What to order now for editing workstation?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by musique, Sep 5, 2012.

  1. musique macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009
    I've been using a 5-year-old iMac (the first aluminum model, which maxes out at 4GB) at work for nearly that many years. Whenever I've needed to edit video/audio I've taken the work home to my now-aging MacPro (3,1 with 2 x 2.8 GHz quad cores) with its two widescreen displays, upgraded video card, and 4 HDs. I mainly use FCPX, but I also run Premiere Pro CS5.5 and Final Cut Studio.

    I have been asked to put together what would be needed for a new work Mac to do video/audio editing as well as standard office tasks. The rumors are that a new iMac and a new Mac Pro may be coming in the next year or so, but I need to order something in the next month.

    Potential Solution
    I'm thinking about a 15" MBP with 8 GB, SSD, Apple Thunderbolt display, mouse and keyboard, and some kind of external Thunderbolt hard drive.

    1. Does this setup seem reasonable?
    2. Because I don't know if I'll be forced to use a specific piece of software, does this setup work well for FCPX, Premiere Pro CS6, and Avid Media Composer 6?
    3. In my corporate environment you usually don't get the chance to incrementally make a major purchase, so it's important to get all the major items in one purchase. Are there any other items I may have left out?
  2. markyr17 macrumors 65816


    Apr 8, 2010
    Wait until september 12th, we never know what they will release
  3. RoelJuun macrumors 6502


    Aug 31, 2010
    I am not an expert in this field but I can state some obvious 'errors' in your potential solution.

    - Do you have to be mobile? If not, an MBP might not be the right choice, it is more expensive and slower than an iMac/Mac Pro.
    - Don't purchase the ram from Apple, and if you upgrade the ram, buy 16 gigs from other vendors. As you mention, incremental updates aren't favored.
    - Why the TB Display, it is expensive (yes the screen is nice), but it has glare (do you mind glare?), no 'off-button' (I hate that), Dell and others offer much lower prices for better screen-quality.
    - Thunderbolt drive as external drive is only useful when you're working with a RAID setup, otherwise you won't use all the available bandwidth and TB isn't particularly cheap…

    Personally (if portability is not necessary), I would buy an iMac or Mac Pro with dual monitor. These computers will work with the necessary software.
  4. boch82 macrumors 6502

    Apr 14, 2008
    I just picked up a retina MBP and bumped all the specs to the top....while it wasnt cheap its a perfect mobile workstation.

    In my main office I just plug it into my 30" Cinema display and use an external mouse and keyboard.....you would never know it was a laptop in that case.
  5. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    I dont believe you can get third party ram for the Retina.
    Its been documented in most pro sites that the Retina is beating the crap out of the Mac Pros workflow. I cant comment since we just ordered our first Retina.
    Our future Retina set up is this:
    Apple 15 inch Retina loaded with 16GB RAM and 768GB Flash.
    Apple 27 inch ThunderBolt display (hate the glare).
    Sonnet Echo Express Pro and Sonnet Tempo SSD Pro.
    The Echo will be loaded with a RED ROCKET and Tempo SSD Pro.
    The Tempo will be loaded with two Crucial M4 512GB SSD.
    The point of this it to make it a true DIT system without lugging an RAID unit.
    Some Resolve beta testers have claimed that the Retina made grading like butter.
    Again I wont know for weeks what that means.
    Anything you buy and load decent RAM and have fast I/O drives will help FCPX.
    I use it on all three levels of Mac CPU offerings and even on an old 2009 17" Uni.
    Runs great across the board.
  6. musique thread starter macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009
    Thanks to all

    Although it's possible that Apple will unveil something during next week's iPhone5 introduction, from "the buzz" it's not likely to be an iMac. After so many months with no update, I don't think they'd want to take the spotlight away from portable/iOS devices.

    It doesn't HAVE to be mobile, but I would achieve benefits if it were. (I didn't want to bore people with all the requirements.) When you purchase as part of a large organization, you've (a) got to justify everything and (b) you've got to go with a name vendor for most things over $50 or $100. There's no way I could purchase 3rd party RAM or even a third party drive. They'd have a fit if I even asked for a non-Apple display. Part of the problem is that we are a Windows environment for most workers and mostly everyone gets the same thing. Macs are generally only for top brass. As a media type, I was allowed to get the iMac 5 years ago. Another benefit of the Apple TB display is that it also functions as a TB hub. Purchasing an iMac or a MP now feels wrong, especially reading about how fast the new laptops are.

    I'm not planning on the rMBP. I don't think I could justify the extra expense, especially with the TB display. Your setup sounds sweet.

    I had heard about Sonnet, but didn't realize their line was so robust. I had been thinking of going with one of those Promise TB systems. Now I see that there are more options for TB drives and attachments. Good to know.

