Need advice on a Mac for heavy video editing

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by johndatserakis, Aug 30, 2009.

  1. johndatserakis macrumors member

    Dec 9, 2008
    Alright guys, I'm going to try and keep this short and sweet. It's a decent story though, so bear with me. I really need some advice!

    I am an aspiring writer/director/editor/musician/do-it-all. I recently finished my first short film which was shot with my HV30 and edited with Sony Vegas Pro. To edit, I used my current desktop which is outfitted with a crappy Intel Dual-Core Pentium 2.0ghz processor, 2gb of ddr2 667 ram (highest speed my motherboard goes) a some crappy version of a low end nvidia graphics card. I built this computer as cheap as I could for about $300. The film came out surprisingly good and it wasn't too much of a hassle to edit on the slow specs.

    Around a month ago, a couple of my friends who are in a band invited me to their music video shoot. After seeing my short film, they wanted me to shoot them a documentary. I said of course, as I'm trying to get my name out there as much as possible and saw this as a great opportunity.

    Long story short, they end up really digging my documentary. Eventually, after getting cuts of the music video from the editor, they told me that they wanted me to edit the video because they weren't happy with the other editors cut. Stunned, I told them I would do it. (Secretly wondering whether my computer could take the professional footage instead of my little HV30.)

    Long story cut even shorter, I end up editing this crazy huge footage from their professional cameras on my ****** computer. It was 4 days in hell, (random shut downs, hours worth of rendering problems, freezing) but I got it done and it came out great.

    After that experience, I learned an important lesson. I'm going to need a mac if I'm going to be serious about this. The problem is that at $2400, a quad core mac pro is very expensive. But on the other hand, it is also very future proof.

    Is their a previous version that is cheaper but will not be left in the dust when newer technology comes out? Should I look more towards ebay? Also, is an iMac an option? Remember, I'm probably going to be dealing with some very dense footage in the future. I am going to end up having to get a bigger screen anyways as my current one is on 1680 x 1050. Also, iMacs are a lot cheaper.

    Whatever system I get, I am going throw FCS on it and probably some type of sound software. Basically the question is, should I invest now or pay later? Either way I have to be prepared for any business I get, I can't tell people that I won't be able to edit their video because my computer sucks.

    If you have any suggestions I would love to hear them. Thanks for reading!
  2. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    Do you really want to use Final Cut or is it more about improved hardware?

    I ask because you can build a quad core system with similar specs to the $2,500 Mac Pro and get the same (or better if you overclock) performance for around $1,000.

    You might be able to find a 2008 2.8GHz 8 core Mac Pro for around $2,000, the minimum system I'd consider if I were you.

    One of the best deals around is the refurbished 2008 Mac Pro 8-core 3.2GHz for $3,299. But you'd probably want to spend another 400 on memory and drives. A better investment for heavy video editing than a single quad core or 2009 2.26GHz 8 core though.

    For displays I'd look at a Dell 2408WFP if you can find a deal on one at or through one of the deal websites out there. The other (and one I'd chose) option is the HP LP2475w which is the best value IPS screen you can get.
  3. skubish macrumors 68030


    Feb 2, 2005
    Ann Arbor, Michigan
    Well it can be done on an iMac but if you are going to do it professionally I would get a Mac Pro eventually. The iMacs are pretty powerful and they can handle up to 8GB of RAM.

    I would probably get my feet wet using and iMac and when the time came, I would upgrade to the Mac Pro. As a professional, you are going to want a backup computer anyway.
  4. Doju macrumors 68000

    Jun 16, 2008
    An iMac would work, but you'd be much better off just saving up a bit for the Mac Pro now instead of buying an iMac, then a Mac Pro, which would cost more in the long-run.

    A quad core Mac Pro would definitely be sufficient, but an octo core would eat anything you threw at it for dinner.

