Working From Home ?
Need To Put A New Mac Editing Machine Together ?
Here’s How To Build Your Own iMac Based NLE or DAW and The Ideal Configuration and Perhipherals

IF you now have to work from home and a laptop just isn’t cutting it, literally, here is a look at building an iMac based system. I built this system with my own time and money, I spent many days doing research on the right things to buy which actually work. I even managed to send one thunderbolt 3 drive case back and I’ll name names here. There are plenty of ins and outs with building an iMac based system and I’ll get you to what matters and save your money doing it.

Installing 10.15.2 Onto A Mac Pro 2010 and a AMD GPU

Being stuck on 10.13.6 on my Mac tower 2010 was not happiness. Sure not the fastest system, but with CPUs updated to 3.46ghz xeons it was more than good enough. It was as fast as a 2013 machine at least, which with updated GPU life was good. Now keeping a 9 year old machine running sounds crazy, but if it serves your needs more than good enough, then who cares ? Sure those new 2019 Mac Pro’s are insanely fast, but my machine does what I need more than fast enough with all the latest hardware and software updates. The speed difference isn’t worth $12K or more to swap out machines.

Now a b ig part of the equation has been the GPU. The NVIDIA Titan X I’ve been running for a couple years is still a fast beast for 1080 and holds up ok for 4K. However apple wasn’t letting me continue with OS updates with the NVIDIA driver mess. I’d gotten tired of waiting for driver updates to appear after OS updates and hope it would all work. With the apparent demise of all NVIDIA support now, I had to try to figure out what I was going to do.

The cheapest and simplest fix was an updated GPU to let a newer OS run. While 10.14 was supported, and I could limp that along for at least another year there was really nothing preventing 10.15 form running on my machine except apple being bad. Enter Catalina Script Patcher. Follow the directions, its not really much more complicated than an OS install, and you’ll have 10.15.2 running on your Mac tower as fast as the downloads and installers can run. Maybe an hour or so with a good internet connection and SSD. Thats the easy part. Also please consider sending the script author a donation for the fine bit of work he is doing, its well worth it to support.

The short answer is that while the AMD 580 is supported, its not exactly a performance monster by my NVIDIA GPU’s standards or others. Sure if its your only choice its ok but after a LOT of research I came to the conclusion that the 2 better choices where the Vega64 or 5700XT as options. The Vega64 is a couple years old now but its still a compute power house for Resolve and Adobe apps. Its still holding its own next to 1080Ti’s and the newer 2000 series cards. The fastest card out there next to a 2080 TI is the AMD RX Vii ( or 7 ). Its out of production but there is still stock out there, but its also as expensive as the 2080 Ti which I can’t run even if I wanted to. So the compromise was to get the new 5700XT. The drivers for it showed up in 10.15.1 beta and are in release in 10.15.2. Technically, its not supported as apple hasn’t let any 5700 XT cards out for the new Mac Pro, but it works fine anyway. My card is using standard PC rooms and I actually seem to have a boot screen – at least the gray screen plus progress bar, it goes black and then the finder loads up 10 secs later.

As for powering the card it uses a 8 and 6 pin connection which is the same as the NVIDIA cards I’ve been running. So life was simple here but there was still one problem. The card I bought is supposed to be a standard dual slot card. There are others which are triple slot sized which I passed on. In this case the card is slightly wider than a dual slot card and covers about 50% of the next PCIe slot. I pulled my BMD 4K extreme card unhappily to fit the Sapphire card in. The other 2 slots are filled with a USB 3 X 4port card and a eSATA X4 port card. All of them are in use and I doubt there is a combo card to be had that will work in the Mac after apple pulled driver support for a lot of chips in the 10.12 era. Bad apple.

For now I’m good. I can’t see buying a Mac Pro. Maybe apple will produce a Mac Regular with a couple PCIe slots and a i9 processor but I doubt it. Hackintosh ? not sure. iMac regular ? maybe since the iMac Pro’s doesn’t really offer enough complete power or GPU power to make them worthwhile. Its a very hard time to stay on Mac when apple seems intent in pricing everyone off and away to PC or Linux land.

