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FCP Video Playback stability

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Neil Gowan
FCP Video Playback stability
on May 23, 2013 at 4:54:31 pm

I'm running FCP 7 on a Mac Pro 2GHz quad core with 4 GB of RAM, running OSX 10.6.8. The machine is getting old (purchased in 2007), but has done a fine job keeping up with all the new codecs that have developed since then (ProRes predominately). I have not had any clients coming to me with 4K workflows, so the probability that this machine could not keep up well with 4K media is not an issue for me (at least not yet).
While playback usually functions properly, maybe 20% of the time I'll wake up my machine and have playback issues for half an hour or so. Common behavior would be something like playing back for 5-10 seconds, starting to jump a few frames, then freezing and giving me the "dropped frames" warning. Obviously, if I'm using Compressor in the background or downloading hefty files or something, playback suffers as a direct result. But sometimes, I'll make sure there are no other programs running and still have similar issues. But, usually after some time, I'll return and playback seems to function properly.
I'm not much of an expert when it comes to hardware optimization, so when I experience playback problems, I don't really know how to fix them. Can anybody give me some tips? Should I re-install my OS? I don't know how to wipe memory or cache, etc...should I do something like that? Should I clean up harddrives? Does FCP have any data that should be wiped clean from time to time? Any other ideas of what might be causing playback issues?
Any thoughts would be appreciated. I know I can't keep using my machine from 2007 forever...but as long as it works for the jobs my clients send me, I'll keep cranking on it.


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Steve Eisen
Re: FCP Video Playback stability
on May 23, 2013 at 10:14:53 pm

I have a 2007 Mac Pro and it still runs great. Your problem is your hard drives. If you do not have a Sata card installed, do it. A good one will cost you around $200. It will give you 4 eSata ports (http://eshop.macsales.com/item/Firmtek/SERITEKQ6G/)

Attach a 4 drive RAID 5 Enclosure and you will get good speed with redundancy.

Another alternative is to RAID the 3 drives on your system. Keep 1 as your system boot drive.

Steve Eisen
Eisen Video Productions
Vice President
Chicago Creative Pro Users Group


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Neil Gowan
Re: FCP Video Playback stability
on May 23, 2013 at 10:27:33 pm

Yeah, I guess I should have mentioned that I do almost all of my editing on external drives...either via Firewire or USB, depending on which drive I'm sent by client.
Would an eSata connection make any difference on playback reliability if I continue working on external drives? Trying to avoid transferring 300-500GB of footage to local drives for each project...but obviously I may not be able to avoid that.
Thanks for the tip...I'll explore that option some more.


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Steve Eisen
Re: FCP Video Playback stability
on May 23, 2013 at 10:57:49 pm

You learned some bad habits. NEVER use USB drives to edit.

[Neil Gowan] "Would an eSata connection make any difference on playback reliability"

ABSOLUTELY! Do some research on connection speed and drive spin speed.

[Neil Gowan] "Trying to avoid transferring 300-500GB of footage"

I do that easily on my system with eSata or my laptop with Thunderbolt Raid.

Steve Eisen
Eisen Video Productions
Vice President
Chicago Creative Pro Users Group


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Tom Laughlin
Re: FCP Video Playback stability
on May 24, 2013 at 4:47:23 pm

If you are really in a pinch, you could try setting your FCP7 playback to the lowest settings. Do a proxy low-res edit, then re-link later. But using Fire-wire 800 or something faster, will definitely help.

Tom Laughlin
Producer/Editor
Digital Chop House
Salt Lake City, Utah


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