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Specifying User Preferences and System Settings

The settings in the User Preferences and System Settings windows affect all of your Final Cut Express projects. The User Preferences window contains four tabs: General, Editing, Timeline Options, and Render Control. The System Settings window offers another four tabs' worth of preference settings: Scratch Disks, Memory & Cache, Playback Control, and External Editors. System Settings window preference options are covered in the second half of this section.

To set General preferences:

  1. Choose Final Cut Express HD > User Preferences. The General tab will appear as the front tab in the User Preferences window ( Figure 3.6 ).

    Figure 3.6 Specify a number of general program preferences on the General tab of the User Preferences window.

  2. You can specify settings for the following:
    • Levels of Undo: Specify the number of actions that can be undone. Specifying a large number of undos can make significant demands on your available RAM, however.
    • List Recent Clips: Set the number of recently accessed clips available on the Viewer's Recent Clips pop-up menu.
    • Real-Time Audio Mixing: Specify the number of audio tracks that Final Cut Express mixes in real time. The default setting is eight tracks. The maximum number of tracks you will be able to mix depends on multiple factors. Reduce the number of tracks if you experience audio playback problems, such as video stuttering or audio pops or dropouts.
    • Audio Playback Quality: Choose the quality of sample-rate conversion when you import audio files with sample rates that differ from your sequence's rate. At the lowest playback quality, Final Cut Express can reserve more processing power for real-time mixing operations. If you choose the highest playback quality, your sample-rate-converted audio will sound better, but you won't be able to stack up as many simultaneous audio tracks before FCE needs to mixdown (render) your audio. Higher quality settings will take more processing time, so the default is Low. In general, choose Low when editing. FCE automatically defaults to the highest audio quality during all rendering, audio mixdown, and printing to video, so you won't need to switch the setting here when you're ready to output your program.
    • Show ToolTips: Check this box to toggle the display of tooltip labels on buttons and tools.
    • Bring All Windows to the Front on Activation: Check this box to specify that whenever FCE is in the background, clicking any single FCE window to activate the application will bring all open FCE windows to the front of the Desktop.
    • Open Last Project on Application Launch: Check this box if you want FCE to automatically reopen your last saved project when you launch the application. Uncheck the box if you want FCE to create a new empty project on application launch.
    • Autosave Vault: Check this box if you want FCE to save backup copies of all your open projects automatically at regular intervals. Enter a number to specify a time interval in minutes. For more information, see "Using the Autosave Vault" in Chapter 4.
      • Save a Copy Every n Minutes: Enter a number of minutes to specify a time interval between backup operations.
      • Keep at Most n Copies per Project: Enter a value to specify how many autosaved backup copies of each project file you want Final Cut Express to store.
      • Maximum of n Projects: Enter a value to specify the maximum number of projects you want to back up in the Autosave Vault. If the number of open projects exceeds the number specified here, Final Cut Express will override the maximum you set and autosave all open projects.
    • Prompt for Settings on New Project: Check this box if you want the option to modify project properties each time you create a new project.
    • Prompt for Settings on New Sequence: Check this box if you want to see a list of sequence presets each time you create a new sequence.
    • Report Dropped Frames During Playback: Check this box if you want Final Cut Express to display a warning dialog box whenever frames are dropped during playback.
    • Abort Capture on Dropped Frames: Check this box to automatically stop the capture process if dropped frames are detected during a capture.
    • Do Not Show A/V Device Warning on Launch: Check this box if you want Final Cut Express to ignore any missing external video devices when you launch the application and disable the display of the External A/V warning dialog box.
    • Auto Render: Check the box to enable the triggering of automatic rendering when FCE is idle for a specified period.
      • Start Render After n Minutes: Enter a number of minutes to specify how long FCE should be idle before automatic rendering is triggered.
      • Which Sequences: Select Open Sequences to render all sequences currently open in the Timeline, select Current Only to render just the active sequence on the front tab of the Timeline, or select Open Except Current to render all open sequences except the active sequence on the front tab of the Timeline.
      • Render RT Segments: Check the box to include those sections of your sequence that use real-time effects in the auto-render operation.
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