Suggestions on Printing to Video

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the June, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Don Breinlinger, from IDS Interactive, writes:

In last month’s newsletter you spoke about reference, vs. self-contained movies. We export a self-contained movie and the use it to print to video, to output a 30 min. DV NTSC show. It’s our understanding that it’s easier for FCP to print one track of video and two of audio from a self-contained movie, than to print the finished sequence, which might have upwards of 20 tracks.


My question is, is print to video using a reference movie any different than just printing from the timeline? I’d love to skip exporting a self-contained movie, but not at the risk of FCP dropping frames when outputting.

Larry replies: The short answer is: “No.”


First, a quick definition. When you select File > Export > QuickTime Movie, at the bottom of the dialog box is a checkbox.

When Make Movie Self-Contained is checked, you are creating a QuickTime movie that contains all your video, all your render files, and all your audio complete and fully mixed in one gigantic file.

When Make Movie Self-Contained is not checked, you are creating a QuickTime movie that contains all your audio, fully mixed, and pointers that point to where the video and render files are stored on your system.

The first type movie is called a “self-contained” QuickTime movie, the second is called a “reference” QuickTime movie.

Reference movies are smaller and much faster to export, but they will only play on your system. In general, these are a good choice when you only need the video for a short period of time.

Now, to answer your question, whenever Final Cut gets ready to Print to Video, or Edit to Tape, it ALWAYS renders all tracks and effects so that when it plays back, FCP is ONLY playing one video track (either source video or render file) and two audio tracks (unless you’ve customized your audio output for multiple tracks.

In other words, there is no need to export anything, because Final Cut is automatically doing it for you. This is why earlier versions of Final Cut could play broadcast quality video in real-time on very slow computers (compared to today’s models).

So, my recommendation is not to export anything, just print your sequence to video. If you are having output problems and your sequence just won’t play, then follow these steps:

  1. Export your sequence as as self-contained QuickTime movie
  2. Create a new project
  3. Create a new sequence that matches the format of your exported movie
  4. Import your movie
  5. Select File > Print to Video.

In almost all cases, this will solve the problem.


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