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Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?

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Jenn Lindsay
Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 18, 2014 at 5:39:23 pm

Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?


Dear friends,

I have been editing for many years in FCP 6 on a MacPro I bought in 2005. It served me very well. I moved out of the country and I am preparing to buy a new machine to edit on.

I am looking at the iMac 21.5" with the following specs added:
* 3.1GHz quad-core Intel Core i7 (Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz).
* 16GB of of 1600MHz DDR3 memory
* 1TB Fusion Drive

Of course I'll have them load FCPX and get Apple Care.

Do I need all this stuff? Is it enough to for what I do? I'm essentially a DIY amateur editor who likes things to look really nice--but I don't require technical perfection or do fancy graphics stuff (though I'd like to be able to learn/play/grow--on my last machine I made lots of intros and whatnot in Motion). I teach at a university and use my documentary footage for teaching and conferences. So I like it to look profesh, and I probably know more than I think I do, but I'm woefully inarticulate about what I am actually doing and what specs I need.

What about a SuperDrive? Do people find themselves needing it?

I really appreciate any guidance that can be offered! Thank you so much!
Jenn


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 18, 2014 at 8:01:21 pm

The first and foremost relevant component when working in FCP X in terms of overall performance is: GPU. Then comes RAM, then comes disk, then comes CPU. So as long as you're getting the "top" model 21" (which already maxes out at 1GB VRAM) and not one of the others, then you're fine. But obviously the 2-4GB GPU on the 27" would be exponentially better.


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Bret Williams
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 18, 2014 at 8:20:13 pm

You don't need the Fusion drive. It's a nicety. The iMac and it's apps will launch a little faster. They don't operate faster. And I wouldn't buy AppleCare either. That's just added profit. I don't see the value. But some do.

The RAM is important (get AT LEAST 16gigs if not 32) , but it's almost a tie with the GPU. Unfortunately with iMacs you can't max out the GPU unless you buy the 27" and I know that bumps the cost up a notch. The plugins and templates these days are just eating up RAM and need so much GPU horsepower. If you're buying your RAM from Apple, don't. It's ridiculously overpriced. Buy from OWC or other 3rd party. Put the money you save into a 27" with maxed GPU.


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 8:26:17 am

[Bret Williams] "(get AT LEAST 16gigs if not 32)"

They don't have a 32GB option. Unless you go with a 27" that is, in which case I'd skip the extra RAM and put that money into the GPU. You can always upgrade the RAM should you actually need it later.


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Jenn Lindsay
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 9:02:24 am

Thank you kindly to all for your feedback!

It makes me nervous to spend so much money on a machine that is maxed out in any way (ie, the 21.5" Mac that only hits 16GB of RAM). And come to think of it I had eventually partitioned the hard drive on my 2005 MacPro and added 3TB of drive space and 32GB of RAM. I was working with FCP 6 in OS10.5 but could go over to the OS10.7 partition for other tasks.

So if I start to look at the 27" iMac as a machine I can grow with and possibly push my graphics skillz further....which of the two options (between 3.2 and 3.4GHz) makes the most sense? With which enhancements exactly? --I assume just the 1TB Fusion drive if I can add 32GB of cheaper RAM myself?

It makes me nervous to think of adding RAM to the 27" myself, but is it really truly easy? I understand that non-Mac RAM is way cheaper.

All who reply are really truly helping me and I really appreciate it. This is an important and costly investment and I want to be smart about it being a machine that meets my present needs but also has room to work with my future needs. And yet I am anxious about not being wasteful and overambitious, because Mac is so costly, especially overseas. My next documentary film will be science-related so I am already envisioning all the cool graphics I can teach myself! Like, transparent rotating brains!

Thank you!
Jenn


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 10:30:56 am

[Jenn Lindsay] "which of the two options (between 3.2 and 3.4GHz) makes the most sense? "

Well, if you want the best possible machine for FCP et al, then you're "stuck" with getting the 3.4, since the 3.2 only offers the 1GB GPU. The 3.4 has 2GB with an optional 4GB upgrade. So depending on your budget, I would go for either the stock 3.4 and at the most upgrade to the 4GB. Never mind the Fusion Drive. When working with video, you shouldn't be editing off of your internal disk either way. I'd save that money and get a decent external USB 3 drive and simply stick with the standard internal disk.

