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Apple Desktops Discussion of Apple's desktop machines including Mac Pro, iMac, Power Mac, and mini

About to buy a mac for final cut pro/studio


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iggsta

 
Member Since: Aug 13, 2009
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Hi there,
I'm about to purchase a mac exclusively for Final Cut Pro and other editing/video related software. This will be my first mac system and although I'm advanced on abode premiere pro, I haven't used final cut before either. I'm taking the leap to apple because I want to get into the film industry and FCP/macs are the standard... so I need to get mac literate!

I'll be editing shorts of 5-20 minutes. My budget is quite limited at about £900 or $1300, (but I would preferably like to spend a lot less as I'm a student!) What's the best but cheapest option as far as hardware goes? It makes no difference to me if it's a laptop or desktop (whichever is cheaper but has better specs), and I don't need a monitor as I have a perfectly good display already.

Many thanks for your help.
Dom
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D3v1L80Y

 
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Welcome to Apple Store - Apple Store (U.K.)

For your listed budget you could get a 13" MacBook Pro... for a little more you could get the entry-level iMac.

You could also check out the Refurbished Section for some better deals: Refurbished Mac - Apple Store (U.K.)

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Oneironaut

 
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I think if you're going to be editing and rendering video, you might need a 15" Macbook Pro with a dedicated graphics card.
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iggsta

 
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So macbook pros are preferable to even a high spec mini mac?

The size of the screen isn't important to me since I'll be using a seperate 27" monitor anyway. Is the 13" available with a dedicated graphics card?

Dom
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HowGudAmI

 
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entry level imac, and then dual screen? mabye
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Nethfel

 
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You can edit using FCS2 (I don't know about FCS3 as I don't own it) on a Macbook, Macbook Pro (13" or greater), Mac Mini, etc. as long as it has the 9400m or better (read dedicated) GPU and video memory.

The FCS Apps will be more sluggish and more will have to be rendered on a system without a dedicated GPU, but if you're willing to work with less, you can do it. DO NOT get a used system that has the Intel GMA graphics chipset.

The mini with the 9400m will perform about the same as the Mac Pro 13" except for a bit slower of a CPU really. I have both a Mac Mini, and a unibody macbook 2.4GHz (with 9400m) and have edited HD video using FCS and FCE on both of them. This post here: Mac mini and fcp was a set of comments I made to a person looking to use a Mac Mini with Final Cut Studio 2. I currently don't use my mini for editing any more as it has moved to my TV to act as my HT Mac. I do still use my Macbook unibody to edit video though.

Remember - my comments in the previous post - and this one - are related to FCS2. You will need to look at the specs for FCS3, from what I understand it is a faster package then FCS2, and as long as they haven't listed in the specifications that it isn't compatible with the 9400m, you *should* be safe (I'm sure it still lists the Intel GMA based chipsets as incompatible).

My Macs: Late 2013 rMBP w/ 750m; Mac mini G4, 1.25 GHz, 512m ram (server); Late 2011 11" MBA, 1.8GHz i7, 4Gig Ram, 256Gig SSD, HD3000; Powerbook 12" G4 1.33GHz running Debian as a server; Apple TV (1080p version)
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whitakt1

 
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I am running FC Studio on a 3-4 year old iMac 20" 2.16 Ghz intel processor with 2 GB of Ram. It runs final cut fine... struggles a little when working with 1080 HD.

Motion really struggles and is a little slow...

You could easily find one of these desktops for well under that budget. I think I paid $1499 for this new here in the US before upgrading the RAM by 1 GB (which is super cheap now).

I also use a Macbook Pro 17" that is about 3 years old 2.33Ghtz with 2GB with a 256MB Radeon X1600 graphic card. Works fine.
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askclifford

 
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I actually use a PowerMac G4 with Maxed out Ram, Dual core processor,Upgraded Graphics Card, and I run Studio 2 and get renderings in hd in about 4 minuites. And I make hours long documantaries! You may want to consider picking up one of thease dead cheap on craigslist, they cost around $300 and some already come with FCP!

I also have an 8 core Mac Pro,with 6gig ram, which is more like 2 second hd render!

