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iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed

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Howie Young
iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 18, 2019 at 11:01:25 pm

I'm trying to configure an efficient but not overly expensive iMac Pro and in need of some advice.

My long term plans include shooting, editing and producing several green screen projects for YouTube. I'll be using Panasonic DSLRs and camcorders. The videos will range from 1 to 5 to 30 minutes. In addition, I will also be creating social media marketing content and short films.

These are the base iMac Pro specs:

Eight-core Intel® Xeon™ W 3.2 GHz
32GB DDR4 2666MHz RAM
1TB SSD
Radeon Pro Vega 56 graphics processor with 8GB of HBM2 memory

****

What would be the best components to upgrade at the time of purchase and why?

Will the 3.2 GHz processor work well with 64 GB RAM and the Radeon Pro Vega 64 with 16GB of HBM2 memory?

Is there any benefit to upgrading to the 3.0GHz 10-core Intel Xeon W processor?

Is a 2 TB SSD internal drive really needed, or is 1 TB fine?

****

Will the base specs suffice for green screen projects?

Could a 60 minute green screen project be edited with the base computer without any issues?

****

Thank you!


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Oliver Peters
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 12:06:22 am

Read through this. Sam does a pretty good roundup and addresses some of your points.

http://www.fcp.co/final-cut-pro/articles/2210-an-overview-of-the-apple-hard...

The iMac Pro is likely overkill for what you do. A loaded 5K iMac may serve you just as well and be more cost-effective.

- Oliver

Oliver Peters - oliverpeters.com


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Howie Young
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 7:06:28 pm

Hi Oliver,

Thanks for sharing Sam's article. The model he recommends is slightly out of my budget.

I prefer the iMac Pro over a 5K iMac because of the silent fan noise.

Do you have any recommendations for the iMac Pro?



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Joe Marler
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:05:24 pm

I have a 10-core Vega64 iMac Pro and a top-spec 4-core 2017 iMac. The iMac Pro is much quieter but supposedly the 2019 8-core iMac is quieter than the 2017.

For collaborative work when we're passing around lots of portable drives (some USB-C and some USB-A), I like all the iMac Pro ports and the built-in 10-gig ethernet to connect to a NAS.

From a performance standpoint I don't think either 8-core or 10-core iMac Pro is vastly faster than the 8-core iMac. They are all fairly fast but all will struggle on certain codecs such as some 4k H264 variants. Panasonic's 8-bit 4k 4:2:0 H264 isn't that bad, Sony's 4k XAVC-S is worse, likewise DJI and GoPro 4k H264 is difficult. Panasonic's 10-bit 4k 4:2:2 H264 is more difficult. In general if you are doing multicam or need really fluid response on 4k H264, you may need proxies -- with any of these machines.

The base model iMac Pro is a pretty good deal if you can get it on sale. Micro Center would previously sometimes sell them for $3999, and you can get them on the Apple Refurbished store for about $4250.

You can avoid all the transcoding by acquiring in ProRes to something like an Atomos Ninja V. The file sizes are bigger but much smoother to edit.

I think 32GB RAM is generally OK for something like FCPX and Motion. If you are running multiple large apps in parallel, you might need more. You can inspect "memory pressure" in Activity Monitor on your workload to see if it's memory constrained.

Re 1TB or 2TB SSD, normally 1TB is enough but 2TB is pretty nice especially on a laptop. Another factor that eats space is the increasingly common tendency for cloud-based providers like DropBox, etc. to sync large folders down to your hard drive. You can intervene and turn that off but it's better to have some "elbow room" so you aren't on a hair trigger to react.


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Howie Young
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:42:00 pm

Joe,

Thank you for your response and insight.

What types of projects do you edit?

How much RAM does your iMac Pro have?

Which GPU would you recommend?



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Joe Marler
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:29:45 pm
Last Edited By Joe Marler on Sep 19, 2019 at 9:34:37 pm

[Howie Young] "What types of projects do you edit?

How much RAM does your iMac Pro have?

Which GPU would you recommend?"


Re iMac fan ramping up, that is *definitely* the case on 2017 and earlier. However supposedly the 2019 8-core iMac is much better in that regard, although not as quiet as the iMac Pro. Despite all the discussion of this I don't recall any review doing a controlled test of this area - iMac Pro fan profile and db noise under sustained load vs 2019 8-core iMac under the same load. Maybe someone else does.

I think some people are over-sensitive to noise. They complain about the iMac fan noise at *idle*. I've measured my household HVAC and it's much louder than that. I don't see how such people could work in a typical office environment.

That said, I often spend *days* transcoding material and the 2014-2017 iMac is irritating. Even though it's "white noise", that gets old after a while. By contrast the iMac Pro almost never spins up.

