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The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, part 2

The Ultimate Real-world FCP FAQ, pt. 2
A Creative COW Final Cut Tutorial

The Ultimate FCP FAQ, part 2

Shane Ross Creative Cow

Shane Ross
Los Angeles, CA US
©Shane Ross and

Article Focus:
Creative Cow Leader Shane Ross is one of a very small handful of the world's most respected FCP experts. Over the course of years answering questions, he's compiled a real-world list of the questions that are truly the most frequently asked. He calls them Shane's Stock Answers. We call them the information you really need for working with FCP. In part 2 he covers HDV monitoring, editing web codecs, working with Photoshop files in FCP, and much more.

When I found myself repeatedly answering the same questions on the Final Cut Pro forum, I devised a plan to save me from typing the same answer time and time again. And I wanted to have these answers close at hand so that I didn’t have to go searching for them. So the question I had to ask myself was…where would I store them? (Before I started storing them in the COW library of course.)

I thought about putting them in a text document, but then I found myself scrolling a lot searching for the answer. Then how about one text document for each answer? Better, but then that still seemed a bit much to me.

Then I stumbled upon the idea of using the STICKIES application. I already used it to store a few things like links to Apple documents, tips for various applications, and other odds and ends. So I figured this would be the perfect place to store the Stock Answers. To set them apart, I color coded the stickies so that I could find them right away. I started the Stock Answers back when I was using OS9, and I was very happy when the application was ported over to OSX.

Oh, you want to see what my Stickies look like? Are you sure? OK…you asked for it:

FCP stickies
Click the image to see the whoooooole thing.

Yeah….it is a bit cluttered. It helps that I collapse the windows and leave a header so that I can find the one I am looking for quickly.

Of course, they're at the Cow now, too.

OK, lets move along to part 2.

Shane's Stock Answer #16: Video Stutter, Drops Frames on Print to Video (output)

What do you have Memory & Cache set to in FCP's System Settings? Default is 100%, but it should be backed off, maybe 70 to 80%. At 100% it will actually cause OS X to use Virtual Memory (disk) before it really needs to.

Do you have Processors set to High in the Energy Saver pane of System Preferences? Default is Auto. (IIRC, this is in the Options tab.)

Do you have all Sleep settings in System Prefs set to Never? I don't even allow a Screen Saver to pop on.

More RAM couldn't hurt, but unless you can afford to spend the big bux for 1GB sticks, you're limited to 2GB in a 1.8, since it has only 4 slots. Always add these in matched pairs, filling the inside pair of slots first.

Mix down your audio then nest all your audio tracks. Or export your final project as a Quicktime Movie (not Quicktime Conversion) using the sequence settings and making it self contained, then re-import it, drop it in a new timeline and export.

Make sure you are playing your media on a separate drive than your system drive. Separate internal SATA, external FireWire or eSATA drive...and make sure that the drive is formatted MacOS Extended.

Shane's Stock Answer #17: How to edit web delivery codecs in FCP

If you are trying to edit videos that use the H.264 codec, or Sorenson, or MPEG-4, might not have a lot of success. These are WEB DELIVERY codecs, and not meant for editing.

For that, you need to convert the file into an editable codec. A full list of what FCP supports is in the EASY SETUP list, but converting to DV might be the best option, as that would be the closest to the dimensions of the original, and it has a low data rate requirement

Just open the file in QT Pro and export it with as DV/NTSC.

Shane's Stock Answer #18: Edit to Tape gives the error "Incompatible Compression Settings"

To Edit to Tape simply drag it from the BROWSER onto the Edit to Tape window and choose Assemble Edit or Insert Edit.

Tape needs to be black and coded and have TC already on it. This can be done in the Edit to Tape window as well. Make sure you are in Mastering Mode, and click on the black film strip, and choose CURRENT SETTINGS.

Proper timecode set-up in FCP

Before you lay back to tape, you’ll need to mark and IN point in the ETT window as well as on your timeline. Say at 59:30:00…so at 59:30:00 your timeline will start and it will begin recording onto the tape at 59:30:00.

Shane's Stock Answer #19: "Waiting for Time code. Device must be in VTR mode when Device Control is enabled"

If you are trying to capture from a camera or deck that doesn't allow for deck control, you have to set up the deck as a non-controllable device in the capture settings, then Capture Now.

