Articles tagged with: Mac Pro

What’s next for Mac Pro graphics cards?

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

If Apple update the Mac Pro this year, there's a very good chance that as well as introducing faster CPUs, they'll offer faster graphics cards. The FirePro D300, D500 and D700 in last year's Mac Pro are manufactured by AMD. AMD have spent the last few months updating the FirePro cards they make for PCs. The specifications of these new cards show how much more AMD can do for the same money.

The cards in the MacPro are custom made for Apple, but there are some rough equivalents between the D-series and the PC W-series. For example the D300 has similar specifications to the W7000. 

The W7000, W8000 and W9000 first appeared in 2012. The PC equivalents of the D300, D500 and D700. This year Apple may base their new Mac Pro GPU cards on more recent AMD cards.

Here is a table edited together from tables on the AnandTech site. The table is divided into three groups - representing low-, medium- and high-end Mac Pro options. Each group shows the original AMD card, the Apple-specified Mac Pro card and the 2014 update of the 2012 PC card.

CPU-cards-table-a

Click to see more detail

At each level AMD have at least doubled the VRAM, added 40% more stream processors. The W8100 and W9100 have wider memory buses (so more information can be transferred for each command) and many more transistors.

Although Apple can specify any number of stream processors, clock speeds or VRAM, these more recent cards show what AMD considers is the low-, medium- and high-end when it comes to PCs. For Mac owners perspective, they show how much card for a similar amount of money AMD can now make compared with the cards in the Mac Pro and 2012.

Find out about the W7100W8100 amd W9100 by reading more at AnandTech

 

Final Cut Pro X: Compositing 64+ layers in real time

Friday, 01 August 2014

Here's a new video from Gyro (tweeted by @sundsvein) featuring an edit on a Mac Pro using 64 layers of video - each of which was at least HD resolution.

One 14 second sequence had 2,400+ 1080p clips.

The reason we went for Final Cut Pro X as our main (and only) software is because it was bar far the only software that could handle 64+ layers with relative ease, and the way it works with the hardware is crazy

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Shows that Final Cut Pro X in combination with a Mac Pro can do real-time compositions that would be hard to do using other systems.

 

 

Mac Pro (Late 2013): Resources

Friday, 20 December 2013

Maxed-out 2013 Mac Pro Price: ‘$9,200’

Friday, 29 November 2013

Mac-Pro-pricing

 

The Canadian price for the most expensive build to order Mac Pro will be CN$9,700. That's $9,160, £5,600, €6,700 at current exchange rates. This is according to a post by Marcus Moore, a reliable long-standing member of the FCP.co forum:

I just chatted with an Apple business rep. Considering what the individual components cost, and what some of the estimates were, I'm SHOCKED at how good the pricing is.

A MAXED OUT MacPro- 1TB SSD, 64GB RAM, D700s, and 12-core CPU is... CN$9,700.

I also had him price out a 8-core with the 500GB SSD- and that was CN$7,700.

Although many Mac users would find these prices shocking, 'pro users' are likely to be pleasantly surprised. A few weeks ago Unbox Therapy calculated that an 'Ultimate Mac Pro' would price out to around $14,000.

Here's how these possible prices compare with the current Mac Pro configurations:

pricing r

 

The case for a new Apple professional application

Wednesday, 27 November 2013

If Apple were to launch a new professional application to showcase the power and flexibility of the new Mac Pro, what would it be like?

Professional sofware is part of Apple's corporate definition. This definition appears at the end of every Apple press release. At the moment the definition includes the following:

Apple designs Macs, the best personal computers in the world, along with OS X, iLife, iWork and professional software…

Apple say that they're making a new version of Final Cut tuned to the 4K possibilities afforded by the new MacPro. Some new MacPro features are already in October's MacBook Pros. They have fast 1TB SSDs (1.1GByte/second read and write) and Thunderbolt 2 (and probably HDMI 2 with a firmware upgrade).

Final Cut Pro is a valuable application that works very wall on all new Macs (especially if you have at least 16GB of RAM). The only feature Final Cut might have that would show off something that only the Mac Pro could do is the ability to have seven 4K displays attached at once. Final Cut Pro X 10.0 only uses up to two displays without much flexibility. A Mac Pro-supporting 10.1 update would therefore include for flexible window and display options.

So how can Apple demonstrate a post production workflow that specifically requires the extra power in the GPUs and CPUs of the new Mac Pro? 

How about a colour grading application?

When Apple acquired Silicon Color in 2006, their Final Touch HD grading application cost $5,000. A year later they released Apple Color (a only slightly modified version of Final Touch HD) as part of the Final Cut Studio bundle. This huge effective price cut immediately lowered a big barrier to entry for better quality colour in post production.