Will
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iggsta

 
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Ok, thanks for the advice everyone. I will need to use motion and compress, but if it's just a case of waiting a little longer for rendering I can deal with that. I just need it to run correctly and reasonably efficiently..

I can get a minimac for £928 with...
# 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
# NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics
# 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB
# 320GB Serial ATA Drive
# SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R DL/DVD±RW/CD-RW)
and a wireless keyboard/mouse

Wouldn't that be better than £1029 for a macbook pro with...
# 2.26GHz Intel Core 2 Duo
# NVIDIA GeForce 9400M graphics
# 4GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM - 2x2GB
# 250GB Serial ATA Drive @ 5400 rpm
# SuperDrive 8x (DVD±R)

I was advised in the mac shop that i shouldn't go for a macmini, and needed a macbook pro... but from what I can see I get more bang for my buck with the former?

But I still don't understand why a macbook pro is preferable to a macmini with higher specs and a cheaper pricetag?
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Nethfel

 
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They are recommending it mostly due to the dedicated GPU and video ram. The current mini uses the 9400m integrated graphics chipset that uses shared video ram - this means that it is sharing ram with the system. It has stream processors, is limited to system clock speed, etc.

To make the discussion a little quicker, here's a little blurb on the 9400m and the 9600m gt from wikipedia:

9400M G
16 Stream Processors.
Memory Clock depend on System Memory.
64 bit memory interface (single-channel mode) / 128 bit memory interface (dual-channel mode).
Memory Bandwidth depends on System Memory.
3.6 billion texels/s texture fill rate.

9600M GT
32 Stream Processors.
500 MHz core clock.
1250 MHz shader clock.
1000 MHz memory clock.
Up to 1024 MB memory.
128-bit memory interface.
25.6 GB/s memory bandwidth.
8.0 billion texels/s texture fill rate.

As you can see, there is a major capability difference between the two graphics chipsets. The 9600 is significantly more desirable then the 9400m. Several of the programs within the Final Cut Studio package take advantage of the GPU. Having a more powerful GPU will increase the capability and functionality of various Final Cut Studio programs - like being able to display more in real time (different transitions, visual effects, etc.), faster rendering within programs like Color, etc.

For dedicated full time video editing, a dedicated GPU is highly desirable to make the editing experience more enjoyable. This DOES NOT mean that you can't do editing on the mini, you can - it will be more time consuming to do your work, and it is possibly with future upgrades to FCS that FCS may eventually not support the use of the 9400m.

If it were me, and I didn't need the portability, I'd probably get a iMac with a dedicated GPU then get a cord to hook up your existing external monitor and use a dual screen setup (because they are a bit cheaper then the MBPs with dedicated GPUs with bigger screens).

With your budget, you may need to choose a mini so you have cash left over for other things (like FCS for example). Just know that you will probably want to upgrade to a more powerful machine if you plan on doing full time editing. There's a reason why businesses that use FCP in the film and video industry use Mac Pros (and I'm not talking Macbook pros) for their primary work - power, speed, upgradeability, storage capability, feature set, etc.

IF you are thinking of getting a 13" MBP and don't need portability - just get the mini, the cost difference is no point, the hardware in the mini is near enough the same as what's in the 13" mbp. You WILL be miserable editing on a 1280x800 screen (what is on the 13" MBP) - even if you dual screen with your existing screen, you will need to try to prop up the mbp to at least come close to even with your other screen and even then it will be awkward due to resolution differences (I use my 13" unibody mb (predecessor of the 13"mbp) at work hooked to an external screen. I tried it dual screen and I just didn't like having a huge screen and the small screen of the lappy and going between the two doing editing work)

In terms of what you should buy - you should buy what you feel comfortable with. Your best bet is to see if anyone near you has a mini or similar hardware level (MB or 13" MBP) and has FCS installed so you can see how it feels to use the software on that computer.

A million people can give their opinion, but in the end it's you who has to use it.

