Best setup for video production?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by macuser453787, May 19, 2012.

  1. macuser453787, May 19, 2012
    Last edited: May 19, 2012

    macuser453787 macrumors 6502

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    #1
    Greetings to all of you! I'm a newly registered member and am looking for some advice about the best setup for video production on a Mac Pro. Since this particular forum is for Mac Pros, I thought it best to post a thread here.

    I'm currently a graphic designer by trade, but am highly interested in shifting to video production and have been considering options for a long time now. Please note that this is all academic for me at this point, which is to say I'm not ready to make a purchase yet. But any advice/feedback would be sincerely appreciated.

    I'm considering two main options:

    1) This option assumes that Apple will release a refresh for the Mac Pro line, and for the sake of discussion please make that assent with me, at least based on the parameters put forth. :)

    With that in mind, it seems logical to me that a refresh would include an upgrade to SATA III for the HD bays. If so, I considered using OWC's Mercury Extreme Pro 6Ghttp://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/OWC/Mercury_6G/ to go in all (assuming 4) bays - 1 as boot drive, 2 as RAID 0 (for 2TB file storage), and 1 as a scratch disk. Then for backup of the striped SSDs, an external Enterprise class drive such as Hitachi's Ultrastar 7k3000 http://eshop.macsales.com/item/HGST/0F12456/

    2) This option assumes that Apple will not release a MP refresh, and that the current model will therefore be the one to choose. Since I'm interested in maximum possible IO for this (and since the current MP is SATA II), all of a sudden the OWC Mercury Accelsior PCI Express SSD http://eshop.macsales.com/shop/SSD/P...Accelsior/ RAID looks more appealing for the striped 2TB. This option would still possibly use Option 1's SSD for boot and scratch, and the Hitachi (or equivalent/better) for backup.

    But this is where I'm asking you for help. Either way I would be looking to max the RAM (or at least 64gb, though OWC does have a 96gb config for the current MP ), but I'd like some help understanding this from an IO standpoint re: drive setup. Would the Accelsior present a significant advantage with either option (that is, over and above the Extreme Pro 6G)? And if so, would it be enough of a difference to make it worth the extra expense of the Accelsior?

    Either way (and just FYI), am considering purchasing FCPX for the software, though I welcome input in this area too. Thing is, up to this point I've only used FC Express on my current Mac and I don't know if it would be better to go with FCPX or Premiere. Just haven't read up on it enough, though I do recall that prior to FCPX's release, the previous FC Studio (not Premiere et al) seemed to be industry-standard for the most part based on the threads I came across.

    What are the best options in your opinion? And please let me know if I left any blanks that need to be filled in. :)
     
  2. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #2
    Just FYI to anyone who's interested, I posted this in the Mac Pro section also and have already received replies on that thread so if anyone wants to jump in, you can either do it there or here if you like. :)
     
  3. Policar, May 20, 2012
    Last edited: May 20, 2012

    Policar macrumors 6502a

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    #3
    How are you financing this? This is one over-powered computer, especially if you've never edited before and don't have the client base to justify the expenditure. The hardware is also not very ideal for video because it doesn't have what the software demands.

    FCP7 is the most common program in video editing. I've yet to meet anyone who uses FCPX professionally, but it's probably just fine if you like the interface. Ultimately, all you need in a video editing program is the ability to ingest footage and export an EDL that's compatible with your finishing software--so anything works: Avid, FCP, Premiere Pro, etc. You can do basic motion graphics in all these programs, too, but a higher end editing house won't do this except for on very small projects.

    You'll need something for motion graphics. Either After Effects or Smoke. Smoke is more powerful (and it's an okay program for cutting, too), but it's too confusing for me, personally, since I'm not that into editing. If you want to get into higher end VFX you'll need more software, but this stuff can be farmed out (that's what we do, at least).

    You'll need something for color grading. Da Vinci Resolve has quickly established itself as the only reasonably affordably grading suite that's professional level. Run don't walk from anyone who mentions magic bullet.

    And for sound: Pro Tools or Logic.

    Of course you need Photoshop, because everyone does. And possibly Illustrator and Flash if you plan to do more involved motion graphics.

    Hardware-wise, none of this software needs 64GB of RAM. FCP7 needs like three. 16GB will be more than enough. Also, you generally don't edit video off an internal drive. Fast internal drives are useful for launching software and as cache drives (though I'd rather use an external drive for cache so it's all local to the one edit drive and easily swapped), but I've never worked with a system that had an internal RAID array, whereas I've worked with plenty of external RAID drives. It would be useful, but not worth the money necessarily when everything has transitioned to Prores... If you're editing DPX or ACES, maybe. But with ESATA and Thunderbolt drives available, I'm not sure I would get a RAID array.

