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Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP

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Gary Huff
Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 3:08:28 pm

As Mac Pro stagnates, PC workstations muscle ahead


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Steve Connor
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 3:55:58 pm

Very interesting, the latest PCs are much faster than MacPros.

Steve Connor
"The ripple command is just a workaround for not having a magnetic timelinel"
Adrenalin Television


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Oliver Peters
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 4:15:06 pm

[Steve Connor] "the latest PCs are much faster than MacPros."

Actually not, as it relates to what we do. If you focus on editing apps, After Effects or Photoshop, then the PCs and the MPs are actually quite close and in a few of his benchmarks, the MP was faster. I love the HP products, but I would contend that with the huge difference in price, a current MP is still the more cost-effective option. Even more so if you have a lot of FW800 drives in use.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Franz Bieberkopf
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 4:22:12 pm

[Oliver Peters] " I love the HP products, but I would contend that with the huge difference in price, a current MP is still the more cost-effective option."

"Eh? A 2.66 12-core 2010 Mac Pro (the newest model) as specced with a Quadro 4000 and AppleCare is $6600, so it's close to the same price. It doesn't lose everywhere, but where it does it loses pretty badly, and it's obvious it could do much better if it wasn't stuck on ancient technology. Scores for 570s/580s in Mac Pros are plenty enough to show that. It uses more power. It has fewer, slower expansion slots.

It's not like it's useless, and if Apple ever dropped the price on ancient stuff ever then it might have a place, but at that price it's absolutely a poor value. Remember too that going forward, compilers will improve, drivers will get fixed, programs will get updated and the OS will continue to evolve. There is a much higher potential performance ceiling on the E5 and newer cards vs old systems. The deltas aren't going to get any better."


- Xoa, arstechnica comments


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Oliver Peters
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 4:56:16 pm

As far as "lose badly" - look at the apps he's running in the benchmarks. NOTHING an editor would EVER use. A 3D animator is a different story.

Second, you are comparing the price against a 12-core. Almost none of the apps we use are optimized to take advantage of multiple processors. Depending on what you run, you might actually get better results from a faster single-CPU 4-core or 6-core machine. CPU speed is still very, very important. This means you can purchase a cheaper machine.

If you need FW800, then you would have to add a card to the HP for a slight increase in price. I believe his initial spec for the HP was a single VGA output. All Mac Pro stock configs support dual-displays. There's very little advantage to adding the cost of a Quadro 4000 to most Mac Pros. You don't get a lot of benefit from the card and, in fact, it causes more crashing than the currently stock 5770 or the upgraded 5870.

That why these benchmark comparisons are pretty pointless for what we do. They never actually take into account the kinds of machines we need. That being said, though, it was a good, straight-up review with a lot of useful info. You just have to read between the lines, though.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Walter Soyka
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 5:39:14 pm

[Oliver Peters] "That why these benchmark comparisons are pretty pointless for what we do. They never actually take into account the kinds of machines we need. That being said, though, it was a good, straight-up review with a lot of useful info. You just have to read between the lines, though."

I agree with Oliver that you need to be careful reading benchmarks. You have to understand what technologies help the software you use work best, and you have to understand what a benchmark actually tests in order to use them to make an informed decision.

Straight-up editorial does not need a sizzle core beast in 2012. You can get by pretty well with just a modern laptop and some fast disks.

Add something like After Effects for compositing, effects or motion graphics? Different story. Likewise with video compression (or heavy multi-stream decompression, for that matter). CPU-bound tasks like these do exploit multiple cores, so powerful workstations offer big benefits if your workflow goes beyond editorial. (If your workflow and application choices benefit from a RED Rocket or multiple GPUs, there's the additional expansion options of a workstation to consider as well.)

3D applications are often more demanding still, and at this level, not having a powerful workstation like this actually becomes a liability. When a PC workstation throws up a CINEBENCH score 50% higher than a Mac Pro, it has no bearing on an NLE, but it does mean that a C4D user can expect their render times to drop by roughly a third. A scene that renders in an hour on a Mac Pro will render in 40 minutes on one of these PCs.

For everyone here who does more than edit, these workstations are something worth thinking about.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Herb Sevush
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 6:03:28 pm

[Walter Soyka] "Straight-up editorial does not need a sizzle core beast in 2012. You can get by pretty well with just a modern laptop and some fast disks."

