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Advice on new Mac editing setup please!


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Matt: Based on what you have now, I'd agree it's time to upgrade. But, I wouldn't recommend my setup. The MBP 13in doesn't have a fast graphics card. I was just using it as an example regarding my comment about not investing in more than you really need right now. I'm only playing with short-form stuff with the D5300. When I move on to my longer, feature-length projects I'll be upgrading my hardware. If I didn't want to keep my main machine mobile, I'd go for an iMac. More bang for the money. 

 

Chrisso has a good point about never buying the first new product until the early adopters shake out all the bugs.

 

When I upgrade, I'll still want to stay mobile, so I'll be getting the 15in MBP with the GX750 graphics card, solid state drive, max'd RAM, with an external thunderbolt solid state dedicated to video projects only. I've got a thunderbolt 27in now, but will likely daisy chain a second one at some point. 

 

If you don't need to be mobile, I'd lean toward the iMacs. If you're on a budget like me ;) I'd get the 21in iMac with the fastest graphics card available, max out the RAM myself, buy it with a solid state drive already installed since they're a pain to do yourself, add an external thunderbolt solid state drive, and add another thunderbolt monitor as my second display. You can assign either display as your main screen with Mavericks. I'd set the 27in thunderbolt as my main display, and use the iMac 21in as my secondary display. I'd buy the iMac and thunderbolt displays as refurbs from Apple since they have the same warranty as the new stuff, and use your savings to buy the external thunderbolt drive and extra RAM. 

 

As far as calibration, the mac stuff gets close enough. People get all anal about perfect calibration, then forget that none of the screens that will be viewing their work will be calibrated. They'll be on displays that are all over the map. Just get it close and that should be perfectly fine for most applications. 

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As far as calibration, the mac stuff gets close enough. People get all anal about perfect calibration, then forget that none of the screens that will be viewing their work will be calibrated. They'll be on displays that are all over the map. Just get it close and that should be perfectly fine for most applications.


More important than buying the better hardware is becoming smarter in using the devices one has. I heard this argument before, that the people at home have terrible displays. But they are used to them, they color correct any cast or gamma offset subconciously, and they can tell a badly graded clip from, say, The Hobbit. With awareness and intelligence, you can can reach 95% of a perfect setup. With the best hardware, you are prone to forget that your own eyes are the least reliable instruments when it comes to grading.
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I don't want to wait for rendering anymore so GPU is one thing that's very important to me. I think this is what I'm going for:

 

iMac 27"

3.5Ghz Quad i7

24Gb RAM (8GB with iMac, 16GB from third party)

1TB internal SSD (anyone know if flash this large is reliable?)

4GB graphics card

 

I'll see how I do with one monitor for now. I have a 1TB USB 3 drive to keep old/mobile projects on, and I'll use an old 2TB FW800 drive for time machine.

 

I'm not over the moon about having all that storage internally, but it seems like a good deal for SSD atm, and altogether makes makes for a very neat, self contained editing package.

 

I'll still have my old MacBook Pro for portability, so may look into sharing editing in FCPX with proxy media.

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1TB internal SSD (anyone know if flash this large is reliable?)

 

Reliability of SSD:s should not be affected by size. Every SSD has a few percent of extra storage to use for redundancy - if some blocks fail and can't be written to anymore, it uses the for redundancy/errors reserved space instead. Which means, even if some areas of the drive fails, it will be transparent to the user - the drives storage controller detects and handles the errors and uses the extra space when needed.

 

However, the reliability of SSD:s varies among brands. Intel and Samsung SSD's have faired better than others in failure rate reports. I believe there are Crucial SSD's in iMacs, maybe other brands are used as well.

 

If you're lucky, an SSD will just continue to work. If you're unlucky, an SSD is dead on arrival, dies suddenly within weeks, months or years. When that happens, it's often the storage controller on the disk that dies, the data will be recoverable - but likely at a high cost.

 

So, if you're using a 1TB SSD for system, I highly recommend to keep the full system backed up to a hard disk. Should the SSD die, you can then just replace the SSD on warranty and use your backup to get everything copied to a new disk.

 

 

Also, noone does as thorough and proper computer tech reviews as Anandtech, and Anandtech just reviewed the Mac Pro, comparing it to older Mac Pros, iMacs and Macbook Pros: http://anandtech.com/show/7603/mac-pro-review-late-2013

 

In a short summary: the new Mac Pro has its major advantages when there is a lot of parallell processing power or GPU power needed. In everything else, it's not much faster than most other Macs - even slower for certain use cases.

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Thanks Johan, that's all very useful. I went ahead with the system I listed above (maxed-out 27") - it arrives monday. I think this will be more than adequate for my needs and will hopefully last me a while. I got the applecare thingy so I'll be covered for 3 years if the SSD goes kaput. I know the recommendation with spinning discs is not to put all your video stuff on the same drive as the OS, but I'm hoping this isn't the case so much with SSD's.

 

I'm also hoping my output rate will go up significantly without the pain of such a slow computer!

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  • 4 months later...

