Improving Final Cut Pro Performance

Final Cut Pro and Mac OS X work together straight out of the box, so you may not have felt the need to modify your system preferences yet. But there are several adjustments you can make to the operating system to improve the performance of FCP. Most of the steps are fairly straightforward, but are sometimes overlooked. In general, with each preference setting, you should deactivate any automatic processes and limit tasks that don't contribute to your specific workflow.

System preferences present a varying range of options, and in this lesson we address only those that are immediately relevant to optimizing FCP. Refer to Mac Help (Cmd-? in the Finder) for more information on additional settings. Use the list at the end of the lesson as a quick reference guide.


Depending on how Mac OS X has been configured for your system, you're likely to need an administrator password to access and modify some of the system preferences covered in this lesson. (Different kinds of user accounts are addressed specifically in a later section.)

Disable Energy Saver Controls

The Mac OS X Energy Saver preference affects the way your computer consumes power. It does this by monitoring certain activities and putting components to sleep when they're not in use. There's usually some latency involved in waking up a system. When you're working with Final Cut Pro and want to get the best performance from your system, you need to change the Energy Saver settings.

  1. Open System Preferences by clicking its icon in the Dock, opening it from the Finder menu, or by accessing it directly in the Applications folder.

  2. Click the Energy Saver icon.


    If you're using a portable Mac, you may need to click the Show Details button to reveal the sleep control settings.

  3. Drag the first slider to the Never setting.


    The second slider controls when to set the monitor to sleep. This operation doesn't usually affect the performance of FCP, but you should check the documentation of your third-party devicessome PCI expansion cards and older USB devices can cause the computer to stop responding if the screen goes to sleep. If you use an affected device, you should check for software updates to see if the issue is resolved and disable this option if it hasn't.

  4. Ensure that the Put the Hard Disk(s) To Sleep When Possible check box is deselected.

  5. Click the Options tab.

  6. Select the Restart Automatically After a Power Failure check box.

  7. From the Processor Performance pop-up menu, choose Highest to maximize your system performance at all times.


    The Processor Performance option varies from computer to computer, but in general it provides a method to reduce power consumption and heat generation. The technology behind this is called dynamic frequency switching (DFS) or dynamic power stepping (DPS). When activated, it will lower the speed and voltage requirements of some components at times when there is less demand on the system.

Set Desktop & Screen Saver Preferences

Rotating Desktop images and animated screen savers demonstrate the elegance of the Quartz Extreme engine. They also make demands on the CPU that can detract from important tasks such as rendering. To maximize the performance of FCP on your system, you should make sure that all such effects are turned off.

  1. In the System Preferences window, click the Desktop & Screen Saver icon.

  2. Deselect the Change Picture check box if it is active.


    Once the parent feature is disabled, the dependent configuration settings become inaccessible.

  3. Click the Screen Saver tab.

  4. Drag the Start Screen Saver slider to Never to prevent the screen saver from ever activating.

Deactivate Sharing Services

Mac OS X offers a range of network services, including AFP (Apple File Sharing Protocol), FTP (File Transfer Protocol) access, personal Web sharing, Windows sharing, printer sharing, and now, with Mac OS X 10.4, Xgrid. It also supports various administration toolssuch as Remote Login, Apple Remote Desktop (ARD), and Remote Apple Events, a personal firewalland the ability to share a computer's Internet connection. Be aware that most of these features involve hidden applications, which run continuously in the background of your system. Though the Unix foundation of Mac OS X supports true multitasking and can perform different tasks simultaneously, you should refrain from running a Web server, Internet sharing, or similar service. This will help reduce any overhead and ultimately get the best possible performance from Final Cut Pro. If you have a specific reason to use one of the services, make sure you have deactivated it again before you launch FCP.


Xgrid was developed by Apple's Advanced Computation Group. It creates the ability to distribute tasks across groups or clusters of computers, operating on a similar principle to Apple Qmaster, which shares rendering jobs between systems. For more information on Xgrid, go to

  1. In the System Preferences window, click the Sharing icon.

  2. Deselect any active check boxes under the Services tab.

  3. Click the Firewall tab, and confirm that you don't have a firewall enabled.


    Although a firewall is something you should definitely use if your system is connected to the Internet and it doesn't have a lot of overhead, a router with a built-in firewall to keep your internal network protected is preferable. A number of companies, including Belkin, Asante, Linksys, and Netgear, produce inexpensive routers.

  4. Click the Internet tab, and make sure that you're not offering to share your Internet connection with any other computers.

  5. Once you're satisfied that you're not running any unnecessary processes, click the Close button to apply any changes and exit system preferences.

    You'll learn how to view processes in "Mac OS X Administration" later in this lesson.

Establish Security Settings

If data security is important to youperhaps you edit in the field on a PowerBook G4then there are several ways to keep your files safe with Mac OS X. Later in this lesson, you'll learn about user accounts and file permissions, both of which offer control over access to your system at a fundamental level. Additional measures, such as requiring password login, can be activated using the security system preferences. Though password prompts create additional steps, they don't affect the performance of Final Cut Pro. However, there are other features, especially FileVault, you shouldn't use in conjunction with FCP.

FileVault provides Advanced Encryption Standard (AES) 128-bit encryption for your Home folder. We recommend that you don't use FileVault with FCP, because media files tend to be too large to encrypt and decrypt on the fly. Working this way will tax your CPU unnecessarily and may result in dropped frames during capture or playback. If all of your scratch disks are located on separate drives (or at top-level if you're restricted to using one hard drive), you may not experience a problem, because FileVault does not affect files outside the Home directory. To ensure maximum performance while you're editing, make sure FileVault is not protecting your system.

More Info

For additional information on FCP and FileVault, see

  1. Re-open the System Preferences window, click the Security icon.

  2. Check the Security window to see whether FileVault has been enabled. Turn it off on your FCP editing station.


    To start and stop FileVault, you must have space on your hard drive that's at least equal to the size of your Home folder. Also, make sure you don't force your computer to shut down during the encryption processyou could lose or corrupt data. For more information, see

  3. Make sure the automatic Log Out After check box is not selected so that it doesn't interrupt file encoding in Batch Monitor.

  4. Make sure the Use Secure Virtual Memory check box is inactive.


    Activating secure virtual memory should not affect performance in FCP unless your system is already overtaxed. Unless you need it, there's no advantage to be gained from having it switched on.

Apple Pro Training Series. Optimizing Your Final Cut Pro System. A Technical Guide to Real-World Post-Production
Apple Pro Training Series. Optimizing Your Final Cut Pro System. A Technical Guide to Real-World Post-Production
Year: 2004
Pages: 205 © 2008-2017.
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