New Render Settings in Final Cut Pro 5

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the August, 2005, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

New with this FCP 5 are improved render settings for scaling and rotation. You can see these in two places: when you first open a project from an earlier version of FCP into FCP 5, or by going to Sequence > Settings > Video processing tab.

This technique explains what these new settings do and how to use them.

When you open an project from an earlier version of Final Cut, you are first asked if you want to update it. If you select No, FCP cancels opening the project. If you select Yes, FCP opens the project. Now, at this point, your project is still stored in the old format on your hard drive. The updating isn’t permanent until you save the project file.

The next dialog that appears asks how you want to set your render files. The default setting is normal. In Final Cut HD, we didn’t have a choice in rendering. Now, we do.

What Apple did was significantly improve the algorithms Final Cut uses to calculate scaling (size changes) and rotation. If you don’t change the size or rotation of your clips in the Timeline, then none of this discussion matters. You can skip to the next section. For the rest of us, read on.

Render settings are applied to each sequence. So, different sequences in the same project can have different render settings.

There are three selections: Faster, Normal and Best.

Faster: This is the render setting for FCP HD. It looks OK, but, frankly, it shouldn’t be your first choice, unless you are planning to use the current project to replace a portion of the video in an earlier project. In which case, using the same rendering settings will help assure that the video matches.

Normal: This is the default setting for FCP 5 and even on my computer screen I can see an improvement. This is even more noticeable on a video monitor. However, it takes longer to calculate an effect at this level of quality.

Best: This is the best setting to use if you are doing a lot of compositing, however, it takes the most time. According to my highly unscientific testing, if Faster renders in 10 seconds, Normal will render in 30 and Best in 40.

If you have a project that has already been converted to FCP 5, or if you want to change the render settings to an existing project, open the sequence you want to change and choose Sequence > Settings > Video Processing tab.

Just as when you open an older project, you can select between the three different render choices.

Which one should you use? Well, I’ll tell you what I do. I use Normal for all my editing, then, just before outputting to tape, I change the render settings on my final sequence to Best and re-render. This gives me the highest quality with the least amount of time spent waiting for FCP to render.

(Remember, also, that even though the Timeline shows green render bars, meaning that FCP can play your Timeline in real-time, all effects must render before output to tape. So, since FCP will spend time rendering before final tape output anyway, I figure that I should take advantage of all this and have it render at the best quality.)

Tom Wolsky sends the following note:

The whole Fastest, Normal, Best seems to be raising problems in some areas. Despite the improvement in scaling many people are reverting to fastest when having to render titles as normal and especially best appear to significantly degrade the text. Switching to fastest seems to alleviate this problem.

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