MP 7,1 Afterburner video accelerator card for new Mac Pro

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by PowerMike G5, Jun 3, 2019.

  1. PowerMike G5 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    As I look at this new Mac Pro and explore buying one this year, the thing that excites me so far (given my work is in media/film/tv) is this Afterburner accelerator card.

    I wanted start a thread where info for it can be gathered over time, to help those interested understand what it ultimately provides.

    It seems to be built to accelerate ProRes workflows. I wonder how this will be ultimately implemented, given one of it's purposes is to forgo proxy generation. Like how does it interact with native media from several cameras, different codecs, etc.
     
  2. bsbeamer macrumors 68020

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    #2
    It is a hardware acceleration card optimized for ProRes. There were rumors of Adobe making their own card awhile back, but they never did. I'd currently look at this like an Avid HDX card or RED hardware acceleration card, but just for FCPX at the moment. It's not 100% clear other software will be able to take full advantage of this card. Multiple GPUs might be better workflow for non-FCPX users, at least initially.
     
  3. PowerMike G5 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #3
    Yeah, I wonder how long it would take for Adobe and other 3rd party software to take advantage of this card. It does mention accelerating ProRes workflows in FCP X, QT X, and supported third-party apps on the Apple site.
     
  4. bsbeamer macrumors 68020

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    #4
    Adobe has been getting early access to SOME Apple hardware and software recently, so maybe they'll be one of the first to support in some fashion? Hard to tell until more is really known about it. I remember the days of FCP7 workflows and codecs being accelerated by AJA & Blackmagic hardware, so I'm not holding my breath with the early numbers being reported.

    Also not clear how expensive the AfterBurner add-on will be. I'd want clear "proof" it works for my scenario before dropping $1K on the card vs. multiple GPUs (can get 5+ brand new RX580's for $1K). Adobe on macOS was just updated recently to take real advantage of multiple GPUs for hardware acceleration and this machine appears to be setup perfectly for that. Personally could not imagine running out of PCIe slots short-term, but expansion boxes are also an option.
     
  5. PowerMike G5 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #5
    Definitely agree with you, hence why I wanted to start a thread on this. My curiosity lies in how this card will ultimately accelerate the overall workflow. I remember those FCP7 days well... I used to rock both the AJA Kona LHi then as well as the AJA IoHD that had the ProRes hardware encoder/decoder built into that portable box that connected to your Mac via firewire!
     
  6. Glockworkorange macrumors 68000

    Glockworkorange

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    #6
    I'm looking forward to reading this thread and learning, as I'm clueless re: a lot of the features announced with this machine.
     
  7. mBox macrumors 68020

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    #7
    I remember back in the day when it was the DSP chips (ICE Cards).
    Hope this one lasts longer.
     
  8. linuxcooldude macrumors 68020

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    #8
    I think Blackmagic design is going to support this card in DaVinci Resolve. Another note, if this is built on a regular PCIe card if it would work in the older cheese grader or even 2013 Mac Pro thru Thunderbolt? Probably once upgraded to MacOS Catalina.
     
  9. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #9
    They did specifically mention it being used in Resolve to free up the CPU and GPU for more intensive tasks so I’d wager DaVinci support out of the box isn’t out of the question.

    The site does mention that’s it’s programmable so maybe one day we’ll be able to see this thing handling a bunch of formats. Would be amazing to see ProRes, DNxHR, ARRI RAW, BM Raw, and RED all hardware accelerated with the same card.
     
  10. vladi macrumors 6502

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    #10
    This is such a niche market really. I guess this is targeted toward prosumer handheld people who opt for high quality ProRes 4444 or ProRes RAW to save space and money and Apple is selling them a story of long term investment since this card can blast through few 8K videos their camera can't even shoot at right now.

    Most workstations today don't struggle with 422HQ 4K content that many film cameras output to.
     
  11. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a

    AcesHigh87

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    #11
    Single streams of it maybe but this thing isn’t designed for single streams. If you’re running a large Multicam production you could have easily 4+ streams at one time. That’s gonna choke most computers. I’m cutting 6 streams right now, if that were 4K or any kind of raw format I wouldn’t stand a chance.
     
  12. bsbeamer macrumors 68020

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    #12
    Until more is known, I'd really just look at this like a RED ROCKET/ROCKET-X card for ProRes formats. If you're not 100% in on ProRes acquisition, editing, and distribution the benefits may be limited. Would seriously look at multiple GPU setups instead.

    Worth mentioning, the RED ROCKET is almost $7K brand new. That's why the partnership with NVIDIA RTX for them was so important. AVID HDX cards start around $2500. If this is the type of market they're looking to hit with Afterburner, $1K+ is absolutely likely.
     
  13. joema2 macrumors 68000

    joema2

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    #13
    Yes, 4k ProRes 422 HQ is easy to decode and encode. Multiple 4k ProRes streams can be handled on a higher-end iMac -- provided the I/O bandwidth is there.

    I think the Afterburner is for multiple streams of 4k and 8k in a more difficult codec such as RED RAW. In those cases the decoding/decompression may be compute-intensive and possibly not amenable to traditional GPU acceleration.

    On the iMac Pro the T2 chip handles acceleration of H264/HEVC encode/decode. The new Mac Pro also has this, but whether Afterburner would handle these difficult codecs in a higher performance fashion, we don't yet know.
     
