New 13” MBA for video editing

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Cagle, Nov 22, 2010.

  1. Cagle macrumors regular

    Joined:
    Feb 10, 2009
    #1
    Can I get away with the maxed out MBA for Final Cut and iMovie projects or will I need to get the 15” MBP? I would mention the 13” MBP but I’ve read that it really isn’t much better than the latest MBA.

    Also, if I get the 15 inch MBP, is it worth getting the SSD? The price hike to get a comparable sized SSD ($750 to match the 256GB of the Air) seems like daylight robbery.

    I should mention i'm not video editing for clients, just for fun.
     
  2. baypharm macrumors 65816

    baypharm

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2007
    #2
    That configuration will work just fine. Remember that FCP works on Macbooks several years old dating back to 2006-07 and older. Rendering to disc is where processor power comes into play. But since DVDs are quickly becoming the way of dinosaurs, all you have to do is connect a USB HD to your new MB and render to that media. Even hard drives will be a thing of the past in 5-8 years. But for now that is media of choice. I would steer away from DVD media.
     
  3. kohlson macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Apr 23, 2010
    #3
    If by a maxed out MBA you mean the 256GB SSD, and 4GB memory, then that should work fine. The 128GB version may be too small by the time you load an hour's worth of footage on there. Keep in mind that moving big files over wi-fi, even 802.11n, isn't that zippy. Hopefully your camera uses SD cards, as reading video off these works pretty well.
     
  4. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    #4
    I think a MBA would be ok for iMovie, but I'd strongly recommend against it for Final Cut or anything advanced.

    While the hardware specs might work, the connectivity is the big issue. You're relegated to a single USB port.
     
  5. Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #5
    Hi Pete. The new 13" MacBook Air has two USB ports and a SD card slot. Yes, there is no firewire port, but isn't connectivity with SD cards faster than firewire? SDXC cards are now available in 64GB, with higher capacities on the way. Am I missing something?

    To everyone: I too am considering the 13" MacBook Air "ultimate" (2.13/4/256) for video editing. Several people say the machine works fine for Final Cut Pro (if you export overnight so the slowness doesn't bother you). But I haven't heard an answer for the other apps in Final Cut Studio.

    Does a 13" MBA ultimate run Motion, Soundtrack Pro, and Color acceptably?

    (Apple's Tech Specs say Color requires 512MB VRAM for rendering 4K files and DPX, but only 256MB VRAM for 32-bit rendering. The MBA has 256MB shared VRAM.)

    Apple Store employees say: NO NO NO, don't buy a MBA if you want to run Final Cut Studio! But none of them ever tried it. Has anyone here tried it?

    Thanks,
    Peter
     
  6. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    #6
    I would still strongly recommend against a macbook air for final cut use.

    Even with a 2nd USB port and an SD card slot, connectivity is still a big issue. For editing HD material it is recommended to work off a RAID. And you're going to need firewire or esata for that. USB just isn't robust enough.

    The only reason I could see using a MBA for this type of work is if you needed to do a quick rough cut or digitizing in the field. But even then I would probably just rely on a Macbook pro instead.

    Why would you want to handicap your professional applications with just passable hardware?
     
  7. Pete A, Dec 5, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010

    Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #7
    Thank you, Pete. It's a good question. Here is my answer:

    1) The MBA has a better screen as standard equipment. The screen resolution of the 13" MBA is the same as the standard 15" MBP (1440 x 900), but the gloss is much less reflective, which I greatly prefer. Yes, the MBP has a matte option, but at greater cost ($150 because it is also higher res).

    2) The MBA has a better disk-drive, standard. The SSD in the MBA makes it quite peppy, which users just love (nearly "instant-on" machine and apps). Yes, the MBP has a SSD option, but at greater cost ($750 for 256GB from Apple; less from third-parties).

    3) The MBA is much more portable. Users love taking it everywhere, and working in an easy chair (it runs cooler and doesn't burn their laps).

    4) The MBPro will be refreshed soon. Informed people believe it will be next spring, with faster processor, standard SSD, and Light Peak port. This may hurt the resale value of current MBPros more than current MBAirs.
    http://modmyi.com/forums/iphone-news/738289-macbook-air-ssd-light-peak-april.html

    5) I need to buy now, and video editing is a secondary use for me. I'll use the machine primarily for light-duty tasks, which the MBA does well. I'd just like to know if it can also run Final Cut Studio, since I hope to get into that in the next year. I'd like to avoid the hassle/expense of trading up or buying an additional machine in the next few years.

