By Barry Goch
In recent years, many working in M&E felt as if Apple had moved away from supporting creative pros in this industry. There was the fumbled rollout of FCPX and then the “trash can” MacPro with its limited upgrade path. Well, our patience has finally paid off and our faith in Apple restored. This week Apple delivered products beyond expectation.
This post pro, for one, is very happy that Apple is back making serious hardware for creative professionals. The tight integration of hardware and software, along with Apple’s build quality, makes its products unique in the market. There is confidence and freedom using Macs that creatives love, and the tower footprint is back!
The computer itself is a more than worthy successor to the original Mac Pro tower design. It’s the complete opposite concept of the current trash-can-shaped Mac Pro, with its closed design and limited upgradeability. The new Mac Pro’s motherboard is connected to a stainless steel space frame offering 360-degree access to the internals, which include 12 memory slots with up to 1.5TB of RAM capacity and eight PCI slots, which is the most ever in a Mac — more than the venerable 9600 Power Mac. The innovative graphics architecture in the new Mac Pro is an expansion module, or MPX module, which allows the installation of two graphic cards tied together through the Infinity Fabric link. This allows for data transfers up to five times faster between the GPUs on the PCIe bus.
Also new is the Apple Afterburner hardware accelerator card, which is a field programmable gate array (FPGA) hardware card for accelerating ProRes and ProRes RAW workflows. Afterburner supports playback of up to three streams of 8K ProRes RAW or up to 12 streams of 4K ProRes RAW. The FPGA allows new instruction to be installed on the chipset, giving the MacPro Afterburner card a wealth of possibilities for future updates.
Plays Well With Others
Across the street from the San Jose Convention Center, where the keynote was held, Apple set up “The Studio” in the historic San Jose Civic. The venue was divided into areas of creative specialization: video, photography, music production, 3D and AR. It was really great to see complete workflows and to be able to interface with Apple creative pros. Oh, and Apple has announced support from third-party developers, such as Blackmagic, Avid, Adobe, Maxon’s Cinema 4D, Foundry, Red, Epic Games, Unity, Pixar and more.
Metal is Apple’s replacement for OpenCL/GL. It’s a low level language for interfacing with GPUs. Working closely with AMD, the new Mac Pro will use native Metal rendering for Resolve, OToy Octane, Maxon Cinema 4D and Red.
DaVinci Resolve is a color correction and online editing software for high-end film and television work. “It was the first professional software to adopt Metal and now, with the new Mac Pro and Afterburner, we’re seeing full-quality 8K performance in realtime with color correction and effects, something we could never dream of doing before,” explains Blackmagic CEO Grant Petty. “DaVinci Resolve running on the new Mac Pro is the fastest way to edit, grade and finish movies and TV shows.”
According to Avid’s director of product management for audio, Francois Quereuil, “Avid’s Pro Tools team is blown away by the unprecedented processing power of the new Mac Pro, and thanks to its internal expansion capabilities, up to six Pro Tools HDX cards can be installed within the system — a first for Avid’s flagship audio workstation. We’re now able to deliver never-before-seen performance and capabilities for audio production in a single system and deliver a platform that professional users in music and post have been eagerly awaiting.”
“Apple continues to innovate for video professionals,” reports Adobe’s VP of digital video and audio, Steven Warner. “With the power offered by the new Mac Pro, editors will be able to work with 8K without the need for any proxy workflows in a future release of Premiere Pro.”
And from Apple? Expect versions of FCPX and Logic to be available with release of the new MacPro and rest assured they will fully use the new hardware.
The price for a Mac Pro with an eight-core Xeon W processor, 32GB of RAM, an AMD Radeon Pro 580X GPU and a 256GB SSD is $5999. The price for the fully loaded version with the 28-core Xeon processor, Afterburner, two MDX modules with four AMD Radeon Pro Vega II Duo graphics cards and 4TB of SSD internal storage will come in around $20,000, give or take. It will be available this fall.
Pro Display XDR
The new Pro Display XDR is amazing. I was invited into a calibrated viewing environment that also housed Dell, Eizo, Sony BVM-X300 and Sony-X310 HDR monitors. We were shown the typical extreme bright and colorful animal footage for monitor demos. Personally, I would have preferred to have seen more shots of people from a TV show or feature and not the usual extreme footage used to show off how bright the monitor could get.
For example, it would have been cool to see the Jony Ive video — which plays on the Apple site and describes the offerings of the MacPro and the monitor — talking about the design of the product on the monitor.
Anyway, the big hang-up with the monitor is the stand. The price tag of $1,000 for a monitor stand is a lot compared to the price of the monitor itself. When the price of the stand was announced during the keynote, there was a loud gasp, which unfortunately dampened the excitement and momentum of the new releases. It too will be available in the fall.
This Retina 6K 32-inch (diagonal) display offers 6016×3384 pixels (20.4 million pixels) at 218 pixels per inch. The sustained brightness is 1000-nits sustained (full screen) with 1600 nits peak and a contrast ratio of one million to one. It works in P3 wide color gamut with 10-bit depth for 1.073 billion colors. Available reference modes include HDR video (P3-ST 2084), Digital Cinema (P3-DCI), Digital Cinema (P3-D65) and HDTV video (BT.709-BT.1886). Supported HDR formats are HLG, HDR 10 and Dolby Vision.
The standard glass version is $4,999. The nano-texture anti-glare glass version is $5,999. As mentioned, the Pro Stand is $999 and VESA mount adapter is $199. Both are sold separately and have a Thunderbolt 3 connection only.
Pros and Cons
MacPro Pros: innovative design, expandability
Cons: Lack of Nvidia support, no Afterburner support for other formats beyond ProRes and no optical audio output.
Pro Display XDR Pros: Ability to sustain 1,000 nits, beautiful design and execution.
Cons: Lack of Rec 2020 color space and ACES profile, plus the high cost of the display stand.
The Pro is back for Apple and third-party apps like Avid and Resolve. I really can’t wait to get my hands on the new MacPro and Pro Display XDR and put them through their paces.
Barry Goch is a finishing artist at LA’s The Foundation as well as a UCLA Extension Instructor, Post Production. You can follow him on Twitter at @Gochya