FCP X: Native vs. Optimize vs. Proxy Media

There’s a lot of confusion about the three different media types in Final Cut Pro X: native, optimized, and proxy.

Native media is the format shot by your camera. For example, AVCHD, H.264, DV, and HDV are all examples of native media formats.

Optimized media is always ProRes 422. When the “Optimize Media” checkbox is checked during import, FCP X transcodes, which is a fancy way of saying it “converts,” your media from its native format into Apple ProRes 422.

Proxy media is always Apple ProRes 422 Proxy. Proxy media creates a reasonably high-quality media file, but at about 1/4 the size of ProRes 422.

When you import media from either a file or camera, you have the ability to optimize it, or create proxy files.

You also have the ability to convert media after you’ve imported the files. Simply select the clips in the Event Browser that you want to transcode and select File > Transcode media.

Either way, here are your options:

What’s “reasonable image quality?” Generally, the higher the bit rate of the media, the better the image quality. For this reason, since ProRes 422 has a much higher bit rate than ProRes Proxy, the image quality is potentially better. This is especially true if you are doing color correction, green-screen keying, or lots of image manipulation. However, if you are simply capturing and editing consumer-grade camera images, without many effects, you may not see any quality difference at all between optimized and proxy media.

Creating proxies or optimized media always makes a copy of your camera source files. Both optimized and proxy media will have better performance than the camera native formats.

You can select one option, both, or none. Depending upon which options you select, you could have up to three copies of your media files stored on your system:

1. Camera native
2. Optimized
3. Proxy

Duplicate media files are not necessarily a bad thing and FCP X will track them properly; however, multiple copies do require more disk space.


Not all camera formats require optimizing. If the Optimize option is grayed out, it means that the camera format is already optimized and would not benefit if converted into ProRes 422. (DV and AVC-Intra are two examples of already-optimized media formats.)

NOTE: For the geeks among us, optimized formats are those that are stored in an I-frame format.

My general recommendation is to always optimize media. Purchasing an extra hard disk will more than pay for itself in the time you save during editing.


To switch between native, optimized, or proxy files in your Project go to the Final Cut Pro > Preferences > Playback tab.

Click the radio button for Proxy to edit using Proxy files.

Click the radio button for Original/Optimized to edit using anything else.

You can change this setting whenever you want, however, you can’t have a mix of some Proxy and some Optimized files in the same Project at the same time. Proxy and Optimized files are stored in different folders in the same Event folder.

(By the way, I thought whether you selected High Quality or Better Performance in this preference pop-up menu, your output quality will always be the same – high quality. However, see Jason’s comment below.)

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142 Responses to FCP X: Native vs. Optimize vs. Proxy Media

  1. Jason Cox says:

    Hi there
    The ONLY part of this article I think needs a further look is your very final sentence. I have tested this a few times with footage that was originally 1080p (one project from a Canon XA-10 AVCHD camera and the other from a Nikon D7000 DSLR).

    Anyway, long story short, If I exported an H.264 file at the end, IF I exported with the High Quality settings selected in Preferences, then I got a great looking file 1080p file. However, IF I exported with the Better Performance (i.e. Proxy) settings, I did get a 1080p file, but it was noticeably (if only a bit) blurrier/softer. It looked as if it had taken the 1/4 res proxy files and blown them up to 1080! Also, if I chose to export the project as “Current Settings,” the final output file’s codec would say ProRes 422 if I had chosen the High Quality setting and ProRes 422 Proxy if I had chosen the Better Performance setting (again, both 1080 files, but the 1080 one noticeably blurrier!).

    I double checked this with some other FCPX Trainers and they seemed to have noticed this as well and say that’s how Apple programmed it. One even said it’s described that way in the manual (although i couldn’t find it!). If anyone has any more input on this topic, please let me know!

    • Jason Cox says:

      P.S. Hope me first sentence didn’t come off as snide. I love your work and webinars, I just read this and have had many frustrations with it so I had to reply!

    • Olivier says:

      Hi Jason
      So what you are meaning is that it has not only a “playback” preference parameter but more a “playback & export” parameter …
      Thank by the way

    • Jackee says:

      for my opinion, cos my mac is little bit old, it’s mac bood pro 991, so , i choose proxy media to do the edit, by the way, the footate is shoot by sony hd carmera, ex1r, 1080p ,50i, what i want to share is using proxy media is really save my time and you don’t need to worry about the final export media, you just need to switch to using optimize media after edidting. and the final video quality is great.

  2. Jason:

    Excellent comment – and I never object when someone has a better idea. Otherwise, I’d never learn anything!

    Thanks for sharing this.


  3. David Mills says:

    I suffered a weekend of anxiety wondering why Final Cut Pro X suddenly stopped importing any files whatever. I was almost ready to delete the program and reinstall when I figured out the problem. If there is a mismatch in your preferences between Proxy playback and Optimized import, you’ll get that frightening red screen every time. I made a brief YouTube video that displays the problem and quick solution.


    David Mills
    Huntington, WV

  4. Thanks – the ability to quickly switch between proxy and optimized media is a good thing…. once you understand what it is doing.

    Thanks for posting the video.


  5. Jeff Orig says:

    Hi Larry,

    Is there a way to “offline” using proxy then do an “online” edit/output using Prores 422?



  6. Are you suggesting clicking “better performance” rather than “high quality” in the playback quality option will negatively effect your output. I assumed the choice was only for playback, and did not effect output. But am I wrong? I think Jason is saying the softening is only in regards to using proxy media. I edit mostly in native with no trouble. Here’s what the FCP-X help says.

    Use proxy media: Click this button to use medium-quality proxy media (converted to one-quarter resolution) rather than full-resolution media for playback. Choosing this option increases playback performance, but the video quality is lower. In Final Cut Pro, proxy media is in the Apple ProRes 422 (Proxy) format.

    Use original or optimized media: Click this button to use the optimized media for playback. If optimized media is not available, Final Cut Pro uses the original media for playback. In that case, use the Playback Quality pop-up menu to choose whether to always use the highest-quality video for playback or downsized video for better playback performance. In Final Cut Pro, optimized media is in the Apple ProRes 422 format.

  7. Michael:

    I just re-read Jason’s comment – after getting your comment. Proxy media will not export with the same level of quality as optimized or native media. If that’s what Jason is doing, I am not surprised there is a difference in quality.

    According to Apple, there should be no difference in quality when exporting the same media with the preference set to high quality or better performance. The difference may be visible during editing, but not during export.

    Proxy media is used to reduce file size and for some slower systems. In general, I don’t recommend using it as most hard drives today are fully capable of handling most media formats – especially when optimized to ProRes 422 – with no problems.


  8. Jeff Orig says:

    Hi Larry and Jason,

    I wanted to get a better understanding of Proxy, Original, and Optimized. So I decided to conduct a little test. It only takes a few minutes to do. Typing up the comment here, took much longer than the actual test.
    Your article http://www.larryjordan.biz/fcpx-working-with-proxy-media/ was very useful.

    I shoot with the Canon 5Dm2 which uses H.264. I’m not sure if this has anything to do with it.

    I am unable to replicate the file size difference and file quality difference that Jason describes when selecting High Quality vs. Better Performance in playback.

    I imported a single file with proxy checked and put it to a 1920x1080p 23.98 timeline.
    I exported using Share>Media Export – using Current Settings for Video Codec
    I exported the following of the same clip but changed only the playback settings in Preferences:

    1. Proxy Playback
    2. Optimized/Original – High Quality Playback
    3. Optimized/Original – Better Performance

    Here are the specs when clicking get info in the finder on each file after export:
    1. Proxy Playback
    File Size: 66.8 MB
    Dimensions: 1920 × 1080
    Codecs: apco, Linear PCM, Timecode
    Color Profile: HD (1-1-1)
    Duration: 00:15
    Audio Channels: 2
    Total Bit Rate: 35,938

    2. Optimized/Original – High Quality Playback
    204.6 MB
    1920 × 1080
    Apple ProRes 422, Linear PCM, Timecode
    HD (1-1-1)

    3. Optimized/Original – Better Performance Playback
    204.6 MB
    1920 × 1080
    Apple ProRes 422, Linear PCM, Timecode
    HD (1-1-1)

    Just to be sure, I created a new project with the same settings as above. But this time, I imported original only. I did not check optimized or proxy.

    Then I put it to the timeline and exported the same 3 things in preferences:

    1. Proxy Playback
    2. Optimized/Original – High Quality Playback
    3. Optimized/Original – Better Performance

    The results were:
    1. Proxy Playback
    -Missing Media since no proxy was created

    2. Optimized/Original – High Quality Playback
    Same exact output specs as above

    3. Optimized/Original – Better Performance
    Same exact output specs as above

    I could not visually see any quality difference between the HQ vs. Better Performance.
    There is an extremely noticeable difference between the Proxy Playback Output and the other files. Not subtle at all.

