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Steven Nichols
New Mac Pro advice
on Aug 12, 2010 at 8:23:53 am

It's time to upgrade my Mac, but I am not sure which of them new Mac Pro I should get (4-core Nehalem, 8-core or 12-core Westmere). I need speed in FCP3 and After Effects CS5: do all of those apps really benefit from a 12-core machine at 2.66 GHz or will a 6-core at 3.33 GHz perform better ?


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Jerry Hofmann
Buying a new mac considerations...
on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:26:59 pm

Well, mamma always said "You can't have a computer that's too fast and with too much RAM"...

Of course that statement doesn't really take into account the realities of budget, and actual ROI involved with the purchase...

That said, what formats do you plan to edit, and what is your typical delivery format? The faster the machine, the faster the rendering and compressing it will do no doubt even today. Note the 8 and 12 core machines are using next gen technology where the 4 core's CPU is "last years", except in the case of a 6 core machine... So I'd suggest you look at the 8 or 12 core machines.

Down the line, the 1200 bucks that Apple needs for that extra CPU speed in the case of the 12 core machine, will pay for itself over time if INDEED you're constantly doing renders and compressions.

In answer to your question about the mulitcore capabilities of the software you want to run. It's a mixed bag at the moment. I think Adobe is currently delivering 64bit apps for example, where Apple's pro apps are a bit behind that curve... at the present. The future will no doubt be shifting that landscape... Compressor sort of stands to the side of this. It can be set up to use all those cores through the implementation of QMaster.

One thing is certain though. There will be a new version of Studio (likely the next release) which will take more advantage of the power of these new monster machines... And the delivery format of the forseeable future will become compressions sent to the web or TV stations, or even discs.. tape delivery is on it's last legs I think, so as time goes on the extra speed of the beefier machines will come more and more into play.

Jerry

Apple Certified Trainer, Producer, Writer, Director Editor, Gun for Hire and other things. I ski. My Blog: http://blogs.creativecow.net/Jerry-Hofmann

8-Core 3.0 Intel Mac Pro, Dual 2 gig G5, AJA Kona SD, AJA Kona 2, Huge Systems Array UL3D, AJA Io HD, 17" MBP, Matrox MXO2 with MAX Cinema Displays


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Jerry Hofmann
PS, a related read...
on Aug 12, 2010 at 2:39:50 pm

http://barefeats.com/nehal17.html

Rob Art-Morgan's remarks are always a good thing to keep abreast of... Great Mac centric site IMHO.

Jerry

Apple Certified Trainer, Producer, Writer, Director Editor, Gun for Hire and other things. I ski. My Blog: http://blogs.creativecow.net/Jerry-Hofmann

8-Core 3.0 Intel Mac Pro, Dual 2 gig G5, AJA Kona SD, AJA Kona 2, Huge Systems Array UL3D, AJA Io HD, 17" MBP, Matrox MXO2 with MAX Cinema Displays


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Steven Nichols
Re: Buying a new mac considerations...
on Aug 12, 2010 at 3:55:01 pm

My typical workflow is with XDCAM EX footage, but I always render the final sequence chancing the codec to ProRes before exporting. All of my After Effects work is done with ProRes too.
I currently have a 2007 4-core @ 3 Ghz (2xIntel Core Duo ) and I am wondering which configuration might give me the best speed improvement. For instance I am not sure with FCP if the 8-core (2.4 GHz) will perform better than my current 4-core (4 GHz).


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Jerry Hofmann
Buying a new mac considerations...
on Aug 12, 2010 at 4:42:16 pm

Are you finding that your workflow is just too slow right now? There is no doubt more machine will be faster.. in Rob's article, there's a link to the speed improvements Apple boasts with these new machines... might look there for an idea of just how much faster the renders will be currently. Also if you go into one of the new machines, upgrade the graphics card (the $200 upgrade would be very good to do as much of the software out there is looking to utilize GPUs in the renders and processing.

One thing I'd suggest you do is read the speed tests that can be usually found on the Barefeats site. See if you can find the ones that your current machine has, then take a look at Apple's speed comparisons... they are comparing with faster machines than you have now too... so looks to me like you'd see a big speed improvement with one of the 8 or 12 core machines.

Jerry

Apple Certified Trainer, Producer, Writer, Director Editor, Gun for Hire and other things. I ski. My Blog: http://blogs.creativecow.net/Jerry-Hofmann

8-Core 3.0 Intel Mac Pro, Dual 2 gig G5, AJA Kona SD, AJA Kona 2, Huge Systems Array UL3D, AJA Io HD, 17" MBP, Matrox MXO2 with MAX Cinema Displays


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Steven Nichols
Re: Buying a new mac considerations...
on Aug 12, 2010 at 5:00:42 pm

I think my workflow is pretty decent right now... but I can always use a little speed boost Jerry ;)
I remember 15 years ago when doing promos for a network in SD, I would always plan a complex After Effects rendering on Friday night so I could get it on Monday morning. And now I have a real-time HD editing workstation... Not that I am complaining but you always find yourself pushing the envelope, especially when doing motion graphics.
Having that said it's always amazing the gap between Apple's software and hardware. They are selling 12-core processors but it would be great if FCP could actually benefit from that. So I think I'll wait for the 1rst non-Apple benchmarks.


