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Movies and Video For people making movies and editing video with their Mac.

Choosing the right Mac for editing HD footage

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Member Since: Jul 16, 2010
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At the moment I'm using Windows and Linux for all my work. I'm thinking about switching to Mac. I need a computer I can edit HD footage with (non-interlaced AVCHD). Which Mac should I choose? I'm a bit lost in this new world and the specs don't really say that much to me. I mainly edit in the same location so the machine doesn't have to be portable, but as I'm new to the Mac world I'd like to look into the possibility to buy something from the MacBook family as well.

What kind of things should I take into consideration when choosing the computer? Thanks in advance for any answer.
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Member Since: Feb 25, 2009
Posts: 2,109
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Mac Specs: Late 2013 rMBP, i7, 750m gpu, OSX versions 10.9.3, 10.10

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You can edit AVCHD footage on ANY modern Mac (mini -> Mac Pro, Macbook -> Macbook Pro). I mostly edit on a Mac Pro (which is what I have at home) but I have edited on a Macbook unibody (USB only, lots of time spent rendering), Mac Mini (now re-assigned as my home theater Mac), Macbook Pro 13" (my current laptop) and a slightly older generation iMac (what I have at work).

If you plan to use Final Cut Express, Final Cut Pro or Adobe Premiere, then at the very least make sure to get a Mac that has a FW800 port on it to connect an external drive as a scratch/media drive.

Your BEST machine for editing will be a Mac Pro (it can have multiple internal HD's connected via SATA and has more expansion options then any other Mac on the market; it is due for a refresh tho and there has been a lot of speculation what its next processor will be). It doesn't mean that's the ONLY machine that will work.

The only machine I would avoid at this moment is the Macbook as it has NO firewire port. The Mac Mini thru the Mac Pro all have Firewire 800 and the Macbook Pro line all has firewire (higher end MBP all have express card slots and you can get an eSata card which would have better performance then FW800 for scratch).

The next thing to consider is that a machine with a dedicated GPU w/ dedicated video RAM (not shared) is usually better for the higher end packages that take advantage of the GPU.

You'll really want to buy a machine more based on the specs of the software you plan to use and what capabilities you need in that software then anything else (ie: some high end features of FCS require a certain amount of video RAM, but if you won't need those features you can adjust your GPU needs).

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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