    Just as a final check, here are the specs on the camera original media.
    83.9 MB
    1920 × 1080
    H.264, Linear PCM

    I also just checked the Proxy File that was created and here are the specs:
    31.4 MB
    960 × 540
    apco, Linear PCM, Timecode
    HD (1-1-1)

    My test is in line with Michael’s comment and his quote of the FCPX manual.

    The proxy file created by FCPX and the export using the proxy file are very noticeably lower in quality. There is no question that it is lower.

    Maybe Jason’s results have something to do with AVCHD vs. H.264 native formats, though it seems that FCPX is exporting from the original media to ProRes 422 in Better Performance and HQ.

    Jason, can you do a similar test? It might help out Nikon shooters or other AVCHD folks.



    • Jeff:

      This is an outstanding write up and in-line with what I would expect.

      You should see NO difference in image quality when exporting caused by the performance settings in preferences. I also agree that Proxy media will yield markedly lower image quality – which is also to be expected, as Proxies were created for small file sizes, not image quality.

      An excellent report – Thanks!


    • Jason Cox says:

      OK, so I see what’s happened here and it’s going to make me look like 50% idiot, but not entirely lol!

      I used the wrong language at one point in my original post (sigh). When I said “…IF I exported with the Better Performance (i.e. Proxy) settings…” this is where I went wrong in my wording. The whole time, my Playback Quality WAS set to High Quality. I was only flicking the switch between “Use proxy…” and “use optimized/original…” So I’m sorry for sending some of you on a wild goose chase!

      BUT that doesn’t change my original issue I had, and I think it’s just something I find frustrating about how the program is designed: I like to edit my projects using proxy clips so that I’m rendering and generally buzzing through my project as quickly as possible. It just irks me that EVEN THOUGH the proxy settings are supposedly just “Playback” settings, it is also technically EXPORT settings in a way as well. So it’ll take your 540-lines of resolution video (the proxy clip) and blow it back up to 1080 if Proxy playback is enabled. It’s just my humble opinion that when I hit export, it should always be choosing to export using the original or optimized media and that the ONLY thing that should influence the output quality is what I select in the Share menu, NOT what I what playback setting I have selected in Preferences!

      Anyway, sorry for the confusing language in my original post. Part of my almost didn’t post this out of embarrasment!

      • Jason:

        Not to worry – I just discovered one of my FCP X training files had a mistake in it – so I spent this morning sending email messages to hundreds of people telling them I messed up and and pointing out where they can download a corrected file….

        However, I disagree with your export thought. Here’s the problem. In order to export high quality files, you need to have access to them. This means that you would always need to carry both Proxy and high-quality files with you, even if you were only editing Proxies.

        This would require vastly more hard disk space.

        Proxy files were designed to provide very small file sizes – with a resulting trade off in image quality, which you noticed. They are designed to travel separately from the high-quality files, then easily reconnect when the time comes to export.


        • Jason Cox says:

          Well, that’s a good point. So my question is this: How is that workflow supposed to work in theory?

          For example, if I have a desktop and a laptop, and my media files (i.e. Final Cut Events folder) are on a media (2nd) drive inside my desktop, but I needed to travel and continue editing, then I would copy the Projects and Events folder MINUS the original or Optimized folders inside of the Events folder to an external drive so I could plug it into my laptop and work with just the proxy files? And then when I’m back from my “travel,” I would just overwrite the old Projects folder on my desktop with the one from my external drive? Did that make any sense? Ha, I hope so.

        • Kent Jakusz says:

          Could you please qualify “reconnect”.

          You said:
          Proxy files were designed to provide very small file sizes – with a resulting trade off in image quality, which you noticed. They are designed to travel separately from the high-quality files, then easily reconnect when the time comes to export.

          My mind is stuck on the concept that after editing FCPX goes back to the original files (h.264) grabs the portions edited in and uses them for the final export.

          I am 99.9% sure this is not correct but in my defense I have trouble with the entire transcoding procedure. That is transcoding from h.264 to ProRes and back to h.264. In this technological day Apple can not edit h.264 natively? I frequently hear terms like “reconnect” in the training videos and question just what is it that you are “reconnecting” to?

          I am old, 64, and this stuff helps to keep me young so please bear with me.

          The only dumb question is the one never asked.

          Thanks for your patience


  9. Kent:

    Let’s take this in steps.

    1. Transcoding simply means to “convert” from one video format to another.

    2. FCP X can edit H.264 natively, but it is not an efficient format. This means that if you are doing a lot of effects or color correction, you can do it – but it will be done faster and better if you convert (transcode) your H.264 video into something more friendly.

    3. For highest quality, simply optimize the file on import. For smallest file size *also* select Proxy.

    4. Proxies are used for editing using small file sizes. Optimized media is used for outputting at highest quality. In general, for H.264, you are wisest to optimize (which creates ProRes 422 version). If you need small file sizes – say for editing on a laptop – then also create Proxies.

    5. FCP X makes it easy to switch between Proxies and Optimized media. Or between Proxies and source H.264 media.


  10. Thank you so much for this post. I always convert my files to Proxy (formerly using MPEG Streamclip) and now on import on FCPX. I always say with editing, “you will pay now or you will pay later on export.” Personally, I like to pay early.

    • Jonathan says:

      I have just read through your article as well as all the comments. I have been talking to a friend about this before I found your article so here is what I have been doing. Before I import my media into Final Cut X, I would use compressor to convert it to ProRes 444 format. I was unaware of what exactly optimize feature of FCX did. My question is when I go to import the ProRes 444 files into FCX why can the optimize option still be checked? If I do check this box it seems to begin converting the footage again. Is FCX making another ProRes copy and storing it in the project folder. This would seem to take up a lot of unnecessary space if that was the case. I’m new to this editing thing so thanks for all of your help. Your articles are very useful.


      • Jonathan says:

        In my post I said ProRes 444. What I meant to say was ProRes 422. Sorry for the confusion.


  11. Becks says:

    I have the same question as Jonathan.

    Is it better to use Compressor to convert to ProRes first, or let FCP optimize it for us? What’s the difference?

    • Becks & Jonathan:

      If you are using FCP X, let FCP X convert to ProRes for you.

      If you are using FCP 7, and you are using Log & Capture, you can let FCP 7 convert to ProRes for you.

      If your project is large, take advantage of the background processing Compressor provides and convert using Compressor.

      It is not a matter of quality, but of saving time. In all three cases, image quality should be essentially identical.


  12. When you optimize your original media what is happening? Is the original media transcoded to 422. Or are you getting a new version, 422 and keeping a copy of the original media as well? In effect have two copies of the same file, one 422 one original?

  13. Brian says:

    Hey Larry,

    After operating fine for months with only optimized media, I finally met my match and now work with Proxy Media. So, as you state above, I now have three different versions of the same footage. I’m just starting to feel the squeeze of storing all of it.

    Do you see any major issues with deleting the original media? I don’t like to do it…but do I really need it after it’s optimized??

    Anyone’s thoughts are welcome.


    • Brian:

      I am VERY reluctant to ever recommend deleting camera source files – just in case. However, it is true that once you have optimized your media, your camera source is no longer needed.


  14. Jeff Orig says:

    I would buy more hard drives. They are currently around $110 for 2TB. Plus, you should be backing everything up.
    I learned this lesson the hard way. I was not properly backing up and lost literally 2 weeks of time trying to recover mission critical data off one drive that went bad.

    I am trying this as a back up plan. I have a 2006 Mac Pro with 4 hard drive bays. 1 drive is system drive. 1 drive is media drive. 1 drive is a Time Machine of the system. 1 drive is a Time Machine for the media drive.

    Not perfect since I don’t have an off-site back up in this scheme, but better than nothing.

    For a few hundred dollar investment, you save yourself a lot of heartache and hair pulling.

    Plus, if your system is fast enough, you may not even need to optimize the footage or use proxy. My current workflow, I don’t even convert to optimized media. Editing works fine, no hangups or minimal slowdowns. I wish FCPX would allow me to do the following: with the click of a button when I have picture lock, only optimize the timeline and keep all the cuts. Then I could bring that picture locked edit into some sort of color correction software.

    Maybe one day.

    Also search for Larry’s article on maintaining hard drives properly over the course of a year.
    Data floats away off the disk if not fully cycled through.

  15. Richard says:

    I got very used to using Canon’s E-1 plugin (Log and Transfer) to audition clips, occasionally set in/out points, and then transcode them to ProRes 422 for editing in the timeline. This helped me sort through the raw clips and keep my library down to only the clips I needed (and also helped with disk space as I was only transcoding the clips I actually wanted to use).

    Yesterday I got the FCPX trial, and am considering upgrading to it, as it seems to better use my MBP’s power (GPU, etc).

