Mac Pro 5.1 - Optimizing Setup

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by botounami, Oct 1, 2014.

  1. botounami, Oct 1, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2014

    botounami macrumors newbie

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    Sep 16, 2014
    #1
    Hey there guys. I recently purchased two base level Mac Pro 5.1 machines to humbly begin my company's video department. The specs of these machines are:

    2.8GHz Quad Core (Nehalem)
    8GB RAM
    1TB Stock HD
    ATI Radeon HD 5770 Graphics Card

    The next step in the months to follow is upgrading the machines and improving their performance. I didn't have the budget to do it all at once, as buying the machines, displays, etc. was quite the upfront expense for us

    I'm hoping that the expertise of this forum will assist me with a few things. Currently, our primary uses are Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Media Encoder. We record videos, add effects to them as needed, and render them in high quality for YouTube. Lowering render times is a big priority for us.

    1) What kind of upgrade path would give me the most yield? RAM first, then Solid State internal drive, then graphics card? Or is there a better order?

    2) How can we optimize the performance of these machines within these programs themselves? I've heard a lot about changing settings within Premiere and/or Encoder to decrease render times. I haven't touched any settings yet, so it's a clean install of all the CC software.

    Any help here would be so greatly appreciated. If anyone has further questions, please let me know and I'll answer them promptly!

    For those interested, this is a continuation of this process.
     
  2. CASLondon macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 18, 2011
    #2
    Rendering times for video are CPU dependent. Driving your monitors and real time effects, etc, is GPU dependent.

    Go to a 6 core 3.47 CPU upgrade

    Up the ram to 24g

    Get a new video card.

    Get a high speed boot disk - for now, just get a samsung evo as a temp solution, then buy either the new (unreleased yet) OWC pro q PCI-e drive, or get an Apple pcie SSD adapter from ebay and then use a new Mac Pro PCI-e SSD as your boot.

    As for the software, get into a forum specialised in whatever app you are using as preferred one, you'll do better than on here. For AVID, the L-2 yahoo newsgroup, for Adobe, whatever that is. And Creative Cow
     
  3. flowrider macrumors 601

    flowrider

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    Nov 23, 2012
    #3
    I would buy nothing from OWC, IMHO they sell junk. The Samsung EVO is a good choice, but I would pair it with an Apricorn Solo x2 PCIe card, a great fast combo IMHO.

    http://www.apricorn.com/products/desktop-ssd-hdd-upgrade-kits/vel-solox2.html

    Lou
     
  4. haralds macrumors 6502

    haralds

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    Location:
    Silicon Valley, CA
    #4
    Final Cut Pro and Logic Pro are two applications that really do profit from multi core setups. I am not sure about Premiere Pro in this regard. In this case, I would have gone for dual processor (it's what I did - and I am happy.) You could later add a tray, but I would at least upgrade to a 6 core and then do the tray with second processor later. Unless you find a great deal on the tray upgrade, it is probably not worth the cost.

    I ended up getting a dual Quad Core 2.4GHz and upgraded that to dual 6 core 3.0.2GHz. Final Cut and Logic Pro plus Handbrake are probably the few apps that make good use of this power. Xcode uses it, but is usually limited by file io.

    The most important first upgrade is memory. On this machine, you want to populate slot 1-3 and leave 4 open, since it shares a channel with slot 3. 3x8GB are a good start - 24 Gb. I ended up doing this for each processor for a total of 48GB, which should last me.

