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Final Cut Pro X Slowdown
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BeachBall= a "Wait" Cursor. "Appears when a delay of more than 2 to 4 seconds occurs".

Final Cut Pro X user interface slowness, lagging, or "beach balling", can be caused by different things. When the spinning beach ball appears, it can mean that the hardware is trying to catch up to software requests or problems with a corrupt or incompatible file (preference, firmware, driver, font, app, media, etc). It also can be caused by a problem in the app itself.

Final Cut Pro X has some hesitation and stalling issues, but in some cases, something else may be the cause. For this problem with FCPX, or even Mac OS X, we'll have to wait for a fix from Apple. I expect further FCPX optimization with the next update.

Here is a list of some solutions for FCPX slowness I have found and that have been reported by others.

01) Shut down FCPX and restart it. Also try rebooting your Mac. I have found that if slowness starts to creep in after using FCPX for a while, shutting it and/or my Mac down and restarting usually helps.

02) Check to make sure you have the latest version of FCPX (currently 10.1.4) via the App Store.

03) Allow all of your timeline waveforms to finish generating before you start editing.
If you have an older computer, turn waveforms and thumbnails off.

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04) Check your machine specs for FCPX especially RAM and the GPU. If you just have the minimum system requirements and a Mac older than a few years, you can expect minimum, sub par performance and regular visits from Mr Beachball. Final Cut Pro X is a modern application and requires modern hardware for the best performance.

For example, I can edit using FCPX on my 8-core 2008 Mac Pro with upgraded 12 GBs RAM, an SSD startup drive, a 1 GB 5770 graphics card and eSata connected RAID, but my top of the line 4-core 2013 iMac with a Fusion drive, 24 GBs RAM, 4 GB graphics and Thunderbolt RAID is faster and operates smoother.

05) Disconnect all peripheral devices, especially USB 2 and FireWire 800 Devices. If your Mac has USB 3 and Thunderbolt, edit a test project on a USB 3 or Thunderbolt external drive. Or use your internal drive (just for a test). If this eliminates or reduces beach balling, connect your external devices back one at a time. Observe which one causes a slowdown. Replace it with a USB 3 or Thunderbolt device. If your Mac doesn't have USB 3, it will be limited to slow USB 2 speeds. Firewire 800 would be better.

USB 2 is very slow, usually around 30MB/s. Firewire 800 is about double that at 60 MB/s but that is really a minimum speed in 2014. USB 3 averages around 130 MB/s and Thunderbolt is the fastest of all. Using a Thunderbolt RAID 0, 5 or 6 with 6 or more disks will yield a data rate up to 1,000 MB/s.

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06) Make sure "Prevent App Nap" is checked in FCPX's Get Info window.

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A step-by-step tutorial to disable App Nap is located here.

07) If you are working with a large Managed media Library, turn it into an External media project.
See how here.

08) Make sure you have at least 15% space left on all hard drives. A full hard drive can slow down your system. Select your drive in the Finder and hit Command - I to bring up the Get Info window. There you can see how much space you have available.

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09) Close other applications like your web browser and mail program. Use as few apps as possible while using Final Cut Pro X if you are experiencing slowness.

10) Create and login to a new user account with a basic install (no 3rd party apps, drivers, firmware or plugins.) That should eliminate 3rd party apps and plugins and corrupt or incompatible drivers, fonts, firmware and preference files as a cause of the slowness since they won't be in this new user account.

11) Did you install any app or plugin just prior to the slowdown (especially MacKeeper)? Uninstall it and try running FCPX.

12) Try a brand new project in a new Library. If you are only having problems with a specific project, try that project on a faster machine. Try to identify what is different about the problem project (lots of large tggraphics, compound or multicam clips, different source media, etc) If you are using a lot of compound clips, consider breaking apart their clip items.

13) Close all Libraries that you are not currently using.

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14) Check Activity Monitor for a renegade app or process with high CPU usage. Applications > Utilities > Activity Monitor. Also keep track of how much RAM you have available and if any app besides FCPX is using large amounts of RAM. Quit the application(s) in question from the dock to see if that helps.

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15) Boot into Safe Mode by holding the Shift key while booting your Mac. This process checks the startup volume, clears some caches, loads only required kernel extensions, disables all startup items and login items, etc. Then restart your Mac normally and try FCPX.

16) Having many markers in an FCPX timeline can really cause a slowdown according to some (thanks to @David_Fabelo for the heads up on this one). 100 markers seems OK, 200 markers really slows things down. Also keep the Timeline Index closed when not in use.

17) Keep all unused windows closed, especially the Inspector, Scopes and Multicam.

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18) If Spotlight is indexing while you are editing, that could slow things down.
If the Spotlight search magnifying glass has a black dot in it,

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Spotlight is indexing something. To stop it, go to System Preferences - Spotlight - Privacy and then add what ever is being indexed (click on the Spotlight magnifying glass to see what is being indexed). Especially add the Final Cut Pro Backups folder in your Movies folder (via Creative Cow forum). You can remove any drive or folder from Spotlight's Privacy tab to restart Spotlight indexing. This process will make a new Spotlight index which can take hours. So do it when you are not using FCPX. More info on working with Spotlight can be found here.

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19) Turn off FCPX, OS X and 3rd party background processes like background rendering and Time Machine. If you are experiencing UI slowness, your Mac needs all the CPU cycles and RAM it can get. "Background" processes are stealing your Mac's resources. You can monitor what background processes are running in Activity Monitor.

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20) Not all media is created equal. Try editing with proxy or optimized media and render your timeline. This could help with older, minimum spec machines, multicam clips and more complex timelines with many lanes. Try a test project with optimized media, versus editing with your original media, to check for better performance.

21) Break apart large projects into several smaller ones, to see if that improves performance. Loading a very large project with 100s of GBs of media might be stressing your Mac's available resources.

22) 3rd party plug-ins, Titles, Generators, Transitions and Effects could cause FCPX to slowdown.
Duplicate your timeline and remove any 3rd party effects from the duplicate timeline. If your speed improves, add them back one at a time to see which one causes the slowdown. (Thanks to Bob Trikakis for the heads up on this one).

23) A failing hard drive or bad RAM module could cause the beach ball to appear.
If a hardware issue is causing your problem, UI slowness and other problems would most likely be seen in other apps besides Final Cut Pro. Run Disk Utility to check hard drive health and a 3rd party utility app like Tech Tool Pro to test memory and other hardware.

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If you continue to have hardware problems, make an appointment with an Apple Genius at an Apple Store to get your Mac checked out.

If you'd like to read more about slowness, here is an extensive article about slow performance on a Mac "Why is my computer slow?"

Also see Troubleshooting Final Cut Pro X

Have you found another FCPX slowdown? Send it here

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Copyright © 2014 Richard Taylor. All rights reserved.
Apple, MacPro and Final Cut Pro X are registered trademarks of
Apple Inc.
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