The catch was Apple Color never felt like an Apple application - its user interface remained obscure to new users, and Apple didn't invest any time or money into making an editor-friendly version of Color. One of the aims of the 2011 Final Cut Pro X reset was to open up the world of post production to more creative people. There was no place for Apple Color in 2011. It was all Apple could do to build a workable version of Final Cut from scratch on top of the new post-QuickTime OS X frameworks.

An upside of the fall of Color as a grading application is the rise of DaVinci Resolve from Blackmagic Design. They took Apple's 'very low pricing to sell Mac hardware' policy and applied it to their business model. Resolve sells their control surfaces, cameras, and video I/O devices - promoted by the very low or even free prices for Resolve. 

In practice, there's no need for Apple to revive Color, DaVinci Resolve fills that gap nicely.

A high-end compositing application would be a good candidate to promote the new Mac Pro. Nuke by The Foundry for example. Nuke eats up CPU and GPU cycles, loves multiple screens and benefits from fast IO and storage. That sounds like the new Mac Pro.

Nuke pricing starts at £2,500 ($4,100). The newest version of Nuke, version 8, is being launched next week.

Will Apple acquire The Foundry? Even if they wanted to, the combination might not be a good mix. It didn't seem to work out well when they acquired Nothing Real.

Apple bought Nothing Real in 2002 for their technology, applications and post industry links. In the following years Final Cut users benefitted from Nothing Real's image stabilisation and optical flow retiming technology. Shake, the Nothing Real high-end compositing app, was one of Weta's main tools for the post production of the Lord of the Rings trilogy.

In 2005 Apple charged $3,000 for Shake 4 (whereas Shake 2.1 cost $9,900 in 2000). They eventually cut the price of version 4.1 to $500. Sadly it seems that Apple didn't want to maintain the support structure required by effects houses who want quick developer responses in return for expensive annual maintenance licenses.

Apple Insider, June 2006:

The latest release of Apple Computer's Shake compositing software may be the last of its breed, as the company reportedly plans to shift gears and focus on developing the next-generation of the application around a different codebase.

Apple made the revelation alongside the release of Shake 4.1 this week, telling customers that it "will no longer be selling maintenance for Shake" as "no further updates" to the application are planned.

Instead, Apple said it has begun work on the next generation of the software, which reports target for a release in 2008.

In the event, Apple didn't release Smoke X in 2008, they didn't update it for years, discontinuing it in 2009. Commentators said 

Will Apple add Shake-like 3D and node-based editing to Final Cut Pro? Perhaps - Autodesk are going the other way: adding and editorial timeline to the Smoke 3D and node-based compositor.

Many editors have called for more advanced grading, effects and compositing tools in Final Cut Pro. Some would like all the features of Apple Color, Motion, Shake, Logic, Soundtrack Pro and a Blu-Ray version of DVD Studio Pro available in a single Final Cut timeline.

It is unlikely that Apple will go in this direction. Even though hidden in every copy of Final Cut is a full version of Motion, only a small part of the Motion UI is accessible in Final Cut Pro X.

Plugin makers use the retail version of Apple Motion to make effects, transitions, titles and generators for Final Cut editors. When Apple combined Motion filters and behaviours into the plugins bundled with Final Cut, they seemed to make a point of not making every filter and behaviour control available to editors. Apple followed Einstein's maxim when developing plugins: "Make things as simple as possible, but not simpler." Although node-based post production can work well in applications such as Smoke, DaVinci Resolve and After Effects, I think Apple consider the steepness of the learning curve for all editors not worth the benefits to compositors and motion graphics designers and editors who think like them.

Tomorrow's customer stories drive today's new features

If Apple want to use the Mac Pro and associated software as proof that iMacs and MacBook Pros are part of a range of computers than can support highly complex and demanding projects at the high end, they'll need some inspirational case studies. Even if your company memo doesn't need to be edited a computer with mulitple CPU cores and GPUs, some consumers like to buy from a company that makes the technology used to make the biggest movies in history.

That means that although Apple probably won't have a Mac Pro launch event, they'll want Mac Pro stories out that Apple supporters can quote in a single line. In 2002, fans were able to say "Apple's Shake app was used to make Lord of the Rings." Despite the fact that the hardware Weta probably used was PCs running Linux, the Shake aquisition made some Final Cut users happy. HP have probably benefitted from courting post production facilities.

