Mac Pro 4.1 Nehalem beeing outperformed by 06 Mac Pro 1.1 - multiclip editing crash
First of... sorry for the fragmented headline and the length of this post. Takes a while before I get to the actual point. But I feel that my experiences prior to upgrading to a new system has some importance to the problem.
At the moment I'm working on a show that is shot on two cameras. All material is in XDCAM EX 1080i50 35 M/b VBR. This is the first multi camera production that I've done on FCP. I've done many other on Avid and have always enjoyed its stable work flow.
When I started work on the first episode the two cameras weren't synced as multiclips and the machine at my disposal was the very first Mac Pro 1.1 from 06 with 2gb ram and the stock Nvidia 7300 graphics card. There was no I/O card so I used desktop preview for full screen playback. All material was on a Lacie 3Tb Bigger Disk connected through FW 800. So basically this was an out of the box 2006 Mac Pro being used to edit a show in HD.
Initially I was very skeptical as to if this would be sufficient to perform without frame drops all the time. But to my surprise everything ran very smooth and not a single program crash for the first many days. All playback options where set to full and high quality. Great!
After some time I installed a second identical graphics card enabling me to hook up a third display. I had tried this setup earlier on a similar system running pro res material with great results. You might ask why I prefer this setup as opposed to a single graphics card and a Black Magic card for the full screen output. The reason is simply that Final Cut is so much more responsive to my keyboard commands when it's running without an I/O card. For example when I press "stop" (when having the BM card in) it takes at least half a second before playback actually stops, making it hard to do precise edits. With desktop preview everything happens the split second I press the button.
Well at this point everything was still running smooth, but for the next episode of the show my assistant had synced the cameras as multiclips. Performance in it self was still very satisfactory. I could play my sequence having "open sync" enabled so that both cameras would play in the viewer simultaneously. And still no dropped frames on the full screen preview monitor. The problem was that now the system started crashing numerous times a day. To begin with it was maybe 6-8 times a day, but for some reason things just got worse and worse by the days that went by.
First step was to make a clean install of snow leopard and only install FCP and not Avid which was also installed on the same partition before making a clean install. To make a long story short I never succeeded in getting a stable system again, and after reading some forum threads on FCP and multi camera editing it dawned on me that multicam and FCP just doesn't go well together. Apparently people are experiencing numerous crashes every day when trying to manage this particular workflow.
Now I pulled out both the Nvidia cards and put in a newer and more powerful Ati card (3870 or something like that) and also installed a black magic Extreme HD card and ran the SDI signal to a video monitor.
Still.... lots of crashes, but now with the added annoyance of a less responsive system caused by the Black Magic card.
So now (finally) to something with direct relevance to the headline of this post.
The old machine was taken out of commission and a brand New Dual Quad Core 2.26 Nehalem 2009 Mac Pro with 8Gb ram was bought. As with the old system I started out installing a second identical graphics card (the new stock Nvidia GT 120) so I could use 3 monitors with the third monitor being used sorely for full screen desktop preview.
Finaly now FCP only crashes once an hour or so (yes this is still way too much, but beats the hell out of every 5 minutes!) But to my big surprise this brand new system drops frames all the time??!! Especially during wipe and push dissolves. Everything is rendered but still the Droped Frames warning dialog pops up all the time. I even tried removing the second graphics card and ran the sequence without full screen preview enabled, but I still got dropped frames. Being in a state of disbelieve I immediately hooked up the old system again. And true enough the 4 years older out of the box Mac Pro ran the exact same sequence with the exact same playback quality settings in FCP as on the Nehalem without a single droped frame!
How on earth can this brand new out of the box machine be outperformed by a 4 year old system? Shouldn't the new stock graphics be way way faster than its 4 year older predecessor?
This has nothing to do with disc speed. The old system did great with a Lacie on FW800, and so should the new system. But to be sure I've tried moving everything to and external raid, but this made no difference. And no, none of my renders are on the system drive.
