Final Cut Pro 5 Video Scopes Warning

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the September, 2005, issue
of “Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter.” Updated March, 2007. ]

Update: The 5.1.2 release of Final Cut Pro fixed this scope problem, as well as providing real-time scope playback. However, the problem detailed in this article is accurate for all versions of Final Cut Pro prior to version 5.1.2.

Andrew Balis brought this to my attention via the Apple Trainer mailing list.

In brief, the Waveform monitor video scope inside Final Cut does not display the entire screen, it only displays the image roughly contained by the Title Safe rectangle.

Update: Specifically, FCP scopes display every other pixel from 16 horizontal lines roughly contained by the Title Safe rectangle.


Here is an example. I created a test shape (720 x 540 x 72) using 50% gray, except for four blocks of pure white and pure black. It looks like this in the Canvas — note that all blocks are inside Title Safe.

The Waveform monitor shows both the mid-tone gray and the four blocks of pure white and black (indicated by arrows).

However, when the white and black blocks are moved outside Title Safe, as they are here, they disappear from the scope!

Frankly, I was stunned to discover this! A scope should show the ENTIRE picture, not just a portion of it.

When I was in Chicago, I mentioned this to Gary Adcock, of CHIFCPUG, who sent the following email:

This [scope problem] has been an issue since day one. While FCP scopes are accurate for what they show, and nearly useable for DV they are seriously flawed by the lack of information that is shown to the user. Apple touted scopes in FCP 3 as a major upgrade and highly accurate, but then cobbled their use in a true pro environment by failing to even make them equal to other software-based scopes such as the one from


I have seen as much as a 35% difference in the signal on my Leader scope vs the Waveform and Vectorscopes in FCP 5. Yet Avid, Final Touch, and Synthetic Aperture all have software-based scopes that are nearly identical in use and reliability of the hardware-based ones.


And to offer something else up — [FCP’s scopes] are even farther off in the uncompressed HD world, where they appear to only sample one in every 24 scan-lines on 4:4:4 1080 content. I have seen what appears to be only sampling in the 4:3 center of an uncompressed 16×9 image DL video file.


In essence, the scopes sample HD at about 1/2 of the overall image based on a 4:3 weighted area in the center.

Larry again: You can test this for yourself. Here’s a JPEG of my test image. Load it into Final Cut and look at in the Waveform monitor.

I’m very disappointed that FCP’s scopes are this inaccurate — especially when the only way to set white levels or do color correction is by using a scope.

It is my hope that if we complain about this loudly enough, Apple will add it to the list of “Things To Be Fixed.”



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