Join Lonzell Watson for an in-depth discussion in this video Adjusting essential preferences, part of Final Cut Express 4 Essential Training.
Before you begin editing, it's extremely important for you to adjust the Final Cut Express Preferences to maximize the efficiency of your editing session. Efficiency is one word that you are going to continually hear me stress throughout this entire course. Because many times efficiency is the determining factor between making or breaking deadlines, and one thing editors know plenty about are deadlines. The first place we will start is in the User Preferences located under Final Cut Express in the menu bar. Within the User Preferences, you will find the settings that will allow you to dictate how Final Cut Express interacts with you and how the interface will look.
Here you have the Levels of Undo. This setting will allow you to undo changes that you have made to your project by allowing you to press Command+Z on the keyboard or simply going to Edit > Undo in the top menu. By default, this value is set at 10 but the maximum number of Undo is largely depended upon RAM. This system that I am currently working on will allow up to 50 Undos. So I am going to go ahead and make this 50. By default, you have 8 tracks of Real-Time Audio Mixing, which is completely enough for most editors, so you really don't need to change this. 8 tracks will allow you to lay down two channels of audio that are associated with your clips, two channels for music, two for audio effects and two for narration.
If you are working on a project with many audio tracks, feel free to bump this number up. The Show Tooltips are the little descriptors that you see once you park over buttons on the Final Cut Express interface, that tell you the function of the button. These tips are extremely helpful as you are learning Final Cut Express, so leave this on for now. Open last project on application launch does exactly what it sounds. If you want Final Cut Express to open the last project that you are working on, every time you launch the program, leave this box checked. If you want Final Cut Express to open a new project each time you open it, then you can uncheck this. The Autosave Vault is a great little feature that allows you to enable Final Cut Express to automatically save your project after predetermined amount of minutes.
As you can see right here the default is set to 30; I would suggest lowering this to about 15 minutes. The next set of parameters, you can pretty much leave unchecked, due to the new Open Format Timeline feature in Final Cut Express, checking these buttons would essentially prompt Final Cut Express to ask you what tape format you are using. This is good if you sometimes use 16:9 footage, then switch to projects using 4:3 footage, HDV or DV footage. In Final Cut Express 4, these prompts have all been automated. So we will get into this a little bit later as we discuss the easy setup controls.
Report Dropped Frames During Playback simply tells Final Cut Express to alert you if frames have been dropped while playing your video back, perhaps you have an unrendered effect which can make your video appear to stutter. Even though this setting is turned on by default, I am less concerned with this one because it really doesn't speak to the quality of my finished video. So I typically turn this setting off. Now as for the Abort capture on dropped frames, I would like Final Cut Express to stop if it detects that I am dropping frames as I am ingesting my video footage from a camera or tape deck. You definitely want to keep this one on.
When you first launch Final Cut Express and you don't have a camera or deck attached to your computer, Final Cut Express will give you an A/V device warning upon launch. If you don't want to have to click OK in the warning box every time you start the program, you can choose to not have it show by putting a check in this box. If the size of the text in the browser window is too small, you can use the menu in the Browser Text Size field to change it to a larger setting; ideally, don't touch this setting, but if you need to you are free to do so.
The next set of parameters is another example of how Final Cut Express works hard to make your editing sessions as efficient as possible. The Auto Render allows you to enable the rendering of effects after predetermined amount of time of inactivity in Final Cut Express. So if you are working on a project with a lot of unrendered effects and you break for lunch or you need to go to a meeting, Final Cut Express will start rendering those effects after you have been away for the default 45 minutes or whatever time you designate here. Now let's move on to the Editing tab. The Still/Freeze Duration setting allows you to dictate the default duration of the still images that you bring into Final Cut Express, meaning if you import a snapshot from your vacation in the Final Cut Express and place it into the Timeline, under the current setting, it will have a duration of 10 seconds in the Timeline. For now, 10 seconds is plenty of time.
In the trimming section of this training we'll get into setting Pre-roll and Post-roll. So hold on and these settings will make more sense later, when you actually have a chance to see them in action. The same goes for the Trimming Options, go ahead and check Dynamic Trimming and later we will trim away the fat on a video sequence by using the trimming tools to polish a video montage. The rest are prompts for warnings that we can leave as it is. Let's click on the Timeline Options tab. The parameters in the Timeline Options tab can also be found on the Timeline itself and will service better if we wait to configure them as needed and we will. So don't make any changes in this tab, just yet.
