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New iMac for After Effects

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isabel xav
New iMac for After Effects
on Jun 8, 2017 at 3:46:23 pm

I need to upgrade my 2012 macbook pro, and the new iMacs seem to be a good option right now. I don't know which one to get and what upgrades to make, and thought someone could help. I know that the best thing would be to get the best one, but I don't want to spend more money than necessary.
I work mainly with After Effects, but I also use Photoshop, Illustrator, Premiere a lot. Sometimes everything at the same time.

There are two iMac 27" options I'm considering are:

3.5GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor
Turbo Boost up to 4.1GHz
8GB 2400MHz memory, configurable up to 64GB
1TB Fusion Drive
Radeon Pro 575 with 4GB video memory


3.8GHz quad-core Intel Core i5 processor
Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
8GB 2400MHz memory, configurable up to 64GB
2TB Fusion Drive
Radeon Pro 580 with 8GB video memory

The main difference here seems to be the graphics card. Do I need to get the Radeon Pro 580 or is the 575 enough? Does it make much of a difference for After Effects?

I can upgrade both models with the 4.2GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.5GHz.
Is it worth it? Does it make a big diference for After Effects? I read that After Effects won't benefit much from the Hyper-Threading, is that true? Will this make the computer have better performance while using multiple apps at the same time or not?

I'm planning on buying it with 8gb RAM and adding two 16gb later. That would give me 40gb. Can I do that or is that a problem?

Thank you very much!

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Michael Szalapski
Re: New iMac for After Effects
on Jun 8, 2017 at 6:21:18 pm

The biggest factor in AE's speed is the clock speed of your processor. Going from 3.8 on the i5 to the 4.2 on the i7 is going to be a noticeable difference.
Some things in After Effects are multithreaded now (like the C4D renderer and the new Camera Shake Deblur) so having multiple cores does help somewhat.

The GPU doesn't a whole lot for After Effects. However, more and more is being GPU-accelerated. Fractal Noise, Gaussian Blur, Fast Box Blur, Lumetri Color, Sharpen, Brightness and Contrast, Find Edges, Glow, Hue/Saturation, Invert, and Tint have all been given the GPU boost and more has been promised in the future.
Now, some third-party effects render entirely on the GPU or are accelerated heavily by it - Element, Red Giant Universe, Zaxwerks 3d Invigorator, ShapeShifter, etc., for example. So, it really depends on what kind of stuff you will be doing.

Can you get two SSDs in iMacs? AE benefits from having a fast SSD that's separate from your main drive.

It's generally considered a good practice to match your RAM sticks. You don't want to mix sizes.
Also, if you plan to upgrade later, make sure it's possible first! A lot of Apple products these days have stuff soldered into the main board and can't be upgraded later, so check before you buy!

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.

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Kevin Camp
Re: New iMac for After Effects
on Jun 8, 2017 at 8:49:08 pm

I agree with Michael.

CPU speed is the best performance boost to AE. Then RAM amount. I'd also try to get an SSD over the GPU upgrade.

Getting RAM from OWC (other world computing) or other retailers is cheaper than from Apple, so that might help you to afford an SSD (and the RAM is easy to install).

There is a second SSD slot (at least on iMacs as late as the late 2015 models), but Apple does not offer that as a CTO option... OWC does sell a kit and the instructions to do it yourself, but it is not easy, and will void your warranty. Finding the fastest Thunderbolt or USB3 SSD may be a better route. Also, you don't need a huge SSD for the internal drive, you can save all your projects, footage and files on relatively cheap external drives... multi-terabyte USB3 drives are quite affordable.

I don't believe you can upgrade the GPU afterwards, so that is one argument to get as good of a GPU as you can at purchase, but I think i'd still lean towards getting an SSD over the GPU upgrade.

Kevin Camp
Art Director

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