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Advice: squeeze a few months from my Mac Pro?

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Michael Carter
Advice: squeeze a few months from my Mac Pro?
on Oct 3, 2013 at 10:43:57 pm

Forever lurker, outta the closet!

I'd love to get another 6 mos. or so from my 09 Mac Pro and then look into the new models. Specs:

2.66 quad
14 GB Ram ( 4/4/4/2)
Stock NVIDIA GeForce GT 120
OS: 10.6.8

Yeah, it was awesome back in the day. Anyway - using AE 5.5 and FCP 6.x, will upgrade to Adobe Cloud when a long series of animations wrap up. I have a lot of audio work this fall and upgrading to 10.7 or 10.8 will kill my current Pro Tools, so I've put that off. Holiday slowdown coming - I'd like to beef up this box while upgrading AE, Pro Tools, and FCPX (or Premiere). Any advice?

I'll likely change my main HD to an SDD - which may only speed up loading apps.

I've got 2 open internal drive bays. Several big drives on the Firewire bus. 2nd Firewire card for an independent Pro Tools bus.

So... I can add ram (Maybe 4/4/4/8 for 20GB?)

I can do an internal RAID 1 with two drives... spinning or SDD. And use that for scratch disc? Footage disc? (And yes, I have nightly backups covered, 2-3 TB a night).

And I assume a new video card is a major concern... flashed or stock? My biggest issue is needing to run AE CC as efficiently as possible, preferably with C4D Lite.

I know I'm a little primitive by today's standards... but upgrades in the past have been a nightmare as a Pro Tools user. This system's been rock solid, but I need the features of After Effects CC primarily. And I'm starting to shoot 2.5k and up formats. Advice welcomed, with many thanks.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Advice: squeeze a few months from my Mac Pro?
on Oct 4, 2013 at 3:25:57 am

You've got enough RAM to get you by.

If you're looking for a better GPU, take a look at the GTX 680 Mac Edition.

You could also put an SSD in there and get a major speed-up, especially when you move to After Effects CS6, since the new disk cache loves SSDs.

You'll need to upgrade to Mac OS X v10.7 or later for After Effects CC (12.x).

See this page for information about hardware for After Effects: http://adobe.ly/pRYOuk

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Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
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Michael Carter
Re: Advice: squeeze a few months from my Mac Pro?
on Oct 4, 2013 at 3:02:18 pm

Thanks Todd -

Tell me about the best use of SSDs. I want to switch my boot drive over just for speed of launching.

I've searched all over for a clear answer for scratch disks though - my best guess is something like:

Boot drive: SSD - apps go here.
Drive #2: footage and files (AE & FCP documents and all footage)
Drive #3: Scratch with plenty of free space.

So for drives 2 and 3 - 7200RPM or SSD? And will either get a significant boost from a simple dual RAID? Or both drives? And to do this incrementally, which drive benefits the most from SSD or RAID?

Is the best-case scenario to have files and scratch as dual-SSD RAIDS? Or is SSD alone fine? Or is SSD file-handling not optimal for either of those uses?

There's lots of contradictory info out there, and a lot of guessing as well - thanks for any insights.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Advice: squeeze a few months from my Mac Pro?
on Oct 4, 2013 at 5:44:31 pm

The quick answer is that SSDs are terrific for anything for which speed is important (like caches). The primary down side is cost. If you can afford several SSDs, get them. If you can only affod one, make sure that your After Effects disk cache is on it. There is no harm in having applications, operating system, and After Effects disk cache on the same SSD; these items are not read simultaneously, so there's no problem with having them on the same disk.

Another consideration, which is decreasing over time as hardware gets better, is that SSDs can "wear out" after a very large number of writes. This isn't a problem for caches (which are transient) or OS and applications (which you could reinstall with little hassle), but this is a _huge_ problem for footage and projects, which you would have a hard time replacing. So, I suggest backing up regularly if you use an SSD for a footage/project drive.

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Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
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Michael Carter
Re: Advice: squeeze a few months from my Mac Pro?
on Oct 4, 2013 at 7:37:02 pm

Todd, thanks for the concise info.

Yep, I backup a couple terrabytes every night, automated. And yes, it's saved my bacon once or twice.

So I'm thinking SSD for boot/apps and cache (I'd probably partition off half the drive for cache in that scenario, seems like good housekeeping for some reason). And two 7200's for a basic RAID for project files.

Cool thing is, I'd have a slot for my current boot drive, so if I get in some upgrade hiccups I can still boot to the bug-free system in a pinch.

Every few months I archive 500GB or so of completed work, so I tend to hopscotch drives, use an older drive as an archive with a Voyager dock and update my work drives. That would give me the option to start the raid with spinning drives and upgrade to SSDs over time.

Thanks again, time to hunt down a video card.


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