Tag Archives: Twain Richardson

Review: Using an eGPU with an Apple MacBook Pro (Thunderbolt 2)

By Twain Richardson

When I’m on set, I use my MacBook Pro to backup data and do quick edits, but it’s a laptop and lacks the power needed to handle RAW files in that environment. With Mac OS High Sierra, Apple introduced connecting eGPUs to Macs via Thunderbolt 3, but my big question was: “Will this work with a Thunderbolt 2 Mac?” Doing a bit of Google research, I couldn’t find any concrete evidence that told me it could work. So the best way to find out was to test it, but I knew I was jumping head-on into a situation that might not work.

For my test, I wanted to go with a fairly inexpensive graphics card and eGPU unit. Through my research, I found it very helpful that OWC offers a very complete list of GPU cards they have tested. That saved a lot of early guesswork, research and missteps. I ended up going with the OWC Mercury Helios FX and the AMD Radeon Pro WX7100.

My first impression of the Helios FX is that it is very light, which I did not expect. When I saw the heft of the fan included in the Helios FX, I was a little concerned that it would be noisy, but it really is whisper-quiet. The package comes with a Thunderbolt 3 cable, so you don’t have to go out and get one. Lastly, I needed a Thunderbolt-3-to-Thunderbolt-2 adapter. To play it safe, I went with the official Apple offering.

Installing the card was easy. I just removed the screws from the back of the unit. One thing I must commend OWC on is that you don’t need a screwdriver to remove the screws; you simply screw them out with your hands and remove the outer casing by sliding it backwards and up. The next step is to insert the card and fasten it in place, connecting the cable from the unit to the card. Replace the outer casing and you’re done.

Connecting the unit to my computer was simple as well. A message popped up that it detected an external GPU, and that I needed to log out to start using it. When logging back in I found a little icon that looked like a CPU in my menu bar, showing that I had the card connected.

Set-up and installation took almost no time, and once the case was closed the eGPU was really plug-and-play. It’s like having a desktop system you can take with you and use anywhere. It’s interesting to note that my MacBook Pro specs are a 2013 13-inch with 16GB RAM, Core i5 running Mac OS 10.13.3.

Now for the fun part: testing it in the real world. The two applications I use the most are Adobe Premiere Pro and Blackmagic Resolve, so that’s what I ran the test with.

Premiere Pro
Premiere doesn’t allow you to select the card, but using Metal as the renderer with a one-minute Sony A7sii UHD clip, exporting to 1080, the results are:
No GPU = 1920×1080/H.264 = 7 minutes, 17 seconds
With GPU = 1920×1080/H.264 = 3 minutes, 19 seconds

That’s fast. I was able to also open an old UHD timeline of a TV show I’ve edited with all effects unrendered, and it played back like butter.

Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve
Resolve gives you the option to select the card in your preferences.

Using the same one-minute Sony A7sii UHD Clip, exporting to 1080, the results are:
No GPU = 1920×1080/H.264 = 5 minutes, 25 seconds
With GPU = 1920×1080/H.264 = 35 seconds

Now that’s fast, wow.

Summing Up
With Apple opening up the OS to support external GPUs, they have acknowledged that the laptop is the go-to solution for most filmmakers and producers who want to begin working on their content on set as opposed to waiting until they get back to their workstation.

The external GPU gives you a fast, easy and surprisingly economic way of upgrading the performance of MacBook Pros like mine. While it does add another item you have to bring with you to begin work immediately, it is very light and probably as compact as it can be given it is supporting a power-hungry GPU that puts off considerable heat and needs the space and whisper-quiet, temperature-controlled fan to perform the fast data crunching.

Today’s laptops — both Mac and PC — have powerful enough CPUs to do most of the work quickly and easily, but when it comes to the data-intensive workflows you really need a GPU.

By adding OWC’s Helios FX with a GPU card, you really can boost the performance and capabilities of your system. It really does let you take your post workflow with you. It also saves a lot of time and frustration, and we all know that in this industry, time is money.


Twain Richardson is co-founder of Jamaica-based post house Frame of Reference. At FoR, he assumes the roles of chief executive officer, director of video editing, colorist and many others. Follow him on Twitter @forpostprod and Instagram @twainrichardson

NAB 2018: My key takeaways

By Twain Richardson

I traveled to NAB this year to check out gear, software, technology and storage. Here are my top takeaways.

Promise Atlas S8+
First up is storage and the Promise Atlas S8+. The Promise Atlas S8+ is a network attached storage solution for small groups that features easy and fast NAS connectivity over Thunderbolt3 and 10GB Ethernet.

The Thunderbolt 3 version of the Atlas S8+ offers two Thunderbolt 3 ports, four 1Gb Ethernet ports, five USB 3.0 ports and one HMDI output. The 10g BaseT version swaps in two 10Gb/s Ethernet ports for the Thunderbolt 3 connections. It can be configured up to 112TB. The unit comes empty, and you will have to buy hard drives for it. The Atlas S8+ will be available later this year.

Lumaforge

Lumaforge Jellyfish Tower
The Jellyfish is designed for one thing and one thing only: collaborative video workflow. That means high bandwidth, low latency and no dropped frames. It features a direct connection, and you don’t need a 10GbE switch.

The great thing about this unit is that it runs quiet, and I mean very quiet. You could place it under your desk and you wouldn’t hear it running. It comes with two 10GbE ports and one 1GbE port. It can be configured for more ports and goes up to 200TB. The unit starts at $27,000 and is available now.

