How to Use Final Cut Pro X Compressor

Final Cut Pro 10/12/2019 4 min read

As part of Apple’s suite of professional video production applications, Final Cut Pro Compressor is a dedicated media conversion and compression tool. While compressing video and audio can be done natively by Final Cut Pro, sharing with Compressor offers a higher level of control to produce files that meet those specific technical needs. 

One of its more handy uses is that it can encode video and audio files for projects that need specific formatting delivery. This is primarily the case for broadcast and streaming platforms that have regulated technical guidelines and standards. The cool thing is, Compressor can be used to export multiple files in different formats at the same time!

Today, we’ll look at the essential functions of Compressor, the workflow of using it, and how to adjust the settings to produce required video files. That’s not all, as you’ll also learn how to batch process multiple files to increase your efficiency. Let’s get started!

How to Use Compressor 

Compressor should be used when you need access to more detailed encoding settings. You can export in Final Cut Pro, but only file at a time, which can be frustrating when you have multiple formats to export. Instead, Compressor can be used to create all the export files in one process, with custom control over every setting. 

1. Interface & Workflow

The interface of Compressor is designed to be as simple as possible. It’s also arranged to clearly demonstrate the workflow of creating multiple versions of each file by building a list of settings for each source element. 

The interface consists of a preview player, so you can identify imported files and a Batch panel where files are listed alongside their assigned export instructions. You can also choose to display the Inspector, which details all of the technical information about each template setting, and a Quick Applications sidebar, which contains all of your presets.

There are two ways Compressor can receive files: from Final Cut Pro or by adding them directly.

Step 1: Import files to Compressor from Final Cut Pro X

  1. Open the Project ready for exporting. 
  2. From the menu, select File > Send to Compressor.
  3. Compressor will launch. 

Alternatively, open Compressor, and click either Add File in the Batch window or click File > Add File.

Step 2: Select Settings

Before the file appears in Compressor, a window containing the list of presets is made available. The disclosure triangle reveals the sub-options for each destination. 

  1. Select either a single setting or multiple using click + Command
  2. From the Location drop-down menu, choose where you’d like the newly created export file to be saved. Default (Source) means it will be saved in the same location as the original file undergoing the compression process.
  3. Once an initial preset is assigned, more can be added by clicking Add on the right side of the column. 

2. Templates & Presets

The presets themselves are designed to be easy to understand. The top line description relates to either a particular platform (online and physical media) or a family of formats related to each other by a common purpose.

Assigning a preset to a file is very simple and quick to do.

Step 1: Adding a setting from the sidebar

  1. Open the sidebar 
  2. Expand the list under each heading to reveal the specific settings
  3. Drag-and-drop the setting onto the clip on the Batch list. 

3. Customizing Settings

Compressor is designed to satisfy editors that have a list of specific technical settings to follow, and those confident enough to experiment. By opening the Inspector, the detailed specification of each template is revealed. 

Each setting will have certain elements that can be altered, once they’ve been applied to a clip. If you have precise instructions to follow, there should be relevant options to adjust the master setting accordingly. 

For instance, if you wish to compress a video for Blu-ray compatibility, detailed controls over the frame size, frame rate, and bitrate quality are available, as are many others. Remember that if you’re trying something for the first time, review your exported files before sharing and allow time for experimentation with various settings. 

Any adjustments made to a preset can be saved as a customized setting. Once the changes have been made in the Inspector, rename the item. From there, drag-and-drop the icon from the batch list to the sidebar, under the heading Custom. 

4. Transcoding and Encoding

When you’ve assigned all necessary settings to your file, click the Start Batch button in the lower right corner, or choose File > Start Batch.

The interface then switches to the Active tab, on which you’ll see the progression of each output in real-time. Once complete, it moves to the Completed tab. From here, the details of each conversion can be reviewed. 

5. Batch Exports

Compressor makes it easy for multiple source files to exported at once. This is known as Batch Exporting, as it involves more than one file undergoing compression. This is achieved by simply adding a new file to a single Compressor session. Both files are then listed in the Batch panel, each containing their export settings. 

Selecting File > New Batch creates a fresh, empty panel, ready to be populated with new files and settings. Every Batch in Compressor can be assigned a custom name, via the Inspector window. 

If you quit Compressor before undergoing a Batch export, the current list of waiting items will return as is when you next open the application. 

Compressor is a beneficial addition to any video editor’s workflow. Not only does it pair directly with Final Cut Pro X, but it also offers conversion and export of existing video and audio files as a standalone application. 

If you need professional-level control of your export and compression settings, or often have to produce multiple delivery files of a single source, Final Cut Pro Compressor will make your working life a whole lot easier.

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