Importance of graphics card

Discussion in 'iMac' started by StroudTFB, Jan 24, 2012.

  1. StroudTFB macrumors newbie

    Jan 24, 2012

    Planning on making the switch to Mac. Been having a lot of media work coming in recently and my PC is really holding me back. I'm looking at the iMac in perticular. I need the Mac for;

    Video editing (most demanding thing the Mac will be needed for). I'll be using Premiere Pro and After Effects (and the rest of Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium). I'm not exactly the world's most advanced editor but I have a lot of work coming in and will want to learn the pretty advanced side of video editing (think Music Videos and commercial adverts/documentories).

    Also needed for audio recording (not intending this to be too demanding as my band has a Mac Pro based in the recording studio that will do the main legwork), and reasonably intense photo editing. These two requirements I'm not taking into consideration too much (so far) as I excpect the video editing will be the main thing I need to cater for specswise.

    My question is this...

    I was originally thinking about going for the 21.5 iMac (has the advantage of being pretty portable - could concievably get a small flight case for it and be able to be mobile with it - and is cheaper). The thing that always worried me though was the small graphics RAM (512mb).

    I wont be playing games with the machine, but how important is the graphics card for video work?

    Whether I go for the 21.5 or 27 iMac...I will get the i7 chip and get 16gb RAM third party.

    Will I get away with that graphics card when I start using Premiere and After Effects for reasonably advanced tasks???


    (with your reply please bear this in mind. I always see written, for anyone doing serious media work...'get a fully tricked 27 machine, it'll pay for itself'. Bear this in mind in mind. Im a pretty serious photographer, videographer, sound engineer and bass player. Money is tight!!! Everything needs money invested in it..........)


    Also planning on dual screening with my current cheap screen. Will the 512mb graphics acrd be able to hack it?

  2. AcesHigh87 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 11, 2009
    New Brunswick, Canada
    I can't say for certain but that's the kind of work I do on my iMac (specs in my signature) and it runs everything perfectly fine. More vRAM never hurts; it'll make your render times less and such, but it's not really a major thing to be worried about (at least in my experience)
  3. arjen92 macrumors 65816


    Sep 9, 2008
    Below sea level
    Videocard might help a little. But After Effects uses your computers RAM, not the video cards one. If I'm right, there are special video cards for After Effects.

    I believe the video cards in the iMac are intended for gaming. (with open GL and stuff it does help After Effects, but it's main purpose is not AE).
  4. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    The real-estate is up to you, I do the same work on an iMac as you are proposing to do...My specs:

    imac 27 ' i7, 2GB VRAM, 16GB RAM. The video ram is not going to make a huge difference to you, but I would go for at least a 1GB upgrade. The 16GB will make a big difference, but don't buy it at time of purchase Buy it separately from Crucial, Newegg etc. Apple's RAM prices are outrageous and fitting it is easy to do and won't void your warranty.

    If it was me I would go for more real-estate....An iMac isn't really portable IMO. I have a Macbook Pro (Top Spec) that I use in the studio, but the heavy work is all done on my iMac....If your interested, see my setup in the "Post for setup pas and present thread here on MR.
  5. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008
    If you are not a gamer, it doesn't matter how much VRAM your GPU has. Even if you are using software which relies on GPU acceleration.

    Let's assume that you work with high-res photos from a 12 megapixel camera, an uncompressed RBGA image of that resolution takes 12*4 = 48 Mbytes of memory. So a GPU with 512MB RAM will be able to fit at least 5-6 images of that size.

    And even if your data is larger, the image filter application is usually bottlenecked by computation, not memory access. The software will be able to divide the image into chunks and stream them to the GPU and still have high utilization efficiency.

    Summary: if your images are small (under 24 megapixel), VRAM size does not matter much. If your images are big, then you generally want more VRAM if your GPU is fast, otherwise it does not matter much again because it will be processing the data slower than it is streamed into the VRAM. And anyway, software which heavily relies on GPU processing is still rather scarce.
  6. hotrats macrumors newbie

    Jan 25, 2012
    You wont run into any issues with the 6770/6970.
  7. derbothaus macrumors 601


    Jul 17, 2010
    AE uses quite a bit of Video card power. If you have something like a Geforce 7300GT or an older 2600XT Radeon or similar you'll get stuttering in renders and playback. The faster the better but anything modern should have no problem doing the majority of tasks.
  8. StroudTFB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Jan 24, 2012
    How about dual screening (with a cheap full HD res screen) with After Effects and Premiere? Mac will show video playback and the other screen everything else...


    If I look at the 21.5 model I will be limited to the 512mb graphics card. Will having the 16GB RAM offset this well enough?

    When is the graphics card's vRAM more suitable that you Mac's available RAM?
  9. leman macrumors G3

    Oct 14, 2008

    You could easily run 3 monitors with a 512MB card and still have plenty of VRAM left. Not that it matters much for your tasks.

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