advice on switching from PC to mac pro for editing

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by c2g, Jan 20, 2010.

  1. c2g macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2010
    My main job function is a webmaster, but I also handle any video projects for the company I work for. DV editing is also a hobby that I've been enjoying for the past 5+ years. This past year I got to produce an hour-long tribute video that featured lots of special effects, etc. that is leading to more and more video requests. It's time to upgrade my machine and now I'm looking for advice.

    My current workstation is a 3-yr old quad-core Dell 690, Win XP, 4 GB RAM, 2 x Nvidia Quadro 4500 cards, 2 x 24" monitors, plus a Matrox RT.X2 card with preview monitor. I do all my editing in Premiere and AE CS3. I also preform all of my normal work functions on it - internet, email, network, proprietary apps, etc. This machine has caused me nothing but problems from the moment it was set up. It takes 20 minutes to boot up and can barely run MS Office apps at this point, let alone basic Adobe design apps. I don't have any video projects at the moment, but I couldn't run Premiere or AE for a few minutes without locking up these days. Hence, the need for a new machine.

    The company I work for is strictly PC, but they recognize my special needs and are open to getting me a mac. My last machine cost $10K, but in these economic times, I can't see them wanting to spend more than $6K this time around (software aside). Couple this with the fact that I haven't used a mac since I last owned one back in '99 which ran on OS 8.1. I also work in a design department with 6 other users, all sharing files (everything but video) with me and all using PCs. I've been to the past few NAB conferences and have noticed a big difference when instructors were teaching on Mac Book Pros and laptop PCs.

    Now that my machine is running so horribly that I can barely carry out basic functions, we're meeting in the next few days to come up with a plan. My options are go with the latest Dell, which may end up giving me as many problems as my last machine, or go Mac. NO ONE at our help desk is trained to support mac, but they are eager to learn, plus no one really knew how to support my video needs on PC anyway. I also have to figure in the fact that I could work on projects at home on my laptop PC and use the free backup license for the CS3 suite as well. I'm really not sure what to do at this point. Sorry for the long-winded post, but if anyone's had a similar experience in the past, please reply. I'm eager to do more in the industry, so I'm fine with overcoming immediate obstacles for a better long term solution. Also, I've never learned FCP before but I'm pretty good with Premiere. If I went Mac I would just go to a few days of FCP training at NAB. Thanks for any suggestions.
  2. heynsmd2 macrumors member

    May 1, 2005
    Playing around with iMovie 05 was what got me started doing video editing with the mac when I first got a PowerBook years ago. I loved it immediately and continue to hone my skills at video editing as a hobby.

    The very basic tools that comes with every mac iMovie is surprisingly easy and intuitive to use but considering the software from Adobe you're used to, you'll probably be more comfortable with Final Cut's way of doing things. It's quick to learn the basics if your motivated, with tons of tutorials on youtube etc.. If you can afford Final Cut Studio that is obviously the way to go.

    I edit DV with my 3 year old iMac in my sig and it's still very fast and responsive. Final Cut ('Express', in my case) is a mature program - very stable and reliable. I guess newer HD material might trip it up a little bit, but I think Macs stay responsive and 'usable' much longer than equivalent PC machines. Most current Mac's will do well with video, but the higher specs are obviously better - also for longer term investment.

    Get a good external 'scratch disk' - preferably Firewire 800, that is separate from your boot disk.

    I use the optional paid Quicktime 7 Pro plugin quite a lot for video format conversions. Quicktime X in Snow leopard lacks some of 7's functionality - they're not there yet, but it will come.

    Mac OS X is easy to learn once you get over its idiosyncrasies. You'll find it will 'fade in the background' and lets you get on with your work!
  3. giffut macrumors 6502

    Apr 28, 2003
    Well, ...

    ... I wouldn´t really know why a quadcore would be that slow as described - I suspect some Windows malfunction here (broken registry, too much installation gore, some kind of hardware failure).