Let's move on to the Render Control tab. This tab gives you control over the quality of which Final Cut Express will render and play back. By default, everything is set to render at full quality and the computers we use nowadays are so fast that it is my opinion that you can go ahead and leave everything in here as it is. Because Final Cut Express will be able to process effects fast enough for us to work with. If you ever need to edit something together very fast at draft quality, you can always change these settings to a lower quality.
The next set of preferences that we need to discuss are the System Preferences, which allow you to define how Final Cut Express works in relation to your computer. The Scratch Disks settings allow you to choose where your captured and rendered files in Final Cut Pro will be stored. By clicking the Set button, you can designate a location on the second internal drive or an external drive to house these files. It's highly discouraged against setting your built-in system drive as the Scratch Disk, due to performance bottlenecking. I will set this to my secondary hard drive. At the bottom, you see at its default setting, Final Cut Express will leave a minimum of 2 gigs of hard drive space on the Capture Scratch. So there is no need to worry about filling up your hard drive while capturing video.
You should never lower this number as it is recommended that you should leave a hard drive at least 5% empty. A drive needs at least 5% breathing room in order to function properly. The next tab is for designating Search Folders. If anything goes offline in Final Cut Express and you need to perform a search, the folders that you designate here will be the first place that it looks. So if you tend to store your media in this same place, it would be smart to designate them as your Search Folders. Moving on to the Memory & Cache tab. Final Cut Express is set to use 100% of your system's memory. This setting is fine just the way it is and the only time that I would recommend changing this particular setting is if you were getting a lot of low memory errors.
In Playback Controls, RT setting is set to Safe by default. I would like to change this to Unlimited because it performs well on my particular system configuration. If you are editing an effect-intensive project and you notice that you are dropping a lot of frames during playback, you may need to set this to Safe. The video quality is set to Dynamic, meaning that Final Cut Express will automatically adjust the image quality upon playback, so that you can view your effects. We'll dive further into RT settings more as we add effects to our video in a later chapter. At the bottom, the Record option is set to Full Quality and if yours isn't, you need to change it to where it does say Full Quality. When you go to print your finished project to tape, this setting will ensure that you are recording at the highest image quality available.
Now let's move on to the External Editors tab. If you have other software that you like to use for specific task such as Adobe Photoshop to edit still pictures, you can designate an external editor inside of Final Cut Express, press the Set button and navigate to the Photoshop icon in the Applications folder. Now when you right-click on the image in the Timeline, then choose Open in Editor. It will open directly into Photoshop for manipulation. You can make your changes to the still photo, then save it and the photo in the final Cut Express Timeline is automatically updated.
The final place that we need to take a look at is the Easy Setup. Final Cut Express provides you with easy setups that will allow you to configure Final Cut Express for capturing, editing and outputting media in the appropriate standard. It's important to take a moment and think of a video format that you will be editing in so that you can choose the proper easy setup for your editing session. The new Open Format Timeline feature in Final Cut Express 4 will allow you to mix footage from various recording formats such as HDV, DV, NTSC and PAL, within the same sequence. But it is still a good idea to pick an easy setup that matches the majority of the footage you will be editing.
I am going to leave the Format option to the default all formats and rate to all rates and make sure that our Use option is set to DV-NTSC Anamorphic, since this will be the bulk of the content that we will be editing. The new Open Format Timeline feature somewhat negates the purpose of using the prompt for settings on new project and prompt for settings on new sequence as aforementioned in the User Preferences because Final Cut Express will now use the setting of the first clip that you edit into the Timeline to configure the sequence settings.
Now that we have adjusted our preferences for our editing session, let's take a closer look at the Final Cut Express interface.
- Adjusting the workspace and preferences for any video creator
- Bringing content in from outside sources, including tape, photos, and iMovie '08 projects
- Creating a story through storyboarding, editing with audio cues, and setting transitions
- Understanding the difference between Final Cut Express and Final Cut Pro
- Using LiveType 2 to create engaging titles and credit rolls
- Performing background replacements with chroma keying
- Creating effects with FX plug-ins