    I’m wondering, though, what workflow do you guys use to most closely emulate the Canon E-1 plugin?

    The closest thing I can come up with is the following, but I’d like some advice on whether it’s really doing the same thing.

    So I import the clips from a shoot into an “Event”. I uncheck “copy media” and uncheck “optimize clips”. I then preview the clips in the library, and when I know which ones I want, I right-click on them and hit transcode, and then optimize them from the native Canon format (h.264) to ProRes 422.

    This seems to save me from having to transcode every single clip on the card (which I may not use), though it’s not quite as clean as using E-1 was. Is this a pretty solid approach?

    On that note, since Final Cut Pro X can work natively with h.264 files, is there a *need* to transcode to ProRes 422 in this situation?? I’m assuming editing/effects/etc work better on ProRes, but I have nothing to base that on.

    Any advice about whether I’m doing this correctly to match the old workflow would be greatly appreciated.

    EDIT: Oh, one thing I forgot to ask, too: I did notice that when transcoding from h.264 to ProRes in FCPX, the transcode seems quite a bit slower than Canon’s E-1 plugin did in FCP7. Is this just me or is it really a slower transcode?

    • Richard:

      I would recommend a different workflow.

      When you are reviewing your clips in the Import window – only import the clips you want and optimize (transcode) on import. Since you can bring in clips at any time, this saves importing clips you won’t need, and, as the optimization happens in the background you can begin editing, even before the optimization is done.

      As for speed, FCP X is probably as fast as Canon – EXCEPT Canon is running in the foreground and you can’t start editing until the transcode is complete. FCP runs in the background and you can start editing immediately, regardless of how long the transcoding takes.

      The key is to only import the clips you need, rather than import everything and transcode later.


      • Richard says:

        Hey Larry,

        Thanks a ton for the advice. I suppose that does make more sense, and does mirror the old E-1 workflow more closely. The only downside, unless I’m doing it wrong, is that the FCPX clip import window doesn’t offer much in the way of scrubbing or in/out points; it’s just a Finder window pretty much. Maybe the “Camera Import” is different, but seeing as I’ve already copied everything to my external HD, I wasn’t able to try that.

        Regardless, it’s good to know that everything else is pretty much the same, and transcoding with FCPX is pretty much the same concept as using Log and Transfer.

        I’ve heard some people say that the thing that’s NOT the same is that L&C would import timecode data, but I guess my workflow hasn’t yet made apparent why that should matter (I’m guessing for audio reference).

        • Richard:

          I’m not sure what you mean in that FCP X allows you to scrub every clip in the Camera Import window, as well as set In and Out points on a clip.


          • Richard:

            Sorry for not being precise. When you import a file, you can’t preview it. When you use import from Camera, which is how you would bring in your raw camera footage, you can preview, scrub, and mark Ins and Outs.


  16. Richard says:

    Ahh, import from camera; much better :]

    Thanks for the advice and keep up the great work; your site is an outstanding resource!

    • Jeff Orig says:

      Hi Richard and Larry,

      I never thought to use import from camera for the Canon footage. I just use import files. I will definitely try import from camera next time.

      My current workflow was like what you stated Richard. Import files unchecked optimize and unchecked copy media.
      But I just edit the native H.264’s. I have not seen a major performance hit on my Mac Pro 1,1 (2006 with upgraded graphics card) and no major performance hit on my 2011 Macbook Pro. You do get hit on the effects side. Once you add a couple of effects on clips it is not nearly as fast as the ProRes files.

      I am thinking on my next project, I will do as I have done above. Once I have picture lock, I will duplicate the project and convert only the timeline to ProRes files. Then I can do effects and color correction with ProRes. I am not sure if this will have the intended result of only transcoding the files in the timeline or all the files in the event.

      Richard, are you keeping copies of your camera original on your hard drive somewhere? I hope so. Just in case you need them in the future.

      If I get a chance, I will post my findings on that. Unless someone already knows the answer to that. It is greatly appreciated.

  17. I have found the information here very valuable. I am new to video production. I am looking at a big project, where I will be using 4 cameras to shoot about 30 hours of classroom activity. So that’s 120 hours of video. That’s a LOT of hard disk space. I am going to be away from home, with just my MacBook Air, so will be using USB external drives just to import the video (will edit it later with firewire drives). Storage is a big concern, obviously, with so much video. I figure I will just import it with no optimization or proxies at first, then deal with the stuff later. I can create optimized and proxy versions after import, right? I am thinking I may invest in a new iMac, and that this may be fast enough to deal with the original files so that I don’t have to make optimized versions. In the article above, you say working with original files is advantageous in that it saves disk space. The downside then is the editing process is slower? Is that all? Is there any hit in video quality?

    • There are three potential problems in your workflow:
      1. The USB drives may not be fast enough. Do a test – capture 15 minutes of video – if you don’t have any problems and no dropped frames you can use your USB drives for capture.

      2. Yes, you can optimize your files later. I don’t see a need to create proxy files for your project.

      3. If all you are doing is straight cuts, editing native and optimizing will yield the same results. As you start to add effects – color correction, green screen, gradients – using optimized media means your renders will be faster, your exports faster, and your image quality higher.


      • Rob says:

        Larry, can you confirm that there is a performance improvement (faster) when exporting optimized media versus native media (XDCAM EX)?

  18. I should have also mentioned, the cameras are tapeless, AVCHD. I just checked some video I imported, and it says under Codecs in the information window that it is H. 264

  19. Thank you very much Larry. I will do that test with the USB drive. I have already captured very short bits using the USB drive, and it appears to have been successful. But these have been only 5-minute bits. I will try an 60-minute chunk and see how that goes. If there is a probelm in the import, FCPX will let me know, right? Give me one of those “dropped frame” warnings.

    • Correct – it should warn you if the drive is too slow. Since you are using AVCHD, which requires less than 5 MB per second, you should be OK.

      I stress, however, that USB drives are, in almost all cases, too slow for editing on the Mac.


  20. Thank you, Larry.

  21. Howard says:

    Just wanted to say thank you to Larry and indeed to all of the posters on this topic. My computer (brand new souped-up iMac) has been taking hours to render 4 minutes of green screened clips, so I came here for help. I knew nothing about transcoding. Now, and going forward, I plan to optimize all media that I import into a FCP X event.

    So again, thanks!

  22. James says:

    Thanks for all the information!
    When my project is complete and delivered, can I delete the proxy and optimized files so I’m just storing the original media in case I need to come back to it at a later date?

    Would I just go into the media files and delete? Except original media of course.

    Will FCPX have a problem with this?



    • James:

      Use FCP X to delete render files (under the File menu) for your project. You can delete Optimized and Proxy files from the Events folder — HOWEVER, be sure you have safely kept your camera source files or you’ll have problems.


      • Would these “camera source files” also be the video in “original media”? Or would you have to keep the SDHC cards? The latter would not be practical for me, as I would be dumping the cards at the end of each day to use them again the next day.

  23. Craig Warrian says:

    Love your site Larry. So much to soak in.

    I’m not sure if this is where I post a simple FCP X question, but I’ll do it since I’m here.

    If I ingest into FCP X camera H264 files, I understand I’ll get a performance boost by optimizing the files to ProRes, but am I not double transcoding if my final output will be H264 ?

    ie: h264 to ProRes 422 then back to h264 fo final output.

    • Craig:

      You are correct – there’s a double conversion involved.

      however, think of it this way. Imagine you have a one-cup measuring cup filled to the brim with water. Dump that into a one-gallon bucket. Add stuff. Swirl stuff around. You have plenty of room to add, remove, and remix stuff.

      Now, when the time comes to pour it back into a one-cup measuring cup, you lose a LOT less than if you tried adding, swirling, mixing in the original one-cup container which had no room in the first place.


      • Craig Warrian says:

        Thanks for the food for thought Larry.

        It behooves me to investigate the benefits of ProRes 422, it seems it may be akin to converting a jpeg into tiff before editing in Photoshop.


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  25. winfried says:

    so there three possibilities to work with:

    1. native files (which i can(should) cut only, but should not use for colour changes or effects because of long rendering)
    2. optimised media (8-10 times larger files but performance and quality are very good, takes time to create but then everything is faster, especially rendering and exporting)
    3. proxy files (only a quarter of the optimised file, good for smaller/older CPU, little less quality but also fast for export and rendering process)

    is that correct?
    my question is: where from does the project in the timeline (after editing) takes its information to create the export file??
    is there a quality difference if i create an export file from “work with optimised” or “work with proxy” settings?
    thanks for answering

    • If only Native files exist, the export will use them.

      If both Native and Optimized files exist, the export will use Optimized

      If only Optimized files exist, the export will use Optimized.

      If both Proxy and Native – or Proxy and Optimized – files exist, the format that is exported will depend upon the preference setting that specifies whether you are viewing Proxy or Native/Optimized media.

