Jan 6, 2014

APPLE RELEASES NEW MAC PRO -- Our Take On the Matter

It was just over a week ago that Apple began shipping its newest edition of its Mac Pro computer and the creative world is teaming with opinions.  We've been reading first impressions, laughed at parodies and watched reviews and op-eds like WIRED, MacRumors, The VERGE.  There's one thing in common, everyone loves it...and hates it.

We went to the Apple Store at Fashion Place in Salt Lake CIty--the new shiny story at City Creek didn't have one--last week to put it through the paces with some of our 5k footage we shot in Morocco [watch some here] in October.  That's about where anything interesting ends.  Turns out that unlike a car company that shows you the car that has every option imaginable added to wow you, Apple's stores show you the entry, base, boring model.  I think you get a clear picture.  It got more embarrassing from there.  Apple just updated it's Final Cut Pro X software to 10.1, which means it is optimized for the new steroid-infused CPU and GPU and 4k cinema, only they don't have it installed on any of their machines, including the new Mac Pro.  Our Apple business rep was rosy in the cheeks.

Now we don't use FCPX, we migrated to Adobe's Premiere Pro CS6--are avoiding CC--and are migrating again to AutoDesk's SMOKE, so even if the Mac Pro had Apple's current software we wanted to test the machine with software we use.  Well--awkward pause--we couldn't install any software on the new Pro.

That's a long story to get to the point that, we didn't get much of anything out of our hands on with the Mac Pro.  Let's move past that and get a little more hypothetical and presumptive.  And be forewarned, you probably won't learn any major revelation here, but you will walk away with one more perspective.

Digital cinema professionals don't store their digital cinema projects on their computers.  So having only 1TB of storage internally doesn't create a problem.  And with it being the newest make of SSD (solid state hard drive) it is very responsive.  Applications, searches, tasks...they all happen very <emphasis added> quickly.  What is unfortunate are a few changes that have taken place which are different and yet to be determined  pro or con.

External docs, drives and chassis offer extreme customization but  also create a mess for the workspace.  Things like SANLink and ThunderLink offer thunderbolt to fiber connectivity. Sonnet Tech, MacSales, Magma and others give you a million and one--number is not proven and maybe slightly exaggerated--ways to add and connect hardware to your edit suite.  Gone are the days of hiding it in a larger silver cheese grader box.

Now what about working on footage, photos or sorting your Word docs?  How does the workflow standup to the connectivity changes.  We have iMac's, MacMini, MBPros and MacPros connected to our of our arrays.  It is a 72TB SAN and we edit 5k footage we film with our RED EPIC.  We use thunderbolt to fiber converters, AFP and 1GbE and it all works pretty seamless.  So, having not yet hooked up a new Mac Pro, we are under the assumption that it will be a fairly simple integration.

Where we're excited is to see how quick we can get read/write speeds to our array with Thunderbolt2 and a SANLink2.  Hooked up to a Thunderlink box at 8Gb speeds we had r/w speeds floating at 750MB/s.  That's pretty quick.  Will it be faster with the new hardware?  We'll let you know.  If you don't have a SAN you would have a Pegasus2 or equivalent for individual suite work.  Even through AFP and gigabit ethernet you can share a lot of data efficiently.

Its unfortunate that Apple eliminated PCIe slots, settled for 1GbE, didn't spring for HDMI 2.0 and created Medusa...roll with the punches.

The new Pro has been proven to be upgradeable, thanks to OWC's teardown.   Companies like AutoDesk, Adobe, AVID will need to rewrite software to take advantage of 16GB GPU power and 12 core processing.  Maybe that will eliminate the need for RED ROCKET, Kona cards or the like.  But don't expect it in the first few quarters.

When we've had ample time to do a real hands on with legitimate software and workflow assets we'll write an update to this.  In the meantime, get eat a nice salad and think happy thoughts.

*images are not owned by sansom media but pulled from the sites listed [apple.com, Sonnet, Promise Technology macrumors.com, macrumors.fr, makeuseof.com, blog.gaborit-d.com, pix-geeks.com, technabob.com]


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