Walter you've said this many times in the past and you are way more knowledgeable than I am on the subject, but a lot of my editorial time is spent rendering timelines, cross grading clips, and compressing for both DVD and h264 files, along with using either motion of AE for compositing (which is why I have so much time to post on the Cow.) This seems like a fairly normal workflow to me and unless I'm missing something all of that activity is helped by multiple cores - or isn't it?

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Walter Soyka
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 6:33:45 pm

[Herb Sevush] "Walter you've said this many times in the past and you are way more knowledgeable than I am on the subject, but a lot of my editorial time is spent rendering timelines, cross grading clips, and compressing for both DVD and h264 files, along with using either motion of AE for compositing (which is why I have so much time to post on the Cow.) This seems like a fairly normal workflow to me and unless I'm missing something all of that activity is helped by multiple cores - or isn't it?"

You're stuck with FCP7 for its multicam workflow. FCP7 is very limited in this regard. If you were running FCPX or Pr CS6, you'd be surprised how much faster all this can be (even on the same hardware) and how much more you'd be able to do in real time.

(I did also specifically call out compression as an area where multiple cores help, and I mentioned multi-GPU applications with Resolve in mind.)

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Bill Davis
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 6:52:54 pm

Coincidentally, I came across this earlier today...

http://itsmorereal.tumblr.com/post/26834078599/the-better-question

I found it fascinating.

With the huge delay between the MacPro upgrades, it caused me to wonder if Apple simply felt the massive success of their iProducts in the market place had given them the luxury to stop the refinement cycles on the MacPro line - to focus on a real innovation cycle instead.

Totally speculative to be sure, but the ideas contained in the article line up pretty well with what I've seen happen over the past couple of decades.

FWIW.

"Before speaking out ask yourself whether your words are true, whether they are respectful and whether they are needed in our civil discussions."-Justice O'Connor


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Herb Sevush
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 7:02:31 pm

[Walter Soyka] "You're stuck with FCP7 for its multicam workflow. FCP7 is very limited in this regard. If you were running FCPX or Pr CS6, you'd be surprised how much faster all this can be"

Forgetting me for a moment, doesn't PPro, which has to render everything at the output stage, gain a lot from multiple cores?

Herb Sevush
Zebra Productions
---------------------------
nothin' attached to nothin'
"Deciding the spine is the process of editing" F. Bieberkopf


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Walter Soyka
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 10, 2012 at 8:16:40 pm

[Herb Sevush] "Forgetting me for a moment, doesn't PPro, which has to render everything at the output stage, gain a lot from multiple cores?"

Premiere is very well multi-threaded. It can use multiple cores at output as well as during normal use (for complex native media decode and realtime effects).

My point about the benchmarks here is that editorial performance will also be dependent on other factors including RAM, disk subsystem, and GPU. Unbalanced tests like CINEBENCH which stress primarily the CPU are not necessarily a good indicator of overall NLE performance.

A lot of people here on the COW are very happy cutting on MBPs and iMacs. You used to absolutely need a workstation to edit, but now you can do it on a consumer-class desktop or laptop if you want to. Is there more performance to be had from workstations than laptops? Of course (unless we are talking FCPX and the outdated Mac Pros). Is that worth a 2x to 6x price difference? Depends on your needs and expectations.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Bret Williams
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 1:25:47 am

Yeah I can't think of an editorial app that doesn't utilize multi processors and GPU. Sans FCP legacy. Motion, FCP x, compressor, after effects, resolve, premiere, photoshop, and I'd figure Avid.

The iMac is now a horrible platform for Adobe. The GPU isn't supported for ray tracing in AE, and it's not supported in Premiere without a hack. However I've found that the hack actually slows performance and eventually causes a freeze.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 1:38:26 am

[Bret Williams] "Yeah I can't think of an editorial app that doesn't utilize multi processors and GPU. Sans FCP legacy. Motion, FCP x, compressor, after effects, resolve, premiere, photoshop, and I'd figure Avid. "

Actually NLEs don't make good use of multiprocessors. They may use all the cores in a single processor, but they don't make good use of more than one processor. That's why a faster 4-core will often outperform a slower 8-core. Avid actually does a good job of processor utilization and in the case of Photoshop, it does lean on the GPU more than ever. Motion is big on pushing the GPU.

