2019 Mac Pro – One Colorist’s Thoughts After Switching Back To The Mac

January 8, 2020

What does a colorist think of the 2019 Mac Pro after switching back to Mac? Plus, learn his thoughts about optimal specs for color grading.


Series
Day 8: 24 Insights In 24 Days – 2020 New Year Marathon!

A Colorist’s Perspective on the 2019 Mac Pro

When Apple finally announced the long-awaited redesigned Mac Pro, it was major news across all creative fields. Shortly after the announcement, we recorded a podcast with our reactions, and it’s safe to say I was probably the most excited and hopeful for the new workstation.

Well, the time has come – the 2019 Mac Pro is released and I decided to put my money where my mouth is. That’s right – on launch day I ordered a pretty high spec Mac Pro to serve as my main color grading workstation.

I’ve got the machine installed and I’ve been working on it for a few weeks now – so I wanted to write an in-depth review and talk about my ideal configuration for color grading.

My new 2019 Mac Pro, in the rack in my machine room. I used a heavy duty rack shelf, since the rackmount chassis isn’t shipping yet.

To Build or Not to Build – That is the question

Whether ‘tis nobler in the mind to suffer the slings and arrows of trying to build your own PC, or to take arms against a sea of driver errors and just buy something that works out of the box?

This has been a constant question in many colorists’ minds. We all know, even though this new Mac is very powerful, that you could build a similar performing PC, using gamer-quality parts, for a much cheaper price. If you are willing to support it and invest the time into configuring it properly – a custom PC is a fantastic option for many creatives.

Custom PCs using gaming parts are a powerful and budget-friendly option, but I prefer a purpose-built professional workstation. Image Copyright Maingear.com

Personally – I get very anxious about equipment failure because I’ve seen it happen. I am adamant about backups, redundancy, and using professional gear.

This does limit me somewhat in performance. Things like water cooling, overclocking, Hackintoshes, are out of the question in my mind. When I buy a workstation – I am investing in a core part of my business. I expect it to work hard every day for years, and I don’t ever want to miss a deadline or hurt a client’s project because of a computer problem.

That’s why before the Mac Pro – I swore by HP’s excellent line of Z workstations. However – I do recognize a lot of professionals have gotten really good at building their own systems and keeping them working reliably. In fact – Robbie is currently building an absolute monster of a custom Ryzen system – so in future Insights, Mixing Light will definitely be exploring and comparing that option as well.

Like any other major equipment purchase – only you can decide what makes the most sense for your business. But for me – I’m always going to invest in a professional workstation. Even if it costs a bit more, and maybe isn’t the absolute maximum possible performance.

Why the Mac Pro?

I’ve been a Mac OS X lover since before it even existed in its current form. I grew up using UNIX workstations from SGI and Sun, and used NeXT computer systems, which eventually evolved into Mac OS X after Apple bought NeXT computer in 1996.

I still own a working NeXTSTATION, which ran macOS before it was ever macOS. I’ve loved this operating system longer then Apple has, but the hardware hasn’t always been up to the task of color grading.

I do think Windows 10 is an excellent operating system, but if I have the choice – I would rather be on something UNIX based. The utility of being able to jump into a terminal and whip up quick scripts or tools, in an OS that I’m so comfortable with is a huge timesaver. As a bonus, Resolve on Mac has native ProRes encoding, which is a big plus.

Unfortunately – software isn’t the whole story. I’ve been on Windows almost exclusively for the past decade for one main reason: the hardware available was just way more powerful, reliable and professional.

When Apple announced the ill-fated trashcan Mac Pro – I immediately dismissed it. I didn’t consider it a professional workstation. It wasn’t expandable, and with one look at the cooling design I predicted massive heat problems. My predictions ended up coming true – and the 2013 machines were plagued with GPUs that failed under high load due to heat. Even if you were lucky enough to get a unit without GPU issues, the lack of upgradability made it hard to stomach the cost for a machine that can’t really be updated.

With that in mind, Apple had a huge task to redeem themselves in my eyes if they wanted me to seriously consider them a workstation vendor again. Well, Apple: Mission Accomplished. I was blown away by the design, expandability, features, and performance of the 2019 Mac Pro.

