FCP X: Know What You’re Editing [u]

Posted on by Larry

One of the benefits to using Final Cut Pro X is its ability to create optimized (transcoded) or proxy media during the import process. Automatically and in the background.

Except, once you’ve imported a file, how can you tell what version you are editing?

While there is no big flashing light that indicates whether you are editing camera native, optimized or proxy media, it is easy to find out, if you know where to look.


Select the clip you want to learn more about, then open the Inspector (Cmd+4).

Basic clip info is listed at the top. However, what’s missing in this initial display is any indication of what the camera native codec was or what you are editing.

NOTE: If your screen does not match mine, go to the bottom left corner of the Inspector and change the pop-up Metadata View menu to Basic.

Looking farther down the Inspector, you’ll see the word Codecs. The text that follows describes the codec used to create the original camera native files. (Linear PCM means uncompressed audio files.)

The Inspector always shows the codec (format) of the SOURCE media.  This allows us to know the quality of the media from which the optimized and proxy files are derived.

NOTE: Optimized media is always ProRes 422. Proxy files are always ProRes 422 Proxy.

Scroll to the bottom of the Inspector to where it says “Available Media Representations.” The green light next to Original indicates that the camera native file exists and Final Cut knows where it is. Red triangles indicate generated media which does not exist.


Here’s how to interpret these three red and green lights.

If Original is green, you have imported camera native source media and Final Cut knows where it is stored.

If Optimized is green, you have created optimized media from the camera native media and Final Cut knows where it is stored.

If the Proxy light is green, proxy files exist and Final Cut knows where they are stored.


To determine the files you are editing click the Switch in the top right corner of the Viewer. If Optimized/Original is checked, you are editing camera native media if the Optimized light is red, or optimized media if the Optimized light is green.

If Proxy is checked AND the Proxy light is green, you are editing Proxy media.

If Proxy is checked AND the Proxy light is red, you will see the “Missing Proxy File” message.

To create proxy media,  select the clip or clips that are missing proxy files, go to File > Transcode Media and click the “Create proxy media” checkbox. (You can use this same dialog to create optimized media, if it wasn’t created during import.)

NOTE: You can also click the Generate Proxies button in the Inspector, if that’s easier.


This sound confusing, but it really isn’t. The lights tell you whether specific media exists, while the Switch determines  what you are editing. FCP X always uses camera native (source) media UNLESS optimized media exists. If optimized media exists, FCP X uses that instead.

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2 Responses to FCP X: Know What You’re Editing [u]

  1. Simon Campbell-Jones says:

    Larry, Caught you in London and thoroughly enjoyed your jovial ‘spat’ with Geoff about 4K. The main theme of BVE14 I came away with was 4K 4K 4K everywhere – and nowhere, as no broadcasters are asking for it. The other surprise was local TV. A whole new range of openings for content. A quote from one session was “Bring me anything, I’ll broadcast it”! Thanks for what you do.

  2. Becky says:

    Just one thing to add here, I couldn’t find the lights anywhere in the basic view (or the other views for that matter). I discovered that the gear in the lower right corner of the window has a menu that helped remedy this. If you don’t see the lights either make sure you select “Show File Status”. Mine wasn’t selected and now that it is the lights for the Original/Optimized/Proxy lights are front and center. 🙂 Thanks, for the tip, Larry!

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