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Optimizing your system for FCPX?

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Samuel McClure
Optimizing your system for FCPX?
on Aug 7, 2014 at 2:12:44 am

I know you guys have probably seen this post a billion times (because I've already googled those posts!), but I'm at my wits end. I'm doing a film project that uses green screen compositing in addition to a lot of textures and Red Giant filters. Unfortunately, as soon as I put even a single effect on a clip, the preview and all the control panel sliders start to lag. It's very difficult to do anything effects related on my system, and I was hoping that someone might know how to remedy this. I'm tried every fix I could read up on:


I upgraded my 2011 imac to 20 gb of ram, which my system tells me is fully functional
All my footage is on a Firewire 800 external drive
All my hard drives have been checked in the disk utility, and they are all half empty.
I've hidden all events and projects in FCPX that I'm not currently working on

So am I missing anything? Or is it just really hard to composite shots on an imac? Thanks in advance!


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Bret Williams
Re: Optimizing your system for FCPX?
on Aug 7, 2014 at 4:36:46 pm

What processor? The 3.4ghz i7 makes a tremendous difference. What GPU? X is practically powered by the GPU for this stuff. For a 2011 iMac ideally you'd want the 27" 3.4 ghz i7 with the 2gig top end 6970m GPU. If you're using the i5 with stock lower end 1gig GPU I could imagine it getting laggy. Make sure you're running in better performance mode for playback.

Unfortunately the FW800 bus might be a little underpowered for your needs, and there's no USB 3. Thunderbolt drives would be a much faster choice. The internal drives would give you better performance, but obviously with limited space.

RAM should be plenty.


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Samuel McClure
Re: Optimizing your system for FCPX?
on Aug 7, 2014 at 5:04:25 pm

Yeah, I've got a 2.5 GHz Intel Core i5. Graphics card is a AMD Radeon HD 6750M 512 MB. And yeah, even with proxies FCPX is almost unusable on my machine.

I know it's hard to say without using the computer yourself, but in your opinion, would it be better to sell my imac and buy/build a new system (I'm going to be doing a lot of compositing for the next couple years, and need a fast machine) or could I just upgrade the internal hd and fix most of my problems?


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Bret Williams
Re: Optimizing your system for FCPX?
on Aug 8, 2014 at 1:33:32 am

The i5 isn't capable of hyper threading, so it has half the virtual cores. And 512 mb graphics card is pretty underpowered for compositing/editing. Isn't this the base model or something? Upgrading your hard drive isn't going to help much. I wouldn't bother. Of the 3 issues in play, GPU, CPU, and HD, the HD is the least important for compositing.

I sold my 2011 i7, 3.4ghz, 2gig6970m, because the 2012 had USB 3 (plenty fast for HD work), and an Nvidia GPU that was Adobe friendly. It's a much better (less reflective) screen as well. But you do lose the built in DVD burner. However, for $80 I bought a portable blu-ray burner which I can move between machines, so it wasn't such a bad thing. Sell your iMac while it's still worth something.


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Sam McClure
Re: Optimizing your system for FCPX?
on Aug 8, 2014 at 11:55:16 pm

Thanks for the information, this has been really helpful. Here's the imac I'll be replacing it with:

Late 2013 27" imac
3.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
8GB 1600MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2X4GB (I'll upgrade it to 16)
1TB Fusion Drive
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5

This is positively killing my wallet ($2500!), but hopefully it's a good investment.

If I could ask you one last question: if I'm editing on a usb 3 drive, does it matter what internal hard drive I have? , I've read that the fusion drive helped speed up the system, but I don't know whether usb3 makes that redundant or not.


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Bret Williams
Re: Optimizing your system for FCPX?
on Aug 9, 2014 at 12:49:27 am

If you're on a budget you can skip the fusion. It's a nicety. Apps launch faster, the system boots faster. But it's not going to do anything for editing as all your media should be in an external if for no other reason than it just takes up a lot of space.

I'd go ahead and get 32gigs of RAM. That will make a difference. FCP X can and will use all of it, especially if you're using motion templates. But don't buy the RAM from Apple obviously. OWC is good but you can get it cheaper even if you're feeling daring.


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Sam McClure
Re: Optimizing your system for FCPX?
on Aug 9, 2014 at 4:09:48 am

Excellent, thank you so much! And yeah, their ram prices were laughable.


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