FCPX and the necessity of transcoding

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by RevToTheRedline, Dec 27, 2015.

  1. RevToTheRedline macrumors 6502a


    Sep 27, 2007
    My GF got me Final Cut Pro X for Christmas (she's awesome) I shoot video with a GoPro Hero 4 Black when riding my motorcycle (sort of an upcoming motovlogger, or at least trying)

    When I used GoPro Studio it would be required that it transcode the media before I could proceed to the timeline to start editing. In FCPX it has the option but isn't forced, I'm wondering why I would need to, is there a reason? I have a maxed out 2015 Macbook Pro, even without transcoding my 1080/60p GoPro content seems to scrub just fine without any noticeable issues.

    What are some reasons why I should let FCPX transcode, apart from the initial transcoding encoding time, does it just all around make it faster to export to the final media type? Does it all around lower work load?
  2. sevoneone macrumors 6502

    May 16, 2010
    Basically you answered your own question. Transcoding the video creates a copy in a format that is optimized for FCP called ProRes. Doing things like adding effects, retiming, color grading etc, will be much faster if the footage is transcoded first.

    If you are not doing much more than simple cutting, assembly and adding some transitions to your footage, you can get away without transcoding on a fast machine. If you are going to be doing a lot of effects or adjustments to every clip, it will be better to transcode. Here is a great article that explains the what, when and why in much more detail: https://larryjordan.com/articles/fcpx-when-to-optimize-media/
  3. coldsweat macrumors 6502


    Aug 18, 2009
    Grimsby, UK
    You probably won't ever need to Transcode, just set your GoPro to ProTune & if you want to do as little grading as possible, also set the 'Color' to 'GroPro Color'. If you ever do find that things get jerky in FCPX simply then transcode the offending clips individually (but dont forget to delete the transcoded files once you've finished editing or your HD will fill up quick!)
  4. nebo1ss macrumors 68030

    Jun 2, 2010
    I have a go pro Black and dislike this transcode feature of the GOPRO studio . i use VIRB edit instead which is a free app from GARMIN and I find much easier to use.
  5. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    I have tested this a lot and believe that advice is no longer accurate. My tests show there is little performance advantage on effects if you transcode to optimized media. This does not mean you should never transcode to proxy -- that can have significant performance advantages. However transcoding to optimized media from H264 or similar codecs typically consumes about 8x more space, so there's a significant space and time cost. If that provided some major benefit on effects processing it might be worthwhile, but it apparently does not.

    On a modern higher-end Mac (which the OP has) there is enough CPU/GPU capacity that transcoding to optimized media generally does not yield significant performance advantages for effects.

    The codec GoPro uses is highly compressed, so if doing 4K multicam then transcoding to proxy helps in terms of general timeline responsiveness. But the issue was whether transcoding to optimized media (not proxy) was vital if using many effects. My tests show it doesn't make much difference.

    There are lots of different versions and machines out there with different characteristics. So if any doubt, everyone should do their own tests. But it is likely no longer necessary to blindly transcode all media to optimized to obtain good performance on effects.

    For a more detailed discussion, see:

  6. Bytehoven, Dec 31, 2015
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2015

    Bytehoven macrumors regular


    Dec 1, 2015
    Up Shellpot Creek
    A couple of thoughts...

    ... if you're having trouble scrubbing source files to find selects for your edit timeline ... transcode to ProRes

    ... if you're having trouble scrubbing your edit timeline ... transcode to ProRes

    ... if you're not able to have more than 2,3 or 4 streams play at the same time in your timeline .. transcode to ProRes

    As far as what ProRes setting to use when transcoding...

    ... H264 4K - use ProRes 422 LT 4K (preserves quality and takes up more space than H264 but not 8x the space)
    ... XAVC 4K - use ProRes 422 4K or 422 HQ 4K if you will be doing "heavy" color grading ( preserves quality and takes up about 1.5-3x the space)

    IMHO, the whole point of transcoding to equal quality ProRes or to a proxy is to accelerate the editing process, especially if your editing for other clients sitting in on the edit. Waiting on your rig to catch up, buffer or even play smoothly gets old real fast.

    Joema is right about once you get into effects which need to be rendered or even when moving over to a compositor like After Effects, Nuke or whatever. But then we're talking apples and oranges and it's not always wise to sacrifice optimizing one workflow because of the inherent limitations of another.
  7. RevToTheRedline thread starter macrumors 6502a


    Sep 27, 2007
    Thanks for the replies everyone! Lots of great information I wouldn't have thought about.
  8. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    This is good advice, however the OP is using FCPX and it generally does not require transcoding. If transcoding is needed, the built-in proxy option is often best (esp. for 4K).

    The OP is using FCPX -- there are two pre-defined transcoding options:

    (1) Optimized Media -- create ProRes 422 file, typically about 8x the size of camera native H264
    (2) Proxy media -- create 1/4 resolution ProRes 422 file, typically about equal in size of camera native H264

    That is correct, and fortunately transcoding is usually not required on FCPX because the playback engine is so fast.

    However on H264 4K and especially multicam 4K, transcoding to proxy can speed things up. Fortunately on FCPX this is built-in and seamless and there's no issue getting files out of sync, copying around files & folders, or re-syncing with the original files for the final render.

    I was addressing the statement (by Larry Jordan and others) that FCPX requires transcoding to speed up effects. I have tested this extensively and there is no basis for that statement -- at least on current hardware and software. There is generally no need with FCPX to blindly transcode on import. If it's later determined that transcoding is needed after import, this is easily handled in a completely seamless, integrated fashion without losing any editing to that point. Other editing software may not handle it this well.

Share This Page