FCP 7 Tutorial - Sequence Settings, Part One

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Before You Begin

Before you begin, it's important to know a few things about how sequence settings work in Final Cut Pro. When you create a new sequence for your project, the settings will be determined by the Audio/Video and User Preferences settings under the Final Cut Pro main menu. These settings should be adjusted when you first begin a new project.

When you create a new sequence in any FCP project, you can adjust the settings of that sequence to be different from the settings automatically assigned by your general project settings. This means that you can have different sequences with different settings in your project, or the same settings for all of your sequences. If you plan on dropping all of your sequences into a master timeline to export as a unified movie, you'll need to make sure that the settings are the same for all of your sequences. I recommend checking the sequence settings window every time you create a new sequence to make sure your clips stay compatible, and your final export looks correct.

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The Sequence Settings Window

I'll begin by taking a look at the sequence settings window, focusing on the General and Video Processing tabs, which directly impact the look and feel of your clip. To access the sequence settings, open up FCP and go to Sequence > Settings. You can also access this menu by hitting Command + 0.

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Frame Size

Now you'll be able to name your new sequence, and adjust the Frame Size. The Frame Size determines how big your video is going to be. Frame size is notated with two numbers. The first number is the number of pixels your video is wide, and the second is the number of pixels your video is high: ex. 1920 x 1080. Choose the frame size that matches your clips settings.

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Pixel Aspect Ratio

Next, choose the pixel aspect ratio appropriate to your selected Frame Size. Use square for multimedia projects, and NTSC if you shot in Standard Definition. If you shot HD video 720p, choose HD (960 x 720), but if you shot HD 1080i, you'll need to know your shooting frame rate. If you shot 1080i at 30 frames per second, you'll choose the HD (1280 x 1080) option. If you shot 1080i at 35 frames per second, you'll choose the HD (1440 x 1080).

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Field Dominance

Now choose your field dominance. When shooting interlaced video, your field dominance will either be upper or lower depending on your shooting format. If you shot in a progressive format, the field dominance will be 'none'. This is because the frames in interlaced formats overlap a little bit, and the frames in progressive formats are captured serially, like an old-fashioned film camera.

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Editing Timebase

Next you'll choose the appropriate editing timebase, or the number of frames per second your movie will be. Check out your camera's shooting settings if you don't remember this information. If you're creating a mixed-media project, you can drop clips of a different editing timebase into a sequence, and final cut will conform the video clip to match your sequence settings via rendering.

The Editing Timebase is the only control that you cannot change once you've put a clip into your sequence.

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Now you'll choose a compressor for your video. As you can see from the compression window, there are many compressors to choose from. This is because a compressor determines how to translate your video project for playback. Some compressors generate larger video files than others.

When choosing a compressor, it's good to work backwards from where your video is going to show up. If you plan on posting it to YouTube, choose h.264. If you shot HD video, try using Apple ProRes HQ for top notch results.

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Audio Settings

Next, choose your audio settings. 'Rate' stands for sample rate - or how many samples of audio your audio setup recorded, whether it be a built-in camera mic or a digital audio recorder.

'Depth' represents bit depth, or the amount of information recorded for each sample. For both the sample rate and the bit depth, the higher the number the better the quality. Both of these settings should match the audio files in your project.

The configuration option is most important if you are going to be mastering the audio outside of FCP. Stereo downmix will make all of your audio tracks into one stereo track, which then becomes part of your exported Quicktime file. This option is fine if you're using FCP for fine-tuning audio.

Channel Grouped will create different tracks for your FCP audio, so that it can be manipulated after it's exported in ProTools or a similar audio program.

Discrete Channels makes the most accurate copy of your audio tracks so that you have the greatest flexibility when mastering your audio.

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