This article was first published at www.lafcpug.org, March 8, 2004. Updated:
A Note on Final Cut Pro X
If you are running FCP X, here is an article that explains how to improve the speed of your system and trouble-shoot problems: Improving FCP X Performance.
Apple Final Cut Pro 7 (and earlier) is a reliable, high-performance editing system. However, there are things you can do to both fix and prevent problems. This article focuses on tips to keep your hardware, operating system and project files up, running and optimized.
BIG NOTE: Final Cut Pro 7 does not operate reliably on High Sierra (macOS 10.13.x) or later versions of the operating system. If you need to run FCP 7 or earlier, do NOT upgrade your system!
There isn’t enough space to provide the “why” behind all these recommendations. Where possible, links are provided so you can read more about it.
This article is divided into the following sections:
Safe Boot & Rebuild Permissions
The biggest consistent problem I’ve seen with OS X is confused disk directories. Normally, directories get written to the disk when you shut down or restart. And, normally, everything works fine. However, if a crash, or some other accident, occurs these directories may not get properly updated. A good test as to whether you need to run this procedure is when your Mac takes longer than about 30 seconds to shut down.
Once a week, or whenever you upgrade an application, or whenever you upgrade your operating system, or whenever you have a crash, or when your Mac takes longer than about 30 seconds to shut down, do the following:
For more information, click here [File Journaling]
Preference files get corrupted during normal operations, a crash, force quit, or other natural disaster. There are five rules for trashing preferences:
When preference files get hosed, Final Cut loses a great deal of its stability. To regain it’s equilibrium, do the following:
FCP HD (4.5)
When you trash preferences, you will lose all Favorite motions, transitions and effects; the list of your recent projects and any custom window, Browser, Timeline, keyboard shortus, or button arrangements that were not saved to disk. Note: you DON’T lose your project files, sequences, edits, or any captured clips.
Click here for more info: [Trashing preferences]
IMPORTANT NOTE: Doing a Safe Boot and Trashing Preferences fix well over 90% of Final Cut Pro problems. If you are still having difficulies, read on. However, before going deeper into this article, test your system first to see if things are working OK.
UPDATE – FEB. 3, 2010
Jon Grimson adds:
Larry, I had a real crash problem yesterday with FCP7 and had tried everything. Repaired permissions, trash prefs. reinstall FCP, all the typical steps and still no luck. I uninstalled 3rd party plug-ins too. Finally remembered many years ago the same thing happened and the culprit was…corrupted fonts. I ran verification on font library and trashed the 3-4 bad font libraries. That did the trick.
Just wanted to point this out on troubleshooting checklist since I’ve not seen anybody mention this before. But it has been the cause for me twice.
Larry replies: Thanks, Jon.
Allow your Unix background utilities to run
The foundation for OS X is Unix and Unix was invented specifically to run servers; systems that needed to stay on for long periods of time.
Because of this, a variety of system utilities were developed to run in the background to keep the operating system running at peak efficiency. However, as these utilities should not interfere with the normal operation of the server, they were programmed to run in the wee small hours of the weekend night.
Which means that if you regularly shut your system down each night, these utilities don’t get the opportunity to run.
To solve this, you have a number of options:
In any case, give your Mac a chance to stay healthy.
Setting Ownership Permissions on External Drives
Ownership permissions play an important role in helping OS X figure out who has permission to do what on your computer. However, when it comes to editing video, permissions can get in the way.
To keep things running smoothly,
This means that OS X will no longer worry about whether a user has the right to access the information contained on your media drives. This prevents problems where one user can record to, or playback from, a drive and other users can’t.
Set all non-boot media drives to “Not Journaled.”
Journaling is a feature that began in OS 10.3.x that helps your Mac to recover after a crash. (See: OS X Journaling Explained.)
However, it can also decrease the performance of your media drives.
My recommendation is to leave journaling ON for your boot disk, which is the default, then go to Disk Utility and select all your media drives. Go to File -> Disable Journaling and turn Journaling OFF for all media drives.
Also, in the past, in OS 9, we worried a lot about file fragmentation. In OS X, with large hard disks, this is not something to worry about. So, don’t.
Pick the Right Utilities
Andre D. Ficklin writes:
I was wondering about extra utilities for the Power Mac. I am a recent switcher. I have used the Mac for about a year now and have heard that the diagnostics tools in Mac OS X 10.4.7 are not really enough to keep a drive healthy.
Coming from the PC side, its easy to select which utilities tool to use, but for the Mac I am having a hard time selecting the right one. I am looking for a good utility tool to defragment, and possibly repair damaged files if needed. I don’t have to have an all in one package, but it would be nice. Currently I Have nothing.
What do you use? Do you have several different utilities: Disk Warrior, Drive Genius, Tech Tool Pro, or just one? What do you recommend? Or, do I even need any of it?
Larry replies: Andre, my absolute, number one best utility for the Mac is Alsoft’s Disk Warrior X. I recommend it to all my clients. It is, essentially, a one-trick pony — it repairs blown disk directories. However, that seems to be the number one problem that all Macs running OS X suffer from.