    To all of you: Thank you so much for your thoughtful assistance.
  7. joshualee90 macrumors member

    Mar 12, 2009
    Is there a budget limit? I would ask for the best you can get especially if the company is paying. A Mac Pro loaded as much as possible with a thunderbolt display. Later down the line upgrade the graphics card to one that supports thunderbolt.
  8. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Well there are no Mac Pro's with Thunderbolt.
    So either a MacBook Pro with Retina and display.
    Yea the Promise TB is awesome but we want the drives in the Echo Express Pro box.
    Since you can put two SSDs on one Tempo card it makes a great on site backup.
    I know you are stick with about a 1TB but itll have to do for now.
  9. joshualee90 macrumors member

    Mar 12, 2009
    MacPros still have mini display port which are backwards compatible with thunderbolt in terms of using it as a display.
  10. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    I havent seen such a cable?
    I guess from TB display to miniDP works but not the other way?
  11. joshualee90 macrumors member

    Mar 12, 2009
    My mistake while physically the connection works the computer must be able to handle thunderbolt which can then either go to mini display or thunderbolt device not the way I mentioned with mini display to thunderbolt device. You still can go Mac Pro to ACD.
  12. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Just wondering cause we ordered a TB for a rMBP.
    And when not in use I would like to hook it up to an older Mac Pro.
    Just despise the glare.
    We have five Cinema 30s left :(
    Three died last year.
    Sad day when they all burn out :p
  13. soulbot macrumors member


    Feb 8, 2008
    I was in the same boat recently.

    I was a video editor for ten years, the last half of that focusing on motion graphics and color grading. I still dabble a little with the occasional project, but my real bread and butter now is photo editing for a busy wedding photographer on Maui. I had been using his "workstation" (that's comedy) which was a 2007 iMac? Sure, photo work may not be as demanding as a bunch of HD, effected, graded video layers... but 2,500 raw photos still benefits from as much horsepower as you can throw at it. This machine was usable —*but just barely. Him, using this machine for a few days, in my absence hammered home the fact that I had been telling him about for a year: we NEED a new system.

    Anyway, personally I have a 8-core Mac Pro at home. (Still a SOLID performer.) This would be the obvious choice for this business too... However, the sad fact is the Mac Pros are now a pathetic joke! They are so outdated it's ridiculous. If they were 1/2 their current costs, it may be a decent choice —*but that's not reality. When new ones come out (next year) it's likely going to be a different story. But we couldn't wait. We got a 15 NON-Retina, non-glossy, MBP. We put the money saved (by not getting the RETINA) into upgrades. We bought 16 RAM and a 240 SSD elsewhere. We'll put the 7200 rpm 750 GB into the optical bay at some point in the future. But for now we're using external USB 3.0 drives and FW800 drives. We're getting a 27" NEC monitor (which trumped our "need" for Retina) & BT keyboard & mouse too so it's a plug-n-play workstation. By the way, this machine screams!! I was hesitant to go this route, but it was the only decision that made sense in the end. The Mac Pro is simply WAY too much money for such an outdated system.

    This is getting long-winded when my overall advice is simply: don't buy a Mac Pro! When they're updated they may be viable again. But right now they're simply no where near being worth their cost.
  14. deconstruct60 macrumors 604

    Mar 10, 2009
    While it is doubtful Apple woud spend time in the actually "dog and pony" show on a Mac. That doesn't quite mean no Macs will be announced in September. That one is also somewhat doubtful given there are so many missing updates and none since WWDC. Not sure iMac is going to make the cut but there are some rumblings there might be some movement this month.

    Not quite sure what a Thunderbolt hub is. The TB display isn't a Thunderbolt hub. It is a nice docking station for the Mac Pro but being a "hub" for Thunderbolt connections it really isn't. It isn't much more functional than an iMac in prodiving TB ports for devices to plug into. It has one. The 27" iMac has two. The TB display can be a member in a daisy chain of TB devices, but that doesn't particularly warrant a "hub" label.

    a MBP 15" + TB Display + TB hard drives

    ( 2,199 15" 8GB 1MB VRAM + $999 TB Display + $400+ TB array ==> $3,598+ )

    is likely about the same as

    a Mac Pro + Dell/HP/your-companies-favorite-vendor monitor.

    ( $3,074 6core 8GB + $600-700 27" monitor w/ company discount )

    If going to "locked into" one of those two hardware configs for next 3-4 years which one probably has more legs over that timespan?

    If the company is inclined to their "favorite vendor" they probably won't have a problem pushing through the monitor order to another vendor they already work with.

    Sure there will be a new Mac Pro next year, but frankly if those sell well there will be a new Mac Pro the year after that too. There is usually something new if wait long enough. Given the MBP has "good enough" perfomance, it really can't be next years Mac Pro's increase performance that is a factor.

    If the old Mac Pro 3,1 was enough to handle the job at home it likely one single processors Mac Pro 2012 models will work well enough now too.

