Changing User Preferences

A preference modifies how a particular Final Cut Pro feature behaves. Most preferences can be turned on or off at any time, whereas others accept a value, such as the number of Undo levels or the name of a label.

The following section describes Final Cut Pro user preferences in detail.

To open the User Preferences window
  • Choose Final Cut Pro > User Preferences (or press Option-Q).

Figure. User Preferences window showing the General tab.

The User Preferences window is divided into several tabs.

Note: The Timeline Options, Render Control, and Audio Outputs tabs contain the default preferences used when you create new sequences.

Important: Once a sequence has been created, you change its settings by choosing Sequence > Settings, not User Preferences. Settings in the User Preferences window establish the default preferences for new sequences, not sequences that already exist.

General Tab

This tab contains fundamental preferences relating to application launch, creation of new projects and sequences, and automatically scheduled events such as Autosave and Auto Render.

Figure. User Preferences window showing the General tab.

About Audio Playback Quality

Sample rate conversion occurs when you use clips with audio sample rates that differ from the sample rate in your sequence’s settings. If the sample rate of your media files matches the sample rate of the sequence, this pop-up menu has no effect.

Transitions between rendered and nonrendered portions of audio clips are also affected by the quality setting chosen in the Audio Playback Quality pop-up menu. For example, if you choose Low quality and you play a partially rendered clip that contains a reverb, you won’t hear the tail of the reverb when the playhead crosses the boundary from a rendered to a nonrendered section of the sequence. However, if you choose Medium or High quality, you hear the reverb even when crossing the render boundary.

Undo and Recent Clips Options
  • Levels of Undo: Enter a value to specify the number of actions that can be undone. The maximum number of Undo levels you can specify is 99. The default is 10. For information on undoing an action, see Overview of the Final Cut Pro Interface.
  • List Recent Clips: This value determines how many clip names appear in the Recent Clips pop-up menu in the Viewer. This pop-up menu shows a list of clips that you opened from the Browser, in the order they were opened (with the most recently opened clip at the top of the list). The default is 10 clips, and the maximum is 20. For more information on using the Viewer’s Recent Clips pop-up menu, see Viewer Basics.
Real-Time Audio and Video Options
  • Real-time Audio Mixing: Enter a number in this field to specify how many audio tracks can be mixed in real time. The default is 8 tracks, and the maximum is 99. The maximum number of tracks that can be mixed without having to be rendered is affected by your computer’s processing capabilities, the number and types of filters used in your sequence, the data transfer rate of your hard disk, and the amount of memory available to Final Cut Pro.
  • Limit real-time video to N MB/s: Final Cut Pro uses this number to limit how many video streams can play back from your scratch disk in real time. This is useful when multiple editing systems are sharing the same media (such as a storage area network, or SAN), or when you have a scratch disk with a limited data rate, such as a portable computer hard disk.

    For example, suppose you try to play a sequence with six simultaneous video tracks containing DV media, and Final Cut Pro warns you that frames were dropped during playback. If you then try to play a sequence with five simultaneous video tracks and no frames are dropped, you know that your scratch disk can handle no more than five simultaneous DV video streams. Since DV has a data rate of 3.6 MB/sec., you can select the “Limit real-time video to” option and enter 18 MB/sec. (5 x 3.6 MB/sec.) in the number field. Now, if a sequence requires a sustained data rate of more than 18 MB/sec. for playback, Final Cut Pro shows a red render bar over this portion of the sequence.

    Note: Final Cut Pro always allows a single video stream to play, even if the data rate limit you set is below the data rate of a single video stream. For example, if you set the data rate limit to 1 MB/sec., Final Cut Pro would still play back a single DV video stream, even though its data rate is 3.6 MB/sec.

Interface Options
  • Show Tooltips: Select this option to automatically display descriptions of interface elements and their corresponding keyboard shortcuts, called tooltips. Tooltips appear in small yellow boxes when you move the pointer over a control and pause briefly (without clicking the control). When you move the pointer away from the control, the tooltip disappears.
    Figure. Tooltip for the Play button in the Viewer.
  • Bring all windows to the front on activation: When this option is selected and Final Cut Pro is in the background, clicking one Final Cut Pro window brings all Final Cut Pro windows to the front at once.
  • Open last project on application launch: This option determines whether Final Cut Pro opens with a new, untitled project, or the last project or projects that were open when you last quit the application.
Autosave Options
  • Autosave Vault: The Autosave option saves a copy of each open project at regular intervals. For more information, see Using the Autosave Feature.
New Project and Sequence Options
  • Prompt for settings on New Project: When this option is selected, the Project Properties window appears when you create a new project. For more information about setting project properties, see Working with Projects, Clips, and Sequences.
  • Prompt for settings on New Sequence: When this option is selected, a dialog appears asking you to choose a sequence preset whenever you create a new sequence. This can be useful if you regularly work with several different video formats. If you always edit the same video format, you’ll probably want to deselect this option.
Capture and Playback Options
  • Sync audio capture to video source if present: Select this option in the following scenarios:
    • You have an audio interface that has a video genlock input, and the genlock input is receiving a proper video signal.