First and foremost – this machine is still using workstation level components. Xeon CPUs, ECC registered RAM, a beefy power supply, and an integrated, system wide cooling strategy. However, the rest of the design goes even further – making for a seriously well-built machine.

The Chassis

The 2019 Mac Pro is a beautifully designed, all-aluminum tower chassis. It sits on feet, or optional wheels. It’s a bit bigger, and much heavier than my Z840, but the 2 handles on top make lifting and moving it around an easy, one-person job.

The very impressive machined aluminum chassis of the 2019 Mac Pro. Photos by Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media (used by permission)

There is also an upcoming rackmount version – which all things being equal, I would rather have. Unfortunately, I needed a new workstation in the short term – and the rack model isn’t shipping yet.

The upcoming Mac Pro rackmount chassis. Image courtesy of Apple.

Cooling

The 2019 Mac Pro has a fantastic thermal design. Instead of a conglomeration of fans and heatsinks for each component, with air moving all around inside the case – the Mac Pro adopts a traditional workstation style flow-through cooling system. It starts with 3 huge fans on the front, which move air through the aluminum chassis and across all components.

The Mac Pro is primarily cooled by 3 large, but almost silent, fans. Image courtesy of Apple.

The CPU and GPUs are all encased in aluminum housings with heat pipes and fins, the air is forced over to cool the system. In effect – this allows the system to pressurize its internals with fresh air, consistently. The end result? Even under very high load – the fans barely even spool up! The machine is nearly silent.

A solid, flow-through cooling design inspires much more confidence then the under-cooled previous model. Image courtesy of Apple.

Connectivity

The Mac Pro has dual built-in 10 Gigabit Ethernet ports. This means not only can I connect to my local LAN, and my 10Gb shared storage – I can do it without wasting a PCI slot on a NIC to do so.

It also has USB3 and Thunderbolt3 expansion available, so it will work with just about any modern external drive or USB device – without throttling down transfer speeds.

Expandability

The Mac Pro has 8 PCI-e slots. The top slot is filled by an I/O board, containing USB and Thunderbolt ports.  Even so – this leaves lots of room for additional cards, such as storage connections, NVMe cache drives, PCI Decklink cards, and more.

Finally a Mac with PCI slots again! Adding connectivity to fiber storage or SDI video is easy. Photos by Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media (used by permission)

Two of the open PCI slots are double width for GPUs, and also include one of the coolest new features of the Mac Pro: the MPX module.

MPX Module? Come on, more proprietary Apple-only stuff?!

I know! I thought the same thing at first. I assumed the MPX module would be an Apple-specific thing, making future upgrades unpredictable and unlikely. However, the MPX module is simply a standard PCI-e x16 slot – with a second connector behind it for power delivery and additional features, like Thunderbolt connectivity.

I think this is a fantastic design choice. If you’ve ever tried to cram multiple modern GPUs in an HP workstation – you know the pain of the power adaptors and cables you need to actually get those GPUs installed. GPU power cables aren’t exactly great for airflow either.

The MPX solution is so much easier. All I/O and power is delivered to the cards right from the motherboard, allowing an easy install and great airflow.

The new MPX module uses standard PCI-e but adds a second connector for power and additional features. It’s a fantastic design. Image courtesy of Apple.

The best news? MPX doesn’t look to be Apple-exclusive! 3rd party vendors are already making their own MPX modules. Promise Technology is shipping an internal RAID solution, that can add 32TB of RAID protected storage into a single MPX module.

Finally – since the MPX module is based around a standard PCI-e slot, if some amazing non-MPX GPU comes out later on – it can still be installed in the Mac Pro as regular PCI. The motherboard even has free, legacy PCI-e power connectors available for such an application.

Build Quality

The 2019 Mac Pro is stunningly well built. I’ve never seen so much machined aluminum in a workstation before. Opening the case is as simple as turning a handle, and sliding the cover off. The only downside? If the system is on a shelf in a rack like mine is – you’ll have to remove it before you can lift off the casing.

Access to internal components is incredibly easy. Image courtesy of Apple.

From there, the motherboard is a clever, double-sided design. One side holds the PCI slots and CPU, and the RAM is on the back, behind two easy to release covers.

Almost everything in the Mac Pro is easy to install without tools. PCI slots are released with a single switch and thumbscrews. RAM slides in easily into 12 available DIMM slots.