Thanks Johan, that's all very useful. I went ahead with the system I listed above (maxed-out 27") - it arrives monday. I think this will be more than adequate for my needs and will hopefully last me a while. I got the applecare thingy so I'll be covered for 3 years if the SSD goes kaput. I know the recommendation with spinning discs is not to put all your video stuff on the same drive as the OS, but I'm hoping this isn't the case so much with SSD's.
 
I'm also hoping my output rate will go up significantly without the pain of such a slow computer!


I'm in exactly the same decision making situation right now. Having been running your system for a few months now do you have any thoughts or advice regarding your new setup? I have 2008 15" MBP, FW Drobo and peripheral misc external drives. In particular I'm deciding between iMac per your specs and a system like the one described by Skip. I reckon either would be splendid.
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I'm in exactly the same decision making situation right now. Having been running your system for a few months now do you have any thoughts or advice regarding your new setup? I have 2008 15" MBP, FW Drobo and peripheral misc external drives. In particular I'm deciding between iMac per your specs and a system like the one described by Skip. I reckon either would be splendid.

 

It really depends upon your needs. If you can do without the portability then it's a no brainer to go for the iMac. More spec for less money. When you need portability you'll still have your current Macbook. I am very glad I went with the iMac. It's pretty future-proof in terms of video too.

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I believe the 2012 iMac 21" was handicapped by not allowing more than 8GB RAM but this is no longer the case. I also ordered a configured iMac which should arrive in a few weeks. The only thing I regret is the lack of Thunderbolt 2, which my MacBook Pro has, and which I imagine will be standard on the next refresh (this fall?).

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I think some of the recommendations on this thread are complete overkill for AVCHD/ 422 Prores. I'm always surprised at how well FCPX runs on my mid-2012 Macbook Air (i5 1.7ghz), almost the lowest-spec. True, I'm not sure what would happen if you attempted a feature-length project, and I assume that 4K and raw video are out, and you can't run Resolve (no discrete graphics), but for short 422 Prores projects, FCPX flies along, basically. If you use intensive effects like Optical Flow you have to be a little patient, but everything renders away in the background and the interface doesn't slow down so you can carry on working on other parts of the project. If you pile the effects on really thick then that part of the project will drop frames during playback, but I don't see that too often. USB 3 external drives work great. 

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I think some of the recommendations on this thread are complete overkill for AVCHD/ 422 Prores. I'm always surprised at how well FCPX runs on my mid-2012 Macbook Air (i5 1.7ghz), almost the lowest-spec. True, I'm not sure what would happen if you attempted a feature-length project, and I assume that 4K and raw video are out, and you can't run Resolve (no discrete graphics), but for short 422 Prores projects, FCPX flies along, basically. If you use intensive effects like Optical Flow you have to be a little patient, but everything renders away in the background and the interface doesn't slow down so you can carry on working on other parts of the project. If you pile the effects on really thick then that part of the project will drop frames during playback, but I don't see that too often. USB 3 external drives work great. 

My very first video camera was a Panasonic TMC-900 camcorder. When playing back the 60p files, the picture would stutter on my old 2011 13" MacBook Pro. So I installed a Samsung 840 SSD. The ability to watch smooth playback of my clips was certainly worth the relatively small investment. When running Clipwrap to convert the AVCHD files, I often had to wait as long as an hour for processing to complete, during which time the memory would be completely depleted. So I upgraded to 8GB RAM from 4GB. With each upgrade, I saw a dramatic improvement in performance, and editing, which used to be a time-consuming chore, became more endurable. Recently, I purchased a rMBP 15" with 8GB RAM, which, while a lightning fast machine, is barely sufficient for FCPX. If I run any other apps at the same time, I'm running on virtual memory. And once I discovered DaVinci Resolve and plug-ins like LUT Utility (and more recently, the fabulous mLooks), suddenly 8GB RAM and the Iris Pro graphics card were grossly insufficient. And so on and so on... If I were to search for an analogy, what if the SD card in your camera took 30 seconds to buffer between every shot (assuming it doesn't already!)? Even if all you were doing was still life work in a studio, it would make your life miserable. I feel the same way about slow computers and storage. Sure, if you're happy doing rendering overnight and dropped frames are just a minor nuisance, it's good enough I suppose. But since I discovered the joys of color grading and I intend to spend much more time at the computer, a fast one is not only desirable but absolutely necessary.

 

As for USB 3, it sure beats the hell out of USB 2! And I'm quite happy with my new Seagate Backup Plus Fast 4TB bus powered portable drive. But as soon as I can, I'm going to pick up the LaCie Little Big Disk Thunderbolt 2 for its speeds of 1,380 MB/s (compared to 230 or so for the Seagate). 

 

If all someone is going to do is 1080p with little grading, no LUTs, no NEAT video, no intention of ever using Resolve, or getting into 4K, almost any computer today is fine for HD video. But if you are looking to expand and grow, you need a powerful machine. And as I learned the hard way, it's much cheaper to purchase the best you can afford than to keep selling and upgrading.

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