[Jenn Lindsay] "It makes me nervous to think of adding RAM to the 27" myself, but is it really truly easy?"

Yes. On the the 27" it's super easy, it's just a push of a button: http://support.apple.com/kb/HT5540?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US
It's the 21" that is a huge pain since you literally have to take it apart.

I would just keep in mind that the only thing between GPU, CPU, disk and RAM that you can upgrade later on an iMac is RAM and disk (though disk is something for an Apple technician to do). So getting the 4GB GPU would be much more future-proof. BUT, the 2GB will still be great, should the extra money be an issue. Disk and RAM can be upgraded as needed at any time and CPU is the most irrelevant of them all in the context of working in FCP (and Motion). It comes with 2x4GB RAM, I would simply get an additional 2x8GB upgrade elsewhere where it's cheaper... which isn't hard to find with Apple's RAM prices. ;)


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Jenn Lindsay
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 11:15:16 am

Robin, thank you again.

Let me clarify since I'm not yet as savvy as I want to be.

So if I go for the 27" 3.4GHz, you recommend that I:
* upgrade the graphics to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5 (only $150, which is doable in the scheme of things)
* leave the storage to the in-built 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm and then work with external drives.
* Figure out the RAM upgrade to 2x8GB or 4x8GB on my own in a cheaper place.

I want also to ask you your opinion on the processor. There is the stock 3.4GHz Quad-core Intel Core i5, Turbo Boost up to 3.8GHz, or the upgrade option to a 3.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7 with Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz. Can you please tell me what you think of this upgrade option, given my present intermediate abilities and desire to improve/grow/make solid docs, but probably not be a professional editor or feature filmmaker?

:) I appreciate it!
Jenn


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:13:40 pm

[Jenn Lindsay] "you recommend that I:
* upgrade the graphics to NVIDIA GeForce GTX 780M 4GB GDDR5 (only $150, which is doable in the scheme of things)
* leave the storage to the in-built 1TB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm and then work with external drives.
* Figure out the RAM upgrade to 2x8GB or 4x8GB on my own in a cheaper place. "


That sums it up perfectly, yes. :) But I'd say that 24GB of RAM will do you just fine for a good while. You can always exchange the 2x4 with 2x8 later if you need.

[Jenn Lindsay] "I want also to ask you your opinion on the processor. "

Well, that's a tough one. The vast majority of operations pertaining to apps such as Final Cut Pro 10 and Motion are done on the GPU not CPU, which is why I personally put it at the end of the list in terms of relevance to overall performance. If you work a lot in the 3D realm on the other hand, then CPU is king. So in the end it's more of a question of what you see your primary applications being and, again, budget. To put it into purely technical terms look here: http://cpuboss.com/cpus/Intel-Core-i7-3770K-vs-Intel-Core-i5-3570K and you'll see the difference is (mostly) relatively small, therefore a question if that additional speed is relevant and worth the extra money to you. I'd personally invest the money elsewhere, especially since it doesn't seem that it's your bread and butter (at the moment), so probably more in the area of "luxury" than actual need. But that's for you (and your wallet) to decide. ;)

Any money you spend on a GPU and/or RAM upgrade will get you exponentially further in comparison.

Cheers,
Robin


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Jenn Lindsay
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:27:55 pm

Okay. Awesome. I do work in Motion but not 3-D stuff. I don't really see that happening in this lifetime at least. So I think investing in GPU and then souping up the RAM with a cheaper input purchased outside Apple-land is my best bet.

While I have your helpfulness on the line, can you recommend how/where I can get this 2x8 RAM when the time comes? Is there a certain brand or spec I should be looking out for?

Your input is very helpful, thank you! I believe you know approximately a thousand times more than the sales guy who tried to help me at the Apple Store in Boston a few months ago.


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Brett Sherman
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:39:15 pm

I'd also say that a 21" monitor is no where near enough desktop real estate to edit with on a regular basis. Operations just become slower because you have to shift windows around a lot. If you go the 21" route (which I wouldn't recommend for RAM upgrade reasons) you'll want to get a second monitor. Of course it's not a bad idea to add a monitor to the 27" also for your events window. But you can make the 27" by itself work.