    Part of my problem is I'm not doing video editing yet, and I know just enough about it to be dangerous. As I understand it, you are correct that the recommended method has been to import/encode footage from tape via firewire, and store the encoded footage on a firewire RAID, for faster access than the boot disk can provide.

    But I also understand that new cameras encode footage right in the camera, and store it on a SD card. Also, a SSD boot disk is so fast that a RAID is unnecessary. Am I misinformed? If my system and application files consume 50GB, that leaves 200GB of work space on the SSD of the 13" MBA "ultimate". Is that not enough space to get some work done? Or can I work off the SD card in the slot? (64GB now, higher capacities coming).

    I can get a special deal on the 13" MBA ultimate ($1500). Retail cost of the 15" MBP with the same RAM, same SSD (from Apple), similar screen (high-res matte), and faster processor (unneeded except for rendering?) is $2700.

    You said the MBA is "just passable hardware." I'd be thrilled to hear that it is passable for not only Final Cut Pro, but also Motion and Soundtrack Pro and Color. Anyone else have an opinion?
     
  8. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2007
    #8
    Where are you getting that info from? Without knowing, I was always suspicious that the SD card slots in the MacBooks might run on the USB bus. Are you considering using an SDXC card as a scratch disk?

    Soundtrack will be fine but Color and Motion have refused to run on the integrated graphics in past MacBooks.
     
  9. Pete A, Dec 5, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 5, 2010

    Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #9
    Thanks, Keith. As I said, I know little about this stuff yet. I know that bandwidth between the SD card and camera must be fast enough to play HD video in real time, which I assume is what you need for nonlinear editing. I don't know about bandwidth of the SD card slot in Macs. That's why I'm asking.

    I can only guess what a "scratch disk" is. (EDIT: Well, I suppose I could look it up. :) ) I'm asking if it is possible to "work off of" (as Pete put it) a 200GB SSD and/or 64GB SD cards in the slot, in a similar way to working off of a firewire RAID. In a previous post, kohlson said: "reading video off [SD cards] works pretty well". Does that mean one-time transfer to a working disk, or ongoing transfer during editing?

    The new MBA uses the same NVIDIA GeForce 320M graphics card as the current 13" MBP, not the weaker Intel "integrated" graphics. By "integrated" did you mean shared VRAM? What did you mean by "past MacBooks"?

    Thanks again.
     
  10. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2007
    #10
    A scratch disk is where you'd put the video clips. In the olden days this was absolutely necessary for editing video because a single disk couldn't run the OS and play the video. Now a single disk could do that for lower bandwidth codecs, but most people who edit more than occasionally will still have a scratch disk.

    You ideally want a healthy amount more than that. If you want to do a cross dissolve or picture-in-picture without having to render each time, you need enough bandwidth for two video streams. And it's always sensible to add some extra on top of what your needs require. (BTW, for AVCHD camcorders you need to transcode to another codec in order to edit, and this will have a higher data rate than the AVCHD your camcorder records.)

    The 320M is integrated (as opposed to dedicated), and Color and Motion would refuse to install on previous MacBooks with integrated graphics. Don't know that this is the case with with the 320M; I was just suggesting you look into it.
     
  11. Artofilm macrumors 6502a

    Artofilm

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #11
    I use my 13" MBA with 4GB ram with Final Cut Studio to edit 1080P videos everyday. I'm use to using my Mac Pro but considering, the rendering and compressing speed isn't all that bad.

    People saying that you need RAID with esata a Mac Pro and a 30" Cinema Display I guess have never tried these systems and act pampered.

    I personally think that working with FCP on a MBA is just awesome, being able to work on such powerful software with such a portable computer just feels fantastic. I use a Canon T2i, so I just need to plug in the SD card and transfer the files.
     
  12. Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #12
    Interesting. I'm guessing that "single disk" here means "single spinning magnetic disk". Does a SSD disk make a scratch disk unnecessary for higher bandwidth codecs?

    Gotcha. According to Apple (April 2010):

    "Your Macintosh has a maximum speed of 240 Mbit/s for SD media using the SD card slot. This exceeds the transfer rate of most SD media."
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT3553

    But it's half the theoretical maximum of USB 2.0, so I guess the SD card can't be a scratch disk. Correct?

    Good to know, thanks.

    Very cool. Have you tried running Motion and Color too?