    A fast disk is important. With video, managing sources, scratch disks etc. can be a pain. I opted to create a 5TB Fusion drive from a 960GB SSD and a 4TB Hybrid. As you work on projects and access files, OS X will manage the most efficient use of storage block allocation over time. The SSD is on a separate mount, the other sleds are also filled with 4TB each for a total of 17TB or so. You can never have enough disk space for media ;-)

    I also have a 512GB SSD that I use for a Window 7-64 boot disk. Both SSDs are connected to the internal ports of a FASTA-6GU3-Pro cart, which also has two external eSATA ports and two USB 3. Some folks think, it is not the fastest out there, but I have found it to be reliable and compliant being able to use it for both OS X and Windows boot. To mount these drives, I am using a 4DX carrier and power harness from transintl.com. Expensive, but the setup is clean and cool. http://www.transintl.com/dx4-for-mac-pro-2009-2010-no-drives.html

    I have an external eSATA drive dock that can use USB 3 and eSATA. Typically, I use it with USB 3. I have found that the most efficient way to move around large media files is on a disk and have a few of those on hand - smaller 500GB 2.5 in. for mailing, larger 3TB for carting around.

    I am using an HD-5870, but the HD-5770 should be fine.

    Probably obvious, but make sure, you are using wired ethernet between the machines to maximize transfer speed.

    With much trial and tribulation, I upgraded the internal WiFi/BT setup to support handoff. A simpler way is to just buy an IOGEAR GUP521 and plug that into the back of your Cinema display - no handoff, but the mouse is smooth with it.

    In my experience, Macs last a LONG time. My 2,1 is still a nice machine seven years after I bought it. The only regret I have about it is that I waited to long to upgrade the 4 core configuration to 8. My philosophy is to maximize it early in my lifecycle to get the full benefit for the longest time.

    Have fun, I believe despite not being the newest, these will last. Interestingly, Final Cut and Logic Pro are the only applications, where I can see that my 5,1 doubled the speed of my 2,1. With everything else, it just feels good to have the improved architecture and all those cores, but you can't really tell.

    -- Harald
     
  5. botounami, Oct 1, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 1, 2014

    botounami thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 16, 2014
    #5
    Thanks so much for the feedback! It leaves me with some questions/comments:

    This isn't an option given the crazy price. We got the low end machines for budget reasons. They were only $800. It looks like a processor upgrade just isn't an option.

    Is it true that I can go 3x 8GB? I understood that RAM always needed to be in pairs.

    Let's assume we're dealing with someone who is in the "learning" phase of high end computing and video needs :) Can this be spelled out further? There's currently a 1TB internal that handles the everyday things, and then an external hard drive that keeps all of the footage for premiere projects. What would be the suggested setup for the above?

    Should I set up one drive as a boot/main drive, and one drive as a "footage" drive and ditch the external? I know there's ways to partition drives, and that I should keep the most used things on a SSD, but if there's more info to give here, it would help me out tremendously.

    Edit: What IS the Velocity Solo? It doesn't have storage, so it's not a hard drive, right? So I'd need to buy a Samsung Evo drive, install it in the Mac Pro, and then install the Velocity Solo x2 and clone the Samsung Evo onto it? That's what I've gathered thus far. It seems like it's a helper that just makes the read/write of the SSD faster by essentially...lubing the data pathways?
     
  6. haralds macrumors 6502

    haralds

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    Jan 3, 2014
    Location:
    Silicon Valley, CA
    #6
    Yes, the 5,1 is different than other configurations. More here:

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT4433?viewlocale=en_US&locale=en_US

    ----------

    The Velocity SOLO-X2 card is a high speed eSATA III PCIe card that allows mounting of an SSD on the card. This means, one of the sleds is not taken by it and you do not have to rig up a power harness. I have one of these in a 3,1.

    More here: http://www.apricorn.com/products/desktop-ssd-hdd-upgrade-kits/vel-solox2.html

    IMHO, if you have an open bay/sled, it does not buy you much in real world performance, especially if you are budget conscious.

    RE SSD: I have been using various versions of the Crucial MX and older M series SSDs. In some performance areas they are not quite as good as the EVO, but in wear tests they did not show appreciable error rates and replacements way past their projected life time. I have 3 of these running in Macs with a 4th coming.

    ----------

    In general, internal drives tend to be faster than external. Firewire 800 work pretty well, but are expensive. eSATA external (with a card) should be equivalent to internal, but I have seen sleep problems, where the drive ends up not mounted fast enough giving you annoying warning.
    Internal drives are simple. For low cost, put the system, applications, maybe cache files on an internal SSD (240GB are around $100), and use the other drive (s) for media.

