FCP 7: Faster Rendering with ProRes

Posted on by Larry

[This article was first published in the September, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.]


Dennis Couzin, from Berlin, Germany, takes exception to something I wrote about rendering:

You published “Tips for Faster Rendering” in July 2009 and still post it. In it you recite:

Until Snow Leopard and a new version of Final Cut ships, Final Cut does not take significant advantage of multiple processors. It should, but it doesn’t.

This ain’t so now, even without Snow Leopard. I’m running OSX 10.5.8 with FCP 7.0.2 in a Mac Pro 1.1. My sequences are 1080 50p ProRes422. When I render, FCP uses all four of my processor cores at up to 90%.


Apparently FCP takes significant advantage of multiple processors with some codecs and not others — strange as that may seem. ProRes422 is one codec for which FCP does. FCP 7 and ProRes422 only appeared around July 2009, just as you published your tips. Now many people are using FCP 7 and ProRes422 so the rendering time question needs review.


Most people I know are using FCP with a Mac Pro. With Mac Pros, processor speed is a pretty weak variable since it ranges only from 2.4 GHz to 3.33 GHz. But core number ranges from 4 to 12. If FCP is really utilizes all cores for rendering ProRes then I can hope for 3 times faster rendering if I upgrade from my 4-core Mac Pro to a 12-core Mac Pro. You or someone in your circle can find out exactly what more cores achieve.


FCP rendering of heavy formats like 1080 50p is such a drag that an editor can be tempted into unadventurousness. That would be a defeat of (what I believe to be) the basic concept of FCP which is to edit in the final format. What Apple did in around July 2009 was meant to save FCP, and yet it’s little known.


I doubt that ProRes422 itself is a big deal as a codec. But if ProRes422 and FCP7 are designed to work together for faster rendering with multiple processors then ProRes422 will become a format of choice for FCP users.

Larry replies: Dennis, thanks for writing. The key word in what you quoted was the word “significant.”

You are correct in that PARTS of Final Cut Pro do take advantage of multiple processors — especially any new feature added in Final Cut 6 of 7. You mention ProRes, but portions of Log & Transfer, Multicam, and Alpha transitions would also fall into this category.

However it is also true that the majority of Final Cut Pro does not support multiple processors – for example, dynamic updating of the interface, video scopes, many transitions, filters, and motion effects. In other words, the older parts of the system.

This is the reason that I say that until FCP is rewritten, you will not get the performance you expect from a multi-processor system. For some things, yes; for others, no.


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