Which MacPro Do You Recommend?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by IvanB, Oct 22, 2010.

  1. IvanB macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2009
    I currently have a 6 year old MacPro PowerPC G5 dual 2GHz. I edit two or three wedding movies a month and lately have started editing HD footage and you can imagine the old mac is really chugging along to keep up.

    So I plan to buy a new MacPro, but the question is which one will be most cost effective for what I need? The Two 2.66GHZ 6 Core is the most my budget would allow me to stretch to, but I'm wondering if I will get much more for rendering and performance times vs me going with a one 3.2GHZ Quad Core? Will FCP even take advantage of the 2 6 cores? Any ideas of what the performance differences might be in rendering and burning the DVDs for these two computers?

    Any additional video card/hardware you recommend in addition to the MacPro?

    Also will it be a problem in the near future that the Mac Pros don't offer USB 3? Do you think there will be add ons to enable USB3 speeds later on?

    Any input/insight will be appreciated? I'll probably need to make this investment last for the next 4-5 years so would like to make the best decision.

  2. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    Faster 6-core

    I helped a friend configure a 6-core MP with SSD and RAID0 for FCS. He's pretty happy with it. The advantage of this configuration is it's much less expensive than the 12-core, and much faster on applications that don't leverage all of the threaded horsepower in a 12-core. Not all applications and workflows can take advantage of lots of cores, and FCP is one of the applications that cannot. According to MacWorld labs, 3.33 6-core is the fastest on most benchmarks.
    Apple memory prices are sometimes competitive, but this is not one of those times. Get 12-16 GB RAM from your favorite supplier and save big. Save your OEM memory in case you need to have your MP services under warranty. Application performance is more than CPU, even for video. So get an SSD and stripe your disks where possible.
  3. IvanB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2009
    Thanks Kohlson that makes perfect sense. I was leaning towards the 3.33 6-Core as well. Apple's price for a SSD looks high as well, so I'll probably shop around for a better priced one. I'll plan to edit the HD footage on the SSD.

    Just one clarification, when you say stripe your SSD, is that more for a back up stand point or does that add to the performance?

    I wish there was a way for to know how much faster the 3.33GHZ 6 Core will be to render files than my existing Dual 2GHZ PowerPC G5 with 6GM mem. You think it might half my existing rendering times?

  4. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    FCS performance

    By slice, I should have been more clear. I mean RAID0, which improves drive performance. There are many opinions on backup, mine include a RAID 1 NAS, so back ups are somewhere else.

    Here's what my friend has to say. There are lots of variables here, but here are a couple of examples.

    If he does export directly, it takes 14min 37 sec to process a 1080p 9min 30sec file to a 320 MB file (4.5MB bit rate, 720x480p, h.264).

    If he does a 2-step export, where he exports the same file first to AIC 1080 QT movie, then drops it on Compressor.

    For the same 9min 30 sec clip, it takes 1min 44sec to export an AIC 1080p QT movie (bit rate = 108K).

    This creates a 7.7GB file, which gets dropped on a Compressor droplet. This takes 1min 37 sec to encode to a 507 MB file (720x480p, h.264, bit rate = 7K)

    (An advantage of using Compressor is that you can now go back to FCP to edit -- encoding is a separate job.)

    Note that the Apple Store people will allow you to bring in a test file and try it out on a system they have in the store. They probably won't have the 6-core, but will have something to give you an idea.
  5. IvanB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2009
    Kohlson I know SSDs have superior performance to the traditional hard drives, but their life spans are not as long. So do you recommend I keep my main master hard drive as the 2T for the operating system and installed applications and have the SSD drive dedicated to editing projects? That way if the SSD goes sooner over a couple of years I don't have too many problems?

    Also do you recommend the Mac Raid card? Its $600+ dollars so pricy, but I'm not sure if it really adds that much to performance. I'm guessing using a SSD will be a better pick between the two?

    I'll probably end up going with either the 3.2GHz Nehalem Quad or the 3.33GHZ 6 Core Westmere depending on budget.

  6. X1Lightning macrumors 6502


    Feb 19, 2007
    put everything on the ssd if you want to speed things up, and then just use the 2 tb hdd for back up.

    then if you ssd burns out, you can just pop a new one in and restore.
  7. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    Just remember to change your scratch/render settings from FCP to external at all times. FCP tends to lose preffs during bad crashes.
    hate to see you lose an internal SSD only to find out that most of your project footages was dumped in there :(
  8. mBox macrumors 68020

    Jun 26, 2002
    To boldly go...

    Well for us were running FCP, Adobe, Avid and Protools.
    We always purchase the fastest possible and hoping that Avid (its usually Avid that takes forever) approves the new system.
    Yes its overkill to go with the 12 core for almost all the above (except Adobe).
    But if you have the budget, go for it.
  9. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    Regarding SSD lifespan, that remains an unanswered question. If you believe Intel, and I have no reason not to, MTBF is as long or longer than server grade HDDs. SSDs are still very early on the tech curve.

