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Playback and Performance

The flexibility of Final Cut Pro allows multiple resolutions in a project or sequence. If you kept the low-resolution media files, you may find it useful to view both the low- and high-resolution media files in the same project. Simply open both low- and high-resolution projects, and drag, or copy and paste, the elements into a project Browser.

Sequences may contain mixed-resolution clips. Set the sequence setting to the codec value of the majority of the clips in your sequence. For example, if your project contained an edited 40-minute sequence with clips captured at DV50, yet a special-effects company sent you three MOV files at 8-bit uncompressed, it would make the most sense to set your sequence settings to DV50 since the DV50 codec forms the majority. Prior to final output, you will usually need to render those clips whose codec differs from the sequence setting.

Final Cut Pro will always attempt to play back, in real time, any codec that does not correspond to the sequence settings. How Final Cut Pro will treat an element that requires rendering depends on the Real-Time Playback settings of your sequence. You can change the Real-Time Playback (often referred to as RT Playback) to access more playback options. However, the performance of the RT Playback is dependent on your system capabilities. A high CPU speed, multiple processors, maximum RAM, and increased Level 2 and Level 3 processor cache all serve to increase RT Playback in the Timeline. In addition, fast hard drives, fast bus speed, and an accelerated graphics card will also assist maximum RT Playback.

There are many useful configurations of RT settings and options. However, as a rule you can obtain a good balance of performance and quality by Ctrl-clicking the RT pop-up menu from your sequence and choosing the following options:

  • Unlimited RT— Choosing this option tells Final Cut Pro to play as many effects as possible when the number of effects exceeds the processing capabilities of your system. You may experience dropped frames; however, this option is excellent for previewing your more complex composites. Also, activating Unlimited RT is the only way to view third-party FXScript filters and transitions that were built for playback utilizing the Final Cut Pro Real-Time Playback performance.

  • Scrub High Quality— Choosing this option enables video displayed in the Canvas to be shown at full quality when you scrub or park the playhead. Although this can be useful for checking the image quality or colors of a clip, you may want to toggle it on and off. Consider deselecting this option if you are working with CPU-intensive video codecs such as HD.

  • Playback Video Quality: Dynamic— Choosing Dynamic allows Final Cut Pro to automatically change between high, medium, and low video playback quality. Enabling this option allows you to view more real-time effects.

  • Playback Frame Rate: Dynamic— Final Cut Pro will automatically reduce or increase the frame rate so that you can view the most possible real-time effects. Although this is useful, toggle this option back to Full after you have finished viewing your effects or composites. Choosing Full will return the frame rate play back to the editing timebase set in your sequence settings.

These options allow for increased RT playback. Toggle among the RT playback options to find settings that will work best with your project.

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