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.
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.