I love my 2016 MacBook for a variety of reasons, but there are still some areas where its Core M processor struggles to keep up. When it comes to exporting 4K video, the MacBook shines due to Intel Quick Sync Video hardware encoding. Editing 4K video, however, is much more taxing on the MacBook, especially when employing various effects and color correction.
Thankfully, Final Cut Pro X has built-in features that allow users to edit 4K video on even the most anemic of systems. In this post, we’ll show you how to leverage proxy media in order to successfully edit video on an underpowered Mac.
Use proxy media
Proxy media significantly enhances playback performance in Final Cut Pro X’s viewer by lowering the video quality to one-half resolution. In Final Cut Pro, proxy media is converted to Apple’s ProRes 422 Proxy format.
How to create proxy media
There are multiple ways to create Proxy media in Final Cut Pro X: You can do so upon initial media import, or you can do so after media is imported.
On the media import screen, you’ll see an option under the Transcoding section to create proxy media. Ensure that this option is checked to convert all imported videos to proxy media right after import.
The second way to create proxy media can be employed after media is imported. Simply right-click on the media that you wish to convert to proxy media, select Transcode Media and check the box next to Create proxy media and click OK. You can also create proxy media via the Info tab in the Inspector.
How to force the viewer to display proxy media
Just because you create proxy media doesn’t mean that Final Cut Pro X’s viewer is displaying proxy files. You’ll need to manually switch to proxy viewer mode to benefit from the less resource-intensive files.
To switch to proxy viewer mode, click the View button in the upper right-hand corner of the viewer window, and click Proxy under the Media heading.
Any files that haven’t been converted to proxy media will display a Missing Proxy File alert icon. You’ll need to transcode this media to proxy before it will display properly in the proxy viewer.
How to see if a media file has an associated proxy file
To see if media has an associated proxy file, select the media in the browser, open the Inspector, and click the Info tab. Under the File Information heading, you’ll see a green dot next to Proxy if proxy files exist for this media. If no proxy media exists, you can click the Generate proxy media button.
Switch back to Optimized/Original prior to sharing media
Remember, proxy media exists just to help take pressure off your system while editing. Before you share (export) media, be sure to switch back to Optimized/Original media in the viewer by clicking the View button, and selecting Optimized/Original under the Media heading.
Switching back will ensure that your exported file will be of the highest quality. If you don’t do this, you may notice significant file degradation on the final product, and that’s not what you want. Besides, exporting is easy if you choose an encoding method that takes advantage of Intel’s Quick Sync Video.
Downsides of using proxy media
There are some downsides to using proxy media, although none of them are big enough downers to convince me not to employ its use. Here’s a look at four things that can make editing with proxy media a challenge:
Space. Although proxy files are much smaller than original media, creating these files still takes up additional space on your Mac. This may be especially concerning for those of you editing on machines with limited space. That said, I use proxy media all the time on my 512GB MacBook and rarely run into any issues.
Transcoding. Final Cut Pro X needs to transcode your original media in order to create proxy media. Not only does this require some processing power, but it also adds time to your workflow. I generally opt to create proxy media on import, so there is additional time added to beginning of my workflow.
Lower quality editing experience. Although the final exported video file will retain all of the visual fidelity of the original file, editing with proxy media means editing lower quality (half-resolution) files in the viewer. This generally isn’t a problem, but it takes some getting used to if you’re accustomed to working with original media.
Switching back to original media upon export. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve accidentally exported my final product while still using the proxy viewer. As noted above, you’ll need to make sure that you switch back to the Optimized/Original viewer before exporting your media in order to retain the most visual fidelity. This can be hard to remember to do initially, but after producing several projects, it becomes part of the routine.
Proxy media really is a wonderful provision to have. Without it, I wouldn’t be able to edit 4K video files on my MacBook without some significant slowdown. I find proxy media to be helpful when editing Full HD (1080p) media as well. Proxy media allows me to breeze through the editing process, relatively speaking, and still be able to export a high quality finished product.
Although this walkthrough is aimed at MacBook users who may be editing 4K video in Final Cut Pro X, it might be appropriate to use Proxy Media with more powerful machines as well.
Do you edit video with Final Cut Pro X? If so, do you ever see the need to employ the use of proxy files?
You can purchase Final Cut Pro X for $299 from the Mac App Store.