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Offline editing in Final Cut Pro

“I see that Apple’s Final Cut Pro has the ability to do ‘offline‘ editing. What is this, and why would I use it?”

When editing offline in a video environment, you’re working “apart” from the true editing environment. What this has meant historically is that you’re editing the video in a compressed format. Why? Well, before computers evolved into the speedy, large-storage monsters that they are today, working with processor intensive, humongous files such as digital video was difficult at best. The way editors got around this problem was to make the files smaller by compressing them. Compressed files allowed the computer’s CPU (or dedicated hardware) to process the information easier, and meant more “video minutes” per gigabyte of storage space. This increased editing efficiency and offline editors didn’t have to spend a fortune on expensive storage (which as become more affordable over time). Apple’s Final Cut Pro (starting with version 3) allows the end user to compress DV footage and the results are impressive. For instance, you can derive 400 video minutes (over 3 1/2 hours) for every 10 gigabytes of storage when digitizing with Apple’s Offline RT format in Final Cut Pro 4, versus 45 video minutes when using the native DV format. That’s an awful lot of storage space when you’re working on a project that involves a lot of data.

(A common myth surrounding the DV format is that it is uncompressed video. This is not the case. DV is not only compressed, but the original sampling of the data is done at a lower rate and bit depth than some of the more expensive digital formats. It looks pretty darned good for how inexpensive it is, but hopefully this helps explain why professional digital video equipment still costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.)

So, when you’re finished with your editing how to you get back to your full resolution video? We’ll discuss this in a future Tech Tip.

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