      Yes, there is a quality difference between Proxy and Native/Optimized files. Proxy is not as good.


      • winfried says:

        ok thanks!! so proxy is only good for working with (more fluently on, for example, a small cpu notebook), but for export good quality i have to change to optimised work, right!?
        thanks and regards from frankfurt germany

      • Michael Bulbenko says:

        I only just realized after doing my first 2 projects on FCPX (after years of FCP going back to version2), that in fact which file typed is checked in the Playback prefs makes a whopper of a difference. I assumed that “playback” meant only that…playback. But actually it completely determines the quality of Export. I specifically mean Share>Export, not going via Compressor (I’ve found this way much faster than Compressor, and the Compressor interface drives me crazy). I’ve had to re-export two projects because I kept seeing really inferior image quality on the final QT files and DVDs, and could not figure out why. Then I remembered this thread. Bottom line, if you want good looking files, you must have Optimized checked for the Playback prefs. If only Proxy is checked, they’re crappy. And there is a healthy 15-20% increase in output file size, along with way, way less artifacting.

        Related question: if I transcode AVCHD via Toaster into ProRes LT, FCPX still wants to optimize them. Why does it force you into either normal ProPes or Proxy, and won’t let you live with a happy medium? LT is pretty darned good.

  26. John A. Mozzer says:

    Where does a Project’s Render Format fit into this discussion?

    I’ve only worked with original media (DV), with Playback Quality set to High Quality, so I don’t have any experience with Preference settings influencing export.

    However, I’ve noticed that the Render Format of the Project determines the video format resulting from Export Media . . . Current Settings. The options are the different varieties of ProRes (but not Proxy), and Uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2.

    The Render Format can be set when the Project is created, and also changed by bringing up Properties and clicking on the wrench in the lower right of the Properties window.

    • Mike T. says:

      I agree with John – no one has touched on the PROJECT RENDER settings. It’s seems to me that one could theoretically import and edit entirely with the original h.264 files. Once you’re done with your edit and want to get the added benefits of COLOR GRADING in ProRes422 color space, it seems that FCPX will automatically render your edit in ProRes422 according to these preferences. In that case, a color grade could be applied to the whole edit, and be automatically transcoded/rendered into ProRes 422 during the render process. After rendering, what would show up on the viewer and what would EXPORT would be the rendered Prores files and not the original h.264 files. This saves a lot of time and space of transcoding ALL your media, and in theory should enable you to edit NATIVE video formats like h.264, with automatic benefits of ProRes during render. Can anyone please confirm that this theory is correct and optimal for certain work flows?? Thanks!

      • Jeff Orig says:

        Thanks for the reminder. I will attempt a test it on a little project I am editing right now. My “fear” is that once you change the setting will it make a ProRes of everything in the event browser? I will check to see what it does and report what I find.

      • Larry says:

        Interesting concept, Mike, and I don’t know the answer. Worth a test.


        • Larry says:


          Changing preference settings does NOT re-render clips in your Event Browser. Also, you need to select the specific clips you want to transcode, then select File > Transcode Media.

          Unselected files are not touched.


          • Mike T. says:

            Thanks for the timely response Larry. Yes, changing the Project Render Settings should NOT cause the whole timeline to be re-rendered. Nor will it transcode any of the other clips in your event browser. Changing a filter on a clip in the timeline should cause it to un-render and be re-rendered in the new Project render settings.

            Touching on my original concept – I’m not sure of a way to TEST my theory. Coloring and rendering a h.264 timeline full of edits, should render ProRes422 files, since thats what the project render settings say. Unfortunately, FCPX render files appear to be a highly technical form of data files, and not movie files that can actually be inspected in their physical folder location. Any ideas how one might go about testing my theory – of having automatic ProRes advantages of color grading/compositing from rendering – while editing h.264 original native media?

            Have researched this idea all night online and can’t seem to find anyone talking about Render Settings.

          • Jeff Orig says:

            Thanks guys. If I understand correctly, we want the following:

            1. Edit the native H.264 files
            2. Once picture is locked, transcode ONLY the timeline clips to ProRes while maintaining all of the individual clips’ in and out points. (As opposed to rendering out the entire timeline as a single ProRes clip)
            3. Then make the color corrections and effects on the timeline utilizing the new ProRes versions of the clip.
            4. Then output that as you see fit.

            The idea is to save on HD space and avoid CPU time transcoding all clips in the browser to ProRes before/during editing. Since editing H.264 does not present a performance speed hit. But we want the ProRes to take advantage of color/effect .

            Really what we need is to be able to select clips in the timeline and then click File > Transcode Media. As of version 10.0.4 this is not part of it. Maybe we all can submit feedback regarding this.

            Basically, it would be almost like a single click to go from your “offline” to an “online” edit.

            How is this done in 4k workflows? Do they just take the time and create editable 2k versions, edit and get picture lock, then create an EDL to match the 2k with the 4k?


          • Mike T. says:

            Upon further research I’ve been provided with more clarification on this subject. You can find more info here on the Apple community question I started: https://discussions.apple.com/message/18417093#18417093

            Basically, my theory was correct, in that editing native NON-ProRes files, such as h.264 can be a solid choice for your workflow. Editing is still a breeze – chopping and cutting video together on the timeline etc. ALL Projects in FCPX automatically render into a ProRes flavor, which you can choose from in the Project Render Settings. (You can also choose uncompressed I believe). The default setting is ProRes 422. Any h.264 media on the timeline will render to ProRes422 as soon as any color grading of filters are applied. Each time a filter is changed, the clip will Re-Render from the original h.264 media. The final rendered clip is a rendered ProRes video.

            This method allows you to save a lot of time and hard drive space up front by not having to transcode ALL of your media. You get the added benefits of grading/compositing in 4:2:2 color space as well. However, the downside is your render times will take longer because it is transcoding h.264 media for each render, instead of ProRes files. This method can be likened to a FCP 7 project – setting your Sequence Settings to ProRes422. Once any format of media in placed into that timeline, it renders in 4:2:2 ProRes. This is exactly what happens in FCP X. The only difference is the layout of the settings and the naming structure, project versus sequence.

          • Tonollo says:

            Hello. First of all sorry about my english.
            I´m editing a documental with a lot of shots (2tb). I,m trying to find out the best option to save space (editing in h.264, files from the camera Canon 60D). I saw your post Mike on apple comunity

            Still It´s not clear for me because ¿have you the same result ,in terms of quality, if you apply a color correction to a pro res file than if you apply the same effect to a h.264 original file and the you render it in apple pro res, as supossed FCPX do?

            Besides this, i couldn´t find the rendered file with the color correction aplied to the h.264 original one. when i choose “reveal in finde” FCPX shows the original one without the color correction.

            Mike did you find out if your theory it´s wrigth?

          • Mike T. says:

            Tonollo, I haven’t seen any official information from Apple concerning the correctness of this but from research within the community and from common sense I believe it’s 100% correct. Using native video files such as h.264 or DVCPROHD can save you lots of time and space during the edit process. You don’t have to transcode your media which takes time, and duplicates video files. Because FCPX renders every project in ProRes422 (or 4444 if you change project settings) your final color correction and graphics will render in ProRes422 and give you automatic benefit of 422 color space for your final watch back on timeline and video export for master file. I see this personally as a highly preferential route. The the few setbacks to this to re-iterate are that render times will unfortunately suffer and be slower because every render and re-render is rendering from the original native format (ex: h.264) to ProRes422. Another potential down size is computer performance – in the event that you’re doing multi-cam, your computer may have a harder time playing back multiple streams of h.264 video versus ProRes Proxy.

  27. Lee Faulkner says:

    The only thing you fail to mention here Larry, is that Proxy Files are 25% frame size on the disk. Though the Video inspector shows them as the source media’s original frame size.

    If you take 1920 v 1080p frames and create proxy media FCP X builds 640 x 360p files. If we play those back they will look terrible (unless you use the small FCP X viewer only on a smaller screen). As you say, these files are in Apple Pro Res (proxy) which produces small file sizes, but can often ‘hold’ plenty of data for well shot H264 sourced footage.

    My opinion is that to balance file size and output quality, we should be able to *Optimize* to ProRes 422 (proxy) full size, as well as ProRes 422. For anything shot as H264 the viewing quality is great when editing, and can often be used as a final output…. but it won’t eat your drives. This is particularly the case for documentary/event production, where large amounts of footage are the norm.

    So my ideal workflow be

    Shoot H264 for tiny files. These get wrapped as Quicktime and put in the Originals Folder
    Optimise to 100% frame size Apple ProRes 422 (proxy) . Economical file sizes, lower bandwidth but look good for edit and output.
    Proxy to 25% frame size for Multicam editing.

