Apple has a list of compatible and qualified third-party hardware that is up dated constantly. Its web address is http://www.apple.com/finalcutpro/qualification.html.
Hardware interfaced with Final Cut Pro usually has some sort of software associated with it. Typically they are called drivers. Serial ports for control, SCSI card software, and more all usually have drivers associated with them. Be sure to check that you have the latest drivers for any third-party hardware you might be using. Especially be sure to keep up to date with drivers for equipment that is made to be used exclusively with Final Cut Pro, such as drivers for capture cards.
The manufacturers of this specialized equipment work very closely with Apple to write drivers that are compatible. Most of these manufacturers have a section on their website listing the latest drivers for their equipment, and you can download them from there. Because we live in a constantly evolving software environment (meaning that there are constant updates to software in general), if you encounter a problem you think is hardware- related , there might be a software/hardware conflict you can resolve simply by downloading an update from the Internet from the appropriate party.
Don't Always Be the First on Your Block
A savvy computer user usually is not the first one to download new software unless he or she knows that the update might cure a problem. Rarely (although it does happen), manufacturers post updates that can make matters worse . Wait if the update is brand-new . Check out the forums or tech sites listed in Appendix E, "Other Resources," to see how other (and braver) folks have fared with the update. Be extra cautious if you are not having problems and an update is posted. I've always held to the belief that if it's not broken, why fix it? Why be the guinea pig?
Remember that you are working with a system and not just a single piece of software. Even the simplest of setups, such as a single DV camera, Mac, or Final Cut Pro, can have issues that might or might not be resolved with a software update. Versions of QuickTime and FCP might work better in certain combinations with certain cameras , for example. Appendix E lists the places you should check before you jump in and update your software, purchase that new camera, and so on. Check the Creative Cow's Final Cut Pro forums (http://www.creativecow.com) or the Discussion group at Apple before you make any changes to a working system. Better safe than sorry.
Sometimes, just doing a cold restart of your computer clears up problems. A cold restart simply means that you shut down your Mac, wait at least 20 seconds, and then restart it. Many times this solution makes the problem disappear.
When a cold restart fails to fix the problem, the first thing to do in the case of external hardware problems such as a camera or videotape machine not showing up within FCP is to just turn it off, wait a few seconds, and then turn it back on. Some devices interact with their host machines and simply need to send a new signal or reinitialize themselves . It's best to have your source machine/camera powered on before you launch Final Cut Pro.
If this fails, suspect cables. Sometimes they go bad, get seated improperly, or have a bit of dust that keeps them from making a solid connection. Obviously, this isn't always the answer, but sometimes it is. Don't panic. Be persistent in isolating the problem. If the problem is intermittent, cables often are at fault. Always try substituting a suspect cable with a different one. FireWire cables are notoriously touchy. I particularly like the ones sold by Granite Digital (http://www.granitedigital.com), however. Never have I had one go bad, and I've been around many of them. The lighted connector is pretty cool, too. When you are solidly connected, it lights up. No guesswork!
When you are really in a bind for time and you must complete a project, think creatively. You'll almost always come up with a workaround that allows you to proceed. For example, a certain effect might not be working as you'd like, or a process of some sort isn't working well. Don't use up your precious time hitting your head against the wall. Stay calm. Think through the process step by step. Sometimes you'll realize what's getting in your way, and you'll solve the problem by coming up with a workaround. Check your System, User, and Audio/Video settings first if you have something going on like having to render every single edit you add to a sequence. The sequence settings have to match the properties of the clips you are adding to them. With Final Cut Pro 4, settings have become more complicated, and they can easily be set up incorrectly. Refer to Chapter 2, "Specifying Setups, Settings, Presets, and Preferences," for details.
I heartily recommend reading books on the subject of computers and Macintoshes in general. You can't know enough about your editing station. Learn its hardware; learn how it likes to be taken care of. Preventative maintenance will carry you far. There are many books on the subject, but take a look at the offerings from Peachpit Press and David Pogue's Missing Manual . Both sources are very readable and informative and are geared toward the less-technically-minded. Trust me: After reading them, you'll become more adept at using your computer, and you'll be a much happier editor. They also give you an idea of the processes your computer goes through, which in turn helps you troubleshoot any problems you might be having with all your software.
