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How to send jobs to virtual and external clusters from Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5 to speed up Compressor

compressor clusters fcpx motion

Are your Compressor jobs taking a long time? How about sending jobs to a virtual cluster in your Mac or a cluster of external machines to distribute the workload and speed up the process. This Apple document shows you how.

This new support document from Apple tells you how to send Compressor jobs to clusters for faster processing. What it won't tell you is how to set up a cluster in the first place. There are two types of clusters you can build. A virtual or QuickCluster can be made from the extra cores in your Mac and an external cluster is made from sharing the processing power of other Macs on a network.

Setting up a virtual or 'Quick Cluster' was previously achieved in the Apple Qmaster preference pane. To build a virtual cluster with Compressor 4, the machine has to be made available for sharing via the Apple Qmaster menu 'Share this Computer' in Compressor.

compressor clusters fcpx 2

Click 'Share this computer as a QuickCluster', enable the Compressor services checkbox and then select the options. The rule of thumb is to set the number of instances to half the number of cores you have. Here we can see 2 selected as the iMac has four cores. Is the rendering service left over from Shake we wonder?

compressor clusters fcpx 3

Click ok and you've set up a virtual or QuickCluster.

If you want to set up a cluster with extra machines, a copy of Compressor needs to be installed on each and the services shared. We don't know if the same copy of Compressor can be used, but $50 per Mac isn't going to break the bank.

We did a quick compression test on the office iMac with and without the QuickCluster and were pretty staggered to see how the virtual cluster utilised nearly 100% of all the cores compared to about 60-70% of utilisation without. It proves the gain is worthwhile even on machines with a low number of cores. The test was very basic with a simple virtual cluster setup, so we would be very interested to hear from anybody via the comments section who has some real comparison numbers from larger jobs.

We would recommend a good read of Apple's Qadministrator Help document which goes into much more detail on how to configure a cluster, especially if you intend to use external machines. It can be found in the Qadministrator menu bar which is started from Compressor.

And now onto the main reason why we started the story, how to send Compressor jobs to clusters from Final Cut Pro X and Motion 5! One point to emphasise here, this method will not speed up your renders or the export process itself. FCPX has to export a fully rendered file first before automatically loading that into Compressor.

 

Final Cut Pro X, Motion 5, Compressor 4: Using "This Computer Plus" or other configured cluster

Read the original KnowledgeBase article here.

For Final Cut Pro X 10.0.4 or later, follow these steps to share using "This Computer Plus" or another configured cluster:

  • Choose Export Media from the Share menu.
  • In the Options tab for "Video codec:" choose Current Settings, and for "Open with:" choose Compressor.

Exporting FCPX project

  • Click Next and Save to save the exported file.
  • When Compressor opens add a setting to the open job.
  • Submit the job.
  • In the submit dialog, click This Computer Plus to share to available unmanaged nodes, or select a configured cluster from the drop down.

This Computer Plus Final Cut Pro X

For Motion 5.0.4 or later to share using This Computer Plus or another configured cluster follow these steps:

  • Choose Export Movie from the Share menu.
  • In the Options tab for "Video codec:" choose Current Settings, and for "Open with:" choose Compressor.

Compressor cluster job from Motion

  • Select Next and Save to save the exported file.
  • When Compressor opens add a setting to the open job.
  • Submit the job.
  • In the submit dialog click This Computer Plus to share to available unmanaged nodes, or select a configured cluster from the drop down.

Compressor cluster from Motion

Note: Share to This Computer Plus is no longer available as an advanced option from the Share pane in Final Cut Pro X 10.0.4 or later or Motion 5.0.3 or later.


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I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

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2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. 

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Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.

 

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Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

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I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

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