G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD
The G-Drive Mobile Pro SSD is blazing-fast storage with data transfer rates of up to 2800MB/s. It was said that you could transfer as much as a terabyte of media in seven minutes or less. That’s fast. Very fast.

It provides up to three-meter drop protection and comes with a single Thunderbolt 3 port and is bus powered. It also features a 1000lb crush-proof rating, which makes it ideal for being used in the field. It will be available in May with a capacity of 500GB. 1TB and 2TB versions will be available later this year.

OWC Thunderblade
Designed to be rugged and dependable as well as blazing fast, the Thunderblade has a rugged and sleek design, and it comes with a custom-fit ballistic hard-shell case. With capacities of up 8TB and data transfer rates of up to 2800MB/s, this unit is ideal for on-set workflows. The unit is not bus powered, but you can connect two ThunderBlades that can reach speeds of up to 3800MB/s. Now that’s fast.

OWC Thunderblade

It starts at $1,199 for the 1TB and is available now for purchase.

OWC Mercury Helios FX External Expansion Chassis
Add the power of a high-performance GPU to your Mac or PC via Thunderbolt 3. Performance is plug-and-play, and upgrades are easy. The unit is quiet and runs cool, making it a great addition to your environment.

It starts at $319 and is available now.

Flanders XM650U
This display is beautiful, absolutely beautiful.

The XM650U is a professional reference monitor designed for color-critical monitoring of 4K, UHD, and HD signals. It features the latest large-format OLED panel technology, offering outstanding black levels and overall picture performance. The monitor also features the ability to provide a realtime downscaled HD resolution output.

The FSI booth was showcasing the display playing HD, UHD, and UHD HDR content, which demonstrates how versatile the device is.

The monitor goes for $12,995 and is available for purchase now.

DaVinci Resolve 15
What could arguably be the biggest update yet to Resolve is version 15. It combines editing, color correction, audio and now visual effects all in one software tool with the addition of Fusion. Other additions include ADR tools in Fairlight and a sound library. The color and edit page has additions such as a LUT browser, shared grades, stacked timelines, closed captioning tools and more.

You can get DR15 for free — yes free — with some restrictions to the software and you can purchase DR15 Studio for $299. It’s available as a beta at the moment.

Those were my top take aways from NAB 2018. It was a great show, and I look forward to NAB 2019.


Twain Richardson is a co-founder of Frame of Reference, a boutique post production company located on the beautiful island of Jamaica. Follow the studio and Twain on Twitter: @forpostprod @twainrichardson

Behind the Title: Frame of Reference CEO/Chief Creative Twain Richardson

NAME: Twain Richardson

COMPANY: Kingston, Jamaica-based Frame of Reference (@forpostprod)

CAN YOU DESCRIBE YOUR COMPANY?
Frame of Reference is a boutique post production company specializing in TV commercials, digital content, music videos and films.

WHAT’S YOUR JOB TITLE?
CEO and chief creative, but also head cook and bottle washer. At the moment we are a small team, so my roles overlap.

WHAT DOES THAT ENTAIL?
Working on some projects. I’ll jump in and help the team edit or do some color. I’m also making sure clients and employees are happy.

WHAT WOULD SURPRISE PEOPLE THE MOST ABOUT WHAT FALLS UNDER THAT TITLE?
That it’s fun, or I find it fun. It makes life interesting.

WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED OVER THE YEARS ABOUT RUNNING A BUSINESS?
It’s hard, very hard. There are always new and improved challenges that keep you up at night. Also, you have to be reliable, and being reliable means that you meet deadlines or answer the phone when a client calls.

WHAT TOOLS DO YOU USE?
We use Adobe Premiere for editing and Blackmagic Resolve for color work.

A LOT OF IT MUST BE ABOUT TRYING TO KEEP EMPLOYEES AND CLIENTS HAPPY. HOW DO YOU BALANCE THAT?
I find that one of the most impactful rules is to remember what it felt like to be an employee, and to always listen to your staff concerns. I think I am blessed with the perfect team so keeping employees happy is not too hard at Frame of Reference. Once employees are happy, then we can make and maintain the happiness of our clients.

WHAT’S YOUR FAVORITE PART OF THE JOB?
A happy client.

WHAT’S YOUR LEAST FAVORITE?
I don’t have a least favorite. There are days that I don’t like, of course, but I know that’s a part of running a business so I push on through.

WHAT SOCIAL MEDIA CHANNELS DO YOU FOLLOW?
I’m on Twitter and Instagram, I like Twitter for the conversations that you can engage in. The #postchat is a great hashtag to follow and a way to meet other post professionals.

WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE TIME OF THE DAY?
The moment I wake up. There is no greater feeling than opening your eyes, taking your first deep breath of the day and realizing that you’re alive.

WHAT DO YOU DO TO DE-STRESS FROM IT ALL?
I relax. This could mean reading a book, and fortunately we are located in Jamaica where the beach is a stone’s throw away.

IF YOU DIDN’T HAVE THIS JOB, WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING INSTEAD?
Growing up I wanted to be a pilot or a civil engineer, but I can’t picture myself doing something else. I love post production and running a business.

CAN YOU NAME SOME RECENT PROJECTS YOU HAVE WORKED ON?
We recently did a TV commercial for the beer company Red Stripe, and a music video for international artist Tres, titled Looking for Love.

NAME THREE PIECES OF TECHNOLOGY YOU CAN’T LIVE WITHOUT.
My MacBook Pro, my phone and my mechanical watch.