    ----------

     
  7. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #7
    Given you're using Adobe CC and not Apple's Final Cut, focus on what Adobe likes to work with.

    First up, RAM. I have 32GB in 4x8GB sticks, which runs in dual channel. If I take one stick out, I have 24GB in triple channel, which *barely* as in not noticeably faster, only seen with long renders and a stopwatch as a second or two. Forget about worrying about triple channel, and fill up all RAM slots. Pr and AE like all the RAM you will give them. I find 32GB to be the sweet spot, budget wise. I have little to no page outs or swap file use, and THAT is the key to how much RAM you need.

    Second, disks. Spread out your assets among as many disks as possible, or if you've wisely built a fast RAID box, put your media there. The boot disk can be the stock HDD or an SSD. The only difference there is how fast it boots and loads the application, after which, you won't see much difference in speed. I have an SSD boot disk, and it IS nice to launch an app instantly or at least much quicker. The main thing is to have the Operating System and Adobe on the boot disk, the media cache on another disk, and the actual media and previews on yet another disk. Adobe will read/write to these simultaneously, and by having them on their own disks, there is a reduction in wasted bandwidth between the various data moving back and forth.

    For example, it reads the original video/audio file from the media for playback, and also grabs media cache files it wrote at the same time. If the data are all on one disk, it has to search and read all across that one disk for it all, and push it through to you. If it's playing back cached files, original files and preview files from three sources at once, it's obviously going to be smoother. Tired of stuttered playback? Spread that media out, or have gobs of fast disk speed. I have an external 8-bay RAID box that reads and writes at over 750MB/sec sustained, and it works well. I also use internal disks in a RAID for the media cache files, so that all those tiny files can be utilised without hindering the media playback.

    Third, CPU. Encoding is done fastest on the fastest CPU. Also, Adobe uses multiple cores. I have a 6-core 3.33GHz CPU that I installed myself, since my 4,1 originally came with a quad core. Adobe uses all six, and indeed all twelve 'virtual' cores due to hyper threading. You can find new CPUs for pretty good prices, and put them in yourself. It's easy peasy lemon squeezy on a 5,1 Mac Pro.

    Next, GPU. I'm very interested in the new GTX 980, and it's almost ready, hopefully. Adobe uses both CUDA and OpenCL for acceleration in Adobe CC, so get the fastest GPU that you can afford for that. I'm still getting by on an old 5870 for now, which got a lot nicer when Adobe started using OpenCL instead of *just* CUDA. I nearly got a GTX 770, but when you can still make do with what you have, you might as well save some money and skip another generation.

    If you use USB 3.0 media, get a USB3 PCIe card. I have an old FASTA-6GU3 card that still works perfectly. Two USB3 ports, and it even has two eSATA ports. Has been handy.

    Each of the upgrade areas that you focus on will make a noticeable improvement to your editing smoothness, and you should upgrade all areas if you can afford it. It's worth not having frustrated editors that have to deal with choppy playback or endless renders, and the 4,1 / 5,1 can easily be built to be a smooth, wonderful tool to work with at a respectable, low cost. What is "low cost" is debatable, but I feel I've saved a lot by updating my 4,1 instead of buying a whole new Mac Pro. I spent some money on an Areca RAID card, two external RAID boxes and a bunch of enterprise disks, but still far less than buying a new system.
     
  8. h9826790 macrumors 604

    h9826790

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    Location:
    Hong Kong
    #8
    The W3690 is not that expensive, most likely just $300 at this moment. And the W3680 is around $240.

    For a quad core machine, not necessary to go for the expensive X5690 if no plan to install 64G RAM.
     
  9. flowrider macrumors 601

    flowrider

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    #9
    Comments in RED.


