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What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU

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Xavier BonetWhat's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 5:31:12 pm

Hello, everyone!

Ok, so this isn't specifically an After Effects question, but it does arise because I'm currently having to edit daily videos that use a lot of AE animations, camera tracking, motion tracking, etc., etc., you name it! The workflow on my old PC was becoming little short of an Odyssey. So I decided to go for a MacBook Pro.

I was recommended the:
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
  • 2.8GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz
  • 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
  • 256GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
  • Intel Iris Pro Graphics

And that's what I got through the mail yesterday. And today I edited my first video and... rather an anti-climax, I'm afraid. I did feel it was faster at certain tasks but, overall, not enough to merit paying twice as much. And the preview-rendering was just slightly faster. Finally, the exporting was about the same.
So, first off, I'm wondering if I got a lemon... But the most important question is whether or not I should dish out the extra 260 euros to get the:
  • 15-inch MacBook Pro with Retina display
  • 2.5GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 3.7GHz
  • 16GB 1600MHz DDR3L SDRAM
  • 512GB PCIe-based Flash Storage
  • Intel Iris Pro Graphics + AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory

The processor is slightly less powerful than the one I got, but it has the AMD Radeon discrete GPU (and twice as much storage, which is no small plus.

Well, I'm resorting to you, who probably have much more experience with video editing and AE-ing on Mac and could maybe advise me. Should I go through returning this computer and paying the extra for the other one or will the result be more or less the same? I'm reading a lot about how the discrete GPU is night-and-day when it comes to gaming but, considering that the last game I played was mine hunter, what I need to know is if GPU wins over the slightly better processor or if it's too close to even bother.

Thanks in advance for any input you might be able to give me!
Cheers!


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Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 6:49:36 pm

As far as I've always heard, AE doesn't use the GPU too much, it's mostly reliant upon CPU. They've been slowly adding in things that use it, and the next version is supposed to use it more from what I've heard. That said, they also tend to mostly support nvidia cards with cuda. My secondary machine is pretty much the other machine you listed (MBP mid-2015 with those same specs) and I haven't had any issues. It's not as fast as the hackintosh I built a few years ago, but I wouldn't expect it to be since that monster is running at 4.3GHz on all cores. I can't run AE without the discreet card so I can't offer any more information, but it seems quick enough on this machine. If you have a project that would be easily transferable to me through dropbox or something I can render it and tell you how long it takes if that helps.

Joe Clay
Workbench.tv


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Walter SoykaRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 7:43:26 pm

[Joe Clay] "As far as I've always heard, AE doesn't use the GPU too much, it's mostly reliant upon CPU... the next version is supposed to use it more from what I've heard."

All true.

It's also worth mentioning that many popular third-party effects use the GPU for processing.


[Joe Clay] "That said, they also tend to mostly support nvidia cards with cuda."

That's specific to the ray-tracing renderer, which was built on NVIDIA's OptiX library.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 7:45:06 pm

Yeah, third parties have taken off with it, thankfully.

Ah, that makes sense as far as ray-tracing. I never use that so that explains why I've never noticed a boost, haha.

Joe Clay
Workbench.tv


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Michael SzalapskiRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 9:54:52 pm

The ray-traced renderer wasn't used much by anybody! It's considered obsolete anyway.

Back to the topic at hand, is there a reason we're discussing going with a MacBook instead of a desktop workstation of some kind? And is there a reason we're talking about Apple instead of Windows?
I have some opinions on both of these, but I don't want to say something out of line if you have a good reason for this.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 9:57:36 pm

The reason we're discussing MacBook Pros and Apple is because the OP asked about a comparison between two MBP models. Obviously a built computer would be fastest. :)

Joe Clay
Workbench.tv


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Michael SzalapskiRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 10:03:31 pm

No, I get that, I meant the OP should return the MacBook and get either a Mac Pro or a PC workstation. And I would highly recommend the PC workstation.

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 10:11:04 pm

Ah, I see what you mean. Like "why are we even having this discussion?" I can't answer that one. Maybe they need a portable computer?

If it were me, I'd do what I did. Build a hackintosh (I can't do Windows anymore, we don't jive), watercool it, overclock it, and max it out. And then get a MacBook Pro for my on the go needs.

Joe Clay
Workbench.tv


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Xavier BonetRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 11:28:49 pm

Hello, everyone! Thanks a lot for all of your input!

Let me be a little more specific on why I'm gravitating toward a Mac now. I've only worked on PCs and have had more or less success. The thing is that a couple of years ago I moved to Paris and have been out-of-video-work ever since. Until now, that I'm getting back on the horse and, to top it off, I'm working a daily vlog of sorts. So, as one of you guessed it, the portability is a must. I'm moving around rather a lot and I need to edit on the go. Plus, maybe you guys know how SMALL everything is in Paris. I'm afraid that in order to make room for a desktop computer such as I would need I would have to evict the refrigerator or the washing machine from my apartment!

