How to Configure '08 Mac Pro for Best FCPX Performance?

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MacPhotog, Mar 28, 2013.

  1. MacPhotog macrumors newbie

    Sep 21, 2010
    Hi guys,

    My work machine is an "Early 2008" Mac Pro (3,1) that originally came with one 2.8GHz quad-core Xeon. I added a second one, so there are now 8 cores. The rest of the specs are:

    -OS 10.8.2
    -OWC Mercury Electra 3G 120GB SSD boot drive
    -Three more internal HDDs, two of them RAIDed
    -8GB (8x1GB DIMMs) 800MHz RAM
    -Two video cards: the original ATI Radeon HD 2600 XT that came with the machine, plus an ATI Radeon HD 5770 that I added to get FCPX working
    -Two monitors, both plugged into the stock Radeon 2600
    (plus assorted other crap like an eSATA PCIe card, etc.)

    FCPX currently runs on this machine, but it runs like complete crap... it is slow as hell. I have to edit everything (even DSLR footage) in "proxy" mode or else FCPX will lag and freeze, and exporting finished videos out of FCPX is so slow it is impossible (instead I send finished videos to Compressor, which actually seems to encode them pretty quickly... full HD, 1920x1080 compressed H.264 in almost real-time).

    While we're all waiting for the new Mac Pro to come out (crossing my fingers) I want to 1) figure out what is limiting the performance of my system* and 2) do whatever upgrades are reasonable to get it performing well.

    (*: In general my system performs pretty well... I can work with 2GB Photoshop files with fifty layers without problem)

    I understand FCPX is a RAM hog, so probably the first thing to do is install more RAM. But I'm also wondering if the video card(s) is(are) an issue. I bought the Radeon 5770 when FCPX came out because the Radeon 2600 was incompatible with it (maybe a lack of OpenCL support, I guess?).

    Is it possible that somehow FCPX isn't using the processing capacity of the 5770 correctly? Is it possible that by leaving the old 2600 installed in addition to the 5770 I somehow tricked the machine into not using the 5770's processing capacity?

    At the moment I'm considering
    A) buying a bunch more RAM for this machine
    B) removing the old 2600 video card
    C) upgrading to the Radeon 5870.

    What are people's thoughts?
    How could I best configure this machine for FCPX use?

    Thanks very much in advance for any help.
  2. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Get a 5870, dump the 2600XT.

    In fact, just take the 2600XT out of the machine right now and throw it into the trash. Plug both displays into the 5770. You're just losing performance by keeping the 2600XT in the machine. Not sure why you did that. You should be running your monitors off your fastest card. You're probably killing your performance by continuing to run your displays off the 2600XT.
  3. MacPhotog thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 21, 2010
    Thanks GoMac.
    Yeah, in chatting about it with a friend the other day the first thing I decided to do was yank the old 2600XT and see if that accomplished anything.

    I think I'm going to (in order);
    - yank the 2600XT and trash FCPX preferences, and see if that improves performance;
    - if not, I'll put a bunch more RAM in the machine;
    - if that still doesn't do it, I'll replace the 5770 with a 5870.

    Apple is making a lot of noise about FCPX today (in advance of the NAB show next week), trying to get editors who jumped ship to Premiere to come back into the fold. We'll see how effectively they do that, but IMO this can only mean good things as far as a new Mac Pro is concerned...
  4. MDangerous, Mar 28, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2013

    MDangerous macrumors member

    Jan 25, 2008
    I have the same MP. However, I have an ATI 2600XT and a GTX 470. I'm using OS X 10.8.3 and FCPX 10.0.8. I have the 2600XT in slot 2 and the 470 in slot 1.

    My monitors are plugged into the GTX 470 when I am working in FCPX. The only time I plug the monitors into 2600XT is when I use it as a GUI for DaVinci Resolve. I would suggest you do the same with your 5770 before buying the 5870 or something else.
  5. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    Unless things have changed, FCPX needs the card that the app's windows display on to be the same card doing the OpenCL GPGPU stuff. Unlike apps like Resolve, it cannot deal with the notion of a computation card separate from the display card for whatever "clever hack" is in the app.

    If kept the 2600XT it should be relegated to running secondary apps like web browser , email , etc. If need a reference monitor and don't have a specialty card to drive it that too should be hooked to the 5770.


    If move to 10.8.3 you may want to consider the new 7950 instead of the 5870. There may be some stumbling issues with the initial set of drivers but it would be a better long term foundation.

    Alternatively, could also consider two 5770 if just need to move other apps off to 2nd ( or 3rd ) screen. Basically "unload" practically everthing but FCPX and its monitor(s) from the 5770.
  6. MacPhotog thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 21, 2010
    Huh, I had no idea that which card graphics processing was done by was determined by where the monitor containing the windows was plugged in to.

    I just ordered a Mini Displayport to DVI adapter from Monoprice (my primary and secondary monitors are DVI and serial [!], respectively, so they need to be adapted to the DVI and Mini Displayport ports on the Radeon 5770). As soon as it gets here I'll open up the case, remove the old 2600XT, plug both monitors into the 5770 and see if that speeds up FCPX performance at all.

    I can't imagine the processing speed performance would be affected at all by the fact that the monitors are plugged in through adapters, right?
  7. goMac macrumors 603

    Apr 15, 2004
    Nope. Adapters won't change performance.
  8. MacPhotog thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 21, 2010
    I just pulled the old Radeon 2600XT out of the machine and plugged both monitors into the Radeon 5770* and HOLY CRAP.... FCPX is SMOKIN!

    I had no idea leaving the old video card in place would prevent the machine from effectively using the new one. Lesson learned!

    Thanks guys!

    *: Both monitors are going through adapters: my DVI monitor is going through a cheap Monoprice MiniDisplayPort->DVI adapter, and my ancient serial monitor is going through an old Apple DVI->serial adapter. I originally wanted to keep my main, DVI monitor un-adapted and plugged it directly into the DVI port on the 5770 and used BOTH adapters on the serial monitor (plugged into one of the two MiniDisplayPorts on the 5770, but it didn't work, and I think I know why... I don't think the Monoprice adapter supports analog signals, just digital). Anyway, I was afraid something wouldn't play well with the various adapters, but everything seems to be working just peachy.

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