Final Cut Pro X Rendering Guide

Final Cut Pro 11/11/2019 5 min read

When you modify your footage with effects or transitions, Final Cut Pro must render it, creating special files to allow you to preview your video in real-time. If you’ve added a bunch of effects and your playback is choppy, that’s because your clips haven’t rendered yet.

One of the primary advantages of Final Cut Pro X over its competitors is render speed. Thanks to some genius engineering by Apple, Final Cut Pro can take advantage of 64-bit processing and deliver lighting fast results—so you won’t be left waiting to edit. 

This tutorial is going to go over the ins and outs of background rendering, manual rendering, and also cover a few tips for troubleshooting rendering issues. So, let’s dive in!

Part 1: Final Cut Pro Background Rendering

If you’re adding processor-intensive transitions, Effects, Titles, or Generators to your video project, then rendering times can occasionally slow down your workflow. Previewing footage which is being rendered will show you a lower quality and frame-rate, meaning you’ll have to wait before you can see the result of your edits.

By design, rendering in Final Cut Pro X takes place in the background, so you shouldn’t even have to think about it. But understanding this process and how it’s displayed in the program is pretty helpful when editing. 

Smart Rendering

By default, Final Cut Pro will begin rendering your footage after 0.3 seconds of inactivity. This convenient feature takes care of your rendering whenever you’re busy using another application or just thinking about the next edit.

As you continue editing footage, adding effects and transitions, Final Cut will keep updating your render files to allow you to preview your project in high-quality without frame rate loss. 

Render Indicator & Background Tasks Window

Any footage that’s queued for rendering will display in the timeline with grey dots above it. You can also check the status of any background renders by looking at the Background Tasks icon near the top of the screen (or press Command + 9).

If you click Background Tasks, it will open a window showing you the progress of all processing tasks, including transcoding, rendering, backup, and sharing. If a task has no rendering queued, it will say Idle, otherwise you can see a status bar indicating the task progress. Tasks in progress can be paused or canceled by pressing the buttons on the right in this window.

Final Cut Pro rendering

Part 2: How to Render a Project or Selection

Final Cut Pro automatically handles rendering in the background, but sometimes taking control of this process can help you manage your time more effectively. 

Render All

Render All will render everything in your project that is queued for rendering. This is useful if you’d like to preview your entire project so far. 

  1. Click anywhere inside the project’s Timeline.
  2. On the top menu bar, select Modify > Render All (or press Control + Shift + R)
  3. Watch the Background Tasks icon. It will display a checkmark when your entire project has completed rendering. 

Render Selection

The Render Selection command will render just the selected clip or clips. It’s useful if you’d like to preview just one section of your project. 

  1. Use the Selection tool (keyboard shortcut A) and highlight the clip or clips you’d like to render.
  2. On the top menu bar, select Modify > Render Selection (or press Control + R).
  3. Watch the grey dots above that section in your timeline, when they disappear, your selection has completed rendering.

Part 3: Pro Tips & Troubleshooting

Sometimes rendering can cause problems such as taking up too much disk space or slowing down your computer when you need to be making edits. If Final Cut Pro has become unresponsive, check the Background Tasks to see what’s slowing you down.

Here are four techniques you can use to modify your rendering preferences and fix any issues that rendering may be creating. 

1. Change Background Render Times

If the infamous spinning “beach ball” is slowing you down, you might want to change up your settings by increasing how long Final Cut Pro waits before background rendering, or just turning it off altogether. You can do this in a few clicks by heading up to the Playback Settings menu.

  1. On top of the menu bar, select Final Cut Pro > Preferences.
  2. In the preferences window that pops up, select Playback if it’s not already selected. 
  3. Toggle Background Render on or off, depending on your preference. Turning this off will give you total control over when Final Cut Pro renders your footage, so it’s a good choice if background rendering is causing your machine to slow down and interfering with your editing.
  4. If Background Render is toggled on, you can change “Start After … Seconds” to any number you choose. The default is 0.3, but some editors prefer to increase it to 10 seconds, especially if they have slower machines. 

2. Delete Unused Render Files

Final Cut Projects can really balloon out of control, taking up hundreds of gigabytes of valuable space on your computer. Luckily, you can clean up this space without any adverse effects on your projects, besides maybe having to wait through a few renders again. 

  1. Select the Library, Event, or Project you’d like to clean up in the Browser
  2. In the top menu bar, select File > Delete Generated … Files (Library, Event, or Project). 
  3. Select Delete Render Files. You can choose whether to delete all render files or just unused ones. Either way, your projects will remain unharmed. 
  4. Check your Background Tasks. When they’re finished, you should have cleared some space on your hard drive. Boom! Nice and clean.

3. Cancel a Render

If you see that one task is taking forever, you can choose to pause or that task by clicking the buttons to the right. Tasks that are not currently processing will say Idle. If you see that one task is taking its sweet time or Final Cut Pro has become unresponsive, don’t forget that you can choose to pause or cancel that task by clicking the buttons to the right.

This can come in handy if a task is taking forever and you don’t need to preview a change until later, or if you plan on deleting that part of your video so there’s no point in rendering it. 

4. Exporting Benefits

Rendering your footage in the Final Cut does more than just allow you to preview it in high-quality, it also makes your final exports faster! This can save you a lot of time if you’re working on large projects with lots of videos, so make sure to turn on background rendering, or use the Render All command when your computer has some downtime. 

Although rendering in Final Cut Pro is largely a background process—thanks to Smart Rendering—it helps to understand what’s going on behind the scenes, and how to make adjustments if render times are holding you back. 

And now that you know all there is to know about how to render files in Final Cut Pro, you’re probably ready to move on and create some awesome videos! There are some fantastic resources available to you, and if you haven’t already, check out Motion Array’s thousands of plugins, addons, effects, and other downloads just for Final Cut Pro. It’s the perfect online resource to kick your editing into the next gear.

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