Open log and capture, hit capture settings tab, there's a button for device control, which ought to say FireWire, click it and change to non-controllable...

Be sure to limit your captures to something like 60 min, Otherwise FCP will spend a lot of time allocating ALL your disk space for the capture, which often results in a freeze or crash.

Shane's Stock Answer #20: Using iMovie to Capture for use in FCP

iMovie handles the media differently from FCP, specifically where audio is concerned. So it is not a recommended workflow. Here's why...

iMovie captures using DV Stream (.dv) standard which does not use timecode. That is a big disadvantage over the way that FCP captures in that you can't go back and recapture the material at a later date if you need to revisit a project.

The DV/NTSC specification (the one FCP uses) also calls for separate tracks for audio and video, even if you capture it as one clip. iMovie' DV stream format is muxed audio and video, which means that they are tied together (I can't get into specifics because I ain't no engineer or programmer).

FCP is a bit more demanding and captures the separate audio/video tracks, either in a single media file or as separate video and audio files. With FCP you could capture video only or audio only because each is defined by the DV specs. while with iMovie you can't.

Also, if you drop the iMovie footage into the timeline, your will get the RED render bar forcing you to render the footage in order to see it. You can use either QT Pro or Compressor to convert the .dv footage into DV/NTSC in order for FCP to work with it without needing to render.

Shane's Stock Answer #21 - Unexpected Quit After Update

You need to perform what has been dubbed “the prebinding shuffle."

From Apple Knowledge base Article ID: 93984

Warning: This document describes how to enter commands in the Terminal application. Users unfamiliar with Terminal and UNIX-style environments should proceed with caution. The entry of incorrect commands may result in data loss and/or unusable system software.

  1. Save any files or work you may have open, because you'll need to restart the computer after these steps.

  2. Open Terminal (found at /Applications/Utilities/).

  3. Type

  4. sudo update_prebinding -root / -force

  5. Press Return.

  6. Enter your password when prompted.

The prebinding operation may take a few minutes. When it is complete, a new command-line prompt will appear. When this happens, please quit Terminal and restart your computer. Final Cut Pro should now open normally.

Shane's Stock Answer #22: Enable High Quality Playback in Quicktime

If you want your footage to play back at full quality, then you need to enable High Quality playback.

Open the file, hit APPLE-J.

Click on VIDEO TRACK and then click on the VISUAL SETTINGS button.

Check the box next to HIGH QUALITY on the lower right hand side and close the window.

Type Apple-S to save the movie.

High-quality QuickTime

Shane's Stock Answer #23: Photoshop and DV in FCP

If you want to work with photos in Final Cut Pro, full sized, then you need to choose slightly different dimensions than 720x486.This is because FCP pixels are rectangular and Photoshop works with square pixels.

Set the dimensions in Photoshop: 720x534. Do that and your pictures will import properly and fill the screen.

FYI, “DPI” or “Dots Per Inch” is meaningless in FCP. That term only pertains to PRINT media, not video…as there are not “dots.” Pixel dimensions are all that matter.

After you've made your graphic, go to Image Size and, making sure Constrain Proportions is deselected and Bicubic is selected, change the height of the image to 480 or 486, as appropriate.

If you want to make stills to use in Final Cut Pro, then you need to make the dimensions larger. Typical suggestions are twice as large as the project settings you are using them in. If 720x480 then the pics should be 1440x960. If 1920x1080, then 3840x2260.

Shane's Stock Answer #24: Transporting files between Mac & PC

First off, get a transport drive…an external drive that is formatted for both PC and Mac as FAT32. Use it for transporting footage only, and not for capturing media. It can be FW, or USB...just as long as it is formatted for as FAT32so they can both platforms use it.

For projects using the DV codec, simply exporting a Quicktime Movie, self contained using the sequence settings should work fine. It produces a file that is lossless and full quality, and one that a PC can read and work with.

Unfortunately there are many codecs that only computers with FCP installed can see, such as HDV, DVCPRO HD, XDCAM, Apple Intermediate Codec, some of the uncompressed codecs. For best results, you should invest in a third party codec, such as the Sheer codecs by BitJaz. They are clean, very lossless and cross platform.

Shane's Stock Answer #25: HDV external Monitor Viewing

HDV cannot be played out of FCP via FireWire because its Long GOP structure is too taxing on your processors to spare the system resources needed to drive an external monitor.

