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New Graphics card needed

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Peter RafalowNew Graphics card needed
by on Nov 14, 2015 at 8:06:08 pm

I'm using Premiere Pro CC 2015 on a mid-2010 Mac Pro, and things get very bogged down and sometimes even freezes up on playback. I use very fast eSata drives as well as a new OWC Mercury Accelsior PCIe SSD card, so I think I'm okay throughput-wise for media. I was told that the problem is my graphics card (original ATI Radeo HD 5770) and that I should get something to replace it. One suggestion was the Nvidia GTX 980 Ti 6 GB. I'm running two monitors using the DVI for one and the Thunderbolt with a DVI adapter for the other. Also a heavy AE user, as well as Avid Media Composer.
Does anyone have any advice of which graphics card I should be getting?

Many thanks!

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Tim JonesRe: New Graphics card needed
by on Nov 14, 2015 at 10:06:21 pm

I like the Quadro 4800 unit that YoYoMarv sells on eBay for these older Mac Pros. The price can't be beat and the Cuda support is dead-on.

We have 5 of these in everything from a 3,1 to the last 5,1.

If you aren't budget limited, then the later Quadro units are even faster.


Tim Jones
CTO - TOLIS Group, Inc.
BRU ... because it's the RESTORE that matters!

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Peter RafalowRe: New Graphics card needed
by on Nov 16, 2015 at 9:47:25 pm

Helps a lot, Tim.
Thanks so much!

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Stephen AbbottRe: New Graphics card needed
by on Nov 16, 2015 at 1:47:05 pm
Last Edited By Stephen Abbott on Nov 16, 2015 at 1:57:47 pm

Hi Peter,

I'm also running a classic Mac Pro as my main edit machine. With your system and media drives nice and fast, the stock GPU is definitely a bottleneck for Premiere.

What kind of work are you doing, with what footage? What's your budget?

Today, Nvidia is better supported in Premiere, using CUDA. For the bottom-end I'd suggest an Nvidia GTX 970. Top-end is indeed a Quadro, as Tim recommends, but these will get expensive quickly. Though far from the only indicator, compare the CUDA-per-dollar performance of all cards you're considering.

My opinion is that a good gaming GPU will get you rather far in HD and light-to-medium 4K (Edit: but then, I am happy with hacked-together solutions for less money!). It very much depends on the kind of work you're doing...

The gaming GPUs are only unofficially supported on the Mac Pro, but they work just fine. Once you've installed Nvidia's Mac drivers for GeForce and CUDA. You won't get boot screens and you won't see any cards in the PCI section under System Report, but all should work fine. You should thus probably keep the stock card around for when you need to do trouble-shooting. (Or leave one in another slot) If this bothers you, you can pay extra to have a gentleman in LA named "Macvidcards" replace the firmware on your card for a fee, making it fully Mac compatible. I bought an old GTX 480 from him via eBay, and it works flawlessly.

Also, consider the power requirements of the card(s) you're considering. If you're powering with just the PCI slot + 2* 6-pin PCIe power connectors, you'll be more limited. The alternative is a (lightly) frankensteined rig with an external power supply just for the GPU. You can safely power a stock GTX 980 internally, but beyond that you'll need external power. From memory, the limit is 225W (75W from the slot, 2* 75W from the two external power connectors). But more like 200W, for a bit of margin. Drawing too much power can burn through the traces on the motherboard of your Mac pro, which will be rather costly to replace. A rule of thumb is that powering internally requires you to avoid cards with 8-pin power connectors. In gaming card terms, this means avoiding anything above a stock GTX 970 or 980.

There's a lot of info on the Macrumors Mac Pro forum:

. External power supply that is triggered by the Mac Pro.
. Debate about using an 8-pin power connector, and the extra draw
. Mr. Macvidcards is on those forums, dispensing good advice.

Oh, and if you have a Mac Pro 5,1 and haven't already, there's no reason not to upgrade the CPU(s). Get the Xeon X5680 or 5690s second hand on eBay for ~$200 a pop. A special screwdriver, some new thermal paste and a bit of DIY is all there is to it. If your Mac Pro has the slowest (standard) CPUs installed, you should see your Geekbench CPU scores roughly double, and some tasks should nearly match that increase; even with the best GPU Premiere still leans on CPU for some things—why not max that out for very little money?

Lastly, as a bonus: Da Vinci Resolve has fantastic CUDA support. I've seen post houses with their old Mac Pros in the corner, stuffed with gaming GPUs and doing 24/7 REDRAW and ARRIRAW transcoding duty... :)

Stephen Abbott

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Peter RafalowRe: New Graphics card needed
by on Nov 16, 2015 at 9:54:49 pm

Hey Stephan,

You are an amazing wealth of knowledge...thanks so much! A friend with a 2009 Mac Pro did purchase the GTX 980 and is very happy with it; he had to power from both ports, but is a bit concerned about how hot it might get in summer weather.

I'm leaning towards the same card he bought, but getting the firmware replaced by the guy in LA. I'm HD at the moment, but moving into 4K soon, so this seems to be a good approach.

I'll also look into upgrading the CPU per your advice...I might be able to handle the DIY stuff to a certain extent. (Mine is, indeed, the Mac Pro 5,1.) Both Premiere and Media Composer will probably run better if I upgrade.

Thanks, again, so much for your help!

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Stephen AbbottRe: New Graphics card needed
by on Nov 17, 2015 at 12:13:05 am

Hey Peter,

A pleasure!

Re: overheating: I've not had a problem with the very hot GTX 480. Mine is actually underclocked by Macvidcards to draw a little less power, and I've taken to calling it "My 250-watt always-on heater". It's a 'blower' type card, which I've seen recommended over the open fan type cards, probably on Macrumors.

Re: CPU: definitely worth doing for Media Composer. GPU acceleration is more limited there, for now. If you had a dual-CPU 4,1 it is more tricky, but the 5,1 means you can literally just slot them in!

Stephen Abbott

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Stephen AbbottRe: New Graphics card needed
by on Nov 17, 2015 at 7:45:34 am

Hi again Peter,

Oh, I just saw you mentioned After Effects in your original post. That's a little bit different: you'll want CPU and RAM. GPU is not nearly as relevant—unless you're using the native ray-tracing it isn't much use at all. Make sure the cache files are going to that speedy SSD.

Stephen Abbott

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