Media Apple FCP X

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #228: How Much RAM Do You Need For Editing?

Larry Jordan –

More RAM helps – to a point.

This chart illustrates how RAM needs increase as frame sizes increase.
RAM requirements for 30-fps, 8-bit video at different frame sizes (MB/second).

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The way most NLEs work is that, during an edit, the software will load (“buffer”) a portion of a clip into RAM. This allows for smoother playback and skimming, as you drag your playhead across the timeline.

When a clip is loaded into RAM, it is uncompressed, allowing each pixel to be processed individually. This means that the amount of RAM used for buffering depends upon several factors:

  • How much RAM you have
  • The frame size of the source video clip
  • The frame rate of the source video clip
  • The bit-depth of the source video clip

This graph illustrates this. It displays the MB required per second to cache 8-bit video into RAM. As you can see, RAM requirements skyrocket with frame size. These numbers increase when you have multiple clips playing at the same time.

NOTE: These numbers also increase as bit-depth increases, however the proportions remain the same.

The amount of RAM you need varies, depending upon the type of editing you are doing.

  • 8 GB RAM. You can edit with this amount of RAM, but editing performance may suffer for anything larger than 720p HD
  • 16 GB RAM. Good for most editing.
  • 32 GB RAM. My recommendation for editing 4K, 6K, multicam and HDR.
  • 64 GB RAM. Potentially good for massive frame sizes, but not required.

Anything more than 64 GB of RAM won’t hurt, but you won’t see any significant improvement in performance; especially considering the cost of more RAM.

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… for Codecs & Media

Tip #078: For Best Quality, Export a Master File

Larry Jordan –

“Highest quality” doesn’t always mean matching your camera format.

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If you are in a hurry, export what you need to post and get on with your life.

However, one lesson I’ve learned over the years is that there’s never “just one version” of any project. Copies using different codecs and compression always need to be made. My recommendation is to ALWAYS export a master file of any project and archive that, so that when copies need to be made, you don’t need to reopen a project, reconnect media, re-render effects and re-export. A master file saves all that wasted time.

But, what is a master file? In terms of editing, it means exporting a video that matches your project settings. There’s no reason to export a different format, because the highest quality you can export is that which is the same as the project settings.

For example, exporting an H.264 project as ProRes 4444 will generate a larger file, but not higher quality.

This is why I recommend transcoding highly-compressed camera master files into a higher-quality intermediate codec before starting editing. Transcoding won’t improve the quality of what you shot, but it can improve the quality of transitions, effects and color grading; and, thus, the entire project prior to export.

… for Codecs & Media

Tip #088: Where Should You Store Media

Larry Jordan –

Internal or external storage. Which is best?

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When it comes to storage and media, there are two essential questions: How much capacity and how much speed do you need?

Most current computers – and all Macs – use high-speed SSDs for their internal boot drives. These provide blazing speed but very limited storage.

So, as you are thinking about where to store media, consider this:

  • If you have a small project, using the internal SSD is fine.
  • If you have a large project, or need to move it between computers or editors, external storage is better.
  • For best results, store cache files (and Libraries in FCP X) on the internal boot drive or your fastest external storage.
  • SSDs are about four times faster than spinning media (traditional hard disks), but spinning media holds more and is much cheaper.
  • A single spinning hard disk is fine for HD, but not fast enough for 4K or HDR
  • RAIDs are preferred for massive projects, like one-hour shows or features, large frame sizes, HDR, or faster frame rates. They hold more and transfer data faster than a single drive.
  • Don’t store media on any gear connected via USB 1, 2, or 3 Gen 1. It won’t be fast enough. Howver, you can use these devices for backups and longer-term storage.
  • Servers are fine for storing and accessing media, but they won’t be as fast as locally-attached storage.
  • In general, if you are getting dropped frame errors, it means your storage is too slow to support the media you are editing. Invest in faster storage.

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #055: When to Pick Optimized or Native Media

Larry Jordan –

Picking the wrong option will slow things down.

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Final Cut supports a variety of media for editing, not just codecs, but native, optimized and proxy media. Which should you choose? Here’s a simple guide.


Native media is what your camera shoots.

Use native media in your edit when you are in a hurry, don’t need to apply a lot of effects or transitions, or when working with high-end log or HDR media.


Optimized media is native media that Final Cut transcodes in the background to ProRes 422; most often using the Transcoding options in the Media Import window.

Use optimized media in your edit for projects that have lots of effects, were recorded using very compressed camera formats such as H.264 or HEVC, require lots of exports for client review, require extensive color grading.


There’s a belief among some editors that editing proxies is somehow “weak.” Actually, virtually every film ever edited was created using proxy files – except they were called “work prints.”

Proxies are smaller files, great for creating rough cuts where you are concentrating on telling stories, because they don’t require as much storage, and you can easily switch from proxy to optimized/native media – retaining all effects – at the click of a button.

Use proxy files in your edit when storage space is tight, you need to edit on an older/slower system or when you are working with large frame size files (4K and above).

When you are ready to color grade and output, switch back to optimized/native.


Optimized files are faster and more efficient to edit and, in the case of highly compressed native files, yield better color grading, gradients and effects. But they take up more space. Most of the time, the trade-off is worth it.