Apple courts high-end post production with macOS High Sierra and new Macs

Monday, 05 June 2017

Today’s Apple’s Mac announcements were prefaced by saying that the next version of macOS will not be about adding new features, but about improving current and adding new underlying technologies for future versions. Despite that, their software and hardware announcements seemed to be going after high-end media producers. 

The new version of macOS (High Sierra) will include support for H.265 (High Efficiency Video Coding) support. This produces the same HD quality at 40% of the data rate, and better quality at much higher resolutions: 4K, 6K and 8K. Although there isn't much use for normal 4K video playback (3840x2160), it is a minimum resolution (3840x1920) for good quality VR video playback. 

Support will be available for encoding as well as playback for all Macs that can run macOS High Sierra (all the current Macs that can currently run macOS Sierra). For more powerful Macs, hardware H.265 encoding will also be supported. Final Cut Pro X and other pro applications were specifically mentioned as going to be able to support H.265 in future versions.

Apple chooses between Oculus Rift and HTC Vive

OS support of high-end graphics will improved with Metal 2, which now explicitly supports GPU cards that are installed in external GPU boxes.

The new Apple External Graphics Development Kit seems to bless the HTC Vive is the VR headset of choice for now. Kit includes ‘Promo code for $100 towards the purchase of HTC Vive VR headset.‘ A hint as to the kind of VR device Apple might be interested in making soon - room-scale VR. The kit includes a Sonnet’s new eGFX Breakaway Box and a AMD Radeon RX 580 8GB GPU.

Apple also announced that Metal 2 is also designed to support high-end development for all kinds of VR on the Mac:

  • Unity engine
  • Unreal engine

Unreal is used by many VR experience vendors. The keynote included a demo from ILMx featuring VR experience authoring running on a new iMac.

Final Cut Pro X was mentioned a second time when it was mentioned in the context of being able to edit VR 360º Video without plugins.

High-end video features of iOS 11

Apple also announced sessions that cover features in iOS 11 that would be useful on Macs doing post production.

In iOS 11, apps can get access to depth map information from the iPhone 7 Plus camera system. That means applications will be able to build 3D models of what is captured. The API includes giving video capture apps the ability to capture a stream of depth data alongside video information. Very useful for being able to composite CG graphics into scenes, so that imaginary objects can be drawn further away and be drawn behind real-life objects and people closer to the camera.

iOS 11, macOS High Sierra and tvOS will also have a new Vision framework:

a new, powerful, and easy-to-use framework that provides solutions to computer vision challenges through a consistent interface. Understand how to use the Vision API to detect faces, compute facial landmarks, track objects, and more. Learn how to take things even further by providing custom machine learning models for Vision tasks using CoreML.

CoreML is a the new Machine Learning part of Apple’s OSes.

New MacBooks and iMacs available today

High-end pros are also being courted through new hardware today and the promise of new hardware tomorrow. Today sees improvements in speed and configurations for MacBooks, MacBook Pros and iMacs.

iMac

  • Faster Kaby Lake processors 2.3/4.5 GHz
  • SSD storage twice as fast
  • Thunderbolt 3
  • 50% faster Radeon Pro 500-series graphics 
  • 43% brighter 500-nit display

MacBook Pro

  • Faster Kaby Lake processors 3.1/4.1 GHz
  • More RAM in discrete graphics

Press information on Mac updates

iMac Pro in December

Earlier this year Apple said that they are working on a new Mac Pro with more power and more modularity. Today Apple made their task that much harder by previewing a new iMac Pro that is much more powerful than the current Mac Pro.

  • Up to 18-core processors
  • 22 Teraflops of GPU performance using Radeon Vega GPUs with 16GB of RAM
  • Up to 4TB of SSD
  • Up to 128GB of ECC RAM
  • 2 Thunderbolt 3 controllers (so two RAID arrays and 5K displays can be connected)
  • 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports
  • 10Gb Ethernet port
  • Available in Space Grey
  • Prices starting at $4,999

Press information in the iMac Pro.

Hardware for Pros

As the new iMac Pro is much more poweful than the current Mac Pro and at lower prices, there is no doubt that Apple is still interested in pros.

Who wouldn’t want to do post-production on the new iMac Pro? It looks like Apple are going directly after companies hoping to get high-end postproduction folk to switch from Mac. Could this be bad news for Dell and HP? Perhaps. Now that Apple have revealed the specs of a future iMac, competitors might be able to make sure that their hardware matches Apple by December. Apple must be confident though, otherwise they would not have revealed the price. That they did means that they probably think that their competitors don't have the ability to compete even with 5 months notice.

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