In fact, iFixIt rated it a very high 9/10 for repairability – and for fun, check out iFixIt’s detailed teardown.


My Configuration

I ordered my Mac Pro with the following specs:

  • 3.2GHz 16‑core Intel Xeon W processor, Turbo Boost up to 4.4GHz
  • 32GB of DDR4 ECC memory
  • Two Radeon Pro Vega II with 32GB of HBM2 memory each
  • 4TB SSD storage

I thought a lot about my use case and what would be the best bang for my buck in terms of the work I do, and selected components accordingly.

My Mac Pro configuration. Like most Mac-using professionals over the past 20 years – I saved a few thousand dollars by buying my own RAM.

CPU

The first choice you need to consider, the CPU. I chose the middle of the road, 16 core processor. I feel like this CPU provides a great balance between solid single core clock speed while having enough cores to handle multi-threaded work.

Workloads in Resolve run the gamut from a single thread (many tasks in Fusion, and a lot of encode/decode of files) – to heavily multithreaded. This is why I didn’t want to commit to a huge amount of cores at the cost of clock speed, or cheap out and get a CPU with too few cores.

Memory

I ordered the machine with the base amount of memory. One of the best parts about the new Mac Pro is how easy it is to upgrade, and you can buy RAM drastically cheaper from non-Apple sources. So I ordered 12x16GB DIMMs from NewEgg, and installed them myself. Memory upgrades are also available from OWC and other vendors. If you plan on installing your own memory – just make sure to buy the right type of DIMM for your system. Different CPU choices allow for different maximum memory speeds, so be sure to check the specs if you plan on installing your own RAM.

Installing your own RAM is easy, and can save thousands of dollars. Photos by Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media (used by permission)

GPU

For color grading – the GPUs are probably one of the most important decisions in a workstation. Apple offers various upgrades, but most colorists will be choosing between the Vega II, and Vega II Duo.

These are the same GPU, but the duo houses 2 GPUs on a single PCI board, allowing for a total of 4 in one system. So why did I buy 2 single GPUs? Why not buy a duo, and leave room to add a second one later?

The answer is simple: bandwidth. While color grading, a GPU is only as good as how fast you can feed it data, and the fact that the duo houses two GPUs on one slot – means each GPU gets half the PCI bandwidth. In some workloads, this difference is negligible. For example, in 3D rendering or AI/deep learning applications, the GPU is usually the bottleneck. The system feeds it data, waits for it to process, and continues when it’s done.

However, for color grading – we are feeding the GPU large amounts of real-time data. This compounds, even more, when you start adding temporal noise reduction or motion estimation, where the GPU has to use multiple frames at a time.

I chose dual single Vega II GPUs, to get the best possible bandwidth. Photos by Marco Solorio of OneRiver Media (used by permission)

With that in mind, I bought the fastest GPUs available, but in a configuration to give each the most bandwidth. Thankfully, in the dual-single configuration, the Vega IIs can still take advantage of the infinity fabric link, allowing the separate boards to talk to each other directly significantly faster than over the PCI bus.

Storage

I connect to a shared storage system over 10Gb – but even so, I opted for a 4TB internal SSD. I don’t need that much space – but the SSD is one of the only somewhat difficult things in the machine to upgrade, so I went ahead and sprung for a bigger one – in case I ever need it for some high-speed local caching.

SDI Video

Thankfully, Apple has gone back to standard PCI-e for expansion. So, for my SDI output, I installed a Blackmagic PCI Mini Monitor 4k. The install took minutes with no tools, and after installing BMD’s Desktop Video app – Resolve recognized the card immediately. The Mac Pro also has Thunderbolt 3 available – if you already own a Thunderbolt I/O device.

Afterburner? Yes or No?

One of the coolest new options Apple introduced is the Afterburner accelerator. Afterburner is a single-width PCI card, filled with FPGAs that can be programmed to accelerate encode and decode of media. I think it’s a fantastic idea, and it should take a big load off the CPU and GPU when it comes to decoding and playing back video.

So why didn’t I buy one? Well, even though Afterburner is already supported in Resolve – currently it only supports ProRes and ProRes RAW, and that just isn’t the bulk of my work. I use a lot of camera raw formats, DNxHR, and more – so I didn’t feel like the Afterburner was a great investment just yet.

