The future of the Mac Pro in video post (and why Thunderbolt is not the answer)

January 16, 2012 — 8 Comments

Following up on my last post about Thunderbolt technology, I continue the discussion and veer into some scary territory: Contemplating the future of the Mac Pro in video post production.

So what do you think? Is there a future for the Mac Pro? Will you be migrating to Windows for production? Maybe you already have? Maybe years ago?

Central to the discussion is at what point do you let your need for performance take precedence over your preferred operating system?

Leave a comment!

Update:

ARS Technica has just posted the following article: Why the video pros are moving away from Apple. 

While I may not agree with everything in it, that’s beside the point. It goes to show I’m not alone in mulling (and frankly dreading) dealing with this.

Update 2:

My addendum clarifying details about my wishes for Mac Pro as well as confirming my excitement for Thunderbolt technology (starts at 2:06 on this video post).

Carey Dissmore

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8 responses to The future of the Mac Pro in video post (and why Thunderbolt is not the answer)

  1. Right again, Carey.

  2. Great video Carey. I agree on most if not everything. My only question is, when the future optical versions of Thunderbolt start shipping (100/Gbits/sec) will that then make possible to then start envisioning a pro editor Mac environment without the MacPro?

    • Eric,

      1. YES! If the bus speed is there, the next issue remaining issue to address would be latency. But the short answer is yes, with a 100Gbit/sec bus, if latency was in check, these things all become possible.

      2. Optical cables may appear yet this year but at the existing bus speed. Their primary function, as I understand it, would be greater cable lengths (at this time). They would work with existing copper Thunderbolt connectors by placing optical transceivers at each end of the optical cable.

      3. 100Gb thunderbolt may not appear until the end of our current decade. It’s impossible to say for certain right now but it looks to be quite a ways off yet.

      • 100Gb Thunderbolt will more than likely be defined by how well the current 10Gb Thunderbolt technology is adopted and adapted. Remember that Apple has a big stake in this technology and is probably more tuned in than anyone else with relation to where Thunderbolt is going and when so this probably will influence their decision on Mac Pro’s future. They don’t really want to support this behemoth, they want portable, fast computing platforms.

        Optical interfaces will still be limited by the current generation of Intel silicon, even if 100Gb is capable over optical, we need the next generation (post-Cactus Ridge) chips to see that level of performance… in addition to >4 PCIe lanes supported to achieve those speeds.

        One of the primary benefits of Thunderbolt is that you could buy one PCIe enclosure from someone like Magma, throw in an ATTO, NVIDIA and other cards, add a monitor or two, connect Thunderbolt storage to build out your system and then that stays put. When you upgrade your computer, or if you want to take your MacBook in the field with you, you just plug Thunderbolt in to the PCIe enclosure and go. No Mac Pro plus MacBook for your mobile needs, just a MacBook.

        NAB this year will bring out a lot of new storage, graphic and peripheral devices that will meet the needs of editors using FCP X.

        I personally think the Mac Pro won’t be refreshed nor will they announce and EOL before NAB and initial reactions / sales to what was will be released during Q2 for Thunderbolt devices.

        • Hi Jim,

          Thanks for the taking the time to reply. I’m in agreement with you on the vision of Thunderbolt, let’s remember that it’s the fastest EXTERNAL general peripheral bus to come along to date.

          But I’m also trying to be realistic about just how much bandwidth it provides, and to educate folks about the differing bandwidth requirements of various components. About how thunderbolt is fantastic for storage and other peripherals but will constrain GPUs quite significantly from communicating at their designed speeds. Sort of like having a very powerful engine but constraining it’s fuel supply to the point it can’t realize it’s full potential.

          I share the vision for a chassis from Magma or one of their competitors but unless a method of ganging multiple Thunderbolt busses together comes along I see GPUs suffering in this scenario.

          Of course, another casualty of losing a workstation class machine is on the CPU side. GPU advancements are great but a lot of processing still happens on the good ol CPU, and the performance of processors in laptops (and to date, in iMacs) would limit many power users in video production.

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