Plus, there's the budget issue. Having a primary and secondary computer is out of the question. I had the opportunity of getting a Mac and I went for it. As I said, it was rather a recommendation from a couple of vlogger friends that are editing pretty good vlogs. But being the AE junky that I am, I need a little more juice, and that's why I'm thinking if maybe I should get the other MBPro with the Intel Iris Pro Graphics + AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory.

My doubt is whether it's worth it or if I'm better of or just as well with the slightly better processor of this one, although it doesn't have the AMD Radeon.

(I might have to exchange the MBPro anyway, at least for the same model, as I feel it's not as fast as it should... It's just slightly faster than my PC laptop with 12 Gb Ram that's about 2-3 years old. Final video export is about the same or just shaves off a minute or two. So rather disappointing in that sense.)

Again, thanks a million for all your input!


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Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 18, 2016 at 3:34:01 pm

Well, as I said I have that model, so if you want me to test anything for you, I can. Rendering a minute or two faster on something that isn't terribly long (like a ten minute video popular in the vlogging community) is pretty good gain between computer models. Most of your speed in a new computer would be tied to performance while working—which I can't really test for you. Well, I guess I could screen capture me dragging through a project or something. I would imagine the video card would probably help in performance while working in AE since the GPU is used in rendering the interface as well.

You could also upgrade the processor to the same, so there won't be any negatives to getting the upper model. The only downside is that that's a build to order option so you might not be able to just waltz into the Apple store and find that model. Of course to be fair, you probably won't be strolling into the one at the Louvre anyway due to all the people. The one near Opéra might be ok. :)

Again, let me know if you want me to test something. And otherwise, good luck!

Joe Clay
Workbench.tv


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Xavier BonetRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 17, 2016 at 11:33:52 pm

Hi, Joe Clay,

[Joe Clay] "If you have a project that would be easily transferable to me through dropbox or something I can render it and tell you how long it takes if that helps."
You're very kind to offer rendering a sample to tell me how long it takes! I take it you have the same model MBPro I have now? The one with the 2.8GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.0GHz Processor and no AMD Radeon R9 M370X with 2GB GDDR5 memory? Anyway, I don't want to take up too much of your time, so what I'll do is send you a 4 second clip I worked on in AE and imported into PP, sped-up and set to frame blend. Let's see how long it takes you to render it right on the timeline. Because it's taking me 8+ minutes... which is, to me, the absolute opposite of impressive from a 2569 euro one-day-old computer that should be up to the task! Anyway, I'll get the clip up and post a link (I guess to my Dropbox) for easy downloading tomorrow morning. Again, thanks a million for your kindness and help!


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Xavier BonetRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 18, 2016 at 8:49:50 am

Hello again, Joe Clay (and everyone else looking into this discussion),
So I've prepared the test project. And I went ahead and tested it fully myself, and for the sake of thoroughness I also tested out the project in my old, rickety 3-year-old HP ENVY dv4 with 12Gb RAM, which is the PC I've been editing on up to know, and is definitely on its last legs: program crashes at least twice during every edit session, slow, slow, slow while editing... but... sadly, I guess, because I've just spent 2569 euro, it did better than the new MBP at rendering and exporting. Is it an understatement to say I'm underwhelmed? Don't get me wrong, it does out-perform my old, rickety PC in many, many things... but for 3-times the price I would expect faster rendering and exporting.

Anyway, these are the facts:

Small clip worked on AE of 2560 x 1440 footage off a GoPro-ish camera. Added a black solid and CC Rainfall. Then imported into PP, changed the speed to 2000% and applied Frame Blending. That's all. So in the end, it's a 154-frame comp, 5:04 seconds. I tried the exact same project on both computer and both media exports where at my normal settings, that is: 1080p, 29,97 fps, VBR 2 Pass, Target and Max bitrates 25 Mbps. The results:

Brand-new MBPro with 16Gb RAM:
  • Timeline render: 7:45 minutes
  • Media export: (100% and completely ready) 16:47


Old, rickety PC:
  • Timeline render: 6:50 minutes
  • Media export: (100% and completely ready) 13:23


Is it fair to say I feel ripped off? Or did I get a lemon? I'm sort of stuck with a Mac now, so should I return this one and get the one with the AMD Radeon graphics included? Will it make a real difference or are these the rendering/exporting times I'm to expect?

Well, here's the link to the trial project: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/frbpuzo0noshve5/AAD-OqKw5DZXpas6WmJK2_Rta?dl=0

Thanks again for all your help!


