Final Cut Pro Proxies

Things to do while waiting for rendering

So in Australia, we can get some pretty nasty summer days that you just want to edit sitting in a pool or freezer. But until they make waterproof harddrives, and laptops, I guess we’re all stuck to editing at our usual workstation. Now where we work, there aren’t any delivery cafés that could deliver my cold drink to my desk, nor is there the benefit of not having to turn the computer on and hear a billion buzzing fans. It’s days like this that I want to take my editing to a café down the street and edit remotely.

By saying remotely, what I really mean is editing from the internal hardrive, through the works of proxies. We all know that there are huge benefits from editing from an external hardrive, I know, but when you’re not in the environment where everything is stationary (i.e. your work desk) then there is the increased chance of an accidental unplug by the waitress who didn’t realise that it was connected, and half your work just went to waste (some grudges last forever).

I’m not the first to cover the topic of proxy versions of your footage, but the last few documents I could find were quite outdated. And on the plus side, I think it’s always great to refresh old stock to just remind yourself of what may be brushed over.

What’s a proxy file?

If you’ve worked with After Effects, and other high end editing programmes, you’ll know what a proxy file is in terms of video editing. For those who don’t, it’s simply a duplicate video file at a higher compression level, and most likely half the resolution. Why, you may ask? Well it makes editing, and scrubbing faster – and sometimes you can’t even notice the resolution difference!

Final Cut and Proxy Files

So when it comes to Final Cut, and using proxy files you wouldn’t be surprised to know that getting one to work wasn’t as fun as usual!

I can hear some people screaming, “create a batch file in Compressor Mark” and that’s fine, but like other programmes that create proxies, I prefer to create it right within the application. So if you’re happy opening and closing applications go for it, but I really want to buy my ice smoothie so let’s go with one application!

Proxy is to low resolution as Final Cut is to 240p?!

Problem number one. Final Cut comes with some great sequence presets, like there are so many that they really cover everything. Except proxies. If you scroll through the list of presets you’ll come across a few list items called OfflineRT. These are apparently the presets that you should use when editing with a proxy file.

Now just to bring the masses up to speed, these sequence proxies do not exceed the dimensions of (either) 384×214 or 320×240. Alright, lets all just edit with Windows Movie Maker! These dimensions are way too small for our HD footage, and it even renders out in PhotoJPEG which doesn’t take advantage of video compression but rather photo – so not what we want.

Proxy Creation

So first we’re going to make our own preset (that is made just for us) and then we’ll do a batch render with this preset.

First go to Final Cut Pro > Audio/Video Settings. In the window that pops up, click the Sequence tab. Now stupidly there’s no create button, but we can duplicate one and edit that. So click on the first one and click duplicate. When the window pops up, rename it to say H.264 [Render Proxy] and add a little description that will be fun to read – and remind you what to use it for!

Change the dimensions of the video to be the size you need, if in doubt and know you’re editing HD footage just download the PDF at the end and follow that. Edit the timebase to be the frame rate you need it to be. The most important part of this section is the Compressor option. Change this to be H.264 at 100% quality. Click okay, and bingo! You just created a sequence preset!

Batch Export

Import all your footage files into a new project, then in the Browser Window select all the clips (⌘+A) and go to File > Batch Export.

A new window will pop up. Select all the clips again by pressing ⌘+A and select the settings option.

Firstly, choose a destination for the new proxy files. I made a folder called “FILM TITLE Proxy”. Under Format select QuickTime Movie and the H.264 [Render Proxy] that we created just before for Settings.

Under Set Naming Options, check the box that says Add File Type Extension. Press Okay, and finally make sure the Make Self-Contained checkbox is ticked.

When you’re ready, click OK and you will be returned to the Export Queue window. Click Export and let the computer do the rest!

Setting up the Proxy File

To setup the proxy files for use is easy peasy! Even if you have started editing! Okay, maybe not as easy, but if you have begun editing and wish to continue click here.

Now like I said earlier I don’t like lugging around my hard drive to risky places so the best way is to copy the proxy files onto your laptop. It’s not as hardrive consuming as you’d think. My 245GB of 1080p HD footage converted into 15GB of H.264 (not too shaby!).

Copy your existing Project to the laptop and open it up. When asked to Re-Connect Missing Media, navigate to the proxy folder, and away you go!

Now we’re talking! You can edit at a café (like me) or at the park or even on the toilet!

Returning to original Footage

So the smoothie was great, but I live in Melbourne and our weather is 100% unpredicable so now it’s cold and I prefer to edit at my workstation. How do you reconnect to the original files once you’ve begun editing?

Well first in your proxy Project File go to File > Export > XML and use the default settings. Then go to the old Project File (the original) and select File > Import > XML.

What this does is brings in all the new sequences, cuts, transitions, everything that you did in the proxy FCP file into the original HD FCP project file!

Follow these settings, but adjust with your own Sequence Settings of course.

If you’re unsure of the settings you require, first create a new sequence and drop some footage onto it. Agree with the sequence setting adaptation, and on the Sequence in the Browser Window > Right Click > Settings.

As we didn’t select to Reconnect to Media Files, it means our footage is now offline. Just go to File > Reconnect Media and navigate to the original files!

Finished Amigo!

And that’s all there really is to it! Isn’t great? And best of all, now that you have the Sequence Preset already made, this process takes even shorter! Yay!

It really doesn’t take long to do, and it totally beats editing in the same old room day in day out :]

I made a mistake…

So you’re one of the people who began editing and are thinking, “ah shit, do I have to start again?” Yeah I’ve been there!

Well you’re not in strife (like some other things that make you start all over again) you just have to re-do some steps!

So from your HD project file, you need to export the XML file and import it into your new Proxy Sequence. But instead of using the Sequence Settings from the HD file, just set it to the Proxy Sequence Preset we made earlier.

That’s all there is to fix that issue! The rest is just the same as usual.

I need pictures!