What Does It Take To Speed Up Rendering?

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the December, 2008, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe.
UPDATE – Dec. 2008 ]

Steve Mittelberg writes:

Getting back to some basics on configuring a G5, would increasing the RAM enable faster rendering of multiple streams of video with effects? Does the RAM need to be replaced in matched pairs? Would updating the graphics card enable faster rendering times? Would a RAID system be essentially useful only for backing up or would it also increase performance time when rendering. The Drobo seems like an excellent solution for a quick and easy backup solution. You didn’t seem to think it would increase speed in editing. Thanks for your feedback.

Larry replies: Wow! What a lot of questions….

Let’s tackle these one at a time:

1. Does more RAM speed rendering? The sweet spot for RAM for Final Cut Pro is about 2 GB. Assuming you have that much, adding much more won’t make rendering go any faster.


2. Does RAM need to be replaced in matched pairs? Yes for towers, no for laptops.


3. Would updating the graphics card speed rendering? No. Though Apple is hinting that will change in the future.


4. Would a RAID help in backing up or performance? RAIDs are designed for fast storage and performance. They have no impact on rendering.


5. Is Drobo a good choice for backups? Yes.


5a. Will it increase editing speed or rendering? No.


5b. So, then, what WILL speed up rendering? A computer with a faster CPU.


5c. How about….? Nope, just a faster CPU.

UPDATE – Dec. 17

But, Willard Jensen then added another question:

You make it sound that 2 gig is optimum for FCP. But when running FCP alongside with Motion, for master templates, and even FCSvr. Don’t you need mote that that? And is it true that one should double Ram so either 1,2,4,8 or 16 and that anything in between could be counterproductive?

Larry replies: Well, if you insist, I’ll modify my comments to this:

Changing RAM size does not affect render speed. FCP does not address more than 4 GB of RAM. However, having more than 4 GB of RAM will help when you are running multiple applications at the same time as that will minimize the amount of material that needs to be paged to and from your hard disk.

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

UPDATE – Jan 2012

With the release of FCP X, the entire rendering equation changed. These tips are true for all versions from FCP 1 through FCP 7. However, for FCP X, a faster CPU, faster graphics card, and more RAM will all speed rendering.


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