Final Cut Pro Proxies

In Australia, we can get some pretty nasty summer days that you just want to edit sitting in a pool or freezer. Until they make waterproof hard drives or laptops, I guess we're all stuck to editing at our usual workstation.

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 jet engine fan.

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 hard drive, through the works of proxies.

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.

This helps make editing and scrubbing faster since there is less of a draw from the computer, network, and codec.

Final Cut and Proxy Files

When it comes to Final Cut, and using proxy files you wouldn't be surprised to know that getting one to work wasn't a fun task!

The simplest way would be to create a batch file in Compressor, but like other programmes that create proxies, I prefer to create it right within the application.

Also not to mention the cost of Compressor on top of Final Cut - when you get other applications in-built.

Lastly, if you're happy opening and closing applications go for it, but I really like the all-in-one solution!

Proxy is too low resolution

Problem number one. Final Cut comes with some great sequence presets, that 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.

However, these sequence proxies do not exceed the dimensions of (either) 384x214 or 320x240. You may as well edit with Windows Movie Maker.

These dimensions are way too small for HD footage, and it even renders out in PhotoJPEG which doesn't take advantage of video compression.

Proxy Creation

First we're going to make our own preset and then do a batch render with this preset.

  1. Go to Final Cut Pro > Audio/Video Settings
  2. In the window that pops up, click the Sequence tab
  3. There's no create button, but we can duplicate one and edit that. Click on the first one and click duplicate
  4. When the window pops up, rename it to say H.264 - Render Proxy and optionally add a little description to remind you what to use it for
  5. 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
  6. Edit the timebase to be the frame rate you need it to be
  7. The most important part of this section is the Compressor option. Change this to be H.264 at 100% quality
  8. Click okay and you're done, 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 Proxies. 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 already started editing.

If you have begun editing and wish to continue click here.

I don't like lugging around my hard drive so the best way is to copy the proxy files onto your laptop internal drive. It's actually not as space consuming as you'd think.

My 245GB of 1080p HD footage converted into 15GB of H.264 - not too shabby.

Once you've copied your proxy files to your laptop, 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!

Returning to original Footage

Classic Melbourne, AUS weather - 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!


Adjust the settings for 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 it 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.

Pre-edited project

If you're one of the people who began editing and are thinking, "do I have to start again?" Well you're not in strife, 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.


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