View Full Version : best way to upgrade 2008 Mac Pro for video work

Sep 3, 2011, 06:16 PM
I'm interning at a college making some videos for the school. The workstation they've assigned to me is a 2008 MP (2x2.8ghz quad-core). Right now it's got 4 GB RAM (4x1GB) and the ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT with 256MB graphics card.

There's a chance to optimize the machine for doing video work. I'll be using FCS3, Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5 to edit video, add effects, color grading, etc.

What are the best options to make the most efficient MP? CS5 can use tons of RAM, but how much is practical? 32GB would be overkill, I believe, but 4GB is just peanuts for rendering. The RAM needs to be in pairs, so if I kept the existing 4GB and added on, say, 4x2GB, would that be a good choice?

Or would it be better to get a faster graphics card and keep the RAM? If so, which one?

Hard drive upgrades are unlikely.

Any suggestions appreciated. My budget isn't determined but my job isn't a high a priority in the office, so I need modest upgrades, maybe a few hundred dollars max and only one of the two options mentioned.

Sep 3, 2011, 06:47 PM
Suggest 8GB memory and an ATI Radeon 5870 graphics card.

if the powers that be would run to it, a Mercury Extreme SSD from OWC would top it all off lovely.

Sep 3, 2011, 06:48 PM
Suggest 8GB memory and an ATI Radeon 58970 graphics card.

if the powers that be would run to it, a Mercury Extreme SSD from OWC would top it all off lovely.


8 gigs of memory should do you for most work. A Radeon 5870 will help you out with rendering.

I would either add an SSD or go RAID. Disk speeds are a major drag on video editing. Although if you don't have enough RAM to hold the video you're working with, or you don't have a video card to work with large frames, it's all a moot point.

Sep 4, 2011, 02:22 AM
While an SSD for a boot drive is very nice, if I'm budget constrained, I'd put that money towards graphics or RAID upgrades instead. If you can afford an SSD on top of that then you'll be quite happy.

For video editing, the most important upgrade would be fast drives for your video data. Get or build a RAID and go RAID5 or RAID6 if you're budget constrained and RAID10 if you can afford all the drives. Also recommend using Enterprise / RAID class drives, such as from Hitachi or Western Digital, but not Seagates as they time out too often when put in serious RAID's.

You could even buy the kit from Maxupgrades.com that allows you to put up to 8 drives internally to save you on buying an external RAID enclosure.

And while the Radeon 5870 as recommended earlier is a great card, alot of the pro tools on OSX are sadly not GPU accelerated for it (yet?). Premiere Pro's new Mercury Playback engine which is giving alot of pissed off FCP X editors new hope as they switch to Adobe runs much much much faster on an Nvidia card (check Barefeats.com tests). Davinci's Resolve (for color grading your video) is also Nvidia accelerated but sadly not ATI yet (coming soon?).

Same goes for Autodesk Smoke...only Nvidia cards are "qualified" on Autodesk's website though the product manager has stated in forums that they do support ATI cards.

But the highest end Nvidia card you can get "officially" is the professional level (read: extortion level) Quadro 4000 which is both expensive and just a little old. So depending on your level of risk aversion, you might consider a "flashed" GTX 470 or higher from the consumer card line as sold on Ebay by various Mac video card specialists. But do your homework if you go this route, it might be safer to just stick with an officially supported card if you're in a serious work environment because it sucks to debug random buggy issues when you're in production.

Sep 4, 2011, 04:06 AM
The obvious things here are a black magic or Kona video card and a broadcast monitor (I recommend FSI). You can't judge video on computer screen.

Sep 4, 2011, 09:43 AM
Thanks for the suggestions, everyone.

RAID, SSD, or monitors aren't going to happen. The office wants to change as little as possible. I need to show that upgrades are essential, not optional. Videos have been made before on this machine as is, so they may not see why I need anything else. The scale of video production here is very small. I'll be doing the video work by myself for the most part.

The graphics card and extra 4GB of RAM sound the best. The ATI 5870 is $200 more expensive than the 5770 so maybe I'll have to go with the 5770. Flashing a graphics card is not an option since I won't be installing the upgrades (the office tech person will).