    • You are capturing audio media that you intend to synchronize with video, such as sound recorded on a separate audio recorder during a film or video production. For more information on genlocking a device-controllable audio deck, see Connecting Professional Video and Audio Equipment.

  • Report dropped frames during playback: If you select this option, a message appears if any frames are dropped during playback from the Viewer, Canvas, and Timeline, or when outputting using Edit to Tape or Print to Video. When Final Cut Pro drops frames, it is usually because there is a hardware or setup problem, such as scratch disks that are too slow compared to the media data rate. For information on what you can do if Final Cut Pro reports dropped frames, see Problems During Playback.
  • Abort ETT/PTV on dropped frames: If this option is selected, a message appears if any frames are dropped during playback from the Viewer, Canvas, and Timeline when outputting using Edit to Tape or Print to Video. Dropped frames are almost always caused by a hardware setup problem. For information on what you can do if Final Cut Pro reports dropped frames, see Problems During Playback.
  • Abort capture on dropped frames: When this option is selected, capture stops immediately when a dropped frame is detected. All media captured before the dropped frame has frame-accurate timecode and is preserved. The resulting media file is saved and a clip for that media file is placed in the Browser.
Text Size Options
Auto Render Option
  • Auto Render: 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.

    For more information, see Rendering and Video Processing Settings.

Editing Tab

The preferences in this tab affect editing behaviors in Final Cut Pro.

Figure. User Preferences window showing the Editing tab.
Default Timing Options
  • Still/Freeze Duration: This value determines the duration for imported graphics and freeze frames you create in Final Cut Pro (when you choose Modify > Make Freeze Frame in the Canvas or Viewer). The default duration is 10 seconds. In and Out points are set around the middle of a clip, providing equal handles for trimming on either side of the clip.

    You can increase the length of a freeze frame clip by opening it in the Viewer and entering a higher value in the Timecode Duration field.

    Note: In Final Cut Pro, duration is the amount of time between a clip’s In and Out points, and length refers to the time between Media Start and Media End. The default length of a still-image or freeze frame clip is 2 minutes, whereas its duration is determined by the Still/Freeze Duration value. However, if you set the Still/Freeze Duration value to be greater than 2 minutes, new still images or freeze frames are created at this length without handles.

    One reason you may want to change this value is if you’re going to import an image sequence. For example, if you set the Still/Freeze Duration value to 00:00:00:01 (one frame), you can import an entire folder of numbered images and then place them in a sequence.

  • Preview Pre-roll: This value is used by the Play Around Current control and the Trim Edit window to determine how much time before the playhead should be played.
  • Preview Post-roll: This value is used by the Play Around Current control and the Trim Edit window to determine how much time after the playhead should be played.

    For more information, see Viewer Basics. The setting is also applicable in the Trim Edit window; see Trimming Clips Using the Trim Edit Window.

Dupe Detection Options
  • Handle Size: This preference adds frames to the beginning and end of the clip regions that are used for comparison, to determine whether or not to display duplicate frames indicators. This can be used to take into account the extra frames that must be used for physically cutting and cementing pieces of negative that are necessary for film match-back, to prevent you from accidentally including frames that can’t really be used. By default, this is set to 0.

    In the following example, the sequence contains ten duplicate frames. Below, the handle size setting is set to zero frames, so no additional frames are shown.

    Figure. Timeline window showing duplicate frames shared by two overlapping clips.

    When the handle size setting is set to ten frames, five additional frames on either side of the duplicate frames are displayed.

    Figure. Timeline window showing the effect of setting a handle size and the increase in the number of duplicate frames shown.
  • Threshold: This allows you to set a minimum number of frames that must be duplicated before a duplicate frames indicator appears. By default, this is set to 0 so that all instances of duplicated frames are indicated. You can set it as high as 99 frames (3 to 4 seconds, depending on the frame rate), in which case there would have to be a minimum of 99 consecutive duplicated frames before a duplicate frames indicator would appear. For more information on duplicate frames indicators, see Keep Track of Duplicate Frames and Adding Transitions.