Leaving The Cloud Borg I Mean SubscriptionWare

Subscription Warning Adobe

I have finally let go of my subscriptionware. It took planning and nearly two years to really get myself free. Ok, maybe a year or so of actual doing from the time I decided that one way, the cloud would turn into a storm which would then go away.

I now look at project files without fancy icons and their extensions are now meaningless to my finder windows. However thats not unlike my old FCP 7, Combustion and a few other app project files too. They just left the useful realm 5 or 10 years ago. Now its the turn of Adobe apps to do the same.

How could I do that after 20 years ?

After starting with these apps well before the Cloud or even Creative Suite was a thing ?

Lets start in the begining. Imagine these apps were sold with actual perpetual license keys that didn’t require a dial home to the mothership to ask if it was ok to run. All you needed was the OS running, even within a VM to run. While they did check on the local network to see if too many copies where running you could just move your files around on 100mb zip disks. Life was in some ways simpler. However we eventually networked out machines because that was so much more productive and the licenses thing worked itself out too.

All went pretty well for a long time. Some apps like After Effects was love and hate depending on how stable it was or if it had some bug that killed your project. For many years I used combustion because it did proper 3D space without intersection render errors and reflections. The color corrector was killer as was the keyer. Of course AE had any number of cool plugins like particular Combustion couldn’t run, but if you didn’t need those for your project that was doing tons of 3D planes in space it didn’t matter. I still used AE happily.

Then came premiere the NLE way before it was Pro. It did real layers and could handle a 3cam edit unlike my Media100’s. In those days it wasn’t pretty but it worked. Eventually along came premiere pro. I saw alpha builds of it, then betas. UI mockups. It was a very fun day to watch it come to life, especially when the real time effects powered by the GPU started. That first nVidia card, a Quadro something I forget had all of 192 cores on it ! A joke by todays standards but the great code written for it allowed that card to really fire up a new revolution in editing for everyone. Multiple layers of RT HD with some effects without expensive and dedicated hardware was a breakthrough to be sure. Certainly FCP 4.5 had some realtime effects at least on mac.PC users they had to wait until Prem Pro released if they didn’t want to buy an expensive card to enable the same thing.

Enough of memory lane even if it was a fun visit for a bit. In the reality of today and the last few years the rise of subsciptionware has brought some serious concerns to mind. Those mostly center around being able to access old project files and even some media formats. When you can’t open a project in your current app, you say well just install the old one. Sure. Except unless you kept the old apps installed, or you kept the old installers themselves saved somewhere you might not be able to. When a legal pissing match means you can’t get those installers are you going to the darkweb to get them ? Take your risks with malware in them ? no. Hope some one you know can help you out ? not a reliable way to run a business. Then what happens if the licensing falls anyway ?

Seeing this problem alone prompted me years ago to always save projects out as EDL’s and FCP XMLs for safety but that only goes so far in having a project open as you left it. Its certainly far better than a manual reconform. The truth is I’m locked out of my projects. Sure I could either re-up for a month or even try a trial, until the project is too old to open thing happens and you can’t install something a few versions back to bridge the open and save newer situation.

There is also the other reality, life changes. You retire, quit the video biz, change careers, lifestyles, you just aren’t making much money and can’t afford it, or you choose not to spend you money on something you only use a couple times a year – the $600 subscription just doesn’t make sense or economic return. Thats a plane ticket or two to someplace warm in winter for a week. How do you want to spend it ?

So I’m done. I spent time actually buying apps with perpetual licenses. Sure I pay the occasional update fee but so far the cost has been vastly lower. I bought Resolve years ago for grading all my edits done in Prem Pro so moving my editing over had been easy. I have both FCP X and Logic X for audio but recently did a crossgrade to CuBase for audio work. Likewise Affinity Photo is a much cleaner, better looking UI, faster loading app without all the bloat of PS. I haven’t bought Affinity Designer to replace AI because I had very little need for vector based output or fixing IL files these days, but if course if the project happens its a cheap easy purchase for the day or two I need it for. I moved to Phase One for photo processing and I’m pretty happy with that. I can of course pretty much leave my setup alone now and use it as long as the hardware works. I’m not stuck in a vicious cycle of updating everything from OS to apps to hardware just because. Apps have gotten pretty stable and feature deep. While new format support is probably going to be a fact of life, there are ways of working with that if you have to. Freedom, control and choice are good.