    If you're worried about reliability on these, consider the following:
    Bay 1: SSD for system and apps.
    Bays 2, 3: RAID0 set up, for data.
    Bay 4: Internal backup drive, that has current image of data/system files, where current = your comfort level. Time machine or Carbon Copy Cloner can be used for back up.

    Re: Mac RAID card: I don't have any experience with these. Dedicated RAID cards usually have battery-supported operation to assist with unintended shutdowns, hardware assist for RAID5 writes, and so on. Whether this is beneficial to you or FCS -- dunno. Going beyond the base MP platform seems to be the great unknown. I've asked the question whether dedicated PCI cards or other options can improve throughput, but haven't heard any answers.

  10. IvanB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2009
    Thanks for the input guys - much appreciated! Based on your feedback and my budget, I'm probably going to with the following purchase:

    3.33GHZ 6-Core, SSD for Bay 1, ATI Rad.5870, 2 Opitical drives, everything else standard (I'll buy RAM and additional hard drives externally to save a few $s) = Apple price $5,498 - thats a lot for me, but I think it should last me a few years, as I just edit a couple of weddings a month.

    Will have to buy the BR drive to burn HD projects and I'll probably have to look to buy a capture card to capture 1080p as well I guess.

  11. qimosabe macrumors newbie

    Oct 25, 2009
    I have the same Mac as you except for the your SSD choice


    Skip the SSD from Apple. It is double the price and half the performance of the OWC Extreme ones. I have 2 SSDs (60Gb each) in Raid 0 and I get 500 Mb/s read and write.

    See macperformanceguide.com and Lloyd will explain why it is better.

    They have the 250Gb SSDs at a good price right now.
    You can buy the SSDs at macsales.com

    They use the the new Sandforce controllers
  12. IvanB thread starter macrumors newbie

    Sep 13, 2009
    Cheers qimosabe - you make a good point. I'll buy the SSD separate just like the RAM and other two hard drives. The savings can almost pay for a new iMac!
  13. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    I bought the '09 3.33GHz Mac Pro in December of 2009, specifically for editing HD. I have the Apple RAID card, and 16GB of RAM from OWC. Internally, I use the standard 640GB HDD as my OS and program files drive, and three 1TB drives in RAID 0 for footage, renders, scratch, etc. I back up all working files to an external HDD at the end of every edit session. I've done this almost every day for the last ten months, editing a feature film.

    Apple RAID card:
    I've since learned this was not the best choice. I've had no problems with it, but now I want to upgrade my RAID to a nice external RAID 3, and use the four internal drives for scratch, renders, and time machine OS backup, while still using a large external (via my eSATA PCI card that I installed) for project file backup. I'm going with an Areca RAID card (here) with an 8-bay RAID enclosure (here). I can't do that with the Apple RAID card, so it will become obsolete for me at that point.

    The Apple RAID card does have a battery on it, which will recondition itself exactly every three months. It's a drag when it does, because it takes seven hours to complete this task, and editing while this goes on can prove detrimental to your data, I've heard. I simply don't edit while the battery is reconditioning. I call it a glorious seven-hour break.

    I use Adobe Premiere Pro and After Effects, and they both use all my cores. I have the single quad, but it shows up as eight cores due to hyper-threading.

    If I were building a new system today, I'd choose the single six-core 3.33GHz model as well. Choose 5870, and leave it at that. Buy RAM, RAID card, and all hard drives (SSD or mechanical) from other sources to save a ton of money and get better quality anyway. I would skip getting two superdrives. I got the LG Blu-ray burner from OWC, and swapped it for my second superdrive, which now sleeps in a box on the shelf. I don't know why I chose two superdrives anyway. I've never used the lower one, ever... and now it's in a box.

    As far as editing HD with my internal hardware RAID with 16GB of RAM... it's amazing. It has been an absolute pleasure to work on. I've even burned feature length movies onto BD-R with the internal Blu-ray drive, and it works. The blank discs are pretty expensive, and it's nice to be able to say I haven't thrown any screwed up ones into the trash.

    In summary, I concur with the choice of single 6-core 3.33GHz, and spend the rest of your budget on other necessities. Don't forget a decent UPS. I was lucky enough to find an APC Smart-UPS 1500 (SUA1500) that was barely used from a company going out of business for $25. I almost felt guilty walking out of the building with it for that price. I also picked up a refurbished matte 30" Apple Cinema Display for $1200 from Apple for a second monitor. Also perfect, and makes life so much better when editing.

    Anyway, budget the entire system, not just the computer. As wonderful as my quad-core 3.33 runs with HD, it can only be better on the new 6-core. Enjoy it!

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