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Jerry Hofmann
Re: Buying a new mac considerations...
on Aug 12, 2010 at 5:15:46 pm

I think that's a prudent decision... Look at it this way though, if the software was ahead too much, you're current machine just might not run it! Obviously, the hardware has to precede the software in capability so the software developers (Apple included) can write for it.

I can recall in 1994 I think, I was rendering a rather simple infomercial that had mostly just titles, and video with some transitional effects. A 28:30 show, and titles about everywhere), it was in AVR 26 (first dual field format), was going to be laid out to tape and shipped off... and had to be monitored 24/7 because at times it would just crash, but leave what was rendered thus far. It took 3 days and nights! This on the fastest Mac available at the time. yeah, 72 hours of rendering a highly compressed format smaller file sizes than DV is.

Today? I imagine I could edit it, no rendering needed at all and lay it out to tape. We've come a long way baby.

Jerry

Apple Certified Trainer, Producer, Writer, Director Editor, Gun for Hire and other things. I ski. My Blog: http://blogs.creativecow.net/Jerry-Hofmann

8-Core 3.0 Intel Mac Pro, Dual 2 gig G5, AJA Kona SD, AJA Kona 2, Huge Systems Array UL3D, AJA Io HD, 17" MBP, Matrox MXO2 with MAX Cinema Displays


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Walter Soyka
Re: New Mac Pro advice
on Aug 12, 2010 at 5:50:33 pm

[Steven Nichols] "I need speed in FCP3 and After Effects CS5: do all of those apps really benefit from a 12-core machine at 2.66 GHz or will a 6-core at 3.33 GHz perform better ?"

The other posters have addressed FCP; I'll cover After Effects.

After Effects can use multiple cores through its multiprocessing feature. Essentially, in order to render multiple frames simultaneously, After Effects launches multiple instances of its renderer, and each instance works on one frame at a time.

To use multiprocessing in After Effects, you need lots of RAM. Before CS5, I used to recommend 2-4 GB per core. Since CS5 is 64-bit, you could now use even more than 4 GB per core, though I don't think it would be necessary for most users. In other words, while you can get away with 8 to 12 GB of RAM for a Final Cut Pro system, if you want to use multiprocessing on a 12-core, you'll want a minimum of 24 GB of system RAM.

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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Michael Nichols
Re: New Mac Pro advice
on Aug 12, 2010 at 6:22:39 pm

Dad? Is that you?

Abel Cine Tech - Rental Coordinator
We now have Red and SI-2K in our Rental Fleet!
212.462.0163 • mnichols [at] abelcine [dot] com


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Steven Nichols
Re: New Mac Pro advice
on Aug 12, 2010 at 7:18:17 pm

Do you mean if you have like 4 GB of RAM on a 4-core machine, that means AE only has 1 GB/core during rendering ? Does that also affects RAM preview ?


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Walter Soyka
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Aug 12, 2010 at 7:29:28 pm

[Steven Nichols] "Do you mean if you have like 4 GB of RAM on a 4-core machine, that means AE only has 1 GB/core during rendering ?"

Even worse than that -- about 1GB will go the operating system, leaving you only 3GB of RAM.

With a 4-core machine with only 4GB of RAM, multiprocessing will actually slow your renders down, and I'd recommend leaving it set off. Essentially, each instance of the renderer will be constantly stealing RAM from other instances, slowing your render down dramatically versus allowing a single instance to have access to all the RAM it needs.

Todd Kopriva from Adobe has written an excellent blog post that goes into a little more depth -- Performance tip: Don’t starve your software of RAM.

[Steven Nichols] "Does that also affects RAM preview ?"

RAM preview is limited to however many frames can fit in RAM available to the main AE process running the GUI. Before CS5, this process could grab at most about 3.5 GB of RAM, putting an absolute limit on your RAM preview length irrespective of your total system RAM.

Now that AE CS5 is 64-bit, the main AE process will be able to address all the RAM in your computer, so if you want longer RAM previews, all you have to do is open your wallet and pour money into memory.

There's a lot of information on all this, as well as plenty of other performance tips, in the After Effects forum.

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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Steven Nichols
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 3:35:18 pm

I have another question regarding the card. Do you think I should get a better card than the ATI for After Effects, and if yes what would you pick ? Thanks again.