    Is your SSD 128GB or 256? Do I need the bigger one to make a project longer than a YouTube video?

    Thank you both.
     
  13. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2007
    #13
    Any disk. It's still better to have separate OS and scratch; but in an ideal world you'd have dozens of different storage mediums tailored to each computational task... The bigger issue is whether you'll have enough space on an SSD. You'll have render files as well as the originals and editable transcodes.

    It's not a realistic option.
     
  14. Artofilm macrumors 6502a

    Artofilm

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #14
    I have the 128GB, I usually have 2x 10 minute videos @ 1080P stored on my SSD at a time (so about 20 minutes). After I've completed the project I move the finished videos to YouTube and an external HD.

    I have Final Cut Pro and Compressor installed, along with CS3 installed and I've still got about 70GB of HD left for extra videos and whatnot.
    I haven't tried Motion or Color, only FCP.
     
  15. Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #15
    I'm not clear on whether the 70GB is left before or after loading project files for 20 minutes of video. Could you please give me a ballpark estimate of how many minutes of HD video you can edit at one time on your SSD? Is 20 minutes about the max?

    I'd love to hear if they will install on the new MBA. Keith said they wouldn't even install on earlier MacBooks with integrated graphics.
     
  16. Artofilm macrumors 6502a

    Artofilm

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #16
    It really depends on how much space you have left before you start importing videos. After all my program installs and music, I have about 80GB and then videos are about 10GB.

    I'm not sure of the video format you use so I wouldn't know how many minutes of video you could fit on the SSD.
     
  17. Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #17
    Wow, so 20 minutes of 1080p video takes roughly 10GB? Then 70GB gives you room for over 2 hours of footage.

    That's more than I expected. Thanks.
     
  18. Artofilm macrumors 6502a

    Artofilm

    Joined:
    Oct 12, 2005
    #18
    I'm not saying any specific number, It's always best to over estimate.
    I know I have a 8GB SD card in my Canon T2i, and I can get up to 24 minutes of 1080P on it. I could prolly do a little more than that but the T2i has a time limiter.

    Anyways, you wouldn't want to fill the entire SSD up with just raw HD video files. You'll need some of that file space for rendering and compressing.
     
  19. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Mar 6, 2007
    #19
    At 1080i60, AVCHD or HDV will be around 10GB/hour, and the Apple Intermediate transcodes will be around 50GB/hour. Then there's render files and output files...
     
  20. Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #20
    "Art" and Keith

    Thanks again, gents. Your ballpark figures are quite helpful.

    Perhaps you're getting tired of educating me, but I have a few more questions.

    1) Art's new camera records 1080p video at roughly 20GB/hour -- twice the storage requirement of interlaced AVCHD or HDV, according to Keith. What frame rate is Art's Canon using to yield that number?

    2) If the frame rate is 60 frames/second, then the average frame requires less than half the megabytes of the average Apple Intermediate transcode frame, according to Keith. Why is that? Are the Canon frames lower quality, or is the compression method superior? What is the compression method/format of the Canon?

    3) I'm under the impression, possibly wrong, that Art doesn't need to transcode his Canon files. He just transfers them from the SD card and starts editing them with FCP. Is that incorrect?

    4) I'm also under the impression that FCP can export to a USB hard-disk or DVD, so the MBAir's internal disk doesn't need to have room for output files. Is that incorrect?

    5) What are "render files"? If they are different from final output files, roughly how much space do they require compared to transcode files (the ballpark ratio between the two)?

    I bet I've tried your patience now. :)
     
  21. handsome pete macrumors 68000

    Joined:
    Aug 15, 2008
    #21
    Framerate really has nothing to do with it. It's bitrate and compression scheme that affects file size the most.

    Final Cut Pro can export to any location on any mounted drive on your computer. You can't export directly to dvd. You have to either transcode to mpeg2 and burn to disc for a playable dvd, or export your movie files and then burn to a data disc.

    Render files are the temporary files Final Cut creates when it renders your timeline so that it can playback at real time.

    Regarding Art's files, technically he doesn't need to transcode. But I highly recommend transcoding to an editor friendly format. H264 (which the t2i compresses to) is a delivery format. It's not meant to edit with. Transcoding to something like ProRes will make it a lot easier to work with in Final Cut especially on a hardware limited machine like the Macbook Air.
     
