Tip #1535: Better Options Working with PDF Files

… for Apple Final Cut Pro X

Tip #1535: Better Options Working with PDF Files

Larry Jordan – LarryJordan.com

Scale PDF images BEFORE bringing them into Final Cut.

The Page Options dialog in Photoshop scales the PDF image before import.

Topic $TipTopic

When you import a PDF file into Final Cut, it gets converted into a PNG. This causes problems when you need to scale the image because PDF files, generally, retain image quality when they are scaled. PNGs do not.

Essentially, the PNG is created at 100% of the size of the PDF page AFTER it is scaled to fit within the frame size of your project, not the original size of the PDF itself.

This conversion means that we can’t zoom into a portion of the PNG image without seriously losing image quality.


If all you need to do is import the entire PDF page without zooming into a portion of the page, use this workaround.

Workaround #1: Open the PDF in Preview, choose File > Export and set the export format to PNG. This exports the PDF at the size it was created, not the frame size of your project. (You could, also, use this as a way to enlarge a PDF image to do a screen grab of a portion of a page.)

NOTE: Ignore the Resolution setting on export, even if you choose a higher number, the size and resolution of the exported image won’t change. I consider this a bug.

If you need to zoom into elements on the page – for example to provide closeups of an embedded image – this workaround is a better option:

Workaround #2: Open the file in Photoshop, or another image editing program. In the Page Options dialog (see screen shot) that appears: Set the Resolution to at least 400 Pixels/inch. This enlarges the image – while retaining image quality – so that you can easily zoom in or out of the PDF in the timeline.


There are two types of PDFs: those that originated as bitmaps and those that originated as vectors.

Photos, scans and Photoshop documents will not scale very well, if at all. Text, Illustrator files or images created using musical notation should scale perfectly.

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6 replies
  1. Graham Read
    Graham Read says:

    Hi Larry,
    There is also a $49 solution available on FX Factory that allows you to work with Adobe Illustrator (.ai) and PDFs directly in FCPx keeping them as native vector graphics and allowing full scaling. It’s called osm.Importers.
    Only thing I don’t like so much is that you don’t see a thumbnail of the graphic in the timeline – only the plugin icon – so if you use it many times in a project it’s hard to spot where you are!

    • Adam Thorpe
      Adam Thorpe says:

      Hi Graham,
      I think it is also possible to import .ai files (and .psd) directly into Motion. By turning off ‘Fixed resolution’ you can scale vector files indefinitely. Courtesy of Ripple Training.


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