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Setting up a Qmaster Cluster in Final Cut Studio's Compressor 3.x

By Heath McKnight

Since I work on a Mac laptop featuring an Intel Core 2 Duo processor, I need to take full advantage of that dual-core processing action when it comes to using Final Cut Studio's Compressor 3.x.  I didn't realize that without setting up a Qmaster Cluster, I'm not taking full advantage of all processors available to me, even in a networked scenario.

Setting Up a Qmaster Cluster
The Qmaster is an automated system that Apple created to help with heavy-duty workflows, like working in Compressor.  According to Wikipedia, it also works with Shake, Logic Studio, and even Alias Maya. Setting up a cluster is very easy, and this workflow is just to set one up with the processors in your computer, be it two or even eight. 

First, open System Preferences (either from the Dock or the top toolbar under the Apple logo), and click on Apple Qmaster (under "Other," bottom of the menu).  Click Stop Sharing (if it's currently on), and it's time to set it up.  Look at how I set it above to get a feel for what may work for your system.  If you have a quad-core or 8-core system, you'll want to set up 4 or 8 "instances."  To do so, click on "Options for selected service."  For my system, it defaults to 1- or 2-instances, since I only have a dual-core machine. 

Qmaster Settings in System Preferences

I don't really touch anything under Advanced, but I do make sure I have selected "QuickCluster with services," "Shared" and "Managed" under "Services" (for both Qmaster and Shake--just in case I ever use Shake, which I may on my next film which is visual FX-heavy; you don't need to), I name it (Qmaster Cluster), and then I click Start Sharing. Restart your Mac.

Using the Qmaster Cluster On Your Mac
Once you're done with a project in Final Cut Pro, go to File, Export QuickTime Movie and create a QuickTime Movie (Final Cut Pro-version) of your project (see my article on creating QT Movies: Right-click the QT Movie and open it with Compressor 3.x.  Once Compressor is open, choose whichever codec you're going to use, be it a way to encode to a device (like the iPod, Apple TV, iPhone, etc.), DVD, web, etc., and now it's time to take advantage of the Qmaster Cluster.

Make sure you select

Once you've dragged your settings and destinations to the QT Movie, hit Submit. It's important that you DON'T select "This Computer," because you won't be taking full advantage of your processing power. Instead, select "Qmaster Cluster" and hit Submit.  For my example, I chose a 30 second 720 x 480 DV NTSC QT Movie and the settings were under MPEG, Transport Stream.  My MacBook features a 2.16 Ghz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB RAM.  I suspect if your system is beefier, you'll get faster results.  With the Qmaster, it took 3 minutes and 12 seconds. 
For fun, I chose "This Computer," and it took only a few seconds longer at 3 minutes and 22 seconds.  As you get into longer projects and encoding to DVD, you'll notice a bigger increase in speed with the Qmaster Cluster, as I have on other systems with more processors and more RAM.

Hopefully this will help you out as you use Compressor with the Qmaster Cluster set-up with your Mac's processors.  Of course, you can use it with a network of computers and Apple has a PDF manual that will help you out:

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Heath McKnight is a filmmaker and author who has produced and directed several independent feature and short films, including Hellevator, 9:04 AM and December. He is currently web content manager for doddleNEWS. Heath was also a contributor to VASST's best-selling book, "The FullHD," and has written for TopTenREVIEWS and Videomaker.

Related Keywords:Qmaster Cluster setup, video editing, Final Cut Pro, NLE, video editing workflow,

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