My projects are mostly documentary, often 50+ 2-3 camera interviews, 4k H264 but more recently 4k ProRes 422. The final products range from 5 min to 30 min, although sometimes we'll do a 2 hr stringout. The final product may contain thousands of edits and many effects.

We've done several blue screen shoots and those don't seem that bad. However -- as the edits and effects pile on the timeline slows down. Anyone who says their Mac is always super-speedy has never done this kind of work. Put Imagenomic Portraiture, Digital Anarchy Flicker Free and Neat Video on a bunch long clips and see how fast your Mac is.

My 10-core Vega 64 iMac Pro has 64GB, but it would probably do OK on 32GB. My 2017 i7 iMac is 32GB and I've never seen Activity Monitor showing memory pressure when under heavy load. Note: even the iMac Pro can be field upgraded with more RAM, although only by an Apple-certified service center.

Re GPU I usually recommend the top one, simply because GPU progress is rapid and software people are constantly finding new ways to harness those. That said I'm not sure in the real world you could tell a major difference on a FCPX workload between the Vega56 and Vega64 GPU.

Part of it is just "emotional protection". Anyone doing serious work will inevitably encounter slowdowns, and often when facing a deadline. When that happens, if you spec'd a lower-end config you will think "maybe it wouldn't be so slow if I had only...". In reality it would probably have been slow no matter what the config. But if you got the top config you can comfort yourself thinking "I got the top machine and it's STILL slow....I did the best I could!"


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Oliver Peters
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:15:44 pm

[Howie Young] "I prefer the iMac Pro over a 5K iMac because of the silent fan noise"

We have 5 iMac Pros and 3 5K iMacs. For general editing, very little difference between the two.

[Howie Young] "The model he recommends is slightly out of my budget."

What is your budget and do you need to factor in peripherals, external storage, monitoring, adapters, i/o, etc?

- Oliver

Oliver Peters - oliverpeters.com


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Howie Young
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 8:36:06 pm

Oliver,

I've used the 5K iMac and the fan immediately ramps up and gets very loud when rendering 4K footage.



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Oliver Peters
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 10:57:38 pm

[Howie Young] "I've used the 5K iMac and the fan immediately ramps up and gets very loud when rendering 4K footage."

Since you seem to be set on the iMac Pro and budget is an issue, then this config should work:

8-core
32 or 64 GB RAM
Vega 64 GPU
1TB SSD
AppleCare

- Oliver

Oliver Peters - oliverpeters.com


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Howie Young
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:11:34 pm

Oliver,

I appreciate your recommendation. Thanks!

What type of projects do you edit?



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Oliver Peters
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 19, 2019 at 11:56:33 pm
Last Edited By Oliver Peters on Sep 20, 2019 at 12:49:05 pm

[Howie Young] "What type of projects do you edit?"

I work mainly out of a shop that is a creative production company. We produce, edit, and finish commercials, corporate videos, online content, and entertainment projects for a variety of clients. The shop has 9 workstations (iMac, iMac Pro, 2013 Mac Pro) connected to 10GigE central storage (LumaForge and QNAP). We shoot nearly everything in 4K and deliver in 4K and 1080. We are mainly an Adobe shop cutting in Premiere Pro, although I also do some cutting in FCPX, plus color correction in Resolve.

Here are some samples: https://vimeo.com/oliverpeters

- Oliver

Oliver Peters - oliverpeters.com


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Daniel Fletcher
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 25, 2019 at 5:12:35 pm

get the base and upgrade the RAM later from OWC when and IF you see performance degrade with lonnnnng sequences. This machine is MORE than adequate for this type of work. You could easily get away with cutting this content on a MacBook Pro or Mini.



IMHO
Save the money for storage and other supporting goods (sound, color, monitoring)


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Howie Young
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 25, 2019 at 7:32:04 pm

Hi Daniel,

Thanks for responding. Apple informed me the iMac pro cannot be updated once it is configured and sealed.



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Daniel Fletcher
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 26, 2019 at 12:01:35 am

well of course they would say that. Don't believe the hype.

https://eshop.macsales.com/shop/memory/imac-pro-2017

Good on you for doing your research on the config and getting other opinions.
Of course get the most machine you can afford, but the core of what Im saying is that you would have more than enough power and memory in that machine to get your work done. You will however probably want some additional supporting storage or equipment that would serve you better than upgrading the GPU etc. the main bottleneck of that machine for editorial is screen real-estate IMHO as great as the display is a second or third is preferred

Hope this is helpful


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Howie Young
Re: iMac Pro Configuration Advice Needed
on Sep 26, 2019 at 1:13:32 am

Daniel,

Thank you for your advice.

What additional storage would you recommend?



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