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Maxed-Out 5,1 Mac Pro - Best option for mac-based colour grading?


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#1 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 05:25 AM

Hi guys,

 

I'm in a bit of a pickle here. I've been limping along on a maxed-out late 2012 iMac for a while now, and it's just not keeping up with the intensity of the raw-based projects I'm colour grading at the moment. Constant crashes, running out of GPU memory (with the 2GB GTX680 internal card) it's simply costing me more time in issues than it's worth.

 

ProRes and FCPX are both still big parts of my work, so moving over to a PC (as much as I'd like to at this stage) isn't an option.

 

I've never been a fan of the trashcan. But started considering it recently because I'm getting desperate. But the dual-D700 cards have too many issues with Davinci Resolve for it to be a viable option for me.

 

So now I'm looking backwards.

 

I'm wondering how well a maxed-out 5,1 Mac Pro tower might hold up for 5k-6k Redcode, 2.8k Arriraw and 4k Sonyraw material. I'm thinking the twelve-core (or is it dual 6-cores?) 3.46Ghz processor, A flashed 12Gb maxwell Titan X, 128GB RAM, PCI-based SSD for the boot drive, a Blackmagic Decklink Mini Monitor (for my reference monitor) and a 4-port USB3.0 Card (to make it all usable in 2017)?

 

What sort of performance bottlenecks am I likely to face with the older machine?

 

I've also found some units for sale, that say they're 4,1 Mac Pros, upgraded to 5,1. Is there any difference between an upgraded 4,1 and a genuine 5,1 that I'd need to worry about? (I'm mainly just concerned about potential hardware bottlenecks between the two).

 

Any help would be GREATLY appreciated. I'm really struggling here, and need a machine that's up to the task. Slower rendering/processing speeds compared to new machines isn't my biggest concern either, it's having a machine that's powerful and stable enough the slog through the heavy workloads of raw projects without crashing - so I don't mind it chugging through things slower, so long as it keeps chugging at all times.

 

The other alternative I'm considering is jury-rigging a Maxwell Titan X on to the iMac as an eGPU (using an Akitio Node, and a TB3 to TB2 converter). Though I'm not sure if that'd offer as much performance as the older Mac Pro.

 

Cheers,

 

Mark


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#2 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 04:06 PM

A 12-Core 5,1 MacPro with a Titan-x and a SATA disk array or two will run rings around the Trash Can, which is a piece of junk.

 

I have a 6-Core 5,1 with a Titan and a ATTO R680 with a 12-disk (4Tb disks) and a 8-disk (2Tb disks) Sata/Sas arrays it's mostly for DPX to ProRes but it is a solid performer.


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#3 Tyler Purcell

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 09:41 PM

The 5,1 mac pro's hold up really well to the trashcan. The biggest problem with them is the lack of support for modern processors. So they're stuck using the older series of proc's, which aren't bad, but CAN be very limiting.

I'm a pretty huge fan of the 5,1's for post production and have been setting them up all around Hollywood and they work well. The great thing is that today, you can install something like a M5000 graphics card and get FAR better results with transcoding then the trashcan will ever get. Most people with trashcan's wind up doing external chassis and Titan-X graphics cards.

5,1 vs 4,1 is limited. There is a memory speed difference, but it's negligible in the grand scheme of things. I'd buy a low-power 2 proc 5,1 on ebay and upgrade the processors to the 3.43Ghz ones, which are the max you can do. You can start with a Titan X 12gb graphics card and see if it works for ya, it may. I personally like the 10,000RPM boot drives because they have less issues with cache's and swap files, which are a problem with SSD's. You can get 1tb, 10k boot drives for around $275 today.

In terms of configuring the machine, the boot drive can go in the 2nd optical drive slot and you can put 4, 8tb drives into the 4 main drive slots. Titan-X 12gb in replace of the stock graphics card. Then above that, throw a blackmagic card for DaVinci output and a USB3.1 card, which just hit the market. If you're working with RED material, graphics card and CPU speeds are everything. I actually have a Red Rocket in my tower because I need to decode Red stuff on the fly in real time at 6k and you can't do that without some sort of hardware.

That leads me to answering the big question. 4k Red Code? No problem with the Titan X 12Gb card. Red Code 5k? It's not flawless with the Titan X, it will jump around during playback in DaVinci in real-time render. 6k with Red Code won't playback in real time without a Red Rocket card, it just doesn't work. So I mean you COULD invest in a lower profile graphics card for the 2nd slot and put the Red Rocket X into the 12X slot, since it's a double hight card. The problem of course is finding a graphics cards that are half height that work well.

Anyway, there are a lot of options, if you have any specific questions outside of those, I can do some tests on my bay to figure out stuff.
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#4 Robert Houllahan

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 10:38 PM

Any 4,1 Mac Pro can be easily flashed to be a 5,1 then you can install newer CPUs (within reason) and more memory.


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#5 Mark Kenfield

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Posted 23 January 2017 - 10:38 PM

Thanks guys (and I appreciate the kind testing offer Tyler),

I've just put in an offer on a maxed out system (that seemed a better price than I could manage to find getting a barebones one and upgrading it myself). Hopefully that will save me from the existential despair of constant crashes (for the time being at least!

Cheers

 


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#6 Chris Burke

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Posted 24 January 2017 - 05:24 PM

I have such a system. Mac Pro 5.1 12 core 2.93(original not flashed). 24 gig of ram. 1TB SSD boot, 4TB RAID 0 internal. Right now I am running the stock 512mb Apple vid card and a NVidia GTX670 4gig. Not ideal, but it is what I could afford. It will run about 8fps of 6k raw. a bit faster for 4k dpx and 24fps for 2kdpx. It will encode 2kdpx to any flavor of ProRes at about 49fps. For a mac user, it is the most bang for the buck. I wonder if Apple will ever bring back any kind of tower? Doubt it. 


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