Hot Takes on the New 2019 Mac Pro from Film Editors

Hot Takes on the New 2019 Mac Pro from Film Editors

Film Editors on the 2019 mac Pro

So the new Mac Pro is finally available to order on the US and UK stores with delivery in 2-3 weeks in the US and mid-February for the UK.

But what do post-production professionals think about it and are they actually going to buy one?

Prices start at $5,999 and go all the way up to $52,748 for the top spec machine. Including $25,000 on 1.5 TB (12 x 128GB DDR4) of RAM and $400 for wheels.

In the UK that price is £47,588 (including VAT) which means, for once, that it’s not worth flying to the States to leverage the currency arbitrage ($62,691), at least at today’s rates.

Hot Take #1 – It costs a lot of money

So obviously, the first thing no one missed was the price… with a top spec that reaches over $50k, it’s not for everyone. It’s not supposed to be for everyone.

It’s been interesting to see the response to the final sticker price with some feeling it as ‘eye-gougingly’ expensive while others consider it ”a valuable addition to my workflow”.

It all depends on your use case.

But as others were keen to point out price is elastic and value is relative and if you don’t need a Mac Pro then you probably shouldn’t be offended by the price.

That said, it’s Apple’s most configurable and updatable machine that the currently offer, and so I think it’s got a lot of people considering buying one.

In this interaction with Michael Kammes and Nezih Savaskan there’s a good point about the relative price of video editing equipment vs other filmmaking equipment.

Hot Take #2 – It’s really fast

All the usual YouTubers (MKBD, Jonathan Morrison, iJustine etc.) have had review units for a couple of weeks and mostly released unboxing videos, but there were a few other working professionals amongst Apple’s favoured few who also had the same experience.

Thomas Grove Carter from Trim Editing, James Tonkin from Hangman Studios and Vincent LaForet all had access to various spec machines to test out too.

Please note that I’m not saying that these tech-review YouTubers aren’t doing real video editing work nor basically all the same things that ‘working professionals’ are, it’s just that their day job and client expectations are likely to be a little different.

This thread from editor Thomas Grove Carter has some key takeaways from his experience with the machine and it’s good to see Thomas talking about actual new business use-cases.

using the new mac pro

You can listen to Thomas speak about the new Mac Pro at length on the Mac Power User’s podcast here, in which he covers all of this in much more detail and it’s well worth a listen for an inside take on why this machine can make a difference in your post house.

He also has a lot of good things to say about the iMac Pro, and I think offers some really balanced advice for anyone consider the new Mac Pro versus other options from Apple.

Thomas also talks about how good the XDR display is and why you might not want to look at one, lest you regret not buying one.

Vincent LaForest on 2019 mac Pro

Filmmaker Vincent LaForet writes at length about his experience of using the 2019 Mac Pro in this detailed blog post.

The Mac Pro is the first machine in 13 years (since the first generation Mac Pro) that can slice through these 8K and 150 megapixel digital videos and stills files effortlessly – this CPU and GPU power allows me to see the imagery at full resolution almost instantaneously which is also key.

I can now see the fine details of the imagery I produce and this hardware allows me to push the boundaries of what I can do in post as a result.

Vincent covers the spec of his machine, some initial benchmarks, his first impressions on working through a re-edit of his aerial footage reel (100TBs of footage!), working the the XDR display (and the stand) and a few other things. Well worth a read.

UPDATE – Vincent has also shared his recommended Mac Pro configurations, here. He splits them out into various use cases including a filmmaker and RED 8K Filmmaker set ups.

fcp co on mac pro 2019

Ronny Courtens from interviews filmmaker James Tonkin, in their first article, on his experience of test-driving the Mac Pro for a few weeks before the launch. What I loved from the outset of this article was the specific focus of the post:

We will focus on what James thinks of the new Apple hardware from the point of view of a business owner who produces, directs, edits, and grades stunning music videos, high-end commercials and long-form concert documentaries, working with 4K to 8K footage in Final Cut Pro X and Davinci Resolve.

As a post production professional, I find testing new hardware on real-world projects to be much more reliable, and we will try to answer the most important question of all: is this new Apple hardware really a good future-proof investment?

