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Final Cut Pro X Usage of CPU Cores and Memory

My 12-core 3.33GHz Mac Pro is too darn slow for Final Cut Pro X!

Yes, it’s great that Final Cut Pro X is now 64-bit and that it uses CPU cycles like politicians spend other people’s money— but it’s amazing to me that professionals would consider working with anything less than what I have— it takes a long time.

I am a Final Cut Pro X beginner, so experts out there might work differently, but I have to start somewhere, and FCP X seems a lot more intelligible to me than the previous inscrutable version.

Based on what I’m seeing, here are my recommendations:

  • Minimum 240GB 6G SSD for system/apps (480GB 6G SSD preferred).
  • 48GB or 96GB system memory.
  • 12-core Mac Pro with 5870 video card (or better) mandatory for serious use (no data as yet on the benefit of ultra high end video card).
  • Four fast internal hard drives (e.g. 4 X Hitachi 3TB). RAID X 2 or RAID X 4.
  • External always-connected backup so work can be protected each day.
  • Backup plan with backup drives (at least two full copies).
  • Dual displays.

For a Mac Pro like my setup, get a quote for an MPG Pro Workstation.

Settings

For the discussion below, I enabled a variety of nifty features, anticipating that using the features would chew up some CPU cycles.

Final Cut Pro X preferences
Final Cut Pro X preferences

CPU and memory usage

Show further below is the CPU core usage on my 12-core 3.33Ghz Mac Pro while importing a 750MB MP4 1080p video clip.

Memory usage peaked at about 2.0GB briefly, so the 48GB memory I have in my Mac Pro was not needed for the Import.

Final Cut Pro X CPU core usage on 12-core Mac Pro while importing a video clip
Final Cut Pro X CPU core usage on 12-core Mac Pro while importing a video clip

The Background Tasks window shows what FCP X is doing— what percent done so far on various tasks. This is in-the-background work, so you can do whatever else you want to do at the same time.

Final Cut Pro X CPU core usage on 12-core Mac Pro while importing a video clip
Final Cut Pro X CPU Background Tasks window

For a short while at the beginning, FCP X uses a disappointing 400% of the 2400% possible CPU usage.

But then it picks up steam for other phases, and uses between 1300% and 1800% of CPU power. To be fair, anything beyond 1200% starts to involve virtual CPU cores (not real ones), and doesn’t mean a whole lot in practice. In other words, this is an outstanding use of CPU cores— anything of 1200% or better is all that can really be hoped for.

Final Cut Pro X CPU core usage on 12-core Mac Pro while importing a video clip
Final Cut Pro X CPU core usage on 12-core Mac Pro while importing a video clip

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