    If it costs more to use the laptop + myriad of TB peripherals, then that is an issue. Unless, your company is printing money.

    The laptops are faster than they were. But questionable they are as fast as the iMac and Mac Pro over long stretches of doing "heavy lifting" work.
    The iMac tops out at 16GB with 4GB DIMMs which are under $50 a piece 3rd party. You could incrementally bump the RAM of an iMac or Mac Pro over the course of 3-4 years. You would be hard pressed to do with with a MBP and stay under the $50 trigger point.

    If taking work home on the company's computer ( so your stuff and their stuff never get mixed together) is an issue then the MBP has some traction. But if this is a stationary office solution then it doesn't make much sense. The update timing seems more a pretense to shift to the laptop then better matching the performance requirements. Things like FCPX and Avid eat RAM . They will mostly work with less, but don't start to perform smoothly until get more. 8GB seems a tad small unless doing older standard def type video.
  15. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    With SL our editors survived Avid MC using AMA XDCAM HD projects for a few years. This is on the 2009 Uni 17" loaded.
    Never had a chance to try with Lion or recent cause they have been set aside for the upcoming rMBP we ordered.
    It was smooth with 8GB RAM, Sonnet eSATA and GRAID mini2, the Avid mobile experience was pretty bang on for awhile :)
  16. CaptainChunk macrumors 68020


    Apr 16, 2008
    Phoenix, AZ
    Don't forget though that you will spend more money making a 2012 15" MBP/rMBP a true desktop replacement with TB accessories (they're not cheap). And CPU speed alone doesn't paint the whole picture. Despite their outdated CPU architecture, Mac Pros can support more RAM, and have replaceable GPUs and internal expansion. TB can overcome the lack of internal expansion somewhat, but again, it comes at a steep price. To say Mac Pros are no longer viable is a bit of a stretch. I still wouldn't replace my sit-down editing workstation with a MBP.

    But at the same time, there's a lot to love. Like mBox pointed out, the newer quad-core MBPs with TB certainly changed the game for DITs on film sets. We used to have to lug around big carts with Mac Pros on them if we wanted real processing power and storage faster than FireWire. In this regard, the newer MBPs are a godsend.

    This is just my 2 cents for the OP, based on my past experiences owning both Apple laptops and desktops:

    1. The average service life of an Apple laptop for me seems to be about 3 years, tops. The internal components of a laptop run much hotter due to space constraints, which takes a toll on reliability. My 2008 MBP took a dump (dead logic board) a few months out of its AppleCare coverage late last year and it wasn't worth fixing, so now it's a shiny aluminum paperweight. Besides, at this age, it was struggling to keep up with newer software and it couldn't be upgraded enough to change that fact.

    2. Perhaps I'm extraordinarily lucky, but my 2008 Mac Pro 8-core, with minimal maintenance, has given me ZERO problems since the day I bought it. And I work the piss out of this thing. The G5 I had before that never stopped working, either. And this Mac Pro doesn't feel long in the tooth for me yet, although I do wish the RAM was cheaper so I can go beyond 16GB without crying. But oh well...
  17. Macman45 macrumors G5


    Jul 29, 2011
    Somewhere Back In The Long Ago
    I'm in the same boat here...Have a custom spec. top end iMac which I was planning on replacing with a Pro...Okay wait until 2013 for that one. OP I wouldn't buy anything until after the 12th UNLESS it's the Retina MBP. Nobody knows what's going to be announced alongside the new phone, but I do know that spec bumps for the imac range are in the pipeline. For me, that isn't really going to be a realistic upgrade...I will be waiting until the Pro range is updated...Hopefully March next year.
  18. musique thread starter macrumors regular


    Apr 10, 2009

    1. I had one of the first Intel MBPs, probably from 2006 or so. It ran fine until earlier this year when the system board started acting weird and eventually, alas, bit the dust.

    2. I also have the MP3,1 from 2008 and, also similar to your experience, it's always been and still is a great performer.

    Thank you all again. I agree that a desktop is a better long term solution for running A/V editing programs, especially for keeping the internals to comfortable system temperatures. I may see if my management will let me work on my personal system for the project that's to be done in the next month or two. Although I can't hold off the purchase until mid or late 2013, perhaps we'll get some new iMac announcements in the next few months.

    (It's still good to know that a new MBP is at least capable of running Avid, PP, and FCP.)
  19. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Yep almost all Mac flavors can run the big three.
    How good and fast is a different story.
    Honestly, we've been buying Mac Pro's every year even though the model is the same 3 years ago.
    It just works and does what we want it to do.
    Sure you can wait and wait and wait but thats just...a lot of waiting :)
    Get what you can. An iMac is great specially with TB.
    The MBP are good too.
    We just ordered our first retina and planning to use it for DIT and offline use.
    It should do the job.
  20. soulbot macrumors member


    Feb 8, 2008
    I think we should qualify this with dollar signs. Are they viable? As in: can you buy one, plug in and go to work?? Sure, they're "viable".

