Built For Speed

In the February 2014 issue of HDVideoPro, we did a story on 4K post. The consensus was that 4K is currently accessible for shooters, but on the post side, we’re not up to speed in delivering a true 4K workflow. The main problem has been computer hardware, which couldn’t process huge 4K data streams—yet.

In the past few years, postproduction professionals have been begging for a new flagship workstation from Apple. Besides incremental bumps, there hasn’t been a major upgrade to the Mac Pro in many years. Professional editors were ready to give in to PCs, which have ruled the VFX industry for years.

At Apple’s 2013 Worldwide Developers Conference, however, Senior VP of Worldwide Marketing Phil Schiller introduced the new Mac Pro to a stunned audience. Although its small-sphere form factor, which has been compared to Darth Vader’s helmet, received much of the early buzz, it was the Mac Pro’s specs that blew professionals away. "Can’t innovate anymore, my ass," said Schiller. In other words, Apple is back!

Dual workstation-class AMD FirePro graphics processors come standard
Latest Intel Xeon E5 processors, up to 12-core processing
Up to 64 GB of 1866 MHz DDR3 ECC memory
Up to 1 TB of PCI Express-based flash storage
Six Thunderbolt 2 ports on three Thunderbolt 2 controllers, which can support up to 36 devices
4K display support

Apple’s new Mac Pro offers six Thunderbolt 2 ports that can deliver 20 GB/s of bandwidth, four USB 3 ports and two Gigabit Ethernet ports. Apple also has updated Final Cut Pro X to help editors cut and deliver native 4K workflows.

In the past, high-end workstations relied more on the CPU (central processing unit) for its power. As GPU (graphics processing unit) has increased, however, companies started using that power in the development of their apps. For the new Mac Pro, Apple smartly designed a more powerful GPU architecture that contains two workstation-class AMD FirePro GPUs, which are available with 2 GB, 3 GB or 6 GB of dedicated VRAM, and up to 2048-stream processors. If you’re not a computer architect, like me, this power and speed make it much easier to work with 3D graphics or 4K video with real-time effects. This power lets you run up to three 4K monitors simultaneously.

I got a chance to work with the Mac Pro with the new Final Cut Pro X, v10.1. (Be sure to check out the Final Cut Pro X, v10.1 review on the next page.) For my tests, I threw in a number of clips from a wide array of cameras, including 1080p H.264 files from a Canon EOS 5D Mark III, 1080p GoPro HERO3 files, 1080p Blackmagic Cinema Camera files transcoded to ProRes 422, 4K XAVC-S files shot with the Sony FDR-AX1 and transcoded to ProRes 422, and 4K ProRes 4444 files shot with the Canon EOS C500.