However – because FPGAs are fully programmable – the possibility of adding more formats down the road is definitely there, and my Mac has an x16 PCI slot waiting for an Afterburner if I decide to buy one down the road.


Switching To Mac

I’ve been on PC for so many years – I had some concerns switching to Mac. As I clicked “buy now” on a computer that costs more than my Harley, I started to develop a few concerns.

The UI monitor problem

I’ve been using the same 30” HP GUI monitor since I was on Avid DS. It’s an excellent monitor, with a comfortable resolution of 2560×1600. The issue? It only takes dual link DVI, and there is absolutely no way to get that out of the modern Mac Pro! So I ordered a somewhat cheap UHD UI monitor and a high-speed HDMI cable to connect it to my machine room.

The monitor is just fine for GUI (which I dim way down anyway to keep it from distracting me) – but I want to mention one very important thing: make sure your UI monitor and cabling supports at least a 60hz refresh rate!

UHD GUI monitors sometimes sync up at an unbearable 30hz, making the mouse laggy. Make sure to use a monitor/cable capable of UHD 60hz.

Many UHD monitors only support 30hz over HDMI, so you will need to use an adaptor to DisplayPort or find another solution. If you do notice your monitor syncing up at 30hz, it may be time to get a newer monitor or cable. The mouse lag that comes with a 30hz UI is just unbearable to me.

What about AutoHotKey?

If you’ve seen my Insight on AutoHotKey – you know it’s a fantastic macro tool that I’ve integrated deeply into my workflow. Unfortunately – it is PC only. There is no mac version. This meant I was going to have to find something comparable on mac, and re-create all my macros.

Fortunately, I found an incredible piece of software called Keyboard Maestro, which does pretty much everything I used AutoHotKey for, and is very easy to setup. In fact, I’ll be doing a detailed Insight on Keyboard Maestro later on in the marathon [Editor’s Note: Insights on Keyboard Maestro have been requested by our members many times, we’re glad to see Joey jumping on it!].


Workstation Best Practices

Just buying an expensive, powerful computer doesn’t guarantee you a smooth, trouble-free workflow. The computer is only as good as its configuration and user! With that in mind, I follow a pretty strict set of best practices to keep my investment in a workstation running smoothly.

Separation of Church and State

The workstation is just that – a workstation. I separate any non-work tasks to another machine (in my case, my mac mini assist station). Since Resolve is my primary grading system this means that my Mac Pro literally only has Resolve installed. That’s right. I have a $17,000 computer with only one program on it.

Having a separate assist station to keep your main workstation dedicated to its task may take up a bit more desk space, but the reliability and productivity gains are more then worth it.

Everything else – and I mean EVERYTHING – lives on the assist station. Email, ScopeBox, Adobe CC, Avid Media Composer, and any other tools I am testing/experimenting with.

This keeps my main system free of any issues – and also helps me work in session day-to-day. If I need to jump into After Effects to render a quick graphic? I can just pop it open on the assist station without losing my place on my main system.

Both the assist station and the Mac Pro are connected to the same shared storage – and the same shared Resolve database, so I can easily do a conform from Premiere or Avid on the assist station, then when it’s time to get grading – open it up on the main workstation.

The dock on my Mac Pro, vs on my assist station. The Mac Pro is dedicated to Resolve

This disciplined system of keeping my main workstation totally dedicated to its task has served me exceptionally well over the years. It also makes troubleshooting issues when they come up significantly easier, as the number of variables is massively reduced.


Sounds Good – But how does it actually perform?

After working on the Mac Pro for a few weeks – I can definitely confirm, this box screams with Resolve. Interactivity is fantastic. Clicking or dragging anything in the timeline feels instantaneous and jogging through timelines with the scroll wheel is butter smooth. Interactivity inside Fusion is absolutely far and away better than it was on my Z840.

Aside from the subjective feel of how fast the UI is – playback performance is also excellent. My fixed node structure is pretty complex – and never played real-time with everything enabled on any system I ran it on. On the Mac Pro? It plays fine, no dropped frames.

Realtime playback of my intensive fixed node tree, with all options, enabled.