There is even an electronic troubleshooter for FCP! Sold at http://www.intelligentassistance.com, this application is an interactive program that you use on your computer. You tell it what your problem is, and it gives you step-by-step solutions for you to try. It's very cool and very accurate.
The OS X and hardware forums found at Apple's site and at the Creative Cow are a great place to check for solutions. The Knowledge Base articles found at http://www. info .apple.com/ are a wonderful resource. Sherlock can search these articles. New ones with suggestions for fixing things are posted all the time. If you click Sherlock and then click the AppleCare button at the top of the interface, you can search the Knowledge Base at Apple extremely fast, and you can preview the articles that your search finds in the lower pane of Sherlock's AppleCare window, much like most e-mail applications. By all means, look at Appendix E in this regard. There are a plethora of sites on the Internet for you to peruse.
Keeping Your Computer Happy
OS X introduced some new maintenance routines that you should run often. For example, you should run Repairing Disk Permissions on your startup disk about once a week and every time you install any new software. It's found in Apple's Drive Utility in the Utilities folder contained in your Applications folder. Just highlight your startup disk in the pane on the left, and click the First Aid tab. The rest is self-apparent.
Running Disk First Aid on all your hard drives at least monthly is also a good idea. Using third-party utilities also can save you a lot of headaches . There are some free ones on the Internet as well.
http://personalpages.tds.net/~brian_hill/macjanitor.html supplies a free utility that performs processes that are performed late at night by OS X. A Unix system performs daily, weekly, and monthly tasks . If you leave your computer running all the time (24/7), you have no need for MacJanitor. However, if you don't run your computer all the time, these processes might not get done. MacJanitor performs the relevant tasks for OS X on command.
Another site to visit in this regard is http://www.MacFixit.com. Here you'll find fixes to problems aplenty. Better yet, this site is a great place to visit before you update any software. You usually won't be the first person to try a new piece of software. Users who are early adopters of updates or new programs report their experiences at MacFixit.
All Macs have a Power Management Unit (PMU) switch that you can reset if you are having problems with power (such as if your Mac won't start up). I've seen the PMU switch fix "dead" FireWire ports and more. This tiny round button is labeled PMU and is found on the motherboard. Each Mac puts it on the motherboard in a different place, so consult the Knowledge Base (http://www.info.apple.com/) on your particular computer for the switch's location. This must be done with your Mac turned off and the power cord disconnected. It's also recommended that you wear a wrist grounding strap whenever you touch anything inside your Mac's housing. Read the articles about the PMU switch on Apple's website.
If your disks are extremely full, you might want to defragment them. Most defragmentation software is more or less equal. Several manufacturers sell them.
Do the prescribed maintenance, and you'll find you have a much happier Mac, and a much easier time keeping it from having problems. I'm not too surprised when I hear of problems coming from folks who don't do regular everyday maintenance on their computers. Regular maintenance goes with the territory. If anything, you'll save yourself some frustration. NLE software is probably one of the most taxing applications you can run on any computer. If it's not running on a happy and stable computer, you'll experience a lot of problems. Don't let your Mac get too far behind with its upkeep.
If you installed new software just before you encounter a problem, suspect the new software. There might be conflicts, or you might just find that running this software at the same time you run FCP isn't a good idea. Uninstall the new software and see if the problem goes away. Before you install any software, read the Read Me file that comes with it. Understand all the software's installation files and where they might be placed. Always err on the side of caution. Often, an Installation or Install log is made during a software installation. Locate it each time you add software, and give it a more-specific name if it's just called Install log. Keep it in a folder where you can locate it if you need to uninstall everything installed from an application.
Back up your project files to media away from the computer, such as a Zip or CD-R. Don't forget iDisk, a worthwhile service from Apple. Apple supplies iDisk as a web-accessed "disk" for your personal use. It is space kept on Apple's servers that's perfect for backups. To learn more about this disk space, go to http://www.apple.com and click the link to the Mac area. Always be prepared for the worst. I use iDisk as a place to back up daily saves of my current project. Then, when I'm finished with that project, I back it up on CD-Rs. It's easy enough to then delete the project from my iDisk to open up space if need be. Panther (OS X.3) has made iDisk so integrated into the OS that it's extremely easy to use and access. It's true that FCP has an Autosave folder containing backups of your project files (see Chapter 2), but what if it's on a hard drive that fails? Redundant backups are better.