Mac Pro for VFX Pros? – fxguide
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After having a Mac Pro here on the Greenscreen tech compound for about a month, we wanted to publish our observations. Aside from specifications and numbers, this is a pleasure to use a machine. Forget about budgets or ROI, Mac Pro makes you smile. Everything works, everything is accessible. It's fast, bright, very responsive and the images on the screen are a dream – they are rich, saturated and very bright. If you buy a computer to live a good life, this is the computer you would buy.

Of course, the Mac Pro was designed as a reputable professional machine, and as such, it's almost more "Pro" than we wanted when we all asked Apple to return to the high-end Pro computer market. It's the machine you'd need in a suite if you had regular clients, but it's not a 3D animation machine that you can use behind the scenes and remove from your clients. If you want to build your own water-cooled, overclocked PC, you won't change your mind with this machine. If you are creative, do complex high-end video work with longer planning horizons, and want to go home smiling at night at the end of the day, invest in a Mac Pro.

Applications

This device is a great video editing and color correction box. For use in virtual production or more general real-time applications, Apple must either support NVIDIA or AMD releases much more robust high-end ray tracing and graphics. The Mac Pro could have an NVIDIA card without drivers and Apple OS support installed, but that wouldn't work. We have no idea why NVIDIA and Apple seem so disconnected, but when the Mac Pro was announced, the lack of NVIDIA support seemed to be the biggest disappointment. Now it's out in the wild, this opinion remains. If the Mac Pro has NVIDIA graphics, it is ideal for workflows at the beginning and on stage, especially with the idea of ​​checking daily newspapers and tests in HDR / Dolby Vision with the new Pro Monitor.

Companies like Epic Games and Unity support the Mac and they run perfectly, but for the target market they would have to do spectacularly well, not just appropriately. Playing Fortnite with high resolution and high frame rates is fun on the Mac Pro, but it's neither a gaming authoring device nor inexpensive to use as such. While we've found that the CPU for compiling UE 4 games and sheets is actually fast, it's hard to write the business case to deploy a Mac Pro to a game or real-time developer without NVIDIA support. This is not the only limitation for using the Mac Pro in legitimate virtual production, as Rococo MoCap suits work with OSX, but Xsens and iClone do not have MoCap plugins that allow the use of OSX. One cannot help but suspect that most third-party applications would support an OSX workflow if Apple introduced NVIDIA.

Tower Mac Pro

The Mac Pro system itself is a fast front-of-house machine that can adapt to your needs but wants to be seen. It looks impressive, the packaging is impressive too. Just the attention to detail and the Velcro straps on the shipping boxes make you want to not throw the box away.

Although it is fast and very robust, from a purely technical point of view it is not the fastest machine that anyone has ever sold. It's actually not that expensive compared to completely equivalent PCs, but the Mac Pro was not designed to compete with raw computing power only. You get the impression that his Xeon chips are designed to be reliable and used in mission-critical servers, rather than being used as (overclocked) super-fast processors in a gaming-style PC.

This is neither a general-purpose everyday computer nor a render farm computer that you would place in a server farm. It is a professional, professional video station. The Afterburner card was specially developed for transcoding and is available exclusively for the Mac Pro. If you're a dedicated PC user, you're unlikely to change operating systems due to the Mac Pro price. However, if you're a hardcore Mac user, this is a computer that may offer you more power, disc, and power options than you need. The headroom of this system is really a budget constraint. This is one of the rare situations in which a professional user will not "maximize" a new system configuration when specifying the Mac in the Apple Store.

Benchmarks

We are not big fans of pages and pages with benchmarks, as there are always a million permutations and combinations and nothing is really ever fair with such comparisons. Occasionally, however, some benchmarks can be helpful.

We have done a number of tests and here are some highlights:

Cinebench R20:

This test indicates that the MacPro is fast, but not the fastest CPU performance.

Transcoding

We compared the new Mac Pro with a good and relatively new high-end iMAC and an NVidia RTX Alienware PC.

Blackmagic RAW speed test

This shows that the Mac Pro processes all formats without an afterburner and surpasses a PC as expected.

Machine specifications:

The Apple HDR monitor

HDR

The Apple Pro monitors are stunningly good. The build quality and workmanship is exceptional. With a peak of 1600 nits and a sustainability of 1000 nits, they are bright, clear, saturated and the nano texture finish makes them a brilliant production screen. They're not cheap, but then any monitor with that specification is expensive and many other professional monitors actually make the Mac Pro's screen look cheap.

Dissolve & HDR:

One of the apps most likely to use the Mac Pro and its monitors is Resolve. However, getting the HDR rating in Resolve is not plug and play. It works, but you need to set up the system and timeline to use the system. For example, to make the HDR display fully functional in Resolve, you have to do a number of steps. It is not a plug and play process.

To get the HDR display in resolution, go to: Settings> System> General>
and use the "Mac Display Color Profiles for Viewers". Under Settings> User Settings> Color, activate the checkbox "Activate HDR areas for ST.2084" (this changes from color values ​​to nits).
You also need to set your timeline to an HDR profile. To sound the output, you have to go to the project settings and activate "Activate HDR10" or "DolbyVision". Then you also have to analyze your clips and activate HDR in your color correction node. In color management, You must click "Show HDR in viewers if available". Finally, you can use this menu item to specify the nits for rendering. You can then render a 10-bit H265 HDR file.