    Re-render / Transcode Originals from Project to Apple ProRes 422 for output if necessary or required.

    The hurdle is that FCP X *only* permits Optimizing to Apple ProRes 422.

  28. Pingback: Domande frequenti su Final Cut Pro X + Risorse per filmmakers | Feelmaking

  29. To many variables cameras, computers, end results. Everyones situation is different.

    Here is my situation. I shoot with Canon 5D Mk2 and a Canon 5DMk3 ( at the highest quality). I edit on a iMac configured as follows: 3.4 GHz Intel Core i7, Memory: 16 GB 1333 MHz DDR3, Graphics AMD HD 6970M 2048 MB. The OS is Mac OS X 10.7.4. My output is HD 1920 x 1080 for publishing on YouTube or Vimeo. I desire the highest quality possible.

    I mostly shoot nature. Lots of hours captured, a small percentage used. I also shoot a lot of stills. My current workflow is to import everything, movies and stills, into Aperture where everything is cataloged and rated. Aperture allows export directly into FCPX of both movies and stills. Just drag to the timeline. If I want just a portion of a movie clip I make the rough cut in Aperture, export to
    a designated folder on my desktop for import and transcoding to ProRes 422 for FCPX. The desktop clip can then be trashed as the original still resides in Aperture. The media is than edited, color corrected etc., exported to Compressor for publishing to the web.

    I solicit everyones comments on this workflow. Learning from constructive criticism!!

    Thank you


  30. Is it possible to transcode just a portion of a clip that is in the event browser?


  31. Giulio says:

    Very Thank you!

  32. EPREditor says:

    In Final Cut X: Can you bring footage in as a Proxy file, to save drive space, and make editing the editing speed faster, and then when you finish your project just re-transcode the proxy footage of only the footage that you used in the project and not the whole event media to a higher Pro Res Format?

    If you are doing a feature or documentary with a lot of footage that was shot in a High Definition format (Red for example), the amount of external drive space you would need would be tremendous if you had to transcode all the footage to the higher level Pro Res formats. In Final Cut 7 you were able to do this. Can you do this in Final Cut X?

    • I am not sure that workflow works, and I would be cautious in recommending it.


      • Hi Larry,
        EPReditor’s question is the same as mine. I have hours of material for a short 5 minute project, with AVCHD, ProRes, H.264 files. My hope was to transcode everything into ProRes Proxy edit and then use the edited project as a reference to transcode only the used material into ProRes. I was hoping there was a way to “automatically” swap the proxy files for the full resolution ProRes 422 files. Isn’t there a way to consolidate the project creating a new event with just the used files. Wouldn’t this be a step in this theory? thanks, Phil

        • Phil:

          It’s a cool idea, but I don’t know any way to do it. FCP X creates proxy files on ingest. I don’t know any way to take a group of edited files and convert them into a higher level format of ProRes.


          • advised workflow for long hours shooters :

            1. rename all clips into a new folder (i use adobe bridge for that) …p.c. this step is necesary as fcpx may confuse by creating proxy files which have been same name given from two different camera during shooting by chance
            2. import files with >create proxy media> checked!
            3. edit clips to a movie with >pereferences>use proxy media> selected !!
            4. after fine cut, >File>duplicate project + used clips only to a new event !!!
            5. open new project, chose >pereferences>use original or optimized media> selected !!
            6. select all clips in newly created Event in Event Library and go to File>Transcode Media>Create optimized media
            7. Apply Effects and Color Correction you wish after optimization done in background
            8. For final output: go to Share>Export Media> …with video codec: Current settings> selected

            So keep in mind; right click on a clip in your timeline and chose >Reveal in Finder> to see which version of clip (Original, proxy or high-quality-ProRess=optimized) You are currently using in your project (good to know for output!!)
            Thanks for everything Larry

  33. A contrary opinion. If your Mac can handle it, I don’t generally recommend transcoding media, at least not H.264 footage. Here’s an article I wrote for macProVideo.com about it:


    Optimizing media is a safe option, but it takes time and space, and isn’t best for every situation.

  34. Shaun says:


    When you say that optimized media “provides the best possible performance and image quality”, do you mean while editing, the final exported video, or both?

    If I edit in proxy media, does that mean that the final export will also be a proxy file and not the full quality?

    If thats the case, then is there a way to edit with proxy media and then switch it to optimized to get the best export quality?


    • Optimized media provides, in most cases, better performance and quality, than editing native media.

      Proxy files are smaller than optimized files, so if you need to save space, use proxy files.

      Proxy files are always created in addition to ether native or optimized files. To switch between Proxy and Optimized files, click the appropriate radio button in Final Cut Pro > Preferences > Playback tab. All effects and transitions transfer seamlessly.


  35. Pingback: FCP X: Native vs. Optimize vs. Proxy Media | Tower Studios

  36. Gary says:

    Hi Larry,

    I thought transcoding on import, by selecting the Create Optimized Media checkbox, simply ‘converted’ the imported files to ProRes. However, when I select the clips in the event browser, they appear in the Inspector as H.264 (shot on Canon HDSLR). If I import the transcoded ProRes files from the High Quality Media folder that FCPX created during the previous step, the clips all have the “content created” date of the transcode rather than the shoot. This creates another problem, since I shot the project with multiple cameras and have over 1,700 clips, and would like to organize the event browser by date.

    Thanks in advance if you can help.


    • Gary:

      OK, I just did a test and here’s what I think is happening.

      When you optimize your media, FCP X uses the optimized media in your editing, but displays all the metadata based on your source clip. So, depending upon preferences, the Timeline will play either Proxy or Optimized media. If you don’t optimize media, the timeline plays the source clips in the camera native format. Regardless of what media is used for playback, the metadata always references the source clip.

      You can test this for yourself by checking the metadata and assuring yourself it points to the source clip.

      Then, right-click a clip in the Timeline and select “Reveal in Finder.” FCP X will display the transcoded clip.


  37. Rick says:

    Does “Send to Compressor” on export (“share”) change any of this discussion? Specifically will Send to Compressor” force compressor to go back to the native and re-render all effects?

    I think that in Final Cut 7, “send to compressor” forced compressor to rebuild everything from the original media in the timeline. Now in FCP X we sort of have 3 versions of media in the project (timeline): native, prores, and prores proxy.

    It is worth remembering that anytime there is any spatial filtering, there will be a slight softening of the image in resolution. Even 4.2.0 to 4.2.2 conversation, I think, requires spatial filtering. So, if you go 4.2.0 to 4.2.2 to any compressed output, you have applied a spatial filter at least twice. If you can avoid using any intermediate spacial filtering when producing the final output, at least in theory, you should have a better output. Is the difference observable? Maybe not, and it certainly can increase export time to your final output. Of course, if your final delivered product is ProRes 4.2.2, then Compressor does not matter.


  38. Sonny says:

    Hi Guys

    One quick question.
    Can I import in PROXY and edit my FILM in PROXY
    AND when done editing the project optimize the final video and then export it.

    Or do I have to optimize the whole source file at the end and not just the project which I edited in PROXY.


    • Sonny:

      yes and no.

      Can you import media in Proxy format? Yes.

      Can you edit your media in Proxy format? Yes.

      When the edit is done, can you go back to the source media and optimize it in high-quality? No. Instead, what you would do is change the preference from Proxy to Native and FCP will connect to your camera source files for final output. Since editing is complete, there is no reason to create optimized media for output, just output the original camera files.


  39. Abed Loutfi says:

    Hello Larry and everyone.

    I got myself into a some trouble earlier this day.

    I have been editing some high quality footage(1920 x 1080) for my documentary project on a MAC OSX that originally had 1 TB of free space that a student organization offered me access to.

    My rushes alone, after putting them through clipwrap to convert them, were around 80 GB. Given that I was the only one editing on this station, I went with original media. I got a call this morning from the manager of the station saying that I’m using too much space, now that someone else is also editing here. Not knowing what he meant, I came and checked all the project files and the combination of the project and event files were at 257 GB!

    I know this might be normal given the file sizes I started with but how can they become so big?

    The files were as follows:

    FC project files> render files = 42 GB

    FC events> Transcoded Media > HQ media = 217 GB

    Is this normal? Its just a 40 minute project and around 3 hours of rushes.

    So basically I have three large files, the one with the original media, the HQ transcoded media file, and the project Render Files.

    I’m almost done with my project and I was wondering if there are any files I can harmlessly delete without having to go for proxy media.

    I hope I made sense and I hope I can get some help or at least an overview of how to manage these files better for the future.

    It is worth mentioning that when I first read this post a few months ago I tried the proxy media but then switched back to original/optimized media in the playback settings. I think this has created some large files as well.

    System specs:

    MAC OSX version 10.7.4
    Processor: 3.1 GHz Intel Core i5
    Memory: 4GB 1333 MHz DDR3

    Thank you so much in advance and I hope I can manage this as soon as possible.