The good news for Apple is that there are many blockbuster movies gearing up for release in 2015, so now is a good time for Mac Pros to get more involved in film post production. In practice that means that the radical nature of the Mac Pro must be seen to be an advantage when it comes to producing 4K, high frame rate, mostly computer animated tentpole feature films.

If Apple wants these kind of customer stories, they'll need to have the tools that fit. For Final Cut Pro that means improved versioning, media management and media sharing. When Apple do collaborative editing they will want to move far past what Avid do today - or at least create hooks so that third parties can deliver new kinds of solutions.

As regards Motion, although the 5.0.X series has slowly impoved as a plug-in development tool over the last 29 months, it hasn't had many motion graphics feature improvements. Does its very low price and its marketing as a Final Cut add-on denote that Apple has ceded the motion graphics app battle to After Effects?

This points to the possibility that a Apple will launch a new combination professional application with the new Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro X 10.1. To fit the bill, it would be used to

  • Create plugins for Final Cut Pro, iMovie and perhaps Adobe After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve and Autodesk Smoke (running on OS X only)
  • Design motion graphics that can be generated in rendered in real time and controlled using external devices and applications (for use on-set and artistic performances for example)
  • Combine complex 3D content with footage and other media in a node-based procedural editing system - with live links to Resolve or Smoke node trees.

In practice this would be Motion X, Quartz Composer X and Shake X combined in a single application. 

I'm looking forward to seeing 'Apple ShakeComposerMotion X' in December - it'll change the world of post production forever!

 

 

 

I don't expect Apple to launch Apple ShakeComposerMotion X - it is a fantasy application idea that shows there is a lot of space for modern professional applications by Apple to fill.

 

 

 

New MacBook Pros and MacPro: 4K at high refresh rates via DisplayPort?

Thursday, 07 November 2013

Many Mac users are hoping Apple release a 4K monitor. They want a Thunderbolt-equipped display that can handle resolutions at at least 3840 by 2160 at high refresh rates.

The graphics system on the new MacBook Pros seems like a good intermediate step: They can support 3840 by 2160 at 30Hz and 4096 by 2160 at 24Hz via the built-in HDMI connector.

Today saw the an announcement from Canon of their first 30" 4K display. The DP-3010 is a 16:10 reference display for use in high-end post production. It can display 4096 by 2560 10-bit pixels at up to 60 frames per second.

Although it has two 3G/HD-SDI connections and a DisplayPort connection, it doesn't have an HDMI connector. 

The HDMI standard was updated to version 2.0 in September, allowing for higher frame rates at higher resolutions, yet Canon didn't include HDMI. Sony's new Z100 4K camera has an HDMI connector that they plan to upgrade to version 2.0 using a firmware upgrade:

A future firmware upgrade is planned to provide compatibility with the new HDMI 2.0 standard and enable 4K 50fps/60fps output to a wider range of devices.

Up until now I've assumed that 4K at higher refresh rates on MacBook Pros and the new Mac Pro was a matter of waiting for an HDMI software upgrade. But, perhaps we don't have to wait.

There's a good chance that the display limitation MacBook Pros have is that of the connection used. HDMI 1.4 is limited to 24Hz at 4096 by 2160. What if a 4K was connected using the DisplayPort aspect of the Thunderbolt 2 connector?

The DisplayPort standard was last updated in 2009. The big change was to double the effective data rate to 17 Gb/s. It also added Apple's Mini DisplayPort connector design.

Thunderbolt connectors are based on the older Mini DisplayPort connector design. I'd like to see how well a new MacBook Pro connects to a 4K monitor with a DisplayPort connector. As Thunderbolt 2 cables can handle 20 Gb/s in two directions, there's a chance that they can handle the 21.6 Gb/s bandwidth required by by DisplayPort v1.2 (there is a 25% overhead for error correction).

There's a good chance the Mac will be able to drive the display at higher refresh rates: at 50 and 60 frames per second. The refresh rate limit isn't down to the graphics processing power of the Mac, but because of the connection used.

When you set the internal Retina display to be 'Scaled' to show 'More Space' the OS draws to an imaginary 3840 by 2400 pixel screen (double the perceived resolution of 1920 by 1200) and the GPU scales it down to the native 2880 by 1800 screen. The Iris Pro Graphics GPU can handle the high refresh rates expected on computer displays, so 50 or 60Hz might not be a problem

Has anyone tested a DisplayPort-equipped 4K monitor with a new MacBook Pro yet?

The combination of a fast DisplayPort connector plus an SSD that can read and write data at 1.1 GB/s makes me think these new MacBook Pros are a great testbed for making sure 4K works well on the new MacPro.

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