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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:50:16 pm
Last Edited By Robin S. Kurz on Sep 19, 2014 at 12:50:43 pm

[Jenn Lindsay] "can you recommend how/where I can get this 2x8 RAM when the time comes? "

Seeing that I'm in Germany, I'm probably not the best person to ask. ;) But I'm sure others here can make recommendations. But from what I gather, OWC ( https://www.macsales.com ) is a good place to look if in the U.S..


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Rick Lang
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 3:47:12 pm

Jenn, if you can manage the budget, get the i7 processor rather than the i5. The i7 supports multi threading which means you have the ability to run 8 threads at once. The i5 is not multi-threaded so you only run 4 threads. At times, such as when you render output, the i7 will be using all the threads you have.

Good luck!

Rick Lang

iMac 27” 2.8GHz i7 16GB


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 19, 2014 at 3:54:17 pm

[Rick Lang] "At times, such as when you render output"

Then again FCP X uses the GPU predominantly (if not exclusively) for output, so even then it wouldn't make much, if any, difference. Even a version of RED that doesn't use the CPU but rather the GPU for encoding/decoding is coming out. Finally.


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Jenn Lindsay
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 20, 2014 at 9:32:47 pm

Dear Robin,

Can you please tell me what RED is?

Thank you!
Jenn


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Craig Alan
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 20, 2014 at 9:22:27 pm

Leave room in your budget for an external raid. Look at owc for these as well as ram. You can go thunderbolt or USB 3. Thunderbolt is great if you will be daisy chaining addition drives or other add-Ons in the future. Which I think you will since cheaper high end codec cams keep coming out. Thus massive amounts of media.

You most likely do not need that big a system drive. Although you don't need a SSD at all it does speed up loading apps which when you use it feels very nice. FC does seem to load fast anyway but there is this delay in a regular drive when you double click to load.

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Jenn Lindsay
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 20, 2014 at 9:36:04 pm

Dear Craig,

Thank you for your input!

Can you please tell me what an "external raid" is?

The camera I am working with now is a Canon HF-10 and the file type is AVCHD. I have about thirty hours of footage to work with for my current project. Is that a codec cam?

Please forgive my ignorance. I am a totally pragmatic user and work alone and don't always know all the names for what I am using and only learn it when I need to or encounter it.

Thank you!
Jenn


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Robin S. Kurz
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 20, 2014 at 9:50:09 pm

RED = http://www.red.com (camera company with their own proprietary and still extremely *CPU* intensive codec)

RAID = http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RAID

;)


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Jenn Lindsay
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 20, 2014 at 10:00:31 pm

Dear Robin,

http://lmgtfy.com/?q=thank+you+very+much+for+all+your+help

;)


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Craig Alan
Re: Buying iMac 21.5"--Specs for FCP X?
on Sep 21, 2014 at 12:18:49 am

Sure.

read this:

http://www.larryjordan.biz/fcpx-when-to-optimize-media/

The system drive is the drive that is installed in your computer. The media drive is either an internal drive in a computer that can house more than one drive like a tower computer or an external drive that is attached to the computer with an interconnect such as usb, firewire, thunderbolt. A raid is seen as a single drive but is actually two or more drives that have been raided together. This marriage can be done either through software (apple disk utility can do it) or hardware where they are housed in a unit. Raids can edit faster and handle more streams of video than a single drive of the same capacity. If you are buying a new Mac they come with usb 3 and thunderbolt. The advantage to thunderbolt is they can be daisy chained so that each device is connected to each other and connected to the Mac with one input. Thus a chain.



So lets say you buy a 4 TB raid and it gets full but you are still working on projects on it or need access to the media on it. You can then buy a new one and connect it to that one. Viola, you now have 8TB. Keep in mind that raids like single drives should not be more than 75% or 80% full. On the low end this is a solid choice:
http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/METB7DH4%2E0T/

and here's an overwhelming list of them: https://eshop.macsales.com/Search/?Ntk=Primary&Ns=P_Popularity%7c1&Ne=8050&...

Mac Pro, macbook pro, Imacs (i7); Canon 5D Mark III/70D, Panasonic AG-HPX170/AG-HPX250P, Canon HV40, Sony Z7U/VX2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; FCP X write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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