In this Tech Note we describe Final Cut Pro Sequence settings to optimize editing performance using CineForm files on an FCP timeline. As background, FCP imposes performance-restrictive assumptions on third-party codecs that make it difficult to deliver the perfect real-time performance that CineForm customers are used to. This manifests itself mostly during real-time effects and transitions on the FCP timeline. There are a couple sequence setting selectors to optimize performance. Plus CineForm continues to work on additional techniques to improve editing performance of CineForm files in FCP.
Sequence Settings Within Final Cut Pro
Performance Preface: CineForm has not yet released the threaded version of our codec for MacOS. This work is in progress. Expect playback and render performance to increase when this release is made.
Notice in the Final Cut Pro Sequence settings below, CineForm HD is selected as the QuickTime Compressor. This selection defines the render-to codec, not the files on the editing timeline. It would normally be assumed that if you are using CineForm clips on your timeline that you should use CineForm as the render-to QT Compressor. However, if you leave the setting like this, individual CineForm files will play in real time within FCP, but FCP will refuse to play through transitions or effects without rendering.
The resulting FCP timeline with the Red render bar is shown below.
However, if you instead choose a render-to codec known by FCP to provide real-time performance, then FCP will allow your source codec (CineForm) to play through transitions and effects without rendering. In the figure below we have selected Apple ProRes 422 (Final Cut Studio 2) codec for rendering.
Note: We will never actually render to ProRes, but by selecting ProRes as the render-to codec FCP eliminates the force-render for clips with transitions and effects applied. When the project is ready for either exporting or rendering, you will simply change your Compressor Setting back from Apple ProRes 4:2:2 to Cineform HD.
1. Make sure your frame size and pixel aspect ratio match correctly between project settings and clip settings.
2. During editing of your project select Sequence --> Settings then select Apple ProRes 422 under QT Video Settings.
Note for FCP v5.1 users:
• for 1920x1080 24p footage select Uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2;
• for 1280 x 720p footage select an HDV 720p preset that corresponds to the frame rate of your material.
3. The final setting is to set the timeline playback mode at the upper left on the FCP timeline as shown at right. You want to select Unlimited RT as the timeline mode.
The result of these settings is that your timeline will turn Orange (as shown below) instead of Red, and it will allow you to play through transitions and effects with CineForm source material.
Performance Note: In the monitor window there is a selector for decode size. Selecting 50% instead of 100% sometimes accelerates playback depending on functions being performed on the timeline. Note: Playback within Final Cut Pro may seem slower or choppy when using the settings described above. We are investigating additional settings or codec modes that will allow us to reduce or eliminate the choppiness. This choppiness is only a playback issue and is no way a problem for your exported project.
Also: You may find that a combination of Sequence settings (sometimes using CineForm as the render-to codec) provides a better workflow as individual CineForm files play more smoothly on the FCP timeline although they will not play through transitions or effects.
Upon Project Render or Export: Make sure to select CineForm as the render-to codec when rendering portions of your timeline or exporting your project.
Finally: We are continually working to improve our workflow and performance on MacOS in general and inside both Apple and Adobe products in particular. Check regularly for new releases of our software for additional features and performance on MacOS.