Final Cut Pro X: Background Render

One of the benefits of using Final Cut Pro X is the ability to playback added effects, transitions, filters, and other content in real time. With past versions of Final Cut Pro and other editing applications, you could apply a filter but would need to render it before playback could happen. When something is rendered, temporary video and audio files are created that allow you to playback the content in real time.

Zenna sent the following tweet: “Final cut pro question, do I keep or turn off background rendering? @FinalCutPros #videography #Editor @FinalCutProHelp @CaseyNeistat”

If you have not changed your settings, the default is set that background rendering starts five seconds after you stop working. This is great because it’s set so that if you switch to another app, say Mail to reply to an email, or get up for some coffee, the rendering will start automatically. Then when you return, at least a portion, if not all of your project will be rendered.

To spot areas of your project that need to be rendered, look for the dotted line which indicates a render is required. In the project pictured, three generators have been added to a new project. Background rendering has started and is 10% completed. The first green arrow points to the 10% portion that is now rendered. The red arrow points to the dotted line which is the area that needs to be rendered. At the end of the project, the Metal generator has been added. Metal is just a still image, and Final Cut is able to play that back in real time without needing it to be rendered. The second green arrow points to the area above the Metal generator, no dotted line because no rendering is needed.

Use the Background Tasks window to monitor rendering and other tasks that are happening behind the scenes. Zenna would hear her computer making sounds as if it was about to take off into space. When you’re using Final Cut Pro, the computer is processing all of that video to try and play it back in real time. All of the major components in the computer, including the processor and memory, are working very hard to make this happen. While those parts are working, they generate heat which needs to be cooled. This is when the fans have to spin faster to cool the computer. In most cases, this is what causes the computer to sound like it’s about to take off.

Being able to watch the video as you are editing is powerful because you know the edits you’re making are the ones you want to use. If you make an edit, like adding a transition, that does not look right, the ability to play back the transition immediately allows you to adjust the transition. As you become a more experienced editor, you will start to know what the video is going to look like when you add a particular transition or effect, you don’t need to render it to see the results. This is one reason that editors like to disable background rendering, there is no need for the computer to be working on the rendering automatically. When there is something that the editor wants to see, rendering for just that one transition or effect can happen quickly. Just make a selection and then click Modify-Render Selection (Control-R) or choose Render All (Control-Shift-R) to render the entire project.

With the ability to control what is being rendered, some editors like to turn background rendering off. To turn background rendering off, open Final Cut Pro X Preferences (Command-,) and click the Playback tab. Remove the check next to background render to disable this feature. You can also delay the render from starting by adjusting the start after time up to 999 seconds.

For me, I like to keep background rendering on and I adjust the time down to one second. I do this because of a few factors. First, I have plenary of storage space for the render files that are going to be created. Second, my computer is a Mac Pro with enough processing power and RAM that allows me to multitask without slowing me down while the background rendering is happening. The final factor is for my brain. I don’t have to think about rendering, Final Cut does it for me and that is one less thing I have to think about. This allows me to focus my thinking on the creative process and how I want to edit my video, not when do I have to render. With all of that said, if I’m using a slower or older computer, I may turn background rendering off because the computer just can’t keep up.

Tip: See how your computer is doing during the use of Final Cut Pro. Open Activity Monitor from your Utilities folder. Then check the CPU and Memory usage to see how the computer is doing.

Let me know what you think with a comment below or send me an email

Apple provides the following support article to help us understand what background rendering is: Final Cut Pro X: About background rendering

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