Working with Auto-Render

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the August, 2005, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

One of the frequently requested features for Final Cut is the ability to render in the background. By this I mean that FCP would render effects in the background while you are editing in the foreground. However, I have been told by the engineers at Apple that, due to the way FCP is designed, it is not possible to easily add this feature.

However, in FCP 4, Apple added a new feature called Auto-Render as part of User Preferences which can go a long way toward solving this problem — if you know how to use it.

As I teach my classes I’ve discovered that many people have not discovered this function, so I wanted to cover it here today.

1. To start, choose Final Cut Pro > User Preferences.

2. The first screen that comes up is the General tab. Highlighted in the lower right corner is Auto-Render. The default setting is 45, however, as you’ll learn, I set mine to 15 on my system.

3. Auto-render is, essentially, a timer to tell Final Cut to do something when FCP isn’t busy. This is all well and good, but I’m not going to just sit there with my arms folded waited for Final Cut to start rendering. So, I didn’t use Auto-render for a long time after it first appeared, until I discovered something.

You see, the key phrase is “when Final Cut isn’t busy.” Auto-Render watches for mouse clicks and key presses. If it doesn’t see any incoming user input (meaning those mouse and keyboard movements) it starts a clock. In this example, when the clock gets to 15 minutes with nothing happening, it tells Final Cut to render all open sequences. (The default setting is to wait for 45 minutes.)

But, here’s the neat part. Just because Final Cut isn’t busy does NOT mean your computer isn’t busy! Since Auto-render is looking for mouse click and key presses, all you need to do is move Final Cut to the background, by starting a different program. A foreground application receives all mouse clicks and key presses. This means that while I’m working in PhotoShop, or sending email, or updating my accounting, all those mouse clicks and key presses are going to the foreground application — NOT to Final Cut.

So, the clock starts ticking. After 15 minutes, the clock says to Final Cut: “well, there’s nothing going on here, better start rendering.” So, FCP renders all open sequences, while you’re busy working in another application.

This is very cool — I keep busy with another part of my production, Final Cut renders “in the background,” and there’s no time lost. Rendering in the background does show down your system, which may be excessive on slower computers, but I’ve not found this to be a significant problem.

However, for this system to work most efficiently, change the default Auto-render setting from 45 (minutes) to 15. That way, Final Cut leaps into action much sooner.

By the way, you can adjust what FCP renders by selecting from these three choices. For me, I just leave it set to all open sequences — including RT sequences.

Very cool.

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