To view HDV on an external monitor you are going to need to purchase a capture card, like the ones Blackmagic or AJA offer. They will both play out HDV in real time. The catch is that you cannot view this on a regular TV or NTSC monitor. Since this is HD, an HD monitor will be needed.

HOWEVER, both cards are capable of down converting the signal so that it can be displayed on an SD monitor. This won't be color accurate however.

The best option you have is the Matrox MXO...$1000. This coupled with an Apple 23" display gets you color correction quality...but, it isn't compatible with COLOR yet. (I wrote a full review of the Matrox MXO here.)

And there are the Decklink Intensity and Intensity PRO cards as well.

Shane's Stock Answer #26: Differences between drop frame and non-drop frame

Drop frame and non-drop frame refer to the TIMECODE DISPLAY...not the footage itself.

There is absolutely NO DIFFERENCE in the frame rate of NTSC footage. It runs at 29.97 fps. The only difference is in the way the time code is managed. Non-drop frame time code displays a constant set of numbers. But, because NTSC video is slightly slower than 30fps, by the time you got to 1 hour of video, the time code number would be off by a second or two of the actual timing of the footage.

Drop Frame time code drops a few numbers…only time code numbers, not actual frames of video. With drop frame time code, 2 frames are dropped every min except for every 10th minute. Your numbers will go from 03:59:29 to that by the time one hour has passed, the time code accurately represents the amount of time that has passed.

Drop frame timecode

Shane's Stock Answer #28: When I put a clip in the timeline, I have to render it before it will play. Why?

Your clip settings MUST match your timeline settings. If you have DV/NTSC material, you need a DV/NTSC timeline. The frame rate, audio rate and dimensions (4:3, 16:9) all need to match exactly. In Final Cut Pro 6, this is easy, because when you drop a clip into the timeline, it asks if you want to set up the timeline to match the settings of the first clip you drag into it. Click YES and you are ready to go.

However, in FCP 5.1 and earlier, it is a bit trickier.

The most important thing you need to do is properly set up your project from the start, and the best way to do this is to choose a setting from the Easy Setups, located under the Final Cut Pro menu.

Real-time playback in FCP

Once you do this, you’ll need to create a new sequence. This is because the sequence that is already in your new project is setup for the typical default setting of DV/NTSC, or for the settings of your last project, which might not match what you are currently working with. So delete SEQUENCE 1 and create a new sequence:

New sequence in FCP

This new sequence will contain the settings you chose in the Easy Setup menu, and should match the format you captured.

(Here's a complete tutorial on this from Walter Biscardi.)

Shane's Stock Answer #29: Error: “Need AGP Graphics card”

The Final Cut software is looking for a graphics card type that is required for that version of the software. FCP 4 and FCP 4.5 were released when AGP cards were the requirement. Attempting to open this on a Mac with a PCIe graphics card, such as an Intel Mac, will cause this error. FCP 4.5 is not supported on the Intel Macs.

If you happen to have a PowerPC Quad processor Mac and get this error, you can try this hack.

You can also press the "esc" key as you launch FCP. This enables FCP to open and run, but know that it might not work optimally. If that doesn’t work, or if you have an Intel Mac, you are going to have to upgrade to a supported version of FCP…and FCP 6, part of Final Cut Studio 2, is the latest version.

Shane's Stock Answer #30: Deck recognition after Tiger Upgrade

The workaround is to download Quicktime *manually*, after removing the "receipts" which indicate that it is loaded. Specifically, I was told to do the following:

1. Navigate to Library -> Receipts on your main drive (not from your personal folder).

2. Remove all files of the form QuickTime*.pkg, where "*" is a version number. E.g. QuickTime600.pkg, QuickTime650.pkg, Quicktime700.pkg and QuickTime701.pkg. This simply tells your system that those packages are not installed.

3. Go to and click on the "download Quicktime" link. DO NOT USE THE AUTOMATIC UPDATE UTILITY. Download QuickTimeInstallerX.dmg. Double click this file (probably on your desktop) and then invoke the installer by double clicking QuickTime701.pkg.

4. After your computer reboots, you should be able to restart FCP and see your camera.

Here's part 1 of The Ultimate FCP FAQ.

Check back for part 3 soon!

Getting Organized in Final Cut Pro

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