    This last round of Mac Pro "updates" was just another Apple debacle though. You saw, I'm sure, that they literally back pedaled and repealed the "New" badge from the graphic on the Apple Store, when referring to the Mac Pro upgrade. They realized it was a joke.

    If you're okay with spending top dollar on "new" three-year old tech., be my guest. And what did you get? Old architecture, the need to buy an ad-hoc, flashed graphics card, no Thunderbolt... I'm done being the Apple apologist. Dollar-for-dollar the current Mac Pro is a terrible value. A modern PC workstation trumps the "New" Mac Pro it's silly. Don't get me wrong. I'm a giant fan of Os X. But the current state of the Mac Pro is an utter joke. Don't make excuses for Apple!

    I'm just saying... Viable, yes. Good value? Hell no!
  21. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Why fret? Doesnt affect us does it?
    Did you buy it and then had to return it cause of mis-labeling?
    Its so easy to crap on Apple for their mistakes these days.
    Its not "Buy a Mac, Save a Life" :)
  22. soulbot macrumors member


    Feb 8, 2008
    Yep, standard reaction. You folks jus seem way too sensitive! You don't need to panic every time someone doesn't praise the Almighty! (I've used Macs professionally and personally since 2000 —*I get it!)

    If you weren't making silly assumptions you'd see the forest through the trees here! The problem wasn't some trivial graphic mistake The problem was the computer trying to hoist the label! Whether it debuted with a "New" moniker or without the Mac Pro update was a complete joke —*though no one was laughing.

    ...I know, it's not "Buy a Mac, Save a Life", it's "Buy a Mac, free soapbox included."
  23. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Since we're swinging sticks here Ill throw in 1994 for me ;)
    Not as old as some of the folks Ive met here over the years but old enough to not care what Apple does on their own terms.
    First Mac Ive ever had was a PowerMac 6100AV.
    Still have it in a box, I guess Im a big fanboy for that :)
    Now back to the future and to date all Apple offerings kick ass.
    And just to be clear I work with both platforms daily (was three when UNIX meant something) and they all work as long as you use em.
    Again I dont give a rats @$$ about the drama Apple gets themselves into.
    As long as I can order a Mac Pro and they can deliver, I dont really care if its VHS parts sitting in it.
    If it runs Avid, Adobe, FCPX, Maya, Pro Tools and OS X, Im good :)
  24. soulbot macrumors member


    Feb 8, 2008
    That sums it up succinctly. Thanks, but it's a little too much Kool-Aid sippin' for me.

    If you think the current Mac Pro is a good value, your perception is off! Period!!!

    If it cost $1500, we wouldn't be having this "conversation". That would be more in line with the innards. This price, for this technology is embarrassing! Calling it "New" was just the icing on the cake. (i.e. Apple is out of touch with modern Pros. The lemmings just haven't realized it yet.)

    But go on, be done with it! Just advise the OP to get a new Mac Pro. This sounds exactly like the type of folks I'd be looking for advice from:

  25. mBox, Sep 6, 2012
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2012

    mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Seems to me you should be posting your rants on the above forum pages :)

    for the op, as you can see its an ongoing debate with everyone as to what is right for you.
    but honestly its your decision.
    Apple has many options and yes even an old fart Mac Pro can be one.
    Ill give you one scenario:
    Apple Mac Pro 2.93GHz/32GBRAM/512SSD/OSX ML
    Avid HBA for Avid Nitris DX
    ATTO SAS for GTech eS Pro 12TB RAID
    Nvidia Quadro 4000
    CUBIX HBA for CUBIX PCI Expander (REDROCKET, Dual Quadro 4000s and DeckLink Extreme HD)

    That my friend is an Avid Symphony/Resolve/FCPX/RED workstation.

    Mobile scenario:
    Apple 15" Retina MacBook Pro/16GBRAM/768FLASH/OSX ML
    Sonnet Echo Expander Pro
    Sonnet Tempo SSD Pro housed in Echo
    REDROCKET in Echo
    Dual Crucial M4 512SSD in Tempo

    That is a mobile DIT unit but can also be a home unit or a dream for most out there.

    Now take all that and change the CPU to a PC.
    No problem at all, but for the mobile you will need an Acer since (I think) they are the only ones with Thunderbolt to date.
    I forgot to add that this config works with the iMac.

    Now was that so hard?
    Did we have to rant about any of the above.
    Well to be honest, there might be some ranting if parts dont work but thats part of life in this business.

    Most of us have thick skin and dont let drama in to our creative thoughts ;)

    Aaah nothing more serene than the electronic hum of an CUBIX Expander :)

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