    So get a decently fast internal drive, but edit off external RAID drives (or just regular hard drives, even). Prores422 edits fine of firewire 800, but for Prores444 (Alexa) or red raw (Epic) you'll want to edit off ESATA. Most fast external drives are okay but you might want a RAID array for multi-cam shoots or very large projects or for very high bitrate footage.

    Get two good desktop monitors and a calibrated video monitor. The cheapest way to go is a Panasonic 11 series plasma, ideally with HDSDI inputs and calibrated by an ISF-certified tech. You can connect this via a blackmagic card and that will be compatible with Resolve and Final Cut. Some clients like to have a calibrated projector, too, for whatever reason. At my job we cheaped out and got lesser monitors on our edit bays, but really don't if you want to be taken seriously. We do low end stuff. We don't have a control surface for Resolve, but you'll want one if you want to work efficiently. These are about $1,500 to $30,000.

    Get a graphics tablet for After Effects or Smoke.

    Audio interface for Pro Tools (I can't even pretend I understand anything about sound so don't ask me which one). And decent headphones and monitors (which are available pretty cheaply).

    In theory keep your room lit relatively dimly but not too dimly and at about 4200K. But no one really cares about this.

    Get a red rocket card if most of your clients shoot red, or get a ridiculously powerful dual graphics card set up--otherwise it will be too slow. You can skip the red card if most of them are smart and shoot dSLR or Alexa.

    Few of these programs are that multi-threaded or CPU-bound (After Effects kind of is), so again, 16GB of RAM and 4 processors might be all you need. But a powerful GPU will help a lot with Resolve and CUDA-compatible software like Adobe's.

    If you do go with Smoke, check Autodesk's site because it probably has rather insane and specific hardware requirements. Likewise Resolve has its preferences GPU-wise.
     
  4. genshi, May 20, 2012
    Last edited: May 20, 2012

    genshi macrumors 6502a

    genshi

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    Location:
    Portland, Oregon
    #4
    @Policar - I agree with just about everything you said here, except I'm getting a bit tired of people saying that "professionals" don't use FCPX (at least in your case you qualified it by saying you haven't met anyone who uses it...)

    FCPX is great for indie filmmakers, but when it was first released, it was the broadcast houses that really complained about it. And yet, even some of them are switching over to FCPX now.

    Though the following link is from Apple's site, I actually heard this from my cinematographer who works on the TV show Leverage here in Portland; shooting on RED Epic, they send the files down to a Los Angeles Post House (where I just moved from) and they edit the whole series (now in it's 5th season) on FCPX. And they are not the only ones... so don't count out FCPX, its much more powerful than people realize and much easier to use as well, which may scare some of the old pros, now that anybody can cheaply and easily edit professionally... if they have the editing skills of course. ;)

    Bottom line, if you get paid and your main source of income is from editing on FCPX, then you are a professional, but especially in these cases that I linked to, these are established post production houses in Hollywood that use it, so no longer can anyone say "Professionals don't use FCPX"... because they do.
     
  5. Policar, May 20, 2012
    Last edited: May 20, 2012

    Policar macrumors 6502a

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    #5
    I don't mean to disparage FCPX; I've heard it's good. I just don't know how it fits into a workflow and, to be honest, I've seen FCP7 on almost every edit suite I've encountered and FCPX on none. (The red guys seem to like Premiere, but they also like the red so they can't be trusted.)

    FCPX should be fine and will probably become more popular over time. If you're the only (or primary) editor, you can use whatever you want. If you're part of a team you might have to use something everyone is comfortable with and FCPX has a bad name, whether deserved or not.

    Avid is popular on large features because it scales well and media management is excellent. FCP7 is popular for TV. Smoke is TV-only.

    Location matters, too. The Alexa, which records to prores444, is the most popular camera on the east coast for serious mid-budget (tv and indie) production now; the F35, which records to HDCAM SR, is more popular on the west coast. I've heard Media Composer can now sort of use Prores, but FCP is best for it. The Epic doesn't work so great with FCP7 unless you transcode first, which is why Premiere Pro is suddenly being taken borderline seriously. I don't know how FCPX handles red raw.
     
  6. genshi macrumors 6502a

    genshi

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    #6
    Funny you say this, my cinematographer says the exact same thing. Even though they make him shoot on the RED for the show, he prefers his several Canon DSLRs that he has, as well as his Arri 35mm Film camera (that we can't afford to get film for, at least not for the upcoming low budget feature we are shooting.) He loves the Alexa which he has used recently, and thinks the REDs are overrated, unreliable and just a pain (in general) to work with. But it pays his bills...
     