    The example below shows a sequence that contains two instances of clip A, where ten of the frames from Clip A are used twice.

    Figure. Timeline window showing a sequence that contains two instances of a clip with ten duplicate frames.
    Figure. Timeline window showing that when the handle threshold is greater than 10, the duplicated frames are not indicated.
Imported Still/Video Gamma
BWF Import
Trim Edit Window Options
  • Dynamic Trimming: Select Dynamic Trimming to allow edit points in the Trim Edit window to automatically follow the position of the playhead. For more information, see Timeline Basics. The setting is also applicable for trimming; see Learning About Trimming Clips.
  • Trim with Sequence Audio: When this option is selected, you hear all sequence audio tracks while using the J, K, and L keys on either side of the Trim Edit window.
  • Trim with Edit Selection Audio (Mute Others): When this option is selected, all audio tracks except the ones currently selected in the Timeline are muted when you use the J, K, and L keys to play clips on either side of the Trim Edit window.
  • Multi-Frame Trim Size: This value determines how many frames are trimmed when using the Trim Back and Trim Forward buttons in the Trim Edit window or the equivalent shortcut keys in the Timeline. The maximum number of frames allowed is 99. For more information, see Trimming Clips Using the Trim Edit Window.
Visibility, Track Locking, and Audio Keyframe Options
  • Warn if visibility change deletes render file: Making an entire track invisible automatically deletes any render files associated with that track. Make sure you select this option to see a warning before this occurs.

    Note: As an alternative to hiding a track and losing its render files, you can make individual items invisible, which preserves these render files. To find out how to disable individual clip items, see Compositing and Layering.

  • Pen tools can edit locked item overlays: If this option is selected, you can modify audio level and video opacity keyframes in clips on locked tracks in the Timeline.
File Reconnection and Final Cut Studio Integration Options
  • Always Reconnect Externally Modified Files: When this checkbox is selected, Final Cut Pro reconnects clips to any media files that have been modified since the last time Final Cut Pro was the active application. Select this option when you are working with a lot of media files or projects, such as embedded Motion or Soundtrack Pro projects. For more information, see Reconnecting Media Files Automatically.
  • Warn on “Send to Soundtrack Pro Script”: When this checkbox is selected, Final Cut Pro displays a dialog that allows you to decide how media files are processed when you choose File > Send To > Soundtrack Pro Script > [script name]. For more information, see Working with Soundtrack Pro and Logic Pro.
Automatic Conforming and Scaling Options
  • Always scale clips to sequence size: Select this checkbox when you want edited clips whose frame size is smaller than that of the current sequence to be scaled up when you add them to the sequence.

    For more information about these options, see Working with Mixed-Format Sequences.

Labels Tab

This tab allows you to customize the label name associated with the label colors in Final Cut Pro. These preferences affect any project you open; they are not saved on a per-project basis. For example, if you change the name associated with the orange label to “Landscape shots,” any clip assigned to the orange label has this label name, regardless of what project the clip is in. If you want to label a clip with a name that won’t change, you can use the clip’s Label 2 property instead. For more information about working with labels, see Organizing Footage in the Browser.

Timeline Options Tab

This tab is used to set default options for new sequences. This is where you set the default number of video and audio tracks for new sequences. Once a sequence is created, you can change display options by choosing Sequence > Settings or by using the Timeline display controls in the lower-left corner of the Timeline. For more information, see Timeline Basics.

Render Control Tab

This tab is used to set default render options for new sequences. You can choose the default frame rate and resolution settings used when you render items in new sequences, and decide what kinds of effects are displayed (such as filters and speed settings). Once a sequence is created, you can change its render control options by choosing Sequence > Settings and clicking the Render Control tab. For more information, see Rendering and Video Processing Settings.

Audio Outputs Tab

This tab is used to choose the default audio output preset for new sequences. An audio output preset defines the number of dual mono or stereo pairs of audio outputs for your sequence. For more information, see Assigning Output Channels and External Audio Monitors.

Locating and Deleting the Preferences File

If you are having trouble with Final Cut Pro, one common troubleshooting technique is to quit the application, delete the preferences file, and then reopen Final Cut Pro. By default, preferences are stored in the location /Users/username/Library/Preferences/Final Cut Pro User Data/Final Cut Pro N Preferences.fcset (where N is the version number of the application).

If you want to bring your preferences to another editing system, you can copy or send this preferences file to the same location on the new system.