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The right machine for the job ...

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Stu McAlister
The right machine for the job ...
on Jan 2, 2010 at 5:34:32 pm

Hello COW,

I am in a bit of a quandry about investing in a Mac Pro ... here\'s the problem;

I edit a bi-weekly 26 minute show (PAL 4:3) using Final Cut Pro on a 6gb iMac which I bought in June \'09.

From time to time the programme says \'insufficient memory\', to which I close FCP and reboot the iMac. So, I am looking at some way to speed up the rendering process and increase my productivity.

The show consists of footage from 3 cameras shot on DV against green screen and external graphics (PNGs and .mov etc). There are then 3 separate backgrounds to be keyed-in.

There has just been an injection of cash as far as a new budget is concerned and I am looking to purchase a new machine - a Mac Pro.

Naturally, if you ask a dealer, they\'ll give you any old guff just to sell you a machine.

I would prefer opinions from users themselves. So, I don\'t have the luxury of waiting for Apple to release new kit ad this, ideally, would be online by Jan 18th.

From the Apple Store, this is what I would choose:

8-Core 2 processor
16Go Memory
1 x 1To disc (bay 1)
1 x 1To disc (bay 2)
ATI Radeon Graphics card

... would my processing speed remain the same as on the 6g iMac or would it be vastly improved?

I am not interested in multi-tasking as this new machine would be FCP only.

All honest opinions would be very much welcomed!

Stu


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Michael Sacci
Re: The right machine for the job ...
on Jan 2, 2010 at 6:21:31 pm

If you don't use Motion and Color the only place you are going to see a difference is with rendering and encoding.

The thing about a MacPro is the ability to build a system, more external video options, faster drive systems and the like.

The processors will be fastest even at the same clock speed plus there are more processors. Once again the speed is only really seen in rendering and encoding.

So the question would be is there specific things you want to gain? Is there a better place to spend the money and use the system you have? Is there anything that is frustrating you about the iMac with regards to your workflow.



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Stu McAlister
Re: The right machine for the job ...
on Jan 2, 2010 at 6:52:51 pm

Thanks for that Michael.

Firstly, the iMac does tend to take its time with rendering. Even some of the most simple tasks can take time. Out of the box it was a 4g machine but I put a further 2g in it and didn't see much improvement.

No, I don't use Motion or Color.

What I'm looking for is a machine that will speed up rendering time. I use a number of 3rd Party effects such as chroma key and transitions.

I have recently been bombarded with suggestions and the personal specifications of others but still remain somewhat shell-shocked. I really don't understand the inner workings of these machines but am only looking for a step in the right direction.

To summerise, I don't think I can improve the iMac as it's a closed unit but would dearly like some help in 'building' a Pro uniquely for FCP - to speed up rendering time thus allowing me more time to do other things. Like have a life other than in front of a screen.

Thanks again.


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Michael Sacci
Re: The right machine for the job ...
on Jan 2, 2010 at 8:09:42 pm

well I think going to a MacPro will help some now but hopefully when Apple finally optimizes all the Pro apps to take advantage of the multiprocessors it will be like unleashing a beast. But no one knows when this will be. There is a lot of untapped power that FCP will not touch.

But personally I would get a middle of the road 8-core 2.66 Ghz . If you really don't do much with Compressor, Motion or Color, I may suggest to get a faster 4-core 3.33Ghz (it would render faster right now, I would probably leave the memory at 6GB since you don't use Motion or Color. Leave the system drive as standard and then get (2) 1TB drives in the other bay and just stripe these drives together (not including the system drive) this gives you a nice big speedy Media drive. Then but another 1TB in the 4th bay for a Time Machine back up of you system drive.

Once again at this time FCP doesn't use the graphic card but that will hopefully change in the future. So spending the extra $200US for the ATI 4780 is a gamble but not a big one. Once again it is more important for Color right now.

End of the day there is not a wrong choice here. There are 2 reasons to buy top of the line, you need all the power you can get right now, which it seems is not your case or you want to get the longest life out of a system, the highest end adds about 6 months of useful life over the slower system (this is totally my opinion here) Normally I feel the current MacPros should be useful in production for 3-4 years. I just sold off a Quad G5 but the person that bought it is plugging away editing DVCProHD projects without a problem.

Hope this helps, to sum it up I would probably go with middle of the line speed on the 8-core or high end 4-core.



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Stu McAlister
Re: The right machine for the job ...
on Jan 2, 2010 at 8:35:53 pm

Michael,

Thank you for being quite so frank. It has taken 2 weeks to arrive at such a well explained set of ideas.

Although others have tried their best, it has often been a case of 'and you must get this that and the other'. However, it is not THEIR cash I am gambling.

I will take a look at the Apple Store again and weigh up the 4 bay disc loading suggestion.

Upgrading the graphics card is not such a big deal, especially when you take into account the overall price.

FCP itself seems to be the bug-bear here as the more you throw at it, it just grinds away at its maximum 4g. However, for the sheer thrill factor I may well go for a slightly higher RAM than 6.

Once again, thank you for taking the time to explain - and in such detail.

I am indebted to you.

Stu


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Michael Sacci
Re: The right machine for the job ...
on Jan 2, 2010 at 11:19:28 pm

Oh, I never order the extra drives from Apple. For less then their prices you can get enterprise class drives. I'm assuming you are not in the US since you work in PAL. I normally buy ram from macsales.com and drives from mwave.com

Glad I could be of some help.



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Stu McAlister
Re: The right machine for the job ...
on Jan 3, 2010 at 8:13:32 am

Michael,

That\'s a very good point. However, whenever we import from the US, the value of the goods are declared on the outside of the box/packet. We are then stung for a further 50% of the declared price making it much the same to have bought the product here. If the declared value is marked down, and if the package is lost or damaged, then financially we loose again.

I love the US for its prices but hate Europe for its greedy import tax.

Stu


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