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Walter Soyka
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 3:48:36 pm

[Steven Nichols] "I have another question regarding the card. Do you think I should get a better card than the ATI for After Effects, and if yes what would you pick ? Thanks again."

After Effects itself renders on the CPU, not the GPU, so your graphics card won't impact AE performance.

There are a handful of third-party plugins (like Sapphire, Colorista II, Knoll Light Factory, Optical Flares, and FxFactory Pro) that can render on the GPU, but I've never seen any comparative data on performance with different graphics cards. I think it's largely irrelevant with multiprocessing, anyway.

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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Steven Nichols
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 3:53:12 pm

I thought you would get an improvement with Open GL regarding previews in After Effects ?
I was thinking about the nVidia GeForce GTX 285...


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Walter Soyka
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 4:01:18 pm

[Steven Nichols] "I thought you would get an improvement with Open GL regarding previews in After Effects?"

I strongly recommend disabling Open GL support. It has a couple limitations which I consider show-stoppers. From the Render with OpenGL page in the documentation:
Important: Because not all features of a composition can be rendered with OpenGL—and because some features that can be rendered with OpenGL are rendered with different results—you may only want to use OpenGL rendering to accelerate previews and to provide faster rendering for non-final results.

Note: You cannot use the Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously multiprocessing feature while also using OpenGL to render RAM previews or render for final output. The Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously feature works by using background processes on multiple CPU processor cores to render frames.

The GTX 285 (now discontinued, may it rest in peace) would be a great card for DaVinci Resolve or Premiere Pro CS5's Mercury Playback Engine -- nVIDIA's CUDA technology is incredibly powerful -- but ATI is preferred for FCP and Color. It doesn't make a difference to After Effects, so I think it makes sense to look at the rest of your pipeline and make your decision accordingly.

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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Steven Nichols
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 4:05:38 pm

Thanks again. So what would be the benefits or the ATI 5870 over the 5770 ?


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Walter Soyka
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 4:20:30 pm

[Steven Nichols] "Thanks again. So what would be the benefits or the ATI 5870 over the 5770?"

You're welcome.

See this benchmark which compares the ATI 5870 and 5770. The 5870 is performs slightly better in OpenGL, and a lot better in OpenCL. It makes no difference with the current version of Color.

In terms of hardware, the 5870 is a more powerful card than the 5770, but the current software releases aren't really taking advantage of the extra processing power. Maybe the next new "awesome" release of Final Cut Studio will leverage Apple's OpenCL technology, but that's all still conjecture at this point.

I think that we are just at the beginning of a lot of innovation in processing on GPUs. Outside of Apple, there's a lot of cross-industry momentum behind nVIDIA's CUDA, but Apple doesn't even sell an nVIDIA option in the Mac Pro anymore. Right now, vendors seem very siloed in their GPU preference.

My recommendation is to buy for your workflow today and budget to swap out your graphics card in a year or two if your needs change.

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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Steven Nichols
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 4:22:24 pm

I would need to clarify something. I know right now FCP is 32-bit so I am aware of the 4 GB RAM limitation. But I was told today that a 12-core machine will use all them cores for rendering in FCP. So after all a 12-core should be a good choice for FCP ?


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Jerry Hofmann
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 5:16:17 pm

FCP can use multiple cores, so I'd suggest that the more the merrier... however the more important thing coming down the line is FCP 8... it's likely to use all those cores to MUCH better advantage. It's likely a full rewrite of the software from 32 to 64 bit for starters, and it's likely going to be written in native OS 10 code where FCP 7 and earlier wasn't. So the more power you have the faster the renders in any case. Buying the beefier card now is also a smart move. It's only 200 bucks more now instead of 450 later... GPU rendering times will greatly improve with this upgraded card.

I'd say a 12 core now with that upgraded card and 12 gigs or more of RAM is a strong investment for the future, even if it's not that much faster than say a 6 core machine now. Down the line, you'll be happier with it as the software becomes more demanding.

Jerry

Apple Certified Trainer, Producer, Writer, Director Editor, Gun for Hire and other things. I ski. My Blog: http://blogs.creativecow.net/Jerry-Hofmann

DVD:http://store.creativecow.net/p/81/jerry_hofmanns_final_cut_system_setup

8-Core 3.0 Intel Mac Pro, Dual 2 gig G5, AJA Kona SD, AJA Kona 2, Huge Systems Array UL3D, AJA Io HD, 17" MBP, Matrox MXO2 with MAX Cinema Displays


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Steven Nichols
Re: New Mac Pro advice (After Effects specific)
on Sep 8, 2010 at 5:27:30 pm

OK thanks yall. I am now ready to order the 12x2.93 cores, ATI 5870 and I think 32 GB of RAM.
I will post some tests when I'll get this monster.


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