Final Cut Pro X Layers Error

For those of you who may not know, I am a freelance videographer and editor. On Monday night I came across an error that almost ruined an entire project.

I was compositing a shot that ended up having a lot of effects and layers. Here’s a screencap:

Not counting the two audio files at the bottom, there were 7 layers of video each with an effect (Fade to Color) attached at the end. At the top of the screencap you can see an orange glow, which indicated unrendered video. If the video isn’t fully rendered then the video cannot be exported. This small portion of the video (literally 15 frames, half a second) would not render. My computer froze up and all of its RAM, etc. filled to capacity.

The computer in question is a 2.66 i7 MacBook Pro with 8GB of RAM and about 250GB of space full on the HDD. This should not be happening. After literally hours of rebooting and tinkering with various settings I figured out the solution: There were too many layers in the project.

If you want to recreate the same problem, here is how I ended up solving it. I duplicated the entire base of the project, then added on each successive layer until it failed to render. It finally failed when I tried to add the sixth layer. Therefore, the maximum number of layers you can have stacked in Final Cut Pro X is 5. I don’t mean you can’t have more than five layers total, but if you are stacking images/lower thirds/text/etc. you cannot exceed five layers or else it will fail on you quite spectacularly.

My solution was to create the whole video, minus the offending layers. I then exported the fully rendered video and added created a brand new project. The rendered video is then added as the base of the new project, to which I added the layers that were causing the project to fail. Because the previous layers were all rendered down to a single video project, I could then add another four layers to the project without worrying about failure.

I hope this post helps other editors who are having trouble with the relatively new Final Cut Pro X. FCPX has a bit of a learning curve for those of us who are used to the older versions and do not have experience with iMovie (which FCPX was based on). It can be a tricky app to use, but once you get the hang of it I’ve found it can produce great results.

3 Responses to “ Final Cut Pro X Layers Error ”

  1. I just tested this on my home iMac (2007, 8gb ram). And I was able to layer 17 video and still clips and they render and export without a problem. 1080p timeline.

    Perhaps this is something to do with your setup. I would try all the usuall troubleshooting. Perhaps it is a specific effect.

    As an aside I added the “artifacts” effect to each clip and trying to render my 5 second test was going to take about 50 minutes to render (3% in 3 minutes — I stopped it before it was done). But exporting to prores without rendering took about 12 minutes.

  2. Do you think it could be bad RAM? I just upgraded to 8GB of Crucial, and the other specs are in the post. I haven’t tried to recreate the error because I see the processes go off the charts with iStat. What do you think the issue could be with my setup? That I’m using media on the internal drive and not an eternal HDD? Other suggestions? I’m curious because I don’t want to run into it again.

  3. Vince. Shoot me an email. Perhaps you can send me part of your project and I can see if I can recreate the problem.


Leave a Reply