Reducing Render Time in Final Cut Pro

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the May, 2009, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Don Smith sent in this tip:

I just learned of a trick to reduce rendering time on a single computer (not using other computers to “farm out” the processing)…


First, the headlines, then the background.


Using the same timeline and compressing to the same codec with no additional apps running other than those noted on an Intel MacPro (4-core) machine:


Running FCP and exporting a 4-minute, 53-second timeline to Compressor and compressing using H.264 with 48k audio and retaining the projects frame rate and size: 1-hour, 34 minutes.


Running FCP, exporting that same 4:53 timeline to a reference movie, QUITTING FCP, and then running Compressor using “This Computer”: 19 minutes.


Running FCP, exporting that same 4:53 timeline to a reference movie, QUITTING FCP, and then running Compressor but using a virtual cluster: 13 minutes.


Other than the surprise that the project will render MUCH faster by NOT exporting directly to Compressor (on my machine, anyway), I’ve learned a trick to make your Mac think it can compress using networked computers to help.


Go to Preferences>Apple Qmaster and set the following:



  • If running, first click “Stop Sharing”
  • Leave “QuickCluster with services” selected.
  • Highlight the Compressor line in Services
  • Click “Options for selected service…”
  • Select the number of instances you want. It appears that you need 1GB of RAM for each instance with some left over. I have 13GB of RAM on my machine so I select the maximum of 4 instances. You can go to 8 on OctoMac if you have MORE than 8GB of RAM it appears. Try 2 on a laptop with 4GB of RAM.You can change the name of your cluster to something you like. I chose “Bubba” in my case.


Launch Compressor with the reference movie you want to compress and select your compression method and destination, then press Submit.


You’ll see a resulting dialog where you select your virtual cluster:



In my tests, WITHOUT FCP running or NOT exporting directly to Compressor from FCP, using “This computer” compressed my 4:53 ProRes ProRes 422 422 movie in 19 minutes. Using my Bubba virtual cluster, my movie compressed in 13 minutes.


I first tried to export directly from FCP and choose virtual cluster but that would simply result in FCP become non-responsive and nothing happens. I found others on the Internet who also said not to export directly from FCP and instead export to a reference or self-contained movie file, quit FCP, and then compress your movie.

Larry replies: Thanks, Don, for sending this in!

UPDATE – May 19, 2009

Gordon Inglis writes:

For those who are working on RAIDs and want to cluster two or more computers I’d add this; clustering needs you to set up a folder on the RAID for temp render files, the path for this folder cannot have any spaces in the name so, for example, ‘RAID/render farm’ will not work, it must be ‘RAID/renderfarm’.


And of course the source file needs to be on the RAID as well.


Clustering is an amazing boost to productivity, just get it working before you need to use, don’t try to get it running with a deadline looming (like me).

Larry replies: Thanks for adding this, Gordon.

Don added:

In case I didn’t make it clear enough, my procedure was inspired by a trick I found elsewhere. I can’t claim to have created it but I improved on how to set it up after a couple of hours of testing. The original tip just caused my computer to lock up and do nothing but with the appearance of doing something.


As you can see, even after saving a reference file and not exporting directly to Compressor to massively improve the rendering time, the Virtual Cluster method improved my rendering time yet again over “This Computer” by 31% and I think that shrinking your best rendering time by one-third again is worth talking about!


Ben Balser writes:

Recently, you wrote that “I don’t think there’s any significant performance benefits to increasing your RAM in multiples of 2, thus, ‘doubling’ RAM.”


Well, truth is, not on a G5, but on an Intel machine it does. The Intel will access RAM faster when installed in identical pairs, which is why Apple recommends this, although the machine will still work if you don’t. Matching pairs will allow the system to access RAM faster, but this is an Intel Mac only thing.

Larry replies: Thanks, Ben, for the clarification.

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