The Rendering Process

When you are ready to render, you need to choose render quality settings for your sequence and decide which segments you want to render.

By default, render files are created at full quality, but you can speed up rendering by choosing lower-quality options in the Render Control tab and the Video Processing tab of the Sequence Settings window. For more information, see About Changing Render and Video Processing Settings.

Order of Effects Rendering

When you render effects in a sequence, they’re rendered in the following order:

  • The top video track (the highest-numbered track) is rendered first and then composited onto the track below.

  • Within each track, effects are rendered as follows: speed, filters, motion, motion blur, opacity, and transitions.

You can change the order of rendering by using nested sequences. For more information, see Sequence-to-Sequence Editing.

Selecting Clips for Rendering

Instead of rendering an entire sequence, it is often useful to render only selected segments. There are several ways you can restrict which segments are rendered:

  • Manually select the items you want to render: The easiest way to control what is rendered is to select specific clips, individually or in groups, and then choose an option from the Render Selection submenu of the Sequence menu. For more information on selecting items in the Timeline, see Finding and Selecting Content in the Timeline.
  • Render audio and video clip items separately: You can limit rendering to only video or audio effects. For example, you may want to render audio effects to free up processing resources so you can turn on real-time mixing across more audio tracks.

    Note: For more information about item-level rendering for audio clips, see More About Audio Render Options.

  • Render items according to their render status bar: Final Cut Pro recognizes several render status categories, indicated by the color of the render status bar above the ruler in the Timeline. You can restrict which categories to render.

    For example, while you’re editing, you may want to render only clips with effects that can’t play back in real time. In this case, you can select the Needs Render option in the Render Selection and Render All submenus of the Sequence menu. You also need to turn off all the other render categories. This limits the scope of your render commands to clips that can’t play in real time, and clips with real-time effects applied are not rendered.

Rendering Segments in a Sequence

Final Cut Pro has three render submenus—Render Selection, Render All, and Render Only—that allow you to customize which segments of your sequences are rendered. Which render command you use depends on the scope of the rendering operation you want to perform.

You can choose to render:

  • Video only, audio only, or both

  • Segments with particular render status indicators

  • Manually selected portions of a sequence or segments between sequence In and Out points

  • All segments in a sequence

The Render Selection and Render All submenus allow you to restrict which video and audio render status categories are rendered.

Render Selection

If you’ve selected one or more items in the Timeline, or defined a region of the Timeline using In and Out points, the commands in the Render Selection submenu operate only on the selection. If nothing is selected and no In or Out points have been defined, the entire sequence is rendered.

Figure. Render Selection submenu showing enabled video and audio render categories marked with checkmarks.
  • Both: Renders both the video and audio of the selected region of the sequence.
  • Video: Renders only the video items in the selected region of the sequence.
  • Audio: Renders only the audio items in the selected region of the sequence.

You can restrict which segments are rendered by only selecting particular render status categories. For example, if you want to render all item-level audio segments between the sequence In and Out points, choose the Item Level option (so there’s a checkmark next to it), deselect all the others, then choose Sequence > Render Selection > Audio.

If you’ve added a transition or an effect to a clip and want to render just that part of the sequence, use the Render Selection command.

To render a section of a sequence
  1. Do one of the following:

    • In the Timeline, select one or more clips or transitions.

    • In the Timeline or Canvas, set In and Out points for the area that you want to render.

      Figure. Timeline window showing In and Out points for a section to be rendered.
  2. If necessary, choose Sequence > Settings, click the Render Control tab, then choose quality settings for rendered effects and select which effects are and are not rendered.

  3. Choose Sequence > Render Selection, then choose which kinds of render segments you want to render from the submenu.

    Render status categories that are turned on have a checkmark next to them.

  4. Choose Sequence > Render Selection, then choose a render command from the submenu (Both, Video, or Audio).

  5. If your project has not yet been saved, Final Cut Pro prompts you to save your project.

    A status window appears showing the rendering progress. Click Cancel to stop rendering.