Dual XDR setup:

In order for two different color profiles to run simultaneously on two screens (i.e. one screen for the user interface, one screen for the output), each of the two displays must be connected to two different Radeon cards.

XDR display on the PC

Since the monitors are so good, we couldn't help but connect one to our RTX PC. It can be easily connected to the PC's Thunderbolt 3 port, but is connected to the Intel GPU so that no NVidia GPU can be used. Although HDR is enabled for gaming and streaming, the display does not show any HDR material. Since there is no driver for the XDR display, there is no HDR color profile for this PC configuration. The XDR display is only shown as a generic PnP device. Therefore, this is not an inexpensive solution that we would recommend to PC users. The Pro Monitor is to a large extent an Apple monitor, and that's exactly what it was developed for.

Streaming (Netflix, Prime, Youtube, etc.)

If you just want to view HDR footage on your new Mac Pro, there are some issues, especially if you think you can stream HDR footage. For example, there is no 4K HDR on Safari, and Chrome supports YouTube 4K playback, but no HDR.
You're better off just buying an Apple TV + and running it on your 4K HDR LED home TV. This is not a computer with which you can watch the Mandalorian from Disney + in HDR. (See this link for more information).

There is also no 4K HDR on Netflix or Amazon Prime that we could get going, but then you are unlikely to invest that kind of money to use your Mac Pro as a TV screen. (It might be nice to be able to download an HDR show, so dear reader, if you can figure out how to do that – please email us!)

Industrial design

There is no doubt that this is an industrial designer's dream, and while some customers will be impressed by it alone, you can get carried away by a discussion of all the wonderful design features. From the ability to open the entire Mac with the top handle in one easy movement, to simply adding it to slots, ports, and locking mechanisms.

Industrial design is important, but only indirectly addresses your company's bottom line. The design implies or provides an indication of the overall workmanship and component quality of the actual Mac. You can't admire the design without thinking. If Apple has put so much effort and attention to detail, it must have got the best internal components. The two are not directly connected, but the Mac feels like a robust device of extremely high quality in every respect.

sound

We knew the system was silent after seeing it launch at WWDC, but in practice it is incredibly silent. I am not aware that I have ever noticed fans, even when RAW .r3d 10-bit 8K HDR clips are rendered and exported for 3 hours each. No matter how much we threw on the system, noise was never a problem in or in the office.

Note that there are no wheel locks, so flat tables are desirable!

Update the built-in capacity

Without a doubt, the core aspect of industrial design for serious VFX and vision professionals is the ability to update almost anything. This is the exact opposite of the iMac. While an iMac is also beautiful in design, you have to start over every time technology takes a big step forward. The monitor, SSD, power adapter, RAM, etc. may be OK. However, if you need a new graphics card, it means a new iMac (or use an external eGPU that is supported). Time will tell how inexpensive the new Mac Pro with its upgrade paths will be. The worst thing Apple could do is make a bigger technology leap that requires users to upgrade the main Mac Pro tower themselves. The machine currently has almost unlimited potential for internal and external expandability.

The monitor stand

This is a piece of industrial design that we love, but only if someone else helps pay for it. The reality is that there is no better place in the world, but it is really expensive. We loved how quickly it snapped in and snapped in, it's perfectly balanced, but once we put the monitors where we wanted them, we probably never adjusted them again unless someone pushed them or (someone else) ) Apple Fanboy wanted to play with them because they are such "tech porn unicorns". The costs for the stands are roughly the same as for other 4K basic monitors and their stands. So if you are not in a customer room where you have to impress, it is difficult to justify. On the other hand, we cannot justify buying a Porsche car, and many people still buy it (we are told).

Our configuration

Our version of the Mac Pro wasn't the most expensive, but it wasn't cheap either.

MacPro specifications: 16-core Xeon CPU with 3.2 GHz
192 GB RAM
2x Radeon Pro Vega II GPU 32 GB
4 TB SSD
Dual ProDisplayXDR Nano Texture Monitors (yes with stands)
Magic Mouse 2, keyboard + trackpad 2 (and the miracle monitor cloth)

That would throw you back near $ 50,000 (in Sydney) and significantly less in the US (your local mileage may vary). I was happy that despite the current wild currency fluctuations due to global trade fears, non-American customers don't pay a big premium.

Conclusion

This is the best video machine you could ask for when editing, rating and using a Mac. It's one thing to see it in a store, it's another to use it for a while. The machine is great to work with. We hope that Apple will be successful enough to expand this base so that the Mac Pro can be upgraded to a high-end 3D design and virtual production option. It is entirely possible that Apple does this. There is no technical or infrastructural reason why this Mac Pro cannot grow into a range of professional machines. The world already had rapidly expandable PC solutions. It's great to see that there are now rapidly expandable Mac solutions too.

Special thanks to our friends The Diamond Bros. Last month we worked with 8K footage from them on Mac Pro. This .r3d footage has helped a lot (and it's great footage).

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