Understanding Sequence Settings in Final Cut Pro

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the February, 2010, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

James Dunn writes:

I have a question area pertaining to sequence settings. I am still in Studio 1, and am primarily using FC to produce narrated slideshow type personal stories (music, still photos, narration) which is a new direction for me relative to selling services to families.


The one area where I am constantly finding myself stuck is in understanding the correct sequence and compression settings. I recall that you covered parts of that in your training.


Can you point me to a tutorial or primer that would help clarify the basics that I need to know?

Larry replies: James, this gets very confusing!

First, you need to separate the settings you use for editing from the settings you use for compression and final delivery. They are NEVER the same.

Since you are outputting for the web and DVD, and you are using FCS 1, your editing settings are easy. From within Final Cut Pro, go to Final Cut Pro > Easy Setup and select either DV NTSC or DV NTSC Widescreen.

Then edit your project.

Export your project using File > Export > QuickTime Movie and be sure Settings is set to Current Settings.

That handles the editing part in Final Cut Pro.

When it comes to DVDs, all DVDs are SD, not HD. So, you need to compress your exported movie into something a DVD can play. You do this using Compressor.

Import your file into Compressor. Then, since the total of all the video on your DVD runs less than 90 minutes, apply a compression setting of MPEG-2 (or DVD) 90 minute Best Quality and compress your project.

Compressor is smart enough to figure out the difference between 4:3 and 16:9 automatically.

This handles the compression part to create a DVD.

Finally, import the compressed video files into DVD SP and create your DVD.

For Flash movies, you will need to buy other compression software as Final Cut Studio does not create Flash or WMV files. Adobe Media Encoder or Telestream Episode or DV Kitchen are good programs to check into.

As far as your image size goes, most people prefer images which fill the frame, instead of black wrap-arounds. However, this is a personal choice, and you can pick what you like. For more details on images and aspect ratios, read this article:

Improving the Look of Your Graphics and Text

Jim then wrote back:

I’ve practiced most of this evening with your suggestions and am making some headway. The original problem was that I had put together a slide show in FC and had selected some HD settings and the Apple Intermediate compressor. The resulting piece was a lot larger than I had anticipated, especially for the web. Your reminder of the Easy Setup, well, thank you for that…


On my FCS 1, in Easy Setup, I find the DV NTSC, but not the Widescreen option. However, I do see DV NTSC-Anamorphic …would that be the same as widescreen? Otherwise, is the 16:9 box more for style of the presentation when cropping images?


I’ve attached a PNG screen shot, which displays what my default is when I do the DV NTSC: 720×480 DV NTSC 3:2


I am still not clear about the 3:2 aspect versus the 4:3 (my guess is that 720×480 is more desirable for the wider presentation style that I seem to gravitate towards).

Larry replies: Remember — large file sizes do NOT necessarily equate to large files on the web. There is a correlation but MUCH less than you might expect. The reasons are far too complex to go into in an email.

Yes, DV NTSC Anamorphic is 16:9. Apple changed the wording in later versions.

DV is 3:2 because it uses rectangular pixels. The same video on the web will be 4:3 because it uses square pixels. Understanding this will cause your brains to explode. You can either study this and understand it — or accept that it’s just magic and move on. After studying this, I understand it – but still lean to the “its magic” point of view.

FIRST – you need to decide if you are creating 4:3 or 16:9 sequences. Everything hinges on that decision. Since you are using stills, it is totally aesthetic – but you need to decide this first as it affects the rest of your workflow.

Once you decide on an aspect ratio, if you are using 4:3, Compressor will create images that are 640 x 480 (remember — “its magic.”) If you are using 16:9, Compressor will create images that are 720 x 405 — OR — 640 x 360. Either set of numbers works.

When it comes to compression, you should select the setting for Apple TV, if it exists, for posting to the web and DVD 90 minute High-Quality for use in DVDs.


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One Response to Understanding Sequence Settings in Final Cut Pro

  1. francis says:

    hi Larry.
    i have footages that i shot on a 7D full HD 25fps but my client wants the final output to have blanking on top and bottom so that its not wide sreen,i tried to insert the footages on a dv pal sequence in fcp 7 but the results is interlaced,.what should i do to achieve a good blanking with out losing the quality

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