    • That’s normal, because you’ve chosen to Optimize your media. Optimizing media will take about triple the original unoptimized media size. Good news is that you have a few options:

      1. Don’t optimize. Depending on the Mac, this may not be much of a speed hit at all. Or…

      2. When the project is complete, Share > Export Media for a full, high quality result, then find your Event in the Finder, and delete the High Quality Media folder. FCP X will happily use the non-optimized footage should you need to go back to this project, and you can re-optimize if needed. Or…

      3. Buy more storage. 1TB simply isn’t enough for a shared edit station set to optimize media, so grab a big cheap external HD and move your projects/events to that. It’ll work fine.

      • Abed Loutfi says:

        Thank you so much for your help!

        Although my project is somewhat done but every now and then I find myself tweaking some settings here and there.

        I have a couple of follow up questions, if its ok.

        First, if I want to go back to using native files without optimizing, what files can I delete? I need to know which file each option creates so I’d know whats safe to take away.

        Second, and this is probably a bigger question, as I finalize my project and want to preserve it for future edits, what files do I save and what files are recreated upon relaunch? Given that my project is now taking up around 600 GB, do I have to save all files? That is aside from the original rushes.

        Once more, thank you so much for your help. I’m new to Apple and Final Cut having used Premiere Pro on PC for the past two years. I just need to ground the formats and saving basics.

        Have a great week,

        • In an Event, the High Quality Media folder contains transcoded footage and should be safe to delete. In a Project, I’d recommend keeping a fully rendered ProRes version of the edit for archiving. To save space, the easiest method is to copy only necessary files when archiving.

          Connect your archive drive, then right-click and Duplicate your Project. In the Duplicate Project dialog, choose the archive drive at the top. Then, choose Duplicate Project and Used Clips only from the options below. That way, you’ll only keep the clips you have used — others will *not* be copied. Don’t check the “Include Render Files” and they can be re-created later (assuming FCP X renders the same way in the future).

  40. Paul says:

    After reading through all these great comments, I think I know the answers to my questions but would appreciate confirmation.
    Background: I shoot videos of my kids with a AVCHD camera (Sony) that saves it to memory. I only want the raw footage available for some day when I will get around to creating projects/movies. I don’t want to store and backup optimized video due to its size.

    1. Import: There is no need or advantage to select optimize or proxy media when I import (given that I have no intention of working on the files any times soon.)
    2. Since I already imported some videos and selected optimize, I can simply go into Finder and delete the Transcoded Media directory. As long as “original media” directory and contents are left intact, I will always be able to create optimized or proxy media when I need it (via File>”transcode media” feature. The advantage of optimizing later rather than at import is that I am not storing and backing up optimized video (which is huge).
    Can someone confirm the above statements are accurate?

    • In my opinion, the answers are:

      1. Yes. There’s no need to optimize on import, especially if you won’t edit for a while. When you do edit, see what performance is like on your Mac without optimizing — maybe you won’t need to at all.

      2. Yes, you should be able to delete the Transcoded Media directory, so long as FCP X is closed.

      Best wishes,

      • Paul:

        Well, yes…

        However, if you are not going to edit the material, don’t bother to import it into FCP. Simply copy the AVCHD cards to your hard disk – each to its own folder – make backups as necessary.

        You can review the footage in FCP X using Import from Camera, without actually importing it.

        Then, some years into the future, you’ll be able to import the footage because it is still stored in its camera native format in its own folder on your hard disk.


        • Paul says:

          Larry and Lain, Thanks for the responses. Both very helpful.
          Larry you suggested just copying the AVCHD file instead of importing.
          Is there an advantage to that? It seems just as easy for me to import it. Is there a disadvantage other than the time it takes to import?

          • Paul:

            I’m suggesting that you copy the card to your hard disk first, to make a backup, then ingest from that copy. That way, you have a master to go back to, if you need it. It doesn’t make any difference in terms of quality, though ingesting from the hard disk will be faster than ingesting from the card, due to transfer speed differences.


  41. Abed Loutfi says:

    Hello again Larry and all the nice people on here.

    Today I finished working on my documentary. It was shot in HD and is around 38 minutes, 1980×1080, 25FPS.

    Now that I come to exporting, I have figured my way around Compressor 4 and wish to export my film and burn it onto DVDs to send to festivals.

    I was hoping someone could recommend the best way and settings to export an HD film with the above specifications onto a DVD or a DVD ready file. I only have FCPX and Compressor 4. I already bought some 8.5 GB DVDs since one export of my film to .MOV was around 5 GB.

    I’m sorry for posting in the wrong place and hope I can get some help quick since I have to pack up and travel in tomorrow.

    Thank you very much for your assistance, its greatly appreciated.

  42. DavidB says:

    I’m not sure whats going on here. I’ve began editing some projects in Final Cut ProX. My workflow is: copying all of my Canon 5D MarkII footage to a separate hard drive, which is my backup of the original files. From that hardDrive, I import all of the files, with transcode checked. Editing has been OK, but bigger projects are becoming very slow. I just noticed that when I click on the events, they are appearing as H.264 files, and not proRes! It seems like Final cut pro is using my original files and not the transcoded ones…Is this normal? What am I doing wrong?? Or does it just appear that way in the info window…

  43. George says:


    I read though all this and didn’t really find a straight answer… Sorry. What is the best option to edit quickly 5D mKII files with FCPX?

    Is this a way to go:

    1. Import and transcode to Proxy
    2. Cut
    3. Generate Optimized Media
    4. Round Trip that to let’s say Davinchi Resolve
    5. Export

    BTW! I think it is SOOOO foolish that your timeline settings affect your output settings. We should have the option to exit in 320×240 if we wanted to and then just export using the original media at Highest possible quality. Am I the only one who sees a problem with the current setting?

    • George:

      If the goal is to QUICKLY edit 5D footage, edit natively. Don’t optimize and don’t create proxy files. FCP X can edit H.264 files natively.

      If the goal is high-quality color correction, ProRes 422 provides better color space and MUCH faster rendering which will improve image quality and make the Davinci process go more smoothly.

      Apple has designed FCP X so that you CAN export different media than your timeline – however, the highest quality you can achieve is to match your timeline settings.

      Editing 320×240 Proxy files is fine for cutting, but won’t work for placing titles or anything dealing with sizing or placing images, because the geometry of working with small files is way too inaccurate when you need to replace the small files with full size HD files.


      • George says:

        Thanks Larry,

        This is what I have been doing. So cheers for the confirmation.

        Option one (let’s say our team’s game on the pitch):

        1. Shoot 5D
        2. Import native h.264 no optimisation
        3. Sync sound
        4. Cut head and tail
        5. Add few transitions Team A vs Team B
        6. Export with compressor using desired settings

        Option two (let’s say three cam interview with 2 lav mice)

        1. Shoot all cameras
        2. Import and create optimised footage (have coffee/ shower/ gym)
        3. Sync sound to all pics from one camera. Repeat for all cameras
        4. Sync clips (three of them in this case) to multi cam
        5. Cut
        6. Export with compressor using desired settings

        NB! In both cases I have Display preferences set to better performance because as far as I know that does not affect what I got on the timeline.

        I use a MBP Retina 15″ with 16GB ram and 750GB SSD drive + Intek HD Graphics 4000 512MB. The external drive, if I use one is WD Thunderbolt Duo 4TB.

  44. OK, so if we bring DaVinci Resolve into the mix, here’s my question:

    Footage is shot on Canon DSLR using Cinestyle, so it’s flat. FCPX ignores THM files, so TOD timecode must be generated outside of FCPX. Use Magic Bullet Grinder to create H264 versions of Originals with TOD TC embedded. (This could be done for C300 or other cameras that shoot LOG; or cameras that shoot RAW like the Black Magic Cinema Camera)

    1) Import TC H264 footage into Resolve
    2) Apply Cinestyle LUTs
    2a) (Optional) Synch H264 with 2nd Source audio (Resolve does a good job of this!)
    3) Create window burn with filename and TC
    4) Render 1080p ProRes Proxy files
    5) Import Proxies as “optimzed” media (still haven’t figured out how to get FCPX to treat imported proxies as proxies
    6) Edit in FCPX and export XML back to Resolve
    7) Grade original H264 media using FCPX XML list
    8) Render ProRes 422 HQ back out of Resolve with handles
    9) Open Resolve XML back in FCPX and conform with Hi-Res graded Media
    10) Resync audio; add effects back in;
    11) Render final master movies out of FCPX

    Here’s my question: is there any reason why I need FCPX to recognize my Resolve-created Proxy footage as Proxy in FCPX? Or should i just let FCPX treat them as “optimized” footage until I replace it with graded, rendered hi-res footage?