    Note: All frames that have already been rendered remain written to disk, even if rendering is canceled.

Render All

The commands in the Render All submenu render all the clips in a sequence corresponding to the selected render categories, regardless of what you have selected in the Timeline.

Figure. Render All submenu showing enabled video and audio render categories marked with checkmarks.
  • Both: Renders both the video and audio of the sequence.
  • Video: Renders all of the video items in the sequence.
  • Audio: Renders all of the audio items in the sequence.

You can restrict which segments are rendered by only selecting particular render status categories. For example, if you want to render all segments in your sequence that have a red render status bar, choose the Needs Render option (so there is a checkmark next to it), deselect all the others, then choose Sequence > Render All > Video.

To render an entire sequence
  1. Do one of the following:

    • In the Browser, select one or more sequences.

    • Open a single sequence in the Timeline.

  2. If necessary, choose Sequence > Settings, click the Render Control tab, then choose the quality settings for rendered effects and select which effects are and are not rendered.

  3. Choose Sequence > Render All, then select which kinds of render segments you want to render from the submenu.

    Render categories that are turned on have a checkmark next to them.

  4. Choose Sequence > Render All > Both.

  5. If your project has not yet been saved, Final Cut Pro prompts you to save your project so a Render folder can be created.

    A status window appears showing the rendering progress. Click Cancel to stop rendering.

    Note: All frames that have already been rendered remain written to disk, even if rendering is canceled.

Render Only

The items in the Render Only submenu allow you to focus on rendering segments in a particular render status category, such as Preview or Proxy quality. Each item in this submenu operates either on a selected region of the Timeline or on the entire sequence, if no selection is made.

Figure. Render Only submenu.

For example, to render all segments in a sequence that have Preview render status, make sure nothing is selected in the Timeline (choose Edit > Deselect All) and then choose Sequence > Render Only > Preview.

Rendering Audio Items in a Sequence

The following commands allow you to render audio items when required for real-time playback. Audio filter rendering and sample rate conversion occur at the same time.

To render individual audio items
  1. Select one or more clips with transitions and filters in the Timeline.

  2. Choose Sequence > Render Selection > Audio.

To render all audio items
  1. Select or open a sequence in the Timeline.

  2. Choose Sequence > Render All > Audio.

Note: Item-level render files are preserved even when an item is trimmed shorter, moved, or copied and pasted, or when either individual audio items or the tracks they’re edited into are disabled and reenabled.

More About Audio Render Options

Two of the audio render options create render files in very specific ways.

  • Item Level: Renders the audio items that need to be resampled to match the sample rate of the sequence, as well as audio items with filters applied, as item-level render files. Audio mixing is still done in real time, and mixing performance improves because audio resampling and audio effects no longer consume real-time processing resources.
  • Mixdown: Renders all the audio in a sequence to a single group of render files, one for each audio output assigned to the selected sequence. This can improve playback performance by eliminating the need for Final Cut Pro to do any real-time mixing or audio effects playback. The Mixdown command is a nondestructive operation and doesn’t change any of the audio clips in the sequence.

When you choose either the Item Level option in the Render Selection and Render All submenus or the Mixdown command in the Render Only submenu, audio is rendered at the highest quality regardless of the setting chosen in the Audio Playback Quality pop-up menu in the General tab of the User Preferences window.

Using the Mixdown Command

Sometimes, you may have so many audio items edited into a sequence or so many filters applied that rendering the items in your sequence doesn’t ensure real-time playback. In this case, use the Mixdown command in the Render Only submenu of the Sequence menu to render all audio in a sequence prior to playback or output to tape.

To mix down audio in a sequence
  1. Select a sequence in the Timeline.