My Macs: Late 2013 rMBP w/ 750m; Mac mini G4, 1.25 GHz, 512m ram (server); Late 2011 11" MBA, 1.8GHz i7, 4Gig Ram, 256Gig SSD, HD3000; Powerbook 12" G4 1.33GHz running Debian as a server; Apple TV (1080p version)
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Oneironaut

 
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It's not really a matter of having "better" specs, it's about having the most appropriate specs for what you want to do. I guarantee that if you try to do any significant amount of editing with Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini, you'll soon be frustrated. It's definitely worth waiting until you have a little more money to get the MBP.
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Nethfel

 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oneironaut View Post
It's not really a matter of having "better" specs, it's about having the most appropriate specs for what you want to do. I guarantee that if you try to do any significant amount of editing with Final Cut Pro on a Mac Mini, you'll soon be frustrated. It's definitely worth waiting until you have a little more money to get the MBP.
Now, if you're recommending him waiting to buy a MBP w/ discrete graphics, I agree with you, the experience will be better. If you are suggesting him buying a MBP13", then I don't agree with you my reasoning is below....

Under the frustation statement, then you'd also have to assume he would be frustrated on the MBP 13" - the only difference between the two really is the max ram - and the cost of going from 4gig to 8 gig is rather prohibitive (as going from base ram to 8 gig adds 1100 to the cost of the machine per apples configurator where going to 4 gig only adds $100) considering the OPs budget.

Also, as such, the MBP 13" would not provide a significantly better experience with FCP compared to a Mac Mini as they both have basically the same or similar specs (both have FW800, both have similar CPU speed, and with budget, both will have same RAM) Speedmark and adobe tests of identical builds (MBP13" 2.26, 4 gig vs Mac mini 2.26 4gig) are near identical usually only a few seconds greater or lesser depending on the tests done. Plus, I guarantee that after a while, using some of the tools on the 1280x800 screen of the 13" mbp will make many if not most scream (especially if you try to use color on that resolution). The only MBPs that will provide a significantly better experience IMHO are those that have discrete graphics or have the cost prohibitive 8 gig amount of ram.

You'd have a long way to go to prove to me that there is a significant (affordable) difference between the MBP13 and the Mac Mini. Between the 15" or 17" w/ discrete graphics - yes, huge difference, but at those numbers, unless the OP needs portability, an iMac might be a better choice, or save up for a Mac Pro as you're gettin awfully close to the base price of a mac pro once you get into the discrete graphics configurations...

My Macs: Late 2013 rMBP w/ 750m; Mac mini G4, 1.25 GHz, 512m ram (server); Late 2011 11" MBA, 1.8GHz i7, 4Gig Ram, 256Gig SSD, HD3000; Powerbook 12" G4 1.33GHz running Debian as a server; Apple TV (1080p version)
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iggsta

 
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Thank you for your comment Nethfel, you've really helped to clear things up for me - I couldn't see any reason to go for a MBP13 over a macmini - I'm glad I wasn't missing anything.

I'm now thinking about saving up a little extra and bumping up the budget...
For video editing is it preferable to go with the 24" iMac with GeForce GT 120 with 256MB or the 15" MBP with NVIDIA GeForce 9400M + 9600M GT with 256MB? Also, would you recommend spending the extra £120 to upgrade the iMac's graphics card to 512MB or is that not necessary?

Dom
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Nethfel

 
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Of everything I know about the renumbering of nvidia cards (which, trust me, isn't a lot), and looking at benchmarks (let's face it tho, benchmarks are only indicators of expected performance, not necessarily actual real world performance) the GT120 is a lesser card then the 9600 series - although not by much looking at the scores of a gt120 vs a 9600m gt.

The GT130 @ 512m *should* be superior to the 9600m gt @256m.

If you're going to really spend the money - and I mean really spend - not go cheap now and buy later, get as much machine as you can afford. I say this for some simple reasons:

1) Chances are you're going to hold onto the machine for as long as possible - this means you're going to want to make it as future proof as possible to be useable for as long as possible through software updates and upgrades. Looking at Apple - Final Cut Studio - Tech Specs and System Requirements to use as a basis - since you are going to be using FCS and its utilities, there are certain aspects of the Color app that right now requires a 512m video card - I don't know if you'll ever use those aspects of color, but that may be a deciding factor as well - most of the other apps just refer to 256m or more for video ram (even color specifies 256m for most of its functions it would seem).

