Need advice on RAM and HDDs (and more) for new MacPro and video editing

Discussion in 'Buying Tips and Advice' started by stacyj, Sep 4, 2009.

  1. stacyj macrumors newbie

    Aug 31, 2009
    I just ordered the 8 core Mac Pro with the following configuration:

    2 - 2.26 Ghz Quad Core Intel Xeon Nehalem processors
    12 GB (6 x 2 GB) RAM
    1 - 640 GB HDD
    ATI Radeon HD 4870 Graphics card 512 MB
    1 - 18x Superdrive
    Airport Extreme Wi-Fi card

    I am making the switch from a PC and have quite a few questions about where to go from here. I plan to use it mainly for video editing, using both my current Sony Vegas software on a Windows partition and also trying Final Cut Express hoping not to have to make the switch right away to the pricey FCP, though I'd like it.

    I was planning on purchasing VMWare Fusion for running Windows and then buying Windows Vista Ultimate. Is that my best option for running Windows? Right now on my HP laptop I have Windows Vista Home Premium 32-bit and on my HP desktop I have Windows Vista 64 bit, not sure if it's "home" or business or what as I'm not home now and won't be for a few days. My understanding is the Vista that came with either of those machines will not allow me to install it elsewhere. is that true?

    I have a shiny new 24" LCD monitor for my HP, can I use that plug and play with the Mac Pro and I would like to add a 2nd monitor. Will the one ATI Radeon card support that or do I need another card? If the one card does support it would it run better with another one anyway. I don't understand the multiple graphics card thing.

    I just got the standard hard drive in one bay but want to upgrade the memory as my AVCHD video will quickly fill up the space. Can anyone tell me exactly what to buy that is compatible and from where. I also do not understand the boot disk vs scratch disk that I am reading about and also should I save one drive just for back up? Should one (the boot drive, or main drive) be a SSD? If so any recommendations on that? What would that do for me? They seem expensive but it may be worth it.

    I did upgrade the memory to 12GB as the $270 it cost seemed like a good deal (from Crucial I had seen a 6 GB kit of 2GBx3 for $171 and a 4GB kit of 2GBx2 for $114, that would have been $285 for just 10 GB. My question is if I want to add more RAM now I think there is 8 slots, do they ALL need to be 2GB each and "match" or could the last two slots be something else? Also I heard something about the DDR3 working best in 3s. Does that mean I should have only the 6 sticks to get the best performance?

    I think that's it for now. I am pretty new to video editing and so haven't learned all the lingo. What I do know is that while editing and especially while rendering my Vegas program would sometimes shut down every 5 minutes and then take about 20 minutes to reopen due to the slow "building peaks" process for all the media attached. And rendering was of course such a nightmare I wanted to toss it out the window.

    Oh, one more thing...I also read I can wire a network (I'm currently wireless) and then farm out the rendering to more than one computer. Can I do that between the new Mac Pro and my Quad Core HP?

    Thanks for any advice you can share or if you have ideas I haven't thought of.
  2. Eddyisgreat macrumors 601

    Oct 24, 2007
    I have expreince with Macbook Pros, xServes vegas and creative suite so I know where you are coming from but not with your exact hardware. With that said:

    Great system.

    For all intents and purposes you won't be able to switch your license from your HP box to your Mac box without some licensing trickery and deceit. You could buy Windows Vista however you could also use the Windows 7 release candidate which will work without limitation until I believe February or june 2010, and by then you'll be able to purchase a copy of it and license your current installation. Win 7 RC is free for anyone to download. It also works with fusion.

    Your ATI card offers mini display port and dual link DVI. If you have two dvi based moniters you will need to purchase a converter cable such as the mDP -> DVI adapter. I belive the 24 inch LED ACD is the only display that uses mDP natively. You don't need more than one card unless you want more than two monitors or you have some wonky protocol requirements (like 3 LED ACDs)

    Your storage solutions will be as robust as you want them. As far as the boot vs. scratch disk is concerned, the boot disk will simply be where your applications and their assosciated files are stored whilist your media will be stored on either low cost storage or more advanced configurations. In the old days (which is still true today) the reason you would have the two stored separately is because of the high I/O that is required when working with video content would cause your apps and OS to stutter as your app is trying to process frames while the OS is doing background work. An SSD as the boot disk is what most people do given the most robust solutions (like the intel ssd's) have a high cost per gb. Your media files will be stored depending on your workflow. If local you can just load up your machine with a couple of 1tb sata drives like the Western Digital Caviar Black drives. These drives would work as three independent drives unless you wanted to go all out and do a software raid (which I hear is unreliable) and try to get a speed increase.
    Read below for the network based solution you would need.
    As far as backups are concerned, I just have again low cost storage solutions (in my case throw away externals) that I use for long term archiving of the project files and use my g-tech drives for any active projects i'm working on (save for my photo collection which only consumes 400 gigs so I leave that on its own high speed external)

