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iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..

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Kevin Douglas
iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 19, 2014 at 9:32:50 pm

Might be a bit early to be asking this as the newer iMacs are just getting out there but I'm interested in buying a new box and wanted to see if any of you guys had an opinion on which way I should go.

Currently editing (primarily use FCPX) on a 2013 27" imac I7 (3.4gig), 32 gigs of ram using Pegasus Tbolt external drives. Have the fusion internal HD.

I've started shooting some 4K and though I don't have a lot of issues with how the current box edits (it's smooth enough for the amount of work we do) I would like something that encodes quicker. Basically my workflow goes like this.. Ingest footage, edit to taste, master at Prores (1080 for now), then take that Prores master and encode to various mp4 bitrates for web use. I've been using Sorensen Squeeze for years to encode the mp4s, haven't done much with Compressor.

So my question is whether to buy a completely top of the line iMac 5K (with the fastest processor and GPU) or to buy one of the 8 core Mac Pros with the upgraded dual D700s. I realize there is a substantial price difference, but putting that aside, would I get a MUCH improved encoding speed or smoother editing experience with the Mac pro over the new iMac 5K?

Or conversely, would I even be getting much of a bump (other than the 5K screen) of upgrading to the iMac 5K over my current imac..

Any opinions appreciated!


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Anders Utterstrom
Re: iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 19, 2014 at 10:44:03 pm

Just moved the new Nuke Studio over to the 5K iMac. Compared to my 7 year old iMac, this machine is a good machine. Remember, the TB buses are not necessarily 6 vs 2, I would call it 1 HDMI vs 2 dual.

I think the 5K iMac will be a beautiful machine for editing. Like most of us, I'm behind the curve of the best technology, but this machine will, without out a doubt, do what I want.

I have also installed Squeeze on it, but I have no comparative results using it. Doubt that I will never, as I'm taking a giant leap from from my old set-up.

Ciao,

Anders Utterstrom
Chicago, Illinois


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Noah Kadner
Re: iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 19, 2014 at 11:53:35 pm

With your MP4 focused needs I'd definitely go with the iMac as it has a built-in H.264 hardware encoder that the Mac Pro lacks. See here for more details on that http://www.larryjordan.biz/mac-pro-video-compression/

Shameless plug- FCPWORKS can set you up with one of these systems tricked out for FCP X if you're not sitting with your credit card trigger finger on another provider already. :)

Noah

FCPWORKS - FCPX Workflow
Call Box Training


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Bret Williams
Re: iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 20, 2014 at 4:12:31 am

The accelerated h264 encoding only works as single pass. Perhaps he's doing multiple pass which is sloooooooow and not much difference in quality if any these days. I'd only do it for a real important final final final.


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Joe Marler
Re: iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 20, 2014 at 5:13:35 pm

Since encoding performance for web delivery is your top concern, evaluate whether the version of Sorenson Squeeze uses Intel's Quick Sync on-chip transcoder. The latest version does but you must pick the right encoding format. Your 2013 iMac's i7 has the CPU hardware, the issue is whether the software is using that.

Quick Sync is only available for single-pass MPEG-2 and H.264, but it is vastly faster than software or even GPU-accelerated encoding. In most cases for web-destined content, single-pass encoding may be good enough. In most cases I can't see any difference.

This is a key issue because the Xeon CPU in Mac Pros do not have Quick Sync. A Mac Pro may do other things faster but it definitely will not do single-pass H.264 faster.

I think in general an 8-core Mac Pro with D700s is somewhat better for a full-time professional video editor but there are many types of workflow. If you are editing less and rendering more, then maybe the Quick Sync-equipped iMac would be better.

The 4Ghz retina iMac is about 15% faster from a CPU standpoint than your current iMac. It's the same Hasell CPU generation, so the instructions per clock will be identical. The M295X GPU performance is debated but most benchmarks show it a modestly faster on some tests than the 780m in the 2013 iMac.

There is some debate about fan noise on the retina iMac when pushed really hard. Peak power consumption in the 2013 iMac i7 is 229w, vs 288w on the 4Ghz retina iMac, so the fan will probably run a bit more often. This isn't an issue on the Mac Pro.

You already have an iMac that supports Quick Sync, so I'd suggest doing some tests with your current machine and Sorenson Squeeze. You want to evaluate whether you are already using it, or if not can you. If using it is the output quality OK? If you are using it, try multi-pass H.264 which will *not* use it and evaluate the performance difference.


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Kevin Douglas
Re: iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 20, 2014 at 5:28:00 pm

Thanks Joe, appreciate the information. I'll run those tests..


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Bret Williams
Re: iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 20, 2014 at 6:20:28 pm

I'd also compare the same results directly from the timeline of X and see if it's any better or worse than the squeeze results. I can't imagine squeeze would be better since they're both accessing the same hardware encoder on the cpu. Eliminating squeeze would further simplify, accelerate, and cheapen your workflow.


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Kevin Douglas
Re: iMac 5K or MacPro? Encoding questions..
on Nov 20, 2014 at 6:23:25 pm

Good point, Bret- will try that as well. Been using Squeeze for years and just gotten into that habit.. ;)


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