Second, I recommend Micromat’s Tech Tool Pro. It is an excellent, all-around utility.
However, and this is important, I strongly urge you NOT to defragment your drives. We used to do this all the time in OS 9 – and Windows users still do it today. However, Final Cut intentionally stores your files in a fragmented state — because, when you think about it, we never play a file from beginning to end, we are always playing our clips from the middle to the middle. Final Cut stores video files in a fragmented, what Apple calls “optimized”, way. If you then defragment your media drive, everything slows down.
SIMPLE THINGS TO CHECK
This list could actually be hundreds of items long, but here are four favorites, based on how often I hear them.
Click here for more “simple things” to check: [ FCP FAQ ]
SIMPLE WAYS TO PREVENT PROBLEMS
There are a number of things you can do that will keep your system running smoothly.
Often, moving clips from one sequence to another fixes problems.
OPTIMIZING YOUR SYSTEM
Normally, on a reasonably fast computer, the default installation of OS X and Final Cut Pro works perfectly. If your system is working fine now, you can ignore these suggestions. If not, try these suggestions to see if things improve. (This list has been modeled on one supplied by Pinnacle Systems for it’s Cinewave card.)
These are not necessarily listed in any particular order.
Optimize Your System Preferences
Notice that our goal is to minimize processes that run in the background, or that call out to the network. You probably won’t need to use all these settings. Experiment to see which ones work best for you.
Also, once you stop editing, you can turn on those features that you need (with the exception of File Vault). If you need to use File Vault be sure that NONE of the files used in your project are stored in it. Then, you can leave it on, just not access it during editing.
Finally, after making these changes, quit out of the System Preferences utility before launching any application — especially Final Cut.
Optimize Your Final Cut System
Here are some additional steps you can take to improve the performance of your Final Cut system.
Turn off audio waveforms (Option-Command-W). If you aren’t actually editing audio, displaying these will slow your system down.
MORE ADVANCED WAYS YOU CAN PREVENT PROBLEMS
a) Export your timeline to a QuickTime movie (which happens at computer speeds as opposed to real-time). Be sure to set the export to “Current Settings.”
b) Create a new project
c) Import your QuickTime movie into the new project
d) Play out the new movie
a) Save your project file OUTSIDE of your User folder and NOT on the desktop
b) Go to System Preferences
c) Go to Accounts
d) Click the “+” key to add a new user
e) Fill out the rest of the screen
f) Log out as your current user and log in as the new user
g) Open your project and see if things are better
It used to be that when a new upgrade rolled out, all we needed to do was upgrade the affected application. With video editing this is absolutely the WRONG thing to do.
Video editing requires a complete system level approach to upgrading.
For instance, when 10.2.6 came out, there were so many “under-the-hood” changes that a very popular RAID vendor needed to upgrade its drivers. When 10.2.8 came out, the drivers needed to be updated again, for the same reason. When 10.3 came out, the drivers needed to be updated, again.
For this reason, you can no longer assume that the only thing needing to be upgraded is FCP itself.
Here is a list of what needs to be considered when upgrading.
If you are using DV (MiniDV, DVCAM, or DVCPRO-25 gear) upgrade in this order ONLY:
If you are working with SCSI cards, RAIDs, uncompressed video and a capture card, upgrade in THIS order:
I got myself in a serious mess recently by not updating the SCSI drivers for a couple of my clients. I was at a complete loss to explain why, after I updated the system, performance slowed to a crawl. When I realized I had done an incomplete update, then installed the correct SCSI drivers, performance was restored and everything worked great. (Whew!)
If possible, doing a clean install of the operating system is the best. (That means erasing your hard disk and installing everything fresh.) However, that is not always possible. Nor is it always required. By following these steps, in this order, you can save yourself a lot of problems down the road.
HELPFUL REPAIR UTILITIES
System utilities have always been a significant cottage industry for the Macintosh and today is no exception.
Here are three that I recommend:
Two other quick thoughts. While religious wars continue to be fought on both these issues, I wanted to weigh in on both:
Based on talking with drive vendors, partitioning is not necessary. If it helps you stay organized — use it. But there is, generally, no performance benefit to partitioning. If, on the other hand, you want to have two different boot disks using two different operating systems, partitioning is the way to go. However, partitioning is often wasteful of hard disk space. The short answer is, if you are looking for speed, you don’t need to partition. If you are looking for organization, partitioning is OK.
However, NEVER store media files on a partitioned disk. Media should always be stored on a second drive.
De-fragmenting was necessary when hard disks were smaller and systems were slower. With today’s technology, if it makes you feel better to de-frag, then by all means, go-ahead. However, you will not see a significant performance boost. Nor is it necessary. Nor does Final Cut particularly care. Because when FCP is playing video back, the hard drive heads are bouncing all over the place anyway. Decreasing the fragmentation won’t help a whole lot.
Well, that’s about it. These are procedures you can use to keep your system running at peak performance. If I’ve omitted one of your favorites, let me know so I can periodically update this article.
In the meantime, it’s time to stop trouble-shooting and start editing.
NEW & Updated!
Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.