    You could build a PC for less, but I'd still go with the Mac for reliability and FCP.
  5. johndatserakis thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 9, 2008
    Thanks guys. After dealing with Sony Vegas Pro for the past week it completely turned me off to editing on a PC. There were two instances where I lost 1 hour of footage due to the program just shutting off without warning. Then it wouldn't render for about 7 hours as I frantically searched to fix the problem and the manager was waiting for a cut. After seeing Final Cut on a friends computer I realize that's what I need, especially considering productivity concerns.

    So, a 2008 2.8GHz 8 core Mac Pro for around $2,000 is the cheapest a quality computer is going to be? Is there any major disadvantage to getting an earlier model and processor? I don't want to be locked out of any software in the near future due to having an older system. (Obviously at some point that will happen, but I want to delay it so I don't waste money)

    And whast about these quad core iMacs coming?
  6. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Mar 2, 2009
    I'd get the best refurb Mac Pro possible (that's either octo 3.2 GHz or octo 2.93 GHz). Add a butt-load of RAM (look at for your specific model) and four 1 TB HDDs. I haven't looked into RAID cards, but I'd go RAID 10. Get the highest capacity external HDD possible and use Time Machine to backup. If you can stretch the budget, a new GPU or two wouldn't hurt. Multiple displays are highly recommended. I like the Dell 2408WFP.

    Not including RAID card, GPUs, or monitors, that would cost maybe (just guessing) $4250-$5000.

    Final Cut Studio and Logic Studio. Maybe Aperture or Photoshop if you're adding stills. Aperture is cheaper by miles.

    Not including Aperture/PS, that'll be $1498.
  7. MacProFCP macrumors member

    Jun 14, 2007

    I have the original 8 core Mac Pro. It's about two years old and runs great. I have 8 gig of ram in it and run FCS all the time. I also have four hard drives: one for the System and Applications; one for files; one for a scratch disc; one as a backup scratch. I also use a firewire external for time machine backup of system and files.

    If your going to be doing anything serious, you need to get at least a quad core if not an 8 core. I found that with my quad core G5, I was waiting for render time. The 8 core eats rending for dinner. I spend over 5k on my machine two years ago and it's about the same now.

    E-bay is were guys like me sell my old machine when it's time to upgrade. You want to make sure than when you spend that kind of money you make sure to get the AppleCare with it. It would suck to spend 2-5k on a machine and then have problems. Forget the cost, but the time down can really hurt you.
    Do not waste your money on an iMac where you have no upgrade option. Spend the money or get the Apple Loan and buy a machine that will work for years to come.
  8. Umbongo macrumors 601


    Sep 14, 2006
    Don't need a card for RAID 10.
  9. stacyj macrumors newbie

    Aug 31, 2009
    Ordering a Mac Pro for video editing

    Hi John,
    I am in the same exact position you are in right now and am hoping to order my new MAC PRO this week. I am hoping to get some of the same answers you are and thought I’d share where I am now.
    I spent all last week rebooting my Sony Vegas after it shut down about a million times while working and especially while rendering using my 2 yr old HP Laptop with the max 2GB ram it will take. I finally broke my project into 10 different pieces and that helped a bit as did deleting any unused media before rendering (which I just figured out this week)
    I shoot AVCHD with my Sony HDR-SR12. Will probably need to upgrade that to something Prosumer sooner than later.
    At home I have an HP desktop about 6 months old, with quad core 8 GB ram and 1 TB HDD, can’t remember the processor (maybe 2.83GHz) as I am out of town this week (thus the crappy laptop) and a 24” HD monitor.
    Here’s what I plan to buy:
    8 core 2.26 ghz Mac Pro (2009 version)
    6 GB RAM standard then buy DDR3 from or something like that. I am told it works best in 3s. Does that mean if I want to use 12GB I would buy 6 – 2GB sticks and then would the add’l 1 GB’s from the standard MAC be unusable?
    1 TB HDD ($90 to upgrade from the 640 GB) and then 1 add’l TB from Apple for $270. Can I buy the 1 TB HDDs anywhere else?
    ATI Radeon HD 4870 512 MB Graphics card instead of the NVIDIA. I was told that’s the better option for editing, is that true? Will this card support 2 monitors as I want to use my current monitor and then get one more 24” monitor to increase my workspace and now they are pretty cheap.
    I am planning on buying VMWare Fusion to run Windows Vista Ultimate ($171 at Discount Mtn, as I don’t think the version on my laptop now can be transferred to the MAC) and stick with Vegas for a while. I would like FCP but with the cost and learning curve have decided to see how Vegas runs on the new hardware. ( I am using the cheapy $100 Platinum Pro 9 now and LOVE it, it does almost everything I need it to do for such a low cost and included so many extras.) I have the windows version of Photoshop CS3 so will use that on there too. Does anyone know about Codeweaver CrossOver Mac and if that’s a better/worse choice for running Vegas and Photoshop?