After pulling out the stock Nvidia GT 120 cards and installing the older Ati 3870 card performance improved a a lot. But now I was forced to use the Black Magic card for full screen playback, leaving me with the slow responsive system that I'm trying to avoid.
Can anybody please explain to me why the new Nvidia stock cards perform worse in FCP than the old once? I'm assuming they are faster, since they are PCIe 2.0 and have twice the memory?
Even my old (pre unibody) Macbook Pro can run the same sequence without dropping frames.
Even prior to the GS 120, with the GeForce 8800 I heard about numerous issues (in After Effects as well as FCP) and have always found the ATI cards to be more stable. I also have run a 2006 1,1 Mac Pro with a 3870, and that sucker is a tank. You could even go for the 4870, which Walter often praises is amazing for rendering in Color, and is probably overkill but will be amazing nonetheless in FCP.
I have noticed one thing with the Nahalem systems from working in After Effects. Certain plugins in After Effects (Particle World in this case) would crash on me unless I upgraded to CS4 (which the post house I'm working at declined) or if I disabled hyper threading. You can find their developer application online called "CHUD" which will open up the "Processor" controls on your System Preferences. There, you can disable hyper threading. I've found this to solve a great deal of stability issues on the Nehalem systems I'm working on. We're using 10.5.8, what OSX version are you using?
North Hollywood, CA
"We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution." - Bill Hicks
Thanks for your reply.
I'm running 10.6.2. Latest Snow Leopard. Same as on the old system. On the software side the two systems are totally identical which is why I'm so baffled that I'm getting poorer performance on the brand new one.
I haven't been able to find a Snow Leopard compatible version of CHUD. Do you have a link or do you know how to manually disable hyper threading? But as far as I have gathered from reading about FCP 7 it should be build for hyper threading. I also just did a google search for hyper threading and Final Cut and I couldn't find any discussions on the subject so I'm a little skeptical about this but I'll give it a try tomorrow.
Recently another client of mine scraped his trusty old G5. Instead he bought a Nehalem so he could run FCP 7, and I clearly remember him complaining that the dropped frames we all of a sudden were suffering from practically never accured on the G5.
I know that Ati cards usually does a better job at FCP. But in this case I think you could argue that the stock Nvidia card just isn't usable with FCP. I mean a 2003 G5 doing a better job playing an XDCAM EX HD sequence than a 2009 Mac Pro??? I find it strange that more people haven't been on the fence about this but I have only found one other discussion about it here on the forum.
So I would love to hear from people who are working with XD Cam material on a Nehalem system.
On the issue of crashing: Today I tried working with my sequence containing lots of multi clips with camera sync off. This actually made it possible to work without constant crashing. This of cause isn't a solution since I can only see one camera at a time, but it sure beats restarting 25 times a day.
So I sure hope to see a FCP update addressing this issue very very soon.
[Daniel Alban] "But now I was forced to use the Black Magic card for full screen playback, leaving me with the slow responsive system that I'm trying to avoid. "
You should turn the Frame Offset from the default 4 to 0 in the:
Final Cut Pro > System Settings > Playback Control tab.
Also, FCP and the whole Suite does not do well with more than 1 graphics card:
Thanks for the tips.
Do you know why there is a default frame offset when using a Black Magic card and none when you don't?
I'm looking forward to try this when I get back to work tomorrow.
I wasn't aware that dual graphic card systems weren't recommended for FCP. I've made another system like that, and that has been running fine ever since. But I guess I've just been lucky so far.
Thanks again :)
[Daniel Alban] "Do you know why there is a default frame offset when using a Black Magic card and none when you don't? "
The default is always 4 in FCP as it made up for the latency when FCP was mainly a dv firewire application. With a hardware capture card, there's no latency, so you don't need the frame offset. Hope that makes sense.
[Daniel Alban] "ut I guess I've just been lucky so far. "
I would say so, yes. :)