James goes on to describe how he set up and used the 2 XDR monitors in his main grading suite, replacing his Sony broadcast monitor with an XDR display in the process. It’s a great article for anyone who is editing and colour grading 4K-8K projects and wants to know what it’s actually like to use them.

We can basically watch 8K material on a 4K timeline playing out to 4K displays showing everything 1:1 with full fidelity, and to be able to then add the heaviest post production tools such as noise reduction onto the project and still see it play in realtime, that’s what I always really wanted.

I also like that James touches on why, as a business owner, the Mac Pro is the machine he’ll be investing in to future-proof his organisation. As with pretty much everything on, well worth a read.

As more and more people get their hands on these machines in the next few weeks I’m sure we’ll see a wider range of use-cases and performance benchmarks.

But if you see reports from colorists, VFX artists and 3D animators do let me know.

UPDATE – Lunar Animation Studios

Using the new Mac Pro for 3d animation

There’s a really interesting, and detailed blog post from Lunar Animation Studios on their use of the new Mac Pro and XDR Display, which they put to good use while creating the end title sequence for Jumanji: Next Level.

They compare the real-world spec and speeds of their iMac Pros to the Mac Pro with a variety of 3D and creative applications including DaVinci Resolve, Maya, V-Ray, Houdini and others. Be sure to play through all the embedded videos.

When using the new Apple hardware to create the Jumanji project, the Mac Pro helped us to avoid a few technical difficulties and do all aspects faster. But the new Pro Display XDR gave us an ability that we previously didn’t have in the studio.

It provided us with a phenomenally accurate visual representation of the content we were making…

… As a smaller studio without £30k to drop on a (reference) monitor, it’s allowed us to see exactly what the final deliverable looked like as it was intended to go to the client.

If you’re also considering the XDR display then this thread from colorist Juan Salvo has some really useful insights.

Obviously you can’t judge it from these (compressed Twitter) images alone, but they will hopefully give you a further layer of understanding about what you’re actually buying.

Hot Take #3 – Should you actually buy a New Mac Pro?

What should you actually buy?

That all depends on the work you do, whether you need a top spec machine to make a material difference to your ability to deliver to your clients and if it makes business sense when it comes to a return on investment.

But whatever you do, you shouldn’t spend $25,000 on RAM from Apple, nor $400 on wheels when you can get the same for cheaper elsewhere.

Update May 2020 – This video above from Max Yuryev is the best I’ve seen on performance testing, understanding which configuration you should go for and how it compares to other options, all in a succinct 30 minutes. I had to watch this video several times, to take it all in…

Update August 2020Colorist Darren Mostyn has shared this detailed comparison of the performance of his Mac Pro 2013 set up and his (expensive!) new 2019 Mac Pro.

Colorist and Mixing Light contributor Joey D’Anna has put his money where his mouth is and ordered a very sensible looking spec’d machine in the tweet above, intending to get 192 GB of RAM from Crucial instead.

UK Editor Alex Golner, helpfully points out where one can acquire 1.5TB of third-party RAM and save about $6,000 in the process. Those 128GB sticks ain’t cheap!

A new white paper from Apple delivers a 45 page technical overview of the Mac Pro and all it can do. Read it for yourself here.

Colorist Juan Salvo also offered this piece of wisdom on which GPUs to buy for your new Mac Pro for the best bandwidth in DaVinci Resolve. This also gives you a greater number of ports than with a single duo.

It’s worth looking at this support note from Apple on what kind of third-party cards you can install into your Mac Pro’s PCIe slots.

Oh and it does have a 3.5 mm headphone jack. So that’s nice.

Personally, I don’t know yet what my next purchase will be. I’m still rocking a trusty 2013 Mac Pro Trashcan.

I really want to take the time to do a detailed comparison of what you could put together with 2019 16″ laptop or a 2018 Mac Mini combined with a couple of eGPUs and some fast external storage etc.

But my general policy is to spec it out as high as I can afford and keep it humming along for as many years as possible.

Given the configurability and expandability of the Mac Pro we’ll hopefully be set up for some actual future proofing in making this level of investment, which obviously didn’t happen with the 2013 Mac Pro.

So it will be interesting to see how things develop for the Mac Pro in the next few years going forward.

Will new modules and upgrades actually become available?

(Update – Yes)


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