Standard Candle benchmark results are equally impressive:

UHD Playback FPS

9 blur nodes – 60
18 blur nodes – 46.5
30 blur nodes – 29
66 blur nodes – 13.5
1 TNR nodes – 60
2 TNR nodes – 37
4 TNR nodes – 19
6 TNR nodes – 13

HD Playback FPS

9 blur nodes – 120
18 blur nodes – 103
30 blur nodes – 77
66 blur nodes – 36
1 TNR nodes – 109
2 TNR nodes – 78
4 TNR nodes – 42
6 TNR nodes – 28

Does this mean everything is real-time, all the time? No of course not. I build some pretty massive grades that can even make the Mac Pro slow down – but I can always lean on render caching in those cases.

Render speeds? H264 hovers around 200fps. The internal SSD pulls about 2800MB/s. According to the Blackmagic Raw Speed Test – It pulls about 230fps of 8k BRAW playback.

Benchmark performance for BRAW is impressive.

Finally, RED raw plays back in full premium for 6k easily, but struggles a bit in 8k or with heavy grades and TNR. This will improve however, as RED has already announced that they are releasing full Metal decode support for r3d in the next API update!


Final Thoughts

What about Apple’s new XDR Display?

While I was willing to bet on the Mac Pro itself based on the specs and what I saw at release – the same can’t be said about the XDR display. I know a lot of people are hoping that this will finally be the cheap HDR reference monitor they’ve been waiting for – but I started out highly skeptical, and remain so. Recently we were shown an example of the XDR display compared to professional, FSI HDR reference monitors – and Apple XDR’s comparatively small amount of dimming zones show that it results in significantly bad blooming issues.

The Apple XDR has significant blooming issues in HDR compared to actual reference displays (click to enlarge).

6K Resolution Is Another Problem for Professional Finishing

Blooming aside – the XDR is an oddball 6k resolution – which doesn’t conform to any video standard. Every HD, UHD or 4k image must be either severely pillarboxed/letterboxed – or (worse) resampled to scale to full screen, I simply wouldn’t trust the XDR for critical detail viewing. That said – we don’t have one in our hands yet, so we will be sure to follow up with a much more detailed examination of the display when we get one. For now – I would hold off on buying the XDR, unless you only want it as an excellent GUI/Gaming monitor.

Conclusions

So bottom line – Is the 2019 Mac Pro worth the price? I wasn’t joking when I said this computer cost more then my Harley. In fact, it cost a few thousand more.

Sometimes, it’s just worth it to buy the premium product instead of a cheaper alternative.

Price is definitely an important factor, and the Mac Pro is a very expensive piece of equipment. However, compared to similar spec’d HP or Dell workstations, the cost difference isn’t massive. At the end of the day, this is a workstation I’ll be using it every single day to run my business and make income. It’s design, expandability, flexibility and features meet my needs very well, and save me from a lot of headaches that I don’t want to deal with.

I honestly think this machine will last me for another 5 years at the very least. With that kind of service life – the price feels much more reasonable. Just like the Harley – in this case I truly think it’s worth spending the money on the premium product.   

If you have any questions, or have ideas of things you would like me to test out on the new system – leave them in the comments below.

-Joey

Comments

Homepage Forums 2019 Mac Pro – One Colorist’s Thoughts After Switching Back To The Mac

Viewing 25 reply threads

    • Mark
      Guest

      I went with a similar config except I opted for the Dual Vega II Duo and Afterburner and no regrets. There were some discussions (both theoretical and “scientific” about what you said on many forums regarding the GPU, and the Dual Vega II Duo definitely has more power (metal score I’m getting over 102000) than the Dual Vega. You can push it more than the Dual Vega before you start getting drop frames. Great article though nonetheless!


    • Ryan S
      Guest

      Joey, do the Pro Vega II MPX modules take up one double-wide slot each? i.e., do the two of them cover one PCI-E slot each, leaving six still available (one taken up by the expansion module, of course?)


    • Ryan S
      Guest

      I’d be very interested to see detailed real-world comparisons between one Vega II Duo and two Vega II’s.

      Dual Vega II Duos must be incredible!


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      Yea the vega IIs are dual width – so they fill both MPX bays (covering the slots in between). Leaving you with 3 open PCI slots for other purposes (one being x16 – which is where i may eventually add the afterburner)


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      Thanks!
      Yea dual duos is gonna be a fantastic config. It was a bit too pricey for my budget – so I was choosing between a single duo and dual singles.