    Lastly, I want to wire my network (currently wireless) between atleast my HP Desktop and the new MAC Pro to farm out my rendering across the network. I don’t know if that will work between a MAC and PC but if so that should be helpful. I was hoping it would work if I am running Windows Vista on the MAC but I don’t know much about that.

    Sorry, this is pretty long but I am really at the point of needing to get my order in and would love any advice. Thanks so much!!!
  10. Andrew Henry macrumors 6502a

    Mar 4, 2008
    I have the model you are refering to, and in most cases this computer is faster than the newer ones, except for the 8-core 2.93ghz and in some tasks the 8-core 2.66ghz, but it is a VERY capable computer, and you will thoroughly enjoy it, I convert 45 minutes shows in under 7 minutes, which compared to my older MBP of about 25 - 30 minutes. I wouldn't trade it for the world, except maybe a new 8-core 2.93ghz!
  11. johndatserakis thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 9, 2008
    what do you think of this auction?

    I think it looks pretty good. 2 x 2.66 Quad Cores for a total of 8 cores. Is the ATI 2600 XT 256mb decent enough for a start?
  12. alphaod macrumors Core


    Feb 9, 2008
    I don't know. You posted a 2.8GHz 8-core. Sure at the current price it's a great deal, but it's got 5 days left in the auction which means the price won't stay that low.

    And it doesn't have AppleCare, so you might want to proceed with caution.
  13. chrono1081 macrumors 604


    Jan 26, 2008
    Isla Nublar
    OP You will love your switch to Mac.

    I was in a similar situation. Let me start off by saying I am a windows technician and make a very healthy living fixing windows for a large large company, so trust me when I say that at no point was it "just my computer" causing problems.

    I have two main hobbies, photography and videogame design/programming. When I use my computer I use it. I usually have the following all going at once:

    Corel Painter
    Adobe Photoshop (usually batch processing)
    Lightroom (usually batch processing)
    Visual Studio (now I use XCode since I switched to Mac)
    DVD ripping software (I have quite a large collection to rip to harddrive)
    Music Software (east/west play libraries)
    Large file transfers (in the TB's) going from one external enclosure to another.
    DVD Burning

    Windows OS simply cannot handle that type of workload without crashing or bogging down. IMO Windows is not meant for heavy work, its for normal office work which is what it is generally good at. (And trust me, my windows hardware was nothing to laugh at. It cost more then some peoples cars). The day I saw that my freaking eeePC could transfer files MUCH faster then my Vista machine was the day I kissed Vista goodbye and ordered my mac. I sold my windows computer I built and when my Mac arrived I was completely amazed.

    Even though the mac was a lot lower speced then my windows hardware it ran everything sooo much faster. Unfortunately I had to rebuy all my mac programs but I didn't care. They ran so much faster on mac then windows and nothing crashed or slowed. I was completely amazed.
  14. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Mar 2, 2009
    That eBay auction looks good. You'd better get into it before it's too late.
  15. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Mar 2, 2009
    Didn't know that. Would it be faster with a RAID card? Does that even have benefits if your motherboard can already do RAID 10?
  16. alex1 macrumors newbie

    Dec 19, 2007
    Get a dual quad core Mac Pro. Adding Terrabyte drives is easy.. no more firewire except to offload done projects then rewipe my terrabyte internal work drives.