    • Paul:

      Nice write up. Since you are linking back to the masters using Resolve, there’s no reason to worry about linking to proxies in FCP X. Just treat them as regular media and let Resolve relink to the source files during final color grading.


      • Thanks Larrry. FCPX Proxy is half-res anyway. Creating Proxy optimized media saves a lot of space and my laptop is happier. This way, I can create dailies on the road without creating massive folders full of 422HQ media. Unless there’s an easy way to apply LUTS en masse in FCPX, this seems like a pretty good workflow….

  45. achille says:

    first of all forgive me if i missed the answer to this question in the midst of the above dialog… however i need something further clarified from a reliable source such as yourself…

    You indicate above “You can change this setting whenever you want, however, you can’t have a mix of some Proxy and some Optimized files in the same Project at the same time. Proxy and Optimized files are stored in different folders in the same Event folder.”

    (sorry, don’t know how to make this quote show up in blue… also 64 and technologically impaired… not an under the hood guy, and too limited in budget to hire one… 😉

    so my question; in mid project with many hundreds of gigs imported without optimizing, and many many hours into editing, now absolutely neeeeed to convert to something more manageable. Up ’till now every thing has been relatively smooth in prelim edit, however now that effects such as scaling, position, layers of graphics, and abundant text, w effects as well…. well let’s say things have reached LA freeway proportions.. movement in rendering or even “real time” (now there’s an oxymoron 4 u ) simple editing is extremely unwieldy, at best

    So what would be best workflow for optimizing a substantial project already in post;

    1 – is there a way to convert only clips in use in the various Projects in my “active” Project Library (some are temporarily archived using Event Manager X)? At this point in the overall project all i am essentially doing is refining the “Projects”… very unlikely i will add substantial new footage.

    2 – if option 1 is not viable can i select (for optimization) specific events or folders or key word collections from Event Library?

    …. or is there an other option for me to consider?;

    I have a tangential question which is somewhat off topic, that being

    3 – where should i be directing FC to place the optimized media in light of my current preference settings/hardware configuration (specified immediately below)

    I thank any one in advance for any willingness to “speak” with someone so technologically limited… did my one year minimal digital film training at 60, having cut my teeth on 16mm 40 years previously and been away from the industry for 30…

    2.66 Intel Core I5 iMac, 16 GB RAM
    one T internal drive, where OS and apps/FCP X.4 live

    Events and Projects currently live at root level of a one T Cinemastar drive sharing an external 2 bay drive housing (ICY DOCK) in JBOD configuration with a 2T drive where original media off of P2 card lives (still looking for the definitive workflow for P2 to FCPX if someone wants to point me to that thread somewhere).

    can’t think of anything else pertinent to add at this moment…

    much gratitude in advance for anyone making it this far… hopefully others with similar issues to resolve will also benefit from wisdom shared here


    ps although recommendations for the purchase of additional hardware for better workflow etc. are quite welcome, for the time being the hardware i have is the hardware i will have (for the foreseeable future), except for the additional drives i will be purchasing due to lack of space… here again i would welcome suggestions, it 1T or 2T or 3T, ok to use multi drive dock? etc.

    • achille says:

      BTW neglected to mention current setting is for use original or optimized media/ playback “better performance”… thinking need to up the ante to proxy as well as optimized… therefore need to know where to optimally send all the versions for storage relative to one another… how many drives needed?

    • Achile:

      I currently believe the following statements to be true:

      1. You can only create proxy media (or optimized media) for clips in the Event Browser. You can, however, select clips in the Event Browser to create Proxy media for. This selection can be done using keywords, clicking, or other selection methods. However, Proxy media is created for whole clips, not portions of clips.

      2. You can not create proxy media only for clips, or portions of clips, edited into the Timeline.

      3. You can not mix Proxy and Optimized media in the same project – it needs to be one or the other

      4. For an existing project, creating proxy media will not reduce storage requirements, because Proxy media would always be created in addition to, not in replacement of, existing media.

      5. Proxy and optimized media are always and only stored in the Events folder. You do not have any options on where this media is stored.

      6. You switch between Proxy and Optimized media using Final Cut Pro > Preferences.


      • Mike T. says:

        Achile & Larry,

        I believe there is a workaround way to only create proxy files of media used in your project/timeline.
        1) In the Project Library window, you can choose to DUPLICATE your project, and choose the option “Duplicate Project + Used Clips”. This will make a new EVENT folder in both FCPX Event Browser and the Finder. This will duplicate all of your used media in the timeline – the entire clips, not just the portions of clips you cut down in your timeline. However, This will be MUCH less media than your original entire Event.
        2) Now, you can select the newly created Event in Event Browser, Right-click, and choose “Transcode Media”. You can now create Proxy Files of the clips used in your edited project only.
        3) In Preferences, Choose “Use Proxy Media” to switch your timeline clip media linking to the new proxy files.

        To note, this will not save you space as it will create original media duplicates as well as new proxy files all within the newly duplicated Event folder. HOWEVER, this may be a solution for some looking to get better PERFORMANCE in their editing by using Proxy files – without needing to TRANSCODE ALL of the original media, just used clips. This will be less taxing on the system, and enable better real time playback of multi-cam etc. When you want to finalize your edit in full quality, simply select the radio button in Preference – “Use Original or Optimized Media”. This will switch your timeline back to the source clips for mastering.

        Somebody please let me know if there is any flaws in this method. Thanks!

        • Rick says:

          In addition to Mike T’s suggestion, you can save space if that is a priority. If you follow Mike’s suggestion of creating a new project with it’s events, that will probably save you a lot of space.

          You can save even more space if necessary, if all your media is in FCP X “camera archives”. If so, follow Mike’s workflow, creating proxy media. Then delete all the “original media”, and “optimized media” in the new events folder created when your duplicate project. You can then edit the project using only the proxy media. When you are finished you can regenerate the “original media” and the optimized media if you wish by reconnecting to the camera archives for final processing at output.

          Lots of cautions here:
          1. Make sure all your media is really in camera archives
          2. The camera archives are backed up
          3. If at all unsure, backup the new events folder before deleting the media out of it.

          I am not sure where non video media gets stored, like sound files, graphics files, and animations. Be careful not to delete them.

  46. Lennard says:

    Is it true that it is not possible to share (export) in native?
    Because when i import only native files (H.264) and i want to share i see in the list; “source apple pro res”.
    I thought Source = Native.
    So FCP is always transcoding?? Even if i want to work in native??

    • Not quite. You don’t have to transcode to play back, but exports default to the Render codec, probably ProRes 422. You *can* force the export codec to H.264, XDCAM, or a few other formats with the Master File export option, but some kind of transcoding is probably going to happen at some stage. It’s very fast, though.

      • Lennard says:

        Thank you, but i am still wondering.

        Is it true that there is no option “export (share) in native”?
        Because when i choose share (master file) the list starts with “source apple pro res”.
        And apple pro res is not the source. My native files are AVCHD.

        • When you export a Master File, you can choose the codec (including H.264, as used in AVCHD) but no, not “native”. The Same as Source option references the Render codec, which is ProRes. “Native” could only ever apply if no changes were made to the video — no color changes, no effects, no transitions at all. You can’t avoid at least one very minor generation loss.

  47. JC says:

    Hi everyone,

    Lots of great discussion here. I just wanted to confirm that my workflow makes the most sense. I’m shooting DSLR on two Canon 7Ds. I’m editing on a MacBook Pro that’s a couple years old. So my thought is to drag the .mov files off the memory card into a folder on my external drive. (My master files.)

    Then I’d import those into FCPX and click optimize media AND create proxy files.

    I’d edit using the proxy files. (Plays so much nicer when editing on my MacBook Pro, especially when using multicam.)

    When done, I’d switch my preferences to use optimized files and export as such.

    So essentially, I’ve got 3 versions of each clip. Not ideal in terms of storage space but can live with it if it makes sense. I guess what I’m wondering is: IF I’m editing with the proxy files, am I gaining anything by creating optimized versions of those files as well? Would I be better off creating proxy files and leaving ‘optimize files’ unchecked? Because then it’ll just relink to the original files from the camera. (Which are in H264 I guess. – Really chugs when trying to edit it but if I’m not editing them and only linking back to them in export, does it matter?)

    Thanks to anyone who can add some insight!


    • Rick says:

      I think you would be better off if you created Camera Archive from the original card and create originals from that. You can always reload from the Camera Archive.

      When you import the files from the camera, does FCP create a new copy, the “Original Media”, maybe not in the original format?
      For final output, “original media” or optimized media should give you full quality.


    • JC:

      I don’t have a problem with your workflow. The benefit for camera archives is for storing media. Since you want to edit, a camera archive won’t help, or hurt.

      I’d suggest doing what you plan to do.


