The present and future of post production business and technology | Philip Hodgetts

Dec/13

23

Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro X: First Impressions

A loaner Mac Pro arrived from Apple on Friday afternoon. It’s a 12 core, dual D700 GPUs, 512 GB Flash storage and 32 GB of RAM. Here are my initial thoughts after three days.

The Mac Pro is beautiful. It’s really hard to describe the color because it changes. I think it will fit in with any decor because it takes on tones of what is around it. Rather hard to explain but rather beautiful. It is every bit as small as everyone says it is, although not terribly light!

It is damned quiet. With a Compressor Batch and Final Cut Pro X looping a 4K RED native timeline in the background we managed to push the CPU.

At least the CPU is working hard.

At least the CPU is working hard.

The Mac Pro’s noise level went from “I can’t hear it at all” to “I can just hear it if I lean right in and listen right next to it”. But of course, if the RAID was running, there’s now way of hearing the Mac Pro even under extreme load. This is a totally different experience of a heavy-iron Mac.

I suspect the hard drive enclosure folk are going to be pushed to make quieter enclosures. Perhaps its a good thing that Thunderbolt 2 drives can be up to 60′ (about 20 meters) away with optical cables.

Drive speed is going to be your limiting factor in most cases. I haven’t been able to push overall performance. Because I had RED RAW 4K footage from the recent Digital Cinema Society presentation and could only do one stream with Best Performance on my laptop under 10.0.9, I moved that Library to the internal Flash RAM being the fastest storage currently available.

With the Best Performance setting I could comfortably work with five streams of RED RAW. One more and the limit was reached. I believe with Best Performance, FCP X 10.1 is doing an adaptive Debayer of the image (between 1/8 and 1/2). At Best Quality it is doing a full Debayer of the image. I was able to get one stream of RED RAW (an .R3D file) playing consistently at Best Quality but no more.

Other formats don’t have the quality difference and with my own DSLR footage and some Alexa ProRes files I’ve yet to find a practical limit beyond that of my storage.

Working native RED is very viable at Best Performance. Rarely have I ever layered up four or five layers in an edit. (Motion Graphics shot, sure, but not in regular editing.)

While I wait to borrow some faster storage over the Christmas break, we’re running a test on Content Auto-Analysis, to see if it’s feasible on the Mac Pro. Analysis times on my MacBook Pro Retina 2012 had made it unfeasible.

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9 comments

  • Dave Lavery · December 23, 2013 at 4:47 pm

    Thanks for the great info. Any tests with Premiere, or AFX?

    • Author comment by Philip · December 23, 2013 at 5:44 pm

      If I get time I’ll do Premiere Pro CC.

      • Robin S. Kurz · December 27, 2013 at 4:24 am

        According to The Verge, you won’t see any real difference with PPro (apparently the NLE that EVERYONE uses as opposed to FCP X which no self-respecting pro uses… of course). Which isn’t surprising since it has yet to get any type of optimization (i.e. OpenCL, dual GPU support etc.).

        http://www.theverge.com/2013/12/19/5227466/the-new-mac-pro-2013-hands-on

        • Author comment by Philip · December 27, 2013 at 9:13 am

          Actually, the version of Premiere that the Verge used was not the Dec 13 release which does have dual GPU optimization for the Mac Pro included. Plus the other benchmarks that show it’s only 8% faster are based on single threaded CPU only tests. IOW, useless.

          • Robin S. Kurz · December 30, 2013 at 1:27 pm

            Pretty much my point, yes. ;)

  • Robert De Saeger · December 23, 2013 at 6:51 pm

    Very very impressive. And what is truly incredible is the silence. Being in a room and having your MacPro running full throttle and listing to the Fan can be harsh after 4 to 8 hours.
    Thank you very much for your first postings on the Black Goddess.
    hcri50

  • Simon Morice · December 24, 2013 at 2:20 am

    I think we all appreciate your review of this machine. On the DP Buzz you suggested an 8 core machine would be adequate. Do you think that’s still the case or are you seeing real benefits from the one you’re testing?

    • Author comment by Philip · December 24, 2013 at 8:17 am

      For Final Cut Pro X/Apple software I would definitely go 8 core if I were buying. Remember this is a loaner machine that Apple configured. I was actually expecting to get an 8 core like pretty much every other reviewer.

      For After Effects which is still heavily CPU, I’d probably want the 12 core but it’s a to of extra money for a little extra performance. In general I find “one down from the top” to be the best value position for Mac Pros.

      • Robin S. Kurz · December 27, 2013 at 4:26 am

        More CPU power would of course be a huge boon for apps such as Cinema 4D, too. Otherwise, as far as NLEs in general are concerned, hardly.

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