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.
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.
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 www.apple.com/macosx/features/xgrid.
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.
For additional information on FCP and FileVault, see http://docs.info.apple.com/article.html?artnum=93454.