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Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 18, 2016 at 3:36:51 pm

Oh you must've typed this while I was responding. I'll give it a go and see what happens

Joe Clay
Workbench.tv


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Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
by on Jun 18, 2016 at 4:26:43 pm

Actually I guess I just missed your comments. Well, I opened up the Premiere Project. I rendered the timeline as you said. When there was a minute left on the timer, it just played. Thankfully, I was using the stopwatch on my phone and I hit it quickly. It took 5:45 to render. That's a pretty intensive comp, haha.

This machine is the Mid 2015 Retina model. I believe it's the latest one. I don't know if you're following macrumors at all, but they might release a new model in the fall with Skylake chips. How that will affect performance, I can't really say. Anyway my specs are:

2.5GHz core i7
16GB 1600 MHz DDR3
AMD Radeon R9 M370X 2GB

On the 512GB SSD, I have 16GB available. I ran the test with Safari still open and Spotify is also open but not playing anything. Airmail is also open. I didn't really use the computer other than having those things open while it rendered. Safari has been open for a few days and it can be a memory hog so it might've been slightly faster with it closed. But I figured this was more real-world.

And now I'm doing even more real-world and leaving that stuff open, rendering, and finishing my reply. Not that there's anything much more than to tell you what is the result. So I'll go and check responses in other threads and come back. I also did that on battery power. I know the older machines used to throttle more when unplugged. I don't believe this one does. Now I'm plugged in. I also assumed you were rendering h.264. It looks like I'm going to fall between the models. It is possible, and probable with Adobe, that the Windows version is more optimized than the Mac version.

So the results:
  • Timeline render: 5:45 minutes

  • Media Export: 13:36 minutes

  • Media Export (Vimeo 1080p preset): 6:54


  • So both are faster than the MBP you have currently. I don't know how Premiere Handles rendering AE comps. I know AE doesn't use the GPU as intensely as Premiere does in general. But I'd imagine that dynamic link wouldn't make Premiere render aeps faster than AE. But maybe it does. Considering that I was browsing and replying to email, and switching between apps, being 13 seconds slower than your older machine isn't bad. That said, I'd just render using the vimeo export in AME. It's quick and does the job quite well. I've put both renders in a dropbox folder for you to check out. I'll leave it in there for a few days at least. The difference is negligible but it renders MUCH quicker, and it results in a slightly smaller file.

    https://www.dropbox.com/sh/q6cw5cixyajantf/AAD0xTvtg83DwSJFXIZYDJjha?dl=0

    So I'd conclude that it might not be a bad idea to swap the computers. But it's up to you. I would say that if it renders faster, it should be a lot easier to work with in the timeline. I hope this helps you!

    Joe Clay
    Workbench.tv


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    Xavier BonetRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
    by on Jun 20, 2016 at 11:17:35 pm

    You're awesome, Joe! It's been very kind of you to take the time to help me out with this!
    And I'm glad I got your data from your MBPro because I've just ordered the same one and will be replacing this one. I'm sure the discrete graphics card has much to do with the taste performance; but from the beginning I also had a nagging feeling that I had gotten a lemon. Ever since I heard the right speaker buzzing with relatively normal volume music I got that feeling.
    It is an intensive comp! I don't always have such intensive comps but it's good to know you computer won't cut out on you if you need to have one or two! This one just doesn't get the job done well enough!
    My old PC apparently is not so close from the tomb as I thought it was, but it is a hassle while editing, because it lags and becomes very slow, very quickly, and also Adobe often crashes on it. But apparently it still has some life in it as a rendering machine.
    I do follow Macrumors but very loosely, to be honest. I've worked with Macs while all the time but have never been a Mac owner up to now. But they've been rumouring the new Macs will be announced this date and that date and it isn't happening. :( I've been waiting since around Feb. or March, and was promised they would be announced at the WWDC a couple of weeks ago but it wasn't. According to the guys at the Apple Store in Paris, new MBPros won't be coming out until next year. They probably know as much as anybody else about it, but, really, the workload has been starting to come in and I couldn't wait any longer. I am aware that probably once I got the MBPro the new ones would come out a month after! So I'm prepared for that and won't feel so bad!
    Finally, yes, I'm exporting in H.264. That was a big oversight on my part not to clarify it in my post. I've downloaded your exports and at first glance I can't see the difference between the Vimeo setting export and the one I'm using. I'm going to test it out a little but you may have changed my life with that tip, Joe! If I can export at virtually the same quality but at half the time... wow! In the end, the vlogs at least (which are the ones I have to export daily and they're a real pain when I have to wait 30-45 mins for them to export), will be compressed with YouTube's compression algorithms that often mess up rather good quality footage. So I really don't know why I'm cracking my skull with this one.
    Anyway, thanks a million! You've really help me a lot!


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    Joe ClayRe: What's best: a MacBook Pro with a slightly better processor or one with discrete GPU
    by on Jun 22, 2016 at 4:20:47 am

    No problem! I'm glad it helped! Good luck with the new machine!

    Joe Clay
    Workbench.tv


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