    Have at least 1 gig of memory per core. memory and hard drives are more important than top CPU speed. So last years dual quads with bumped up memory and added 3 or 4 terrabytes of drive space makes more sense to me.

    Running a 2nd HD monitor puts a lot heat out on an Imac, and it toasted my 24" imac (covered under warranty) but I got a 8 core mac pro and haven't looked back. Now, supposedly with HDV on the newest FCP it only uses 4 cores, not all 8... so you may want to capture via a different codec to reduce render time. Not sure how AIC comes out.. but keep that in mind when you start thinking about upgrading your camera gear or at least captureing your video. XDCAM-EX (Sony & JVC pro cameras use that) or Panasonic's DVCPRO-HD and similar less compressed formats would really start paying for themselvs in saved time when it comes to rendering. But that's a discussion for another time.
  17. Onigiri macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2009
    I would advise to distinguish between needs and wants. I've been editing since the month Final Cut Pro (1) was released and work today as a professional editor. You don't need a Mac Pro. Yes, it'll give you the best performance, but if you're serious about filmmaking, there's a lot more to consider.

    For instance, how are you recording sound? If with the camera mic, then you could take some of that money you'd save by not buying a Mac Pro and use it for getting an Oktava, an Audio Techina 4073 (for starters) and possibly even a mixer like the Sound Devices Mix Pre. And don't forget boom poles, XLR cables, possible wireles setups and lights.

    Basically, since this is a Mac forum, it's understandable that people would steer you towards the beasts, but being a filmmaker myself who works professionally in the field and having gone through similar situations as you, I advise a 24" imac so you have the GPU to run the entire Final Cut Suite and then invest in the areas which will enhance your productions AS YOU SHOOT, rather than only in post production.
  18. johndatserakis thread starter macrumors member

    Dec 9, 2008
    So you think if I get a souped up 24" iMac, it should be able to handle everything I throw at it? Soon, people might be sending me their footage and I need to be able to edit it as fast as possible. People in this thread are telling me to go with 8-cores, it looks like the iMac only has two. In addition to editing video, I will try make this a make-shift recording studio as well, so I figure investing in a powerful machine would open up as many doors as possible.

    I definitely understand what you mean about being able to improve my shooting. On my HV30 I'm using a rode shotgun mic along with various other accessories. The only real upgrade I see for it is a 35mm adapter, about $400. The next step would be to get a better camera, but that's not realistic. I guess I'm relying on a little bit of funding when I shoot some of my longer pieces. But, I know that I can write a short and shoot it for no money if I chose the right locations so it's not like my productivity needs to stop.

    I think editing is what I'm worried about. Sony Vegas scared the **** out of me after it almost made me look like a schmuck. I need something fast and reliable. Investing a little money now so I will be able to upgrade various parts of the computer in the future seems like the safest bet. For instance, I have 3 hard drives I would like to instantly put into my new computer. It looks like it going to be a lot harder to do with an iMac. But... It's cheaper! And comes with a nice screen! (which I have to buy anyways) Decisions decisions! What do you think?
  19. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Mar 2, 2009
    Two cores these days isn't a lot. In the future (like one, maybe two years), more apps will be able to take advantage of eight cores. Plus, with OS X, you get GCD and Open CL.

    You need the most cores possible. For instance, (I know this isn't a good comparo, but the point stands) my Core 2 Quad-powered Studio 540 kills my Mac mini (2 GHz, mid-'07) in absolutely everything (and it didn't cost as much; $620 vs. $750 for the mini).

    So the point really is, either wait for a quad-core iMac, which is unlikely to happen until Nehalem goes mobile. That's happening on the 23rd. But clock speed, at the most, will be 2 GHz. People still believe the Megahertz Myth, so Apple's unlikely to implement Nehalem in anything but the Mac Pro until Arrandale comes. Its expected Q4 2009, with a top clock speed of 2.66 GHz.