  22. Artful Dodger macrumors 68020

    Artful Dodger

    Joined:
    May 28, 2004
    Location:
    In a false sense of reality...My Mind!
    #22
    This is pretty accurate and just to add some real world info to consider, over the sumer I had a bit over 300GB from 5.5/6hrs of HD video from a seminar. Chunks of 1.5-2hrs at a time were filmed and I almost forgot about the transcoding before I started. I say this for the OP just to keep in mind about having enough room for his edits as 20 mins. of video must be nice compared to what some work with ;)

    I have FCE and for small stuff I have used iMovie (not fond of doing) so I guess the mention of FCP not having to transcode even when pulling the files from a SD card don't seem correct as it still does this using FCE, maybe slower than FCP but I wouldn't know about that since I don't have it.

    I guess for small stuff the MBA could work but it seems to take some time on a 17" MBP so I can't imagine the time it would take on a MBA. Also if you can only use one part of such a nice package (can't run Color or Motion) then just for thought you are crippling future development that you may want to explore or need to do sooner than later. Just a thought…

    USB for files such as using an external drive. I guess since you don't have huge files it would work but I'll give you my real world transfer rate from my total transfer of the 312GB I ended up with since I was in the middle of editing and my internal drive died, 3.5 hours to transfer that footage. I swore never again even thought it saved my hide that day. I know folks do it and that's fine but if time is your money, as much as the MBA could handle things you might consider at what cost fwiw.
    Good Luck :)
     
  23. Artful Dodger macrumors 68020

    Artful Dodger

    Joined:
    May 28, 2004
    Location:
    In a false sense of reality...My Mind!
    #23
    I see handsome pete answered a bit of my question(s). Kinda got a bit confused in the thread :eek:
     
  24. Pete A, Dec 6, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010

    Pete A macrumors member

    Joined:
    Dec 3, 2010
    #24
    Oh good, Pete and Dodger are shouldering some of the teaching load. Thank you, sirs.

    I'm just trying to get a ballpark estimate of how many hours of HD video can be edited at one time with 200GB of working space. If the input files (from the SD card) get deleted after they've been transcoded, and the output files get exported to an external USB drive, then 3 hours of transcode files on the internal disk would leave 50GB of space for render files (and virtual memory). Is that enough? Could I increase the amount of transcodes to 3.5 hours?

    Clearly, the Air's limitations of storage space, connectivity, and rendering speed are not attractive to professional video editors under deadline. I'm just curious to know what is possible with a little time and ingenuity.
     
  25. Artful Dodger, Dec 7, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2010

    Artful Dodger macrumors 68020

    Artful Dodger

    Joined:
    May 28, 2004
    Location:
    In a false sense of reality...My Mind!
    #25
    I should add that back in May, my HD died and Apple replaced it with a new one and I then replaced that with a 1TB WD. Glad I did because when I first started all my video adventures I forgot how long it takes to import the files from the camera (not archiving them first for a quick off load) and how big the files end up. If I remember correctly it had to convert with the AIC and thus made me leave it going overnight. I'm glad I had the space as I can't imagine what the outcome would have been in the am.

    Now after looking at my most recent video of a friends wedding, I recorded in 1080i, AVCHD, 32 minutes of video which showed 3.48GB on the flash card. I archived it, worked on it later the next week which gave me 24.44GB in iMovie (I did this because my friend might get a Mac but not FCE) and once I finished editing off to iDVD, made an archive of it and burned the allotted discs he asked for and needed. I have a file of 3.51GB from that so when all added up you would ruffly get 31.43GB from start to finish (plus the archive file of 3.51) so about 35GB.

    The time for all this was 30 mins. of video had taken about 1 hour to go from archived to being able to edit in iMovie. Edit time which wasn't much including getting photos and mild edits where needed. Sent off to iDVD which lasted about 2 hours and then putting it all together in iDVD (10-20 minutes). If I remember this last part it was around either 30 minutes or an hour until I could make my archive/burn dvds for the project. I think it ended up being about 3.5 hours for 30 minutes of video, I think.

    I'm not sure how FCP would handle this such as better times or what but this was done on my MBP in my sig. so if anyone else could give some feed back with the info I provided this might help. I just know that after doing video in the time segments that I do I don't do anything else with my MBP while it's working. I'm not sure if the MBA would take longer and how much is unknown since all things aren't equal. I think the Air's are great but not sure for the long haul when video is concerned ;) I wish you the best and post back if you do get one and how your times/handling are.
     

Share This Page