  14. bsbeamer macrumors 68020

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    #14
  15. joema2 macrumors 68000

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    #15
    Thanks, that helps. The article equates ASCI and FPGA but those are technically two different things. An FPGA is field (re)programmable, more expensive per part, burns more power but is suitable for smaller production runs. An ASIC is traditionally a full custom part which requires more lead time, more expensive fabrication setup, higher performance, burns less power but cannot be altered in the field. ASICS are used in higher volume applications which justify the greater fabrication setup time and cost.

    I still don't understand about accelerating ProRes encode/decode. Regular ProRes 422 is so lightweight (from a CPU standpoint) that you can edit 4k ProRes on a 2013 MacBook Air. ProRes RAW may require more computation to decode, esp. with more streams at 8k. Maybe the Afterburner helps more for 4444XQ, but that seems more an IO burden than CPU. 4k ProRes 4444XQ would be about 2,000 Mbps (250 megabytes/sec) per stream, and 8k would be about 4x that.
     
  16. Pressure macrumors 68040

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    #16
    Hopefully it can accelerate Blackmagic RAW as well, seeing as Blackmagic Design were a collaborator.
     
  17. eksu macrumors regular

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    #17
    I wonder if Afterburner would run in a cMP running 10.15, it looks like it was a PCIe card and not an MPX module.
     
  18. linuxcooldude macrumors 68020

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    #18
    Yes, but multiple streams with a lot of effects, transitions, ect. will eventually bog it down. By offloading encoding/decoding timeline to Afterburner, will leave more CPU/GPU power for everything else.

    If your needs are not that great then you're fine. But if you start experiencing slow downs, maybe that would be a good investment.
     
  19. bsbeamer macrumors 68020

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    #19
    I'm curious if it can be purchased as standalone outside of BTO configs. I assume yes, but guess we'll see. Really seems like "nothing special" about it other than maybe PCIe 3.0 requirement.
    --- Post Merged, Jun 4, 2019 ---
    Resolve works with ProRes footage and that MAY be the intended portion of the collaboration. Until more third parties start talking, I'm sure it's just a guessing game.
     
  20. joema2 macrumors 68000

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    #20
    The Afterburner card will not apparently accelerate effects or transitions, only decode and maybe encode. Effects and transitions are already handled by the GPU.

    Unlike ProRes, ProRes RAW requires demosaicing during playback to convert the recorded Bayer pattern image to conventional RGB. This is compute-intensive and is likely what the Afterburner card does.

    Demosaicing is not required for regular ProRes, effects and transitions are already handled by the GPU, so it's unclear what Afterburner does for regular ProRes.
     
  21. JesterJJZ macrumors 68020

    JesterJJZ

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    #21
    Red and Blackmagic will be supporting this card in the future.
     
  22. Pressure macrumors 68040

    Pressure

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    #22
    Yes but it seems outright silly shooting in Blackmagic RAW and then having to transcode to ProRes to be able to use the FPGA.

    I'm guessing the price is probably $4,000+ for that FPGA accelerator card alone.
     
  23. PowerMike G5 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #23
    Yeah, especially given they market this with wording like "No more time-consuming transcoding, storage overhead, or errors during output. Proxy workflows, RIP."

    bsbeamer is right... without more details, its just a guessing game at this point.
     
  24. deconstruct60, Jun 4, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 4, 2019

    deconstruct60 macrumors 604

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    #24
    Work as in supported configuration on the older cheese grader ? Probably not (they all are in vintage/obsolete status now).

    Work as in performs to the max performance that Apple talks about in the sales literature around the card. Definitely not. The no vintage/obsolete systems are PCI-e v2. This care is probably firmly grounded in a PCI-e v3 context to hit those "max" stream marks. Once got x8 v2 it won't work as well. It will do "something". It will also probably "do something" on a Thunderbolt v3 link as well ( slower and more latency). The MacPro 2013's Thunderbolt v2 links are an even bigger issue.

    One of the issues also it probably going to be which slot this card is in in the Mac Pro 2019. The slots oversubscribe the PCI-e lane provisioning. Some of these x8 slots are sharing bandwidth. Again sucking in 8K ProRes RAW footage and on-the-fly converting it is going to test bandwidth. Smaller resolutions will be easier.

    The streams are passed from this card to the video card over the PCI-e links. It isn't the "coming in" from storage that would be the bandwidth constraint. It is passing it back out to be viewed. ( could be some GPU feature set needed also if going far enough back in time )
    --- Post Merged, Jun 4, 2019 ---
    It think part of the push here is the rollout of HDR TVs , monitors , and content. It is not were most used to be, but where more expected workload is going. So it may have relatively limited impact on 'older' formats.

    Although if effects (or other overhead ) processes were throttling the CPU, then offloading the decode/encode would open up some limited headroom. ( perhaps not enough to make a big dent in effects throughput but perhaps enough to make the GUI incrementally more fluid. ). It probably won't be priced to target that niche, but perhaps another incremental value add.
     
  25. tsialex macrumors 601

    tsialex

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    #25
    Craig Federighi is now being interview by John Gruber on the The Talk Show Live from WWDC. He talked that Afterburner is a FPGA and like all FPGAs, can be instantly reprogrammable - no news here - but it's the first time I knew that Afterburner will be open to new applications and from what he talked, new applications will be developed for it.
     

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36 June 3, 2019