    Lou
     
  10. flowrider macrumors 601

    flowrider

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    Nov 23, 2012
    #10
    No Sir, whether you use slot four or not, you are running with Triple Channel memory. Slots 3 and 4 share the third channel. I agree there is not a BIG speed difference if you populate slot 4, but there is a DIFFERENCE if you don't.

    Note - if you left slots 3 and 4 MT, then you would be running dual channel, leaving the third channel unused.

    Lou
     
  11. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    Oregon
    #11
    Hmm, did not realize that. I thought it switched to dual channel by putting two in one and two in another to keep speeds equal. Interesting.
     
  12. botounami thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 16, 2014
    #12
    This has been just insanely helpful guys. I can't thank you enough. I want to run a plan by you to make sure that I'm applying the useful advice to real world improvements, especially with my budget.

    1) RAM - $300 - This seems to be the most critical aspect, given that the machines only have 8GB right now. The first thing I will do is upgrade the RAM to 24GB (3x8GB in each computer). That will give me the option to go to 32GB down the road if needed. Is there anything I need to look out for regarding RAM? Good brands, bad brands, etc? And can I leave the stock 2GB DIMM in the 4th slot to go to 26GB?

    This is what I currently have sighted.

    2) DRIVES - $400 - This seems to be the second most critical aspect. I have the stock 1TB drive that I can use for footage. The process would be to film, then import the footage to the 1TB drive. Then, a 128GBGB Solid State for Boot/Operating System/Adobe Programs and a 256GB Solid State for Media Cache (too big? too small? need ssd?).

    128GB SSD
    256GB SSD

    After a project is done, we'll move the footage from the 1TB internal to a 4TB external for archiving purposes. Rinse and repeat.

    3) PROCESSOR - $400 - The final step would be to purchase two 3.46GHz Xeon processor and to install them ourselves. Something like this is reasonable?

    This processor seems to fit the requirements.


    Alright guys, if you see a problem with this plan, or can think of a better way to go about it, please let me know! I'm likely going to fund this personally to get the machines where they need to be. Thanks again!
     
  13. flowrider macrumors 601

    flowrider

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    #13
    Lou
     
  14. crjackson2134 macrumors 68020

    crjackson2134

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    Charlotte, NC
    #14
    Really cool bit of information Lou, I would have never thought about that, but it makes perfect sense. It sounds like it's very similiar to the 3rd & 4th PCIe on the 5,1s.
     
  15. flowrider macrumors 601

    flowrider

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    #15
    ^^^^Why would you say that? All four PCIe slots in the 4,1 and 5,1 Mac Pro are independent PCIe spec 2.0. The only difference between them is the bandwidth. Slots 1 & 2 are 16 Lane and Slots 3 and 4 are 4 Lane, but again they are independent unlike memory slots 3 and 4 (and 7 and 8 in a DP) that share a common channel. In fact, if you populate RAM slot 4 and leave slot 3 MT, it won't show up. Put a PCIe device in PICe slot 4 and leave slot 3 MT, and it will work just fine.

    Lou
     
  16. botounami thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 16, 2014
    #16
    Lou, thank you!

    That's about $200 more. Is the main concern that cheaper Samsung sticks will fail, or is there some small differences that make them less worthwhile with Macs?

    Right, the EVO! I'll switch gears there. Heard nothing but good things about them. Would two 250GB drives be sufficient for both OS/Adobe Programs and the Adobe Media Cache files?

    Is this one from ATD what I'm looking for? I've noticed there's tons of EVO variations on Newegg and whatnot. Some say internal, some don't, etc. The prices there are really good...

    The PCIe Solo x2 is only being skipped for budget reasons. If it gives marked improvement then I'll reconsider! Can I put both SSDs on the Solo x2?

    Yes, that's what I mean. I only linked the other eBay one because the one you linked was inactive (all sold). Do they come in regularly?
     
  17. crjackson2134 macrumors 68020

    crjackson2134

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    #17
    I thought that PCIe slots 3/4 shared bandwidth in the same way you describe memory slots 3/4. I thought I read that somewhere but perhaps I was actually confusing it with the memory slots.
     
