Macbook pro Owners - How's your 4k editing experience?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by nptech, Mar 19, 2016.

  1. nptech macrumors newbie

    Mar 17, 2016
    I'm curious as to how the folks here editing on a macbook pro find working with 4k projects.

    What do you use to edit? FCP or Premiere? Does the timeline stay stutter free editing projects 10 minutes + with effects and color grades? Do you wish you had slightly more power or is your current pro more than enough? If you're using Premiere do you transcode or are you using raw?

    If you could post your specs that would also be great
  2. joema2 macrumors 68000


    Sep 3, 2013
    I mainly edit on a 2015 top-spec iMac 27 but also have a top-spec 2015 MacBook Pro. I mostly use FCPX, but also use Premiere CC on some projects. The MBP is capable of doing this but I prefer the iMac because of the larger screen.

    In general, obtaining good performance when editing 4k is very challenging -- on any hardware, with any software. It is 4x the data of 1080p, so all hardware and software elements would have to be 4x faster to provide equal editing performance as 1080p. This is especially so if editing H.264, which is very CPU-bound to encode and decode.

    If editing H.264 or similar, the I/O rates may not be extremely high (IOW you don't need a Thunderbolt SSD RAID) but they are higher than 1080p. If the CPU burden of H.264 forces you to transcode to a lower-compression codec for editing, the I/O rates can become extremely high -- ProRes is about 8x the size (hence 8x the I/O rate) of H.264.

    There is also a major performance difference between editing software. FCPX is highly optimized and uses Intel's Quick Sync, so it can handle camera-native H.264 4K relatively well. If more performance is needed, FCPX has integrated proxy transcoding. Premiere CC is much more sluggish at handling H.264 4K on equivalent hardware -- I would estimate the frame rate when fast forwarding through 4k material in the timeline is 20x slower. Likewise JKL keyboard lag is much worse. But it is usable and there may be offsetting reasons for using Premiere such as the diverse features of the suite, After Effects integration, etc. Unfortunately Premiere has no built-in proxy feature so if it's necessary to transcode to obtain better performance this must be done externally.

    The limited testing I've done on Premiere with H.265 seems faster than H.264, which is ironic considering H.265 is much more compute-intensive. FCPX cannot do H.265 at all natively. I believe on some GPUs, Premiere CC supports nVidia's NVENC video acceleration hardware, which can make a big difference. Unfortunately this is not available on most Macs:

    FCPX allows using 4k material in a 1080p project (aka sequence), which significantly increases performance, yet it retains the underlying 4k resolution for doing crops/zooms/pans. When I tested 4k content in a 1080p project on Premiere CC, with "scale to frame size" on, the 4k resolution was lost.

    A top-spec or high-end MacBook Pro can edit H.264 4K fairly well but for best performance it's usually best to either (a) Use that in a 1080p project, and/or (b) Let it automatically create proxy material. On Premiere CC in my opinion you really need to transcode to get decent performance on a MacBook Pro or iMac. On Windows you have many more hardware options so you can just throw hardware at it until it's fast enough.

    Most people using 4k are distributing in 1080p and use 4k for several reasons:

    - Ability recompose shot in post, inc'l zoom/pan
    - Each 4k frame is an 8 megapixel still, so frame grabs are more useful
    - Perception of longer duration product viability (like shooting color in the 1960s)
  3. 4God macrumors 68020


    Apr 5, 2005
    My Mac
    In Premiere use "Set to frame size" instead of "Scale to frame size" to retain full resolution. You can then pan and zoom like in FCPX.

    To the OP:

    I use both Premiere and FCPX. I edit mainly on my nMP 6 core but in the field I use my early 2011 15" Macbook Pro. FCPX is much faster IMHO and I may be canceling my CC subscription next month when my year is up. There's a lot to factor in with CC though, access to Photoshop, After Effects etc. The one thing I do like about Adobe CC is the ability to go directly to After Effects and back without having to export files. The old saying though - time is money and FCPX saves time during edit.

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