Components of a Professional Final Cut Pro Editing System

Final Cut Pro editing systems can be configured to meet the most demanding professional requirements. An advanced editing system can be built by expanding the basic system described in Components of a Basic Final Cut Pro Editing System.

Video and Audio Input and Output Devices

An input device is used to transfer footage to your computer. For output, you record your finished movie to an output device. Basic editing systems use a DV camcorder or deck as both an input and output device. Professional editing systems may use multiple video decks to capture and output to different video formats.

To connect non-FireWire devices to your computer, you also need a third-party video or audio interface. For more information, see Video and Audio Interfaces.

Video Device

This is a VTR or camcorder you connect to your computer to capture and output media. The connectors and signal format on your video device determine what kind of video interface your computer needs to connect to your device.

Figure. Diagram showing a camcorder and a video interface.

Audio Device

This is a device, such as a digital audio tape (DAT) recorder or multitrack audio recorder, that lets you capture or output audio independently from video.

Figure. Diagram showing an audio device.

External Video and Audio Monitors

In the final stages of post-production—color correction and audio mixing—external video and audio monitors are essential to ensure the quality of your movie. Editing systems focused on these final phases of post-production are often called finishing systems.

External Video Monitor

When you edit your video, it’s ideal to watch it on a monitor similar to the one you will use for the final screening. An external video monitor can display color, frame rate, and interlaced scanning more accurately than your computer display.

Figure. Diagram showing an external video monitor.

If you are working on an NTSC or PAL project, you should watch it on an external video monitor that shows the video interlaced. Your ability to color correct is limited by the accuracy of your monitor. For more information about external video monitoring, see External Video Monitoring.

External Audio Speakers

As with video, it’s important to monitor your audio so that it matches the listening environment where the final project will be shown. Although you can use your computer’s built-in speakers for monitoring audio, any critical audio work should be monitored on external speakers (also called audio monitors). For more information about external audio monitoring, see Assigning Output Channels and External Audio Monitors.

Figure. Diagram showing audio speakers.

Video and Audio Interfaces

An interface is a device that adds physical video or audio connectors to your computer so that you can connect your Final Cut Pro system to other professional equipment (such as video decks and monitors).

Interfaces provide input and output connectors that aren’t included with your computer. For example, if you want to capture uncompressed NTSC video from a Digital Betacam deck, you need a video interface that supports SDI signal input on a standard BNC connector. If you want to output multiple audio channels to an analog audio mixer or digital multitrack, you need an audio interface that has XLR, 1/4" tip-ring-sleeve (TRS), AES/EBU, or ADAT Lightpipe output connectors.

You may want to consider adding a third-party interface to your system if:

  • You are digitizing video from an older analog VTR (such as a Betacam SP deck) that does not have digital video outputs or remote control via FireWire

  • You are integrating Final Cut Pro into a professional broadcast environment that requires SDI, HD-SDI, or other non-FireWire video and audio connections

  • You need to capture, edit, and output full-resolution, uncompressed video signals instead of DV video (which is compressed)

  • You need to capture or output multiple audio channels

Third-party video and audio interfaces can be installed in one of your computer’s PCI Express slots, connected to the USB port, or connected via FireWire (for example, the AJA Io). For more information, see About Video Interfaces, Signals, and Connectors and Audio Interfaces.

Using a Breakout Box with Video and Audio Interfaces

Some PCI Express cards are too small to mount all the connectors for the various input and output signals available. In this case, a breakout box is included to provide a sturdy housing for all of the video and audio connectors. For example, professional audio interfaces use XLR connectors, but these are too big to be mounted directly on a PCI Express card. Instead, a breakout box, included with the card, contains the XLR connectors. A multipin connector on a fairly long extension cable is usually used to attach the PCI Express card to the breakout box. The breakout box can then be mounted on a desktop or in a standard equipment rack, making the connectors more accessible than they would be on the back of your computer.

Figure. Diagram showing a breakout box and computer.

For instructions for connecting a breakout box to your PCI Express card, see the documentation included with your interface. An example of a setup with a breakout box is shown in Connecting Professional SD Video Devices.

Note: Some non-PCI Express interfaces have a similar “breakout box” design to fit all of their video and audio connectors. These interfaces look similar to PCI Express card breakout boxes, but they connect to your computer via FireWire or USB.

Scratch Disks

A scratch disk stores captured and rendered media for editing, playback, and output. Scratch disk performance is a critical aspect of your editing system: the storage capacity and data rate of your disks must match or exceed the requirements of the video format you are using. For more information, see Determining Your Hard Disk Storage Options.