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Understanding Project Properties In Final Cut Pro X

In FCP X we work with timelines. Each asset, Compound, Multicam, Sync clip is a unique type of timeline. Projects are also a specific type of timeline. Each Project timeline in FCP X has set base properties. You can drop any media of any frame size, rate, format into any timeline, but its properties determine how it will be processed and exported.


Initial Settings

Navigate to the Project Library (Command-0). Highlight the hard drive you want to create a new Project timeline on. Use Command-N to create a new Project. You are presented with the initial Project settings window.

Figure 1


By default it uses the Automatic settings. This means if the first asset you edit into that timeline is a video clip, FCP X will adjust that timeline’s frame size and rate to the properties of that clip. If this is desirable, then all you have to do is click the OK button. If the first asset is not a video clip, you will be prompted to specify the timeline settings.

If you need to specify settings, not use the Auto function, click the “Use Custom Settings” button. For example, if you have shots that need to be in-camera slow motion. In which case you shot at 60 fps and need a timeline that is 24 fps. When you select the “Custom” options for the video and/or audio properties, you are presented with more choices.

Figure 2


Video Settings

The Format menu allows for standard distribution formats ranging from standard definition to 5K. Think of this as how many pixels each individual frame of video is composed of. HD editors will select either the 720p, 1080i, or 1080p setting. The Resolution menu offers the various standard distribution frame sizes. This is the actual frame size and will change depending on what Format is selected. If “Other” is set as the Format type, Resolution offers the 640x480 and 960x540 web frame sizes. Although many web video delivery methods now allow for 720p easily these days. I’ll also mention here that if you set Format to 720, one option is for the DVCPRO-HD specific setting of 960x720. That DVCPRO-HD (tape or P2) setting still displays as 1280x720. The Frame Rate menu also changes depending on the Format and Resolution settings. These are standard delivery playback frame rates.


Audio Settings

There are three audio settings. Audio Channels sets how many individual channels of audio the exported video clip will have embedded. It also determines how the timeline will be able to output audio for monitoring. The two choices are stereo (2 channels) and surround sound (6+ channels). Audio Sample Rate can be thought of as how many “audio frames per second” you need. This is measured in kHz (kilohertz), or thousandths of a second. Standard video is 48 kHz (48 thousand samples per second), CDs are 44.1kHz, some music recording studios use 96 kHz. It is best to be sure your camera is recording at 48 kHz and set your Project timeline to the same. The most common cause of audio drifting out of sync with video is a mismatch between the sample rate of the recorded video clip, and the sample rate of the timeline it is edited in.


Render Settings

Finally you can set the Render Format. The default is ProRes 422 which works in most cases. If you record HDV or H.264 and need to conserve drive space, ProRes (LT) will help out. For resolutions such as 2K, 4K and 5K, use ProRes (HQ). If you need an alpha channel for export to a compositing application, use ProRes 4444 (pronounced four-by-four).


Verifying Settings

After your initial settings are complete and you have done some editing, you may need to change or confirm these settings. With your Project highlighted in the Project Library, use Command-4 to open the Inspector. At the top in the Properties section, we see the basic formatting information. 

Figure 3


Changing Settings

If you look to the very bottom right, you will see the Properties menu button. It has the icon of a wrench. For example, I’ve edited a 1080 production and need a standard definition version. I would duplicate the project in the Project Library with Command-D. Then go into the new Project’s settings via that wrench button.

Figure 4


This opens the Project Setting window again. I would go through my new SD timeline and adjust titles, clip positioning, graphic sizes and positions, etc.


Conclusion

You can always use a custom Destination based on a Compressor preset to change these Project settings when you export, but these settings I’ve covered are what the timeline will export as by default. Being aware of what settings you need when you initially create a Project timeline, and how to change them afterwards can go a long way to keeping your workflow simple and trouble free.



Ben Balser

Ben Balser | Articles by this author

Ben Balser studied educational psychology at Loyola University, and after retiring from a 20+ year IT career, now produces, consults, teaches, and rents equipment for media production as a full time job. As an Apple Certified Master Trainer, he ran the Louisiana Cajun Cutters FCP user group for 8 years, taught post-production at Louisiana State University and has lead their annual teen filmmaking bootcamp. He teaches currently for AATC facilities across the USA and for The Orchard Solutions. He has consulted for higher education, government, broadcast and private production facilities.

Comments

May 26, 2013
sjc
This is something I don't see much written about and am always wondering. I know your settings depend on what your final delivery is, and I know you can export for any type of delivery, but my question is: what are the best "general" setting to start with if you don't know what the final output needs to be?

I know you can duplicate and change the settings later, but if your say doing a corporate video that'll be projected at a dinner, uploaded to Vimeo and Youtube and have DVDs burned etc. Are there any general guidelines for what to start a project at? Thanks.
Dec 26, 2013
rudolfi
The one project setting not mentioned above is the 'length' of the project in the timeline. A new project seems to have a default setting of 2 minutes. Suppose one started with that length, adding video clips to the TL with an eventual project length of 4 minutes. Then, after some edits/deletes of material the project length needed shrinks to only 3 minutes. How does one cut the unused minute in the TL prior to exporting. i.e. change the total project length?
Dec 26, 2013
BenB
In "general" you want to edit with the same frame size and rate of the original material, in ProRes to maintain image quality.

Project timelines have no set duration (length). They are the duration of the content placed inside of them. An empty timeline has a duration of zero everything. Drop a few clips in, and it will show at the bottom of the window the overall duration. it will automatically grow and shrink as content is added and/or subtracted. It is not something that needs to be manually changed.

If you have 4 minutes of content, delete a full minute of content, the timeline is then only 3 minutes long. That last minute is no longer there.

IF you do this, and still see a 4 minute duration indicated, that means you have stray content at the 4 minute point. It may only be one frame long, and hard to see. Open the Timeline Index, and find the very last clip or two, delete them.
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