    • An issue: you could end up with four copies of your media that way — the copy you dragged off the card, the native copy that FCP X puts in Events, and the Optimized and Proxy versions. Instead, just use Import Media from the card directly and you eliminate one source of duplication. I’d also suggest that you don’t need to create Optimized. If native files aren’t good on your Mac, then you should only need one of Proxy or Optimized.

  48. trish says:

    HI Larry (and friends)

    could someone help me ? I have edited a wedding video using Proxy media but now after reading ..
    I want to export using the highest quality .. I want to burn it to Blue Ray

    could someone tell me what I do ?

    thanks so much .. trish

    • Trish:

      If you are using FCP X, simply change your preference setting from Proxy to Optimize/Native and re-export.

      However, I suspect that your proxy media – which has very good quality – may be good enough for a Blu-ray DVD.


      • trish says:

        hey Larry
        you are so kind to respond so quickly

        thank you .. on my way smiling


        • Lennard says:

          Hi, i thought i understand finally the export settings, but i still have a question.
          When i import my H264 files (Sony Alpha57) and when ik create a project in de correct preferences (use original media) then i export 2 versions.
          The first version is source prores422 (900mb) and the second version is H264 (90mb)
          But i think its very strange, because when i watch both video’s, they are exactly the same.

          • Lennard:

            The two codecs – ProRes and H.264 – are optimized for different things. ProRes is optimized for extensive color space, fast editing and multi-generational quality. It is an excellent mastering format. H.264 is optimized for small file sizes. It has limited color space, degrades quickly when you copy it, and is very difficult to edit. It is an excellent distribution format.


          • Lennard says:

            Thanks Larry,

            Is it true, ProRes is also better when you want to use the stabilization function, or is there no difference between H.264 and ProRes?


  49. Richard says:

    Hi Larry,
    I’m making my first feature length doc film. I have shot solidly for about 9 days and will probably be shooting for another 9, so I have a huge amount of footage all shot on a 7D Dslr. So storage is a big problem for me.
    Having read most of the comments on this article I think the best solution for me is this: import the files with ONLY the Proxy media box ticked.
    Later, when my edit is complete, I somehow (don’t know how yet) convert all the files used on the time line to full, optimized prores 422, a bit like when you would reconnect media in FCP 7. My understanding is that this is necessary for the best possible quality when I export my final film file.
    Please can you tell me if I’m correct? Is this a good idea?
    Many thanks,

  50. Jeff Orig says:

    Hi Larry,

    I think with 10.0.7 this has changed a bit. At least for Canon DSLR footage. With 10.0.7 it is now forcing conversion to ProRes. It might be time to close the comments on this thread as I think the information may be getting out of date.

    Just a thought.


    • Jeff;
      Where did you get your information? Why do you say that “10.0.7 it is now forcing conversion to ProRes”?


      • Jeff Orig says:

        Hi Kent,

        Ah, good clarification. Maybe it is not forcing conversion. But I assumed it was. I will have to double check.
        10.0.7 is forcing copy of Canon DSLR footage to the final cut events folder upon import. Which then renames all the files in event browser.

        I will check when I get to the office.



  51. KW says:


    I’m brand new to editing and FCPX. Here’s what I have going:
    I have two external drives hooked to my mac (drive 1 and drive 2). I downloaded all of my original files to drive 1. Then in FCPX I chose drive 2 to import to and I imported all of those same files to FCPX and clicked Proxy Media. Then I completed my edit using the Proxy Media.

    1. I need to now export the final video in ProRes(HQ). What is the best way to do this?
    2. If I choose ProRes(HQ) from the ‘share’ menu, will FCPX know to go back and use the original files on drive 1? Or will it simply be up-resing from the proxy media I used to edit with?



    • Mike T. says:

      You Will need to go to your preferences in FCPX and click “Use Original or Optimized Media”. This should “re-connect’ your timeline edit to the original files for best quality. If you leave it on Proxy, your export will be scaled in bitrate and size from the proxy media. After you’ve done this, you can Export a master Quicktime movie with any version of ProRes that you want, including HQ.

      Depending on how you imported your files, sometimes checking the “Use Original or Optimized Media” button in preferences won’t reconnect your media. Usually if you use FCPX to create Proxy files, it will know where the original media lives and reconnect to it. However, if you made proxy files via another application and imported them directly, in this case, you would need to manually reconnect your Event files to the original media.

  52. Nick says:

    Hi Larry,

    I made the mistake of not transcoding my media (from H.264 to ProRes 422) prior to beginning my edit. I now have a ton of work into a project, and realize I should have been working with the optimized media the whole time. In the past I’ve had a ton of issues trying to reconnect any source files, and I’m worried this will pose the same issue. I’ve never used the copy files setting in the preferences – always just worked from my source file on an external harddrive.

    I tried deleting one of my source files from an event and then reimporting with the copy files and optimized transcoding settings checked. I see the 422 file in my mac folder, but the events codec still says H.264. Is that normal?

    Is there a better way to fix this issue?

    Last question: Is the problem with H.264 just that it’s buggy, or will it actually not export correctly (even as a 422 HQ)?


    • I’m not Larry, but there’s an easy fix. If you’re having trouble with H.264 footage (and that depends on your camera and your Mac) then simple select it all, right-click, and choose Transcode Media. In the next dialog, tick Create optimized media. Everything will automatically reconnect. Showing H.264 as the media type is still normal, though.

    • Iain’s fix is perfect. You can also select all the media you want to optimize in the Event Browser, then select File > Transcode Media.

      H.264 is NOT buggy – but it is mathematically challenging to decompress in real-time and it has a very limited color space. It is an excellent distribution format, but not an ideal editing format.


      • Nick Ferrall says:

        Iain and Larry,

        Thank you for the quick response! People were telling me horror stories, but perhaps the problems were more prevalent on FCP 7.

        Sorry – last question. If I want to keep space down and continue to work with H.264 in the edit, will it make any difference in quality once I output at ProRes 422? I don’t want to lose any quality in the output, but transcoding a feature doc is going to take up a ton of space.

        Really appreciate your help and this site.


        • Mike T. says:

          Nick –

          This is a great question, and I’m sure one that many have. I had discussed this much earlier in this very long discussion thread. I never quite got an answer nailed down, however. My “theory’ was that when you edit H.264 footage in FCPX, since the timeline RENDERS in ProRes422 by default, you just MAY get the benefit of rendering color grading and effects in 4:2:2, 10bit color space – even though the source footage wasn’t converted to ProRess422. Ideally if this was true, and I hope Larry can confirm one way or another, you could save precious disk space by just using H.264 source media for editing and saving time of the conversion process to ProRes. An obvious downside though, is that H.264 is processor intensive and will suck up more computing power than ProRes, and renders will take longer. So it’s a trade off from performance, to space.

          If anyone could verify my “theory” it would be greatly appreciated. If in fact it is true, then editing in H.264 with a ProRes422 master export will see no quality degradation or loss. If it’s not true, then transcoding H.264 footage to ProRes422 at some point during editing would yield higher quality results (such as in color grades etc.)

          • Mike is essentially correct.

            There is a performance hit when editing H.264 natively. If your system is fast enough, you can edit in H.264, render in ProRes and output to ProRes.


  53. wouter says:


    I read the article and some comments, but a bit too much to read them all.

    Say I check ‘create proxy media’ and not optimized media (don’t have the disk space). Then I edit everything (using the proxies for faster performance). Then I want to export my movie, will finalcut use the proxy files to render the final output, or the native files?

    If finalcut uses the proxies to render final output, that would deestroy the whole point of using proxies, which should in fact just be a placeholder to be able to edit quicker, not to use in final export.

    I also find it very strange that finalcut creates proxies for every file upon import. Let’s say you import 2h of footage spread over 100 clips. Then you start cutting away and end up with a 5min timeline. That means finalcut will have created proxies for 2h of video of which you only use 5mins on the timeline, or in other words it waists 1h55m proxy files which waist disk space since you’re not using them. (same goes for optimized media, why doesn’t it optimize only the parts on the timeline).

    Premiere works like this, and altough you then have to recreate proxies from time to time (for example when you decide to make a shot on the timeline last a few seconds longer), in my eyes this is much more efficient. Also on export in premiere, it simply uses your original files instead of the proxies, unless you specifically tell premier to use the proxies instead (for example when you want to do a quick test export as of course this results in lower final image quality).



    • Rick says:

      You do not have to transcode anything on import – it is a performance trade. If you want to edit in Proxy, then transcode everything on import to Proxy. Set your display preferences to Proxy. When you are ready to export, then change the preferences/display settings to native/optimized. The display setting controls what is exported. If you need to use optimized media for speed reasons at this point, just select the project media and select create optimized media by File/Transcode media.

      A side note: Render files are never used in export if you are using Send to Compressor. So you don’t have to render prior to exporting, according to Ross Shane. You will only need to render for playback performance/playback quality. Leave background render off.


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