    Going Mac in your case might be very depending on the type of video editing you do and the outcome. If your clients demand bluray/h.264, I wouldn´t recommend a Mac based sotware at the moment, as the most potent software titels out there are Windows based (Adobe CS 4, Sony Vegas Suite). Final Cut is not on par regarding h.264 codecs. All of them require intermediate transcoding which costs lots of time you won´t need to spend with those mentionned above, which can cut it natively.

    BUT: Your possible future Mac Pro is a very potent Windows machine. You definitely could use it under Windows via bootcamp until Apple´s software catches up (rumors call it this year, but who knows no nothing).

    If you are dealing with heavy native HD editing, you need the fastest on the block (a Mac Pro wouldn´t be bad for this), but also investing into additional tecvhnology regarding I/O bandwith - which adds up to the budget fast (RADI cards, casings, backup strategies).

    So, you would need to be more specific about your current and expected workload before anyone can recommend anything.
  4. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    That sounds like my story. I started with iMovie in a PC-only place. When things started getting more complex I said: new iMac, Final Cut Studio, FCP101 Training, external HD (I use it as a backup via USB, not a scratch disc. My projects are DV not hi def and the iMac only has one Firewire port :( ), Canopus ADVC 110, Flip4Mac Studio (for WMVs), and a monitor.

    And they said: OK.

    I consider my training to be very important to me - coming from iMovie I struggled with FCP but am AOK with it now.

    I also ended up scoring a Sony DSR11 DVCAM deck (now discontinued) and a 14" CRT Panasonic Broadcast monitor as well.

    If you can get a MacPro, get a second HD as a scratch disc and a third as a Time Machine. (You can install them yourself and save some money.) You'll also have more FW Ports. Buy FCS3 at the same time and buy the extended warranty too. If the IT Department isn't able to support you, extended warranty is invaluable.

    Networking: How do you currently share files with the others in your department? Are you on a separate LAN with them connecting to a server? This may be a big thing or a little thing depending on how your LAN is set up. My Mac isn't on our Novell network. I suppose it could be, but the Mac Novell client costs $ over and above what we already pay for, and there'd be no support from the IT crew. Sneaker net works well for me :D

    You'll also have to consider how you'll be getting the material into your Mac, but we can leave that for another day.

    As an alternative to FCS, you could get CS4 for the Mac to keep using your Premiere knowledge and be able to share more things with the design team.

    Next stop for me, motion graphics and effects (note: it's a FCS2 book, not FCS3).
  5. heynsmd2 macrumors member

    May 1, 2005
    Remember, you can 'piggyback' many external FireWire drives - make a chain of drives so to speak. This makes the single port on the iMac less of a disadvantage...
  6. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    One of my drives has two ports, but piggybacking like that always makes me nervous. I'm never sure how the FW system will react. What I mean is, I think the video only requires (and is given) 100 mbps. Will that cause everything in the chain to slow down? What will that do for my 800 mbps hard drive? When I capture video, does it go camera -> iMac -> Hard drive , leading to the same stream going in opposite directions thus saturating the FW system and leading to dropped frames? I am a bear of very little brain and these things worry me.
  7. neonkru macrumors regular

    Nov 3, 2009
    video editing was the reason why i changed from pc to mac.
  8. MrLatte23 macrumors regular

    Jul 18, 2007
    Do it...

    Sounds like you've made up your mind and laid the groundwork. You've talked with the company about replacing your system, you've talked with the IT people about supporting your new system. You have a plan for training to learn FCP and as you've stated since you're familiar with Premiere, you're half way there. There's always a learning curve with switching editing software. Most difficulty I've heard of is Sony Vegas people trying to learn Final Cut Pro. I've used Premiere a slight bit (CS3) and it seems similar enough that it might not be a difficult transition.

    You can still boot into Windows and probably load your Adobe CS software on the mac if you get in a bind and need to punch something out quickly. Your monitors will work so there's a savings there. You can upgrade a Mac Pro over time, like I did... pick up an extra drive and RAM every other month. Blackmagic capture card here, Wacom Tablet there. Matrox CompressHD next... Maybe map it out for the person paying for it.