It's also a matter of when and where this performance is applied. For example, in X, the machine doesn't kick in full during renders, but it does when rendering upon export. One of the reasons to avoid rendering while working, unless you really need to. It's all about optimization rather than brute horsepower - although a bit more use of brute horsepower would be welcomed!

Another example. People keep saying that Resolve has to have a second GPU. That's flat incorrect. There is a benefit, but it's hardly essential. Yesterday on a MP 12-core with an ATI 5870 and 32GB RAM, I was working on Resolve Lite. Playback was real-time (24fps) but rendering was actually at about 50fps! Not too bad at all. Seems like there, Resolve actually uses the power.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Michael Gissing
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 2:18:02 am

Oliver, what codec & frame size? Adding a second powerful but cheap NVIDIA GPU to a Win Resolve setup will surely pay for itself if working with challenging footage like R3D etc.

The fact that Resolve is pretty good with a single ATI says much about their software.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 2:35:24 pm

[Michael Gissing] "Oliver, what codec & frame size?"

Typically I'm working in some flavor of ProRes at 1920x1080 at 23.98fps. I think the example I mentioned was 25fps and ProResLT.

[Michael Gissing] "Adding a second powerful but cheap NVIDIA GPU to a Win Resolve setup will surely pay for itself if working with challenging footage like R3D etc."

True, but it can cause other issues if this workstation is being used for more than just DaVinci. Not sure on Win machines, as my work is all on Macs. BTW - I never work natively in R3D. I feel it's a very inefficient approach for anything except down and dirty short-form jobs. I convert to ProRes using Redcine-X Pro first. Resolve Lite will take larger frames than HD, but the max output is 1920x1080.

Here's a review I did last year when R8 was released, with some performance tests that I did at the time:

http://digitalfilms.wordpress.com/2012/01/20/davinci-resolve-8/

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Michael Gissing
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 11:20:33 pm

Thanks Oliver. The reason I mentioned a Win machine is that up to date grunty GPUs are cheap compared with Mac needing older more expensive NVIDIA cards. I have the same issue with my MacPro already running an ATI card for FCP. Resolve Lite was working on that machine and I mostly work in ProRes422 for broadcast so 1920 x 1080 is fine.

However the logical thing for me is to quarantine the Mac with FCP Legend still operational and start again with Resolve & CS6 on a Win box. So aside from benchmarks, issues of running software that can take advantage of NVIDIA CUDA makes me confident that CS6 and Resolve can live together. My other issue is the Mac has a Kona card and although I was able to add a Decklink to the MacPro it makes sense to not try to run too many apps and cards on one machine.

On using R3D to grade, well I just love the goodness of being able to get in and adjust ISO and colour temp. Most RED work I do is short drama and we always relink to the R3D in Color to grade. I hope to do the same in Resolve as it gives so much more grade latitude and control.


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Gary Huff
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 5:39:13 pm

[Oliver Peters] "Actually NLEs don't make good use of multiprocessors. They may use all the cores in a single processor, but they don't make good use of more than one processor. That's why a faster 4-core will often outperform a slower 8-core."

Not from my research. Premiere CS6 will use whatever you can provide, including multiple processors.


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Oliver Peters
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 5:52:27 pm

[Gary Huff] "Premiere CS6 will use whatever you can provide, including multiple processors."

You're probably right. I haven't a lot of specific testing, but PProCS6 definitely performs better with plug-ins and has faster renders than X on the same machine.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters Post Production Services, LLC
Orlando, FL
http://www.oliverpeters.com


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Gary Huff
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 7:09:04 pm

[Oliver Peters] "You're probably right. I haven't a lot of specific testing, but PProCS6 definitely performs better with plug-ins and has faster renders than X on the same machine."

Too late. Jerry Hofmann has already proclaimed X to be the fastest NLE in the entire woild!


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Chris Harlan
Re: Big Iron Shootout: MacPro vs Dell and HP
on Aug 11, 2012 at 8:50:27 pm

[Gary Huff] "Too late. Jerry Hofmann has already proclaimed X to be the fastest NLE in the entire woild!
"


Period.


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