  18. flowrider macrumors 601

    flowrider

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    #18
    Lou
     
  19. botounami thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #19
    Lou, I thought this would be the end of it, but now I still have questions. If there's a way to take it to private messages that'd probably be best, but I don't see the functionality here, so I'll keep marching on :)

    Sorted! I'll go with DMS and make it happen. We can close the case on memory - I know exactly what to do.

    This brings up more questions. How should all of these drives be configured? From what I can tell, I need 4 hard drives. 1 drive is for the operating system only. 1 drive is the scratch disk (is this the place that the media cache goes?). 1 drive is for the Adobe programs, and 1 drive is for the footage. I think I'm confused on this point, and my relative computer illiteracy has gotten the best of me.

    How many total hard drives do you suggest, what should go on them, and which should be SSD v. normal?

    This kind of gets back to my not fully understanding what an x2 does. I was under the impression that I buy a Samsung Evo, open up my Mac Pro case, and plug it into one of the 4 hard drive slots. It sounds like I will need an adapter regardless, and that the adapter can be the x2 itself. So will I always need either an adapter or an x2 to put a hard drive in the Mac Pro bay?

    I watched this video to get an idea, and then I watched this one and I think I get the idea. SATA II is an older connection, and SATA III is the new hotness. The Velocity x2 makes the SSD connection a SATA III connection for improved speeds, and also acts as an adapter to make everything fit correctly. If this is the case, it sounds like a no-brainer.

    If I buy two of these, are they relatively easy to install, or will I have to have it professionally done? I've not been able to find much online regarding the process. I see a lot of the word "flashing" which to me means a little more than I'm capable of.
     
  20. botounami thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #20
  21. flowrider, Oct 2, 2014
    Last edited: Oct 2, 2014

    flowrider macrumors 601

    flowrider

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    #21
    Lou
     

    Attached Files:

  22. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

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    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #22
    The operating system and the Adobe program files, along with all program files and apps, can be on the same disk.

    You can put more than four disks into the Mac Pro tower with ease, if you have only one CD burner in the optical drive bay. I have two SSDs hiding up there underneath my Blu-ray burner, which I put in place of the stock Superdrive. If you only put one disk up there, it will simply plug into the extra connector up there.

    That would leave you five disks in the tower without any real hassle, as such:
    SSD for OS and programs - under the disk burner
    Media disk(s) - bay 1, or bays 1 & 2 (maybe you want to split media from render exports as some do)
    Scratch disk(s) - bay 3, or bays 3 & 4, if you make a RAID 0 of two disks (scratch should be fast)
    Backup, or even a mirror (RAID 1) of media files - bay 4

    Point is, there are plenty of spaces and different options for disk setup that maximize performance in Adobe CC. If you're using x2 devices in PCIe slots, then you have even more disk options up top. It can all be done in the box. Where it gets trickier is when you're editing numerous and/or massive projects. You'll need a lot of disk space for that.
     
  23. botounami thread starter macrumors newbie

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    Sep 16, 2014
    #23
    Thanks so much guys! This has just been unbelievably helpful. I know where to get RAM and how much to get. I have a solid idea and increased understanding of how to set up my drives, and I'm convinced that I can get a couple of new processors and install them, saving a ton of cash.

    We're down to one question!

    Is it ultimately worth the extra $70 for the W3680 (3.33GHz, 6-Core) from the X5677 (3.4GHz, 4-Core), or the extra $145 for the W3690 (3.46GHz 6-Core)?

    That's the last decision to make!
     
  24. wonderspark macrumors 68030

    wonderspark

    Joined:
    Feb 4, 2010
    Location:
    Oregon
    #24
    I have the W3680.

    I'd choose that or the W3690, no question about it. At the time I got my W3680, it was half the price of the W3690. For an extra $145, I would do the W3690 today.
     
  25. botounami thread starter macrumors newbie

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    #25

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