    The only problem I see is that Mac Pros are due to be upgraded so everyone's saying wait. But if the current model is what will work and the time is right for you, maybe not wait, just in case the money could dry up. You could be waiting a while, you never know with Apple. You'll probably get a slight bump in processor speeds, everything new is already 64 bit so that's not an issue. Maybe a BluRay option... you never know. Final Cut Studio is recently upgraded and works well with Snow Leopard. I say go for it.
  9. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
  10. mooblie macrumors 6502


    Apr 23, 2009
    The Highlands, Scotland
    @OP: You mentioned.... "Premiere". Twice. :eek:. Don't! Do yourself a favour and Google "premiere problems mac" etc.

    Your choices are iMovie, FCE or FCP. If you're serious about video on a Mac (and you're clearly a professional) you'll go for FCP. And did I say "don't even consider Premiere"?
  11. c2g thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2010
    Thanks for all the input. I actually met with IT yesterday and everyone seems to be on board with the new Power Mac option. Their only concern is me being able to run the Office suite on it and any networking issues that might come up -- again, I will be the first Mac user in the organization.

    Now for advice on the configuration. They're hoping this can last me 3-5 years.
    It's tough to say what my needs are because all projects up to this point have been in SD, but I need to plan on HD going forward. Also, it seems like FCP + AE will be the way to go.

    They brought this config to the meeting: 8-core, 2.26 GHz; 16GB RAM, Raid (unsure), HD - 640 GB system with internal 1 TB for now (have other externals already). Graphics card - really not sure about this, since we're coming from the PC which used the Matrox RT.X2 realtime editing engine for Premiere. I'm going to run the 2x24" monitors I already have. The best ATI card is only $200 more. Will I need something like the Matrox Compress HD.

    I'm thinking I can go up to about $6K. That spec is about $4K. What areas should I upgrade?

    Thanks for the help, everyone. Again, 9 days out of 10, I'm only doing web related work, but the video projects are coming and they're completely looking to me for how far we can take things, and I'm really looking to learn as much as I can in the field. So, although I don't have a clear direction right now, I need to plan for the possibility of bigger things a year or so from now.
  12. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    ATi cards perform better than Nvidia for Motion and Color, but not sure about After Effects.

    Video I/O depends on whether you're just needing one for accurate viewing or if you're going to be ingesting and laying off via tape deck. And what connections your monitor has. The Blackmagic Decklink is good bang-for-buck for SDI. Or there's their Intensity Pro or the Matrox MXO2 Mini for HDMI and consumer component monitoring.

    Scratch storage depends on how much space and throughput you need. That depends on how much raw footage you anticipate having at any one moment and what workflow/codecs you decide on. You could put three internal 2TB drives in RAID5 with the Apple or CalDigit RAID cards. Or you could get a RAID0 external like the CalDigit VR.

    With an 8-core I'm not sure you'd see much benefit from the Matrox CompressHD. But I may be wrong.

    Another thing to consider is how you plan to archive your projects. Risky to leave a dormant hard drive on a shelf and hope it spins up in three years time, so if you go that route I'd recommend you keep a couple of identical drives and spin them up reasonably regularly. Or look at Blu-ray.

    Do you need audio monitors? Or fancy a tablet?
  13. heynsmd2 macrumors member

    May 1, 2005
    I cannot speak for HD, but rarely had a problem in SD. I captured with camera connected to drive and drive connected to FW in the machine. Obviously it would be better to have the camera directly connected to machine, but if ports are limited, this type of setup may be helpful.
  14. c2g thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 20, 2010
    I have been backing up footage on multiple off-site drives, but I will need to look into the raid more. Never had an audio monitor - just used headphones, although I know that's not recommended.

    Just realized that I should really hold off on spec'ing a machine out until after tomorrow's announcement...

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