  7. Policar, May 20, 2012
    Last edited: May 20, 2012

    Policar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
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    #7
    From a cinematographer's perspective I dislike the red (I've shot a bit with the original, the MX, and the Epic, but not much); from an editor's perspective I just can't stand it. The Epic is a big, big improvement from a cinematographer's perspective, better highlights, more reliable, and much easier to operate.

    dSLRs have much worse image quality technically but they are a lot easier to shoot with and they reproduce important memory colors (skin tones and greens) better than the red does. It's kind of hard to grade dSLR footage and it's too soft for theatrical exhibition as an A camera, but ideally you get it and it's shot okay to start with, whereas red footage is easy to grade but needs the most work in post and for whatever reason DPs have the most trouble exposing it correctly. dSLRs are by far the most fun, though. The GH2 hack is possibly great but the Canon dSLRs are soft despite great color rendering.

    The Alexa is a dream from everyone's perspective, at least for tv and indie. The highlight rendering is unprecedented in video, the LUT/log-c recording/monitoring system is excellent so far as I can tell, it's easier to operate, and having the footage as prores444 out of camera is great. It's a little buggy but much less buggy than red. Unlike a dSLR, you need a full camera crew to operate it. The footage looks much better than Epic footage transcoded to log--MUCH better colors, much more aesthetic and slightly tamer noise, much better highlight rendering, much less skew, skin doesn't look plastic, etc. It blows away dSLRs, of course. I think it's worth the extra cost because it puts your movie, aesthetically, in another category. You can have a high-end red movie (Prometheus, Pirates 4, Girl with Dragon Tattoo) but then the cost is diverted to an expensive grade. Anyone can grade Alexa footage to look good. And post is so much easier and faster at every stage (edit, vfx, grade, etc.) because you carry the LUT with you throughout and prores is such a standard format that never needs to be transcoded. I have never shot film except a bit of 16mm, but Alexa footage looks better than 35mm scans to me.

    I'm not really a "professional" at anything in particular, as my sorry income indicates, so others will have different and potentially more valid opinions, of course. But the pros I've worked with love the Alexa.
     
  8. macuser453787 thread starter macrumors 6502

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    #8
    As an aside (and just because I haven't been in the industry and am curious): Why is it that Premiere hasn't been taken seriously for all this time? As far as I remember, it's been around since the 90's, so it would seem that at least in terms of longevity it would have some backing in the professional world. Again, I've not been in the industry so I'm just curious what the deal is with that. What is it about Premiere that it's not necessarily been industry-standard per se, or otherwise seen to be a program that has merit?
     
  9. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    #9
    It's interesting to me that Adobe had been so off/on with the industry. I've used it since 1995 as Premiere 4.2, but at that time I wasn't very serious with it. It didn't feel like a serious program back then, yet I enjoyed what it could do.

    As the years went on, I used Media100 and Avid's full-blown systems, and liked them a lot. Then it came time to build my own system at home to supplement my editing needs, and I couldn't afford my own Avid or Media100, so I built a PC with Adobe Premiere 6.5, I think. I really liked it, and got nice results from it. I played around in Final Cut, which really seemed almost identical to me, so there was no motivation to switch, despite the "everyone uses this" mentality.

    No matter what I edited, I'd get the question, "What did you edit this on... Final Cut? Avid?" I'd say Adobe, and every time, people were surprised. "REALLY?!?"

    It's like the FCP X crowd today. I think there are plenty of tools that can deliver great results, given some talent. It's just that people get so attached to what they perceive as "the best." In many cases, it has to do with workflow and working with others, but often times I think people are just afraid to try something outside their comfort zone. I haven't had any problems delivering a product to anyone yet.
     
  10. Policar macrumors 6502a

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    #10
    I've never used Premiere so I have no idea. Avid's strength is its speed (at the cost of a learning curve) and media management; Final Cut Pro's strength seems to be its ubiquity--it's very good and extremely easy to use general-purpose software and it scales okay. I think because both programs are ubiquitous (and have been very good since early versions) their success is kind of a self-fulfilling prophecy--it's what people learn on so it's what they use. Though FCP7 begins crashing all over the place once you reach feature length timelines because of limitations in memory management. It's not a fast or stable program.

    The other answer might be DNxHD and Prores. These codecs make anything possible and they were introduced with Avid and FCP, respectively. I don't know, though; I'm not an editor by trade I am just doing a little editing at the moment to pay bills...

    Any deviation from industry standards is a headache, though. I have to ingest a Premiere project shot on Epic for a grade in Resolve and have no idea how I'm going to handle the speed ramps that won't properly translate over or what codec I'm going to finish with, even. There's a FCP XML file somewhere along the way is all I know. And most editors are used to FCP and Avid and will expect to use them, so they might not be thrilled to find a Premiere or FCPX workstation. But none of that reflects on the quality of software. The smaller your post house is and the fewer people you work with, the easier it will be to use something other than an industry standard. If you're a guy shooting weddings and delivering DVDs, no one has to know or care how that happens so long as it does. If you're trading footage with a dozen other houses, everything gets much more complex, perhaps unnecessarily.
     

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