  2. With the Timeline or Canvas active, choose Sequence > Render Only > Mixdown (or press Command-Option-R).

    A multichannel QuickTime audio file is rendered to disk so that the sequence can now play back the render file instead of all the individual audio tracks.

    Note: This command has no effect on how your clips are edited. All audio clips remain on their own tracks in the sequence just as they were before. The Mixdown command simply consolidates the audio in an audio render file for playback.

    Once you’ve applied mixdown audio to a sequence, the Mixdown menu item is dimmed, and a checkmark appears next to it to show that the audio in the sequence has been rendered as a preview file. If you move any audio clips afterward, the preview file is discarded, and the Mixdown command again becomes available in the Render Only submenu.

Keeping Track of Rendering Progress

The amount of rendering time depends on the type and number of effects that are applied. When you render, a status window appears and provides you with the following information.

  • Percentage of completion: The percentage of rendering that has been completed, based on the number of frames left to render.
  • Estimated Time: The estimated time remaining to render. This value appears above the progress bar, in seconds, minutes, hours, and so on.
    Figure. Dialog showing the estimated time remaining for rendering.

Final Cut Pro bases its estimate on how long the last frame took to render and how many frames remain to be rendered. Because different sections of your sequence may have different effects applied, this estimate may change over time as it’s constantly updated to reflect the clip currently being rendered.

Render files for a sequence are generated cumulatively, so you can cancel rendering and retain what you have already rendered without having to start over.

Temporarily Disabling Rendering

Normally, Final Cut Pro attempts to calculate all the effects applied to the frame at the current playhead position. Sometimes, especially with effects-intensive sequences, you will want to turn off these calculations temporarily while you make changes to edits in a sequence or to the settings of a motion effect or filter. When rendering is turned off, all clips that require rendering (indicated by red render bars in the Timeline) do not appear in the Viewer or Canvas. This way, you can work in the Timeline or in the Controls, Filters, or Motion tab of the Viewer without waiting for individual frames at the position of the playhead to render for display. Clips with real-time effects applied still appear.

To temporarily turn off rendering
  • Press the Caps Lock key.

    The Viewer and Canvas both go black. A message appears at the top of both windows saying “The Caps Lock key is on; rendering is disabled.” Press the Caps Lock key again to turn on rendering.

    Figure. Canvas window showing a message about the Caps Lock key being on.

Automatic Rendering While You Are Away from Your Computer

The Auto Render option allows you to take advantage of idle computer time when you’re not editing—such as during a coffee break or lunch—to render open sequences in the Timeline.

To change Auto Render settings
  • Choose Final Cut Pro > User Preferences, then click the General tab.

Three options determine what parts of your opened sequences are rendered and when:

  • “Start Render after” field: This number, in minutes, specifies the amount of idle time that must pass before Final Cut Pro starts to automatically render any open sequences.
  • Render pop-up menu: Choose Open Sequences from this pop-up menu to render all open sequences in the Timeline. Choose Current Sequence to render the currently active sequence tab in the Timeline. Choose Open Sequences Except Current to render all open sequences except for the currently active sequence in the Timeline.
  • Render RT Segments: Selecting this checkbox ensures that all sections of your sequence that use real-time effects are also rendered. Deselecting this checkbox saves time by ignoring sections of your sequence that are already capable of playing back in real time.

When the number of minutes specified in the “Start Render after” field has elapsed with no user activity, a progress dialog appears indicating the following sequence of events:

  • If Autosave Vault is selected, the project is automatically saved prior to rendering.

  • All selected regions of the currently active sequence are rendered.

  • All sections of the Timeline with a red render bar are rendered.

  • All audio with effects is rendered.

  • All sections of the Timeline with yellow and orange render bars are rendered.

  • If the Render RT Segments checkbox is selected, all sections of the Timeline with a green render bar are rendered.

  • If the Render pop-up menu is set to Open Sequences, the rendering steps above (except for saving the project) are performed for each open sequence. The project is automatically saved after each render.