    For Final Cut Pro you'd need multiple Mac systems to take advantage of the Qmaster (farm rendering) technology, since I don't see a windows based client available. That said, you'd have to be doing some pretty serious stuff to make it worth your while, as this solution, and really all distributed rendering solutions sound great on paper but require high speed (i.e. fiber channel) based networking solutions to actually make a positive difference in rendering speed. Rendering on five different machines across a 100/1000 mbps networks makes absolutely no sense because it will slow everything down trying to swap files across such a slow and unreliable network.
  3. stacyj thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 31, 2009
    Thanks for the help!

    Thanks so much for all the info. I will check out the WD Caviar drives. Will heat be a problem with that many drives, or only if they were all running at once? I didn't realize I could get Windows 7 for free now so I'm thrilled about that. What do you think of the internet sites for back up instead of backing up myself to an external drive or one of the other hard drives. I heard about and it's a low cost for unlimited storage. Are those reliable? Or

    I had read about the farm rendering but can live without that if it won't increase my productivity anyway. What I've rendered previously takes about an hour if all goes well. It's been more of a problem that it gets to 80 or 90% and then shuts down. I wish it would just shut down after 10% instead of going all that way and then giving up.

    Thanks again...
  4. Eddyisgreat macrumors 601

    Oct 24, 2007
    Heat shouldn't be a problem. I've seen the construction of the Mac Pro and it looks pretty solid as far as cooling goes but I can't speak from experience. Still, I'm sure Apple wouldn't have made such a case accomodate so many hard disks if it couldn't handle it out of the box.

    The only online backup I have is from my mobileme account but I still find myself using it very little. For this type of work I believe you could use it for storing project files and the like but not the actual media. Unless you have a pretty serious connection it'll be far too slow and unusable. If you just had to do it I guess you could compress your final renders and put those online but, the best way would just be to get an external raid solution and move it off site after weekly backups.

    I did a little googl'n about AVCHD and backups seem to be the biggest complaint since you don't have low cost physical media. So good luck with that :D

    Don't worry i've had my share of problems with Vegas too (alot of them actually) but i've never had any of Apple's pro apps crash and burn on me. Once you switch to the OS X realm it'll become more apparent but the key thing is to not go overboard and install a bunch of dashboard widgets and useless background apps. Just keep it streamlined and stay up to date on any issued updates and you'll be good to go. At the very least just create another account for your pro usage so you don't get bogged down.
  5. stacyj thread starter macrumors newbie

    Aug 31, 2009
    Advice on RAM and HDDs

    Okay, I will get online and order the HDDs so I have them ready to go when the Mac Pro arrives, hopefully next week but it hasn't shipped yet. I definitely won't install extra widgets, etc...but thanks for the reminder...when I first got my current laptop with Vista I did all that with the sidebar and eventually figured out that I needed to remove it all. Live and learn.

    Any ideas about the DDR3 RAM running in 3s? I have the system configured with 6- 2GB cards...would it be best to just leave it at that with the 12GB to start with or is it worth it to add 2 more 2 GB sticks for a total of 16 GB. I didn't know if I understood that correctly but it sounded like it might be worse off with 8 memory sticks instead of the 6.

    Yes, the AVCHD is such a pain. I will eventually need to switch cameras but hopefully not for a while. I'm having a panic attack over the cost of all this. It seems like buying one thing just leads to needing another. Hopefully the FCP has no problem with the AVCHD. For a while I plan to keep using the Sony Vegas anyway and am just hoping it runs great on the Mac.
  6. snberk103 macrumors 603

    Oct 22, 2007
    An Island in the Salish Sea
    Hello and congratulations. I'm using a 2008 MacPro, though not nearly as intensively as you intend as I'm a photographer and don't need to render for hours on end. That said.... my understanding is that the MacPro was designed to handle the kind of tasks you intend, including stuffing it full of HDDs - so I wouldn't worry about the cooling aspect. I've never read any complaints from other MacPro users complaining of overheating.

    I would also agree with a poster above that you shouldn't add a bunch of widgets and gizmos - I went gizmo and widget crazy initially, and that was the only time I had problems with my systems.

    I would also recommend Diglloyd as a place to start looking for memory set-ups. The site is geared towards Photoshop and photographers, but the memory layouts and HDD combinations should be applicable. Good Luck.

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