2019 Mac Pro for Filmmakers

June 3, 2019 |

Screen Shot 2019 09 25 at 5 36 01 PM
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First Impressions


Apple announced a new Mac Pro at WWDC 2019. The thing that's most surprising, I have to say, is the fact that it kind of looks like a cheese grater, maybe with slightly larger holes. So we kind of went from cheese grater Mac Pro to trash can Mac Pro, to cheese grater Mac Pro. It looks kind of small compared to the other Mac Pro, I think that's because the holes are actually a little bit bigger, which helps with air flow, which actually will help us a lot because it's overall, like, 1.4 kW of power being drawn by this entire thing. So that's a potential for a lot of heat. So the fact that it has a lot of holes all over the structure is going to be super important for this particular device.


New features




Something we've never had on one of these larger Macs is wheels, so if you've ever had to carry around one of the old cheese graters, those things get pretty heavy pretty fast, so having wheels to be able to move things around makes life a lot easier.


Graphics Module


One of the things I did not expect from this new Mac Pro was the fact that they came up with their own graphics module, the MPX, or the Mac Pro Expansion Unit, which allows for two AMD Radeon cards to be fit in one device, and you can pair up to two of those within the Mac Pro to have up to 128 GB of graphics memory, which is frankly kind of insane.




Another surprise is the 1.5 TB of RAM that can be added to the Mac Pro. I'm actually working on a feature film right now, so I'd be very excited to see what that feature-length timeline looks like when playing back with all that RAM. Perhaps the RAM will help with accessing footage from various parts of a larger project.


CPU from Intel


The 28-core CPU from Intel is impressive. For most editing tasks, it isn’t actually helpful to divide the task across that many cores. For that reason, it might make sense to go with the 12-core or 16-core options since they both start with a high base clock speed. The higher speed per core should be a bigger benefit to video professionals.


Afterburner Card


And then we've got this new Afterburner card with dedicated hardware so that we can play back 8K ProRes and ProRes RAW off of this machine. It plays up to three streams of 8K in real-time! I'm currently working on a multi-cam project and we've got two streams of 8K, but it's RED. They did mention that they are partnering with RED on the new Mac Pro. I'm curious to see if that means that we will be able to play back 8K RED as well.


Proxy Workflow


I absolutely love that they acknowledged that we've been in a proxy workflow world for a while, and that whenever you're working in 4K, 5K, 6K, 8K, that it's been necessary to go back to some sort of proxy media, but now with the Mac Pro, we can work with camera originals, which means you don't have to clog up your storage with additional proxy files just to be able to work with your footage. This is going to be a huge time-saver from a transcoding standpoint as a video editor or an assistant, I mean, assistants, you're really going to love this more than anything else. But, if you do need to transcode, because we've got all of this GPU power and we've got all of this CPU power with 28 cores on the Intel CPU, now we're going to have the fastest Mac transcoding machine you've ever seen. Run things through Compressor, you can batch export out of Final Cut Pro X, you can work inside of Resolve, however you want to generate dailies or proxy media for whoever you're working with. Or maybe you're just uploading to so that your directors and producers, or clients can actually see the footage that you've shot throughout the day, now you've got the ability to transcode that stuff as fast as possible using the super powerful insane Mac Pro.


Is the new Mac Pro loud?


And supposedly, despite generating all that heat and having three dedicated fans, it's supposed to be no louder than the iMac Pro at full blast. We'll see. It'll be interesting to see if you can fit both a Mac Pro and a Jellyfish, or an iMac Pro, into a room without causing any significant noise and being able to actually do any sort of audio mixing or any of that sort of a thing.




Perhaps the most insane thing that we got with the Mac Pro is the fact that it can now be rack-mountable. So if you need to have a room full of render machines, you can plug in a bunch of Mac Pros in to a rack and connect them over 10 GB, 25, 40, 50, 100 GB, over a switch, to a Jellyfish, for example, and now you've got this rendering madhouse.


What does this mean for video editors?


It will be really interesting to see, now that we can have graphics cards internal to the Mac Pro, how much more power we can fit in for so much less cost. If you're working with an external GPU, you have to buy the enclosure along with the graphics card. Whereas, if you're getting a GPU and just putting it straight in to the Mac Pro, then you're just buying the graphics card and the Mac Pro is acting as the enclosure for the card.


Now, something that they didn't go into a deep dive on is what this PCI expandability really means for us. We've got four double-wide lanes, three single-wide lanes, and one I/O card. And the I/O card already has Thunderbolt 3 and USB-A on it. But from a PCI expandability standpoint, we now have the ability to put in video I/O cards, like Blackmagic or AJA I/O cards.


Mac Pro and The Jellyfish


Now, here at LumaForge we make this network storage called the Jellyfish, which makes video editing super easy for groups, and so the fact that the new Mac Pro has two 10-GB Ethernet connections built directly into it means that you can have not only one Jellyfish, but you can have two Jellyfish connected, and be able to playback 4K, 6K, and now, apparently, 8K ProRes RAW over those 10-GB connections.

So imagine you're in the field and you want to be able to ingest a bunch of footage to your Jellyfish. You can do that over one 10-GB connection. And when you get back to the office with the Mac Pro you can connect your Jellyfish Mobile that you had out in the field to a larger centralized storage, and copy everything to that larger centralized storage over that second 10-GB connection.


But you're not stuck there. You now have the ability to connect to a Jellyfish over 25GbE, 40GbE, 50GbE, or 100-GbE. So if you're in the world of VFX, now you've got no excuse for doing things in 2K. You can completely work in 4K, as long as you have the proper graphics unit within your Mac Pro, and you've got the proper software. So things like Nuke, Fusion, Flame, Smoke, the other things, they're gonna be a lot more powerful, on the Mac platform at least, using these new graphics modules from Apple.


How much does the New Mac Pro Cost?


Starting at $6,000 it sounds like a pretty pricey machine, and I'm sure with the higher-end configurations we're going to get into the tens of thousands of dollars very quickly, but that doesn't mean that you have to be high-end Hollywood for this to make sense for you.


What kind of video team is this suitable for?


If you're delivering video online, believe it or not, those higher resolutions are going to be much more useful for you than it is for the broadcast and theatrical worlds, because when you're working with streaming media, hi-res footage actually compresses much more efficiently than lower-res footage at the same or higher bit rates. So delivering to YouTube, or Netflix, or Hulu, or Vimeo, wherever you're delivering your media, if you're going to be streaming online, having an 8K master is going to be a much more efficient way to get a clean-looking image than going at HD or 4K at a similar bit rate. It's just, it's just a fact of how codecs work. So no matter who you are, if video is part of your business, and you're, like, really serious about video, the Mac Pro can be extremely helpful to you and your team.


Price comparison: Is it worth it?


We also now have this new HDR display that you can work with. Considering the fact that most HDR reference monitors are in the tens of thousands of dollars right now, the $5,000 price tag is actually pretty good. AND we've got something that can actually do 1000 nits of fullscreen brightness sustained. Most displays, even the $40,000 high-end displays, can not sustain 1000 nits of fullscreen brightness. They can do 1000 nits of peak brightness in a small region. Now you've got 100%, 1000 nits, sustained, and you can do up to 1600 nits of peak brightness. When it comes to being able to grade something in HDR, we now have a monitor that comes in at under $10,000, that gives us the sort of contrast ratio and brightness that's necessary to really get a great idea of what we can expect when sending those materials out into the world.


If you just got a Mac Pro and are now curious to see how this will work best with shared storage, feel free to connect with our workflow team to learn more!