2) Upgrading a video card in a laptop is usually either EXTREMELY difficult or impossible depending on the design - this goes for the iMacs as well. on slim systems like these that uses a laptop style design, upgradeability of certain components like video cards depend on a MXM style slot existing that would accept multiple options of video cards (see: All about MXM for more info on MXM) I don't know if Apple laptops or iMacs have this type of slot, or if it does, if it conforms to industry standards. Plus, last thing I'd want to do is to crack open an iMac case if I could avoid it...

3) Any of these systems, you're probably going to end up buying an external hard drive to connect via firewire to use as scratch space - keep that in mind when you purchase. Although yes, you can use your system drive to do editing work (and I have in a pinch), it's not the preferred method for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is amount of thrashing on a scratch drive and when dealing with HD in AIC or ProRES you can easily have 70-90 gigs being used for a single hour of source footage - if you only have a 500 gig hard drive, of which 56 gigs is taken by FCS (as of FCS2, full install with all options, including extra audio voices for SoundTrack) and who knows how much else for other misc. things, you can easily get down to having 350 or less gigs free - that doesn't leave a lot of working room for HD video - especially a project >1 hr.

4) Systems that have replaceable parts fall in a more gray area - for example, if buying a Mac Pro, getting it with a GT120 to save money now may be a fine option as it's EXTREMELY easy to swap the video card with another one later on (simple example, my mac pro came with a ATI 2600, it was inexpensive in that config - I have since upgraded to an aftermarket 8800GT, and plan next year to move to a higher end card still).

Yes, buying a new system is sometimes hard, especially when you are attempting to get the absolute most bang for your buck on a potentially tight budget.

Some things to ask yourself:

* Do I need/want the portability of a laptop?
* How much will I need to spend for extra (external for a laptop or imac or mac mini) storage space to act as a scratch/render drive? (including chassis, cable, hard drive)
* How much screen real-estate do I really need? Can I do what I want in 1440x900 or do I need a screen capable of 1680x1050 (through an external monitor) or 1920x1200 (17" MBP, external screen or iMac)
* How much am I willing to pay for RAM upgrades? You're going to want at least 4 Gig. I've edited with 2, 4 or more is better.
* Can you sacrifice the features of color you'd theoretically loose w/ 256m video?
* How much physical space do you have to put this machine? Will a 24" iMac fit? Will only a laptop fit? Will a machine with speakers, dedicated tower like a Mac Pro and a separate screen fit?

This machine is a major investment, and, as you can see (and I'm sure already knew) - not something to be taken lightly. A lot of serious consideration must go into your final decision. If you have an Apple store, and an Apple reseller near by, I strongly urge you to go into that store and look at the various systems (including refurbished or trade in Macs that may have a warranty option still (refurbished Macs first suggested by D3v1L80Y - which is a good option - in all honesty, 3 of my 4 Macs are used systems as I couldn't afford to get new) ) - talking about what something looks like and feels like is a far cry from actually going in to try it out. Many stores may even have systems setup with Final Cut installed so you can get a feel for what you like and what works for you. You can also see about making an appointment at a local Apple store (assuming there is an official apple store there) to go in and talk to them to help match you with the best machine within your budget.

My Macs: Late 2013 rMBP w/ 750m; Mac mini G4, 1.25 GHz, 512m ram (server); Late 2011 11" MBA, 1.8GHz i7, 4Gig Ram, 256Gig SSD, HD3000; Powerbook 12" G4 1.33GHz running Debian as a server; Apple TV (1080p version)
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iggsta

 
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Thanks again for your enlightening comments. I think my best option may actually be going down the refurbished path - many past generation iMacs and MBPs seem to have better graphics cards than the present ones, and are available on ebay for reasonable prices with applecare...

I've found a number of systems, with the following cards inside:
ATI Radeon HD 2600 Pro with 256MB of GDDR3 SDRAM (in most of the iMacs)
NVIDIA GeForce 8600M GT with 128MB of GDDR3 SDRAM
NVIDIA GeForce 7300 GT

Seems I can pick up a 24" iMac with the ATI card and 4gb of ram, along with almost a year of aftercare, for under £1000... could this be the best option for me?
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