    So, again, my advice is to check out refurbs, for either a Harpertown or Gainestown. IIRC, those are both eight-core models. Grab a few Dell displays, large HDDs, and some RAM, and FCS+Logic Studio and you're good to go.
  20. mperkins37 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 17, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    If you are multitasking on the IMac you will feel the hit tremendously, as compared to the MacPro, its NO CONTEST.
    The MacPro rips through video & Compressing so effectively it's a no brainer.
    I would suggest at least 8gb ram for the macpro, you also have the four HD bay advantage which you will need for storage of the hd video.
  21. Onigiri macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2009
    My first editing system was a 450mhz Power Mac G4, so yeah, I think a 3ghz imac will give you plenty of power even in editing HD. Unless you're talking about processing something like RED Raw footage at 4k, then the imac will be just fine. Everyone else is right that the Mac Pro will encode faster, but none of your clients are going to be impressed by your fast encode times are they? What's going to make the difference is production values.

    We use primarily HVX200's where I work, but personally, I just own an HF100 (though a Sony EX1 is in my future). It doesn't have any of the manual controls the HVX's have, but because I have quality sound and know how to light properly, I can achieve 80% of what I can with an HVX just with that little coke sized camera. Don't get too caught up in the tech. Learn the techniques and you'll save tons of money by getting more out of what you have.

    Let me ask you this...for now, beyond the ability for basic editing, color correction and keyframing, do you NEED anything else? Final Cut Express is cheap and it's more powerful than the original Final Cut Pro was. If you can make do with that for now, you'll have a stable editing system which you can cut your teeth on before jumping into Final Cut Studio.

    BTW, with regards to the hard drives, buy three external firewire enclosures and daisy chain them together into the imac. Still cheaper, still massive storage, still reliable backups.
  22. mperkins37 macrumors 6502a


    Jan 17, 2007
    Phoenix, AZ
    The rendering & compressing times aren't to impress the clients, they are to free up your mac & program as soon as possible to cut production times & give more time to be creative, & or make more $.:eek:
  23. Shake 'n' Bake macrumors 68020

    Shake 'n' Bake

    Mar 2, 2009
    A Mac mini can do HD, too.

    I don't know about you, but when I edit anything, I have multiple apps open, creating a huge mess and really bogging down my Mac mini. An iMac wouldn't be much better. You need at least four cores to do any level of multitasking with heavy apps like FCS and Logic Studio.

    Wow, what a surprise. Consumer-level software from now is more powerful than pro-grade stuff from years and years ago.

    For now, no. In a year or less, yes. Motion and Color and Soundtrack (I think that's it, haven't looked in awhile) bring so much to the table.
  24. Onigiri macrumors newbie

    Jul 24, 2009
    Ostensibly, yeah, but this assumes a few thing:

    1. That the projects are so horrendously large that encode times would be prohibitive.

    So far we're talking about a music video and a documentary. The music video even in HD could be rendered in under an hour. If our OP never sleeps or takes a lunch break or never does anything but edit, then I could understand, but we're not talking 4k effects shots or feature film encoding here and even if we were, considering that it'd take weeks to edit that sort of thing, you would think that the client would understand that it might take a few hours to render. This is a question of project management rather than horsepower.

    2. That the OP has a constant stream of work.

    That is exceptionally rare in the industry. It ebbs and flows and again, this is a matter of project management and setting realistic deadlines. If you need an extra half day for rendering, you tell your clients that.

    I grant you, I've run into situations where I wished the encodes would go faster so I could get home, but this was when I had six projects on my desk at once. I'm not arguing that the Mac Pro isn't the best for editing. I'm just saying that the iMac will meet the OP's needs and free up his finances to invest in areas which will get him bigger and higher paying jobs so he CAN someday get an exceptional editing system.
  25. Psychic Shopper macrumors member

    Oct 12, 2003
    Cleveland Ohio
    Make them pay

    Buy the best computer the band can afford- hit them up, ljust tell them you need a new computer. However much money they give you will decide what computer you buy

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