using the Automatic settings, you can:
When you click OK, the project is created.
Now, here is the KEY point: The project will automatically configure itself to match the technical settings of the FIRST clip you edit into the timeline; this includes setting:
The reason this is important is that if your first clip is not the format you need, you’ll need to change these settings later, which I’ll cover shortly. However, once media is in the timeline, the frame rate can not be changed. So it is important to be sure you edit a clip with the correct frame rate as your first timeline clip.
You can see what your project specs are by clicking inside the timeline, but not on a clip, to select the timeline pane, then look at the top of the Info Inspector (left red arrow).
As you can see in the screen shot above, this is a 4K UHD 29.97 fps project (lower red arrow), using the Rec. 709 color space. This is a fast and easy way to make sure your project is configured the way you expect.
USING CUSTOM SETTINGS
Custom settings allow us to specifically determine the specs of our project, regardless of the first clip we edit into it. This requires more understanding of media formats, but prevents surprises at the end, such as creating a project with the wrong frame size or frame rate.
NOTE: Once you set custom properties, Final Cut will not change project settings, regardless of the clip you edit into the timeline first.
Looking at the screen shot above:
NOTE: There is a workaround. Select all media in the timeline and cut it to the clipboard. Change the frame rate, then paste the media back in. In many cases, this will work.
Click OK to accept these changes.
While we can’t change frame rate after we start editing, we can change everything else. The trick is in knowing where.
Select the project name in the Browser.
Type Cmd + J (or open the Inspector). At the top is a blue Modify button. Click it.
This re-opens the Project Properties pane, where you can change whatever you need – except for frame rate.
Click OK and Final Cut resets everything instantly, including resizing media, if necessary.
Most of the time in my work, I set my project settings at the beginning and leave them alone. But, when I’m teaching, I’m frequently changing settings to explain media concepts to students. Final Cut is happy either way.
Here’s a video tutorial on how to adjust Library settings.
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