      How are you liking the afterburner?
      Definitely still considering getting one down the road.


    • Adam L
      Guest

      Joey, I am about to pull trigger on the same setup except I am looking at a single Vega DUO so I can add another DUO down the line. Could you provide a reference/link that influenced your logic on going with 2x Single Vegas? All the benchmarks I have seen show no performance difference between either config.

      Best,


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      Hey Adam – unfortunately there really isn’t a whole lot of empirical side by side testing of dual singles vs a single duo out there yet, given how new these machines are.

      My reasoning was mostly just based on the numbers – a single duo will only ever get 16 lanes of PCI-e bandwidth. There’s no getting around that. Dual singles will get double that, and since they can talk internally using infinity fabric – they should be able to use that bandwidth pretty effectively.

      That said – a dual duo setup would have the same amount of bandwidth available as dual singles – along with the same advantage of infinity fabric between all 4 GPUs, plus twice the compute power. However obviously at a significant cost increase.

      There are other factors in play here too – things like the bandwidth you have from your storage may impact the total performance more then the number of PCI lanes going to the GPU.

      Either way – I chose the dual singles for 2 reasons – 1. they definitely have more bandwidth available to them then a single duo (and a dual duo was out of my budget) and 2. I’m less worried about leaving room for adding a second GPU down the road – because I’m hoping in 2-3 years, newer and better GPUs will be available (hopefully in MPX modules) . so I see the potential upgrade path as replacing my 2 vega IIs with newer units down the road, instead of leaving an open slot for adding the same GPU later.


    • Adam L
      Guest

      Thanks for the detailed response Joey!

      I definitely have some thinking to do!


    • Marc Wielage
      Guest

      I was shocked when I heard about this, because I thought Joe D’Anna was a total Windows guy. But it just shows as long as the OS gets the job done, it doesn’t matter what you use. It’s just a means to an end. I can work on Resolve on Linux, Mac, Windows, and after an hour I forget what platform I’m on. As long as it’s fast and reliable, I don’t care.

      BTW, this is nearly the exact same system config we’re looking at for the near future (though we long for the Dual Duo Vegas). It’s good to know it’ll hit all the speed specs we needed. We’re going to have a party when we can finally throw the Trashcan Mac into an actual trashcan.


    • Jean-Francois R
      Guest

      I’m in the opposite situation, considering switching from Mac to Windows for my home setup. Most of my work is on TV shows at client facilities around town, with only 10-15% on my own setup. I wish I could go for a Mac Pro, but I just can’t justify spending that much money on a machine that will sit idle most of the time. Even an iMac Pro is hard to justify in these conditions.

      I’ve been stretching the capabilities of my current machine (a 2015 5K iMac, yikes!), but it’s way past its due date at this point. I’m still doing mostly HD, so it works, but it can be painful at times. Which is why I consider a custom PC solution as the more future-proof approach. I’m just waiting for the next big project that will justify the purchase.


    • Jean-Francois R
      Guest

      I’m eager to see your Streamdeck/Keyboard Maestro solution. I’ve been using that combo for almost a year now and very happy with it. Now using 2 standard Streamdecks with an XL.

      I’m curious to see your solution for node selection. I’ve been experimenting with an approach but haven’t had time to implement it. It involves using image recognition to detect the right node. As I’m using a fixed node structure with standardized node labels, Keyboard Maestro can visually detect the node label itself. I remember you used a fixed node location in a previous insight, so that selecting a node was just a question of clicking in the right coordinates, but I found that this solution is too restrictive for my workflow. Have you done anything different with KM?


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      Yup im doing a similar thing – using the image recognition. Only problem is it seems a bit unreliable for some node numbers. so my current solution image recognizes the first node, then presses the next node hot key enough times to get to the desired node number.


    • Robbie Carman
      Guest

      Man Marco takes some nice photos!

      I think there are a lot of exciting things about this machine. Having been hands on the build quality is beyond description. The cooling is really really good. And the design aspects like Joey pointed out with PCIe design, the handle, wheels etc all def. I’m def. considering one once the rack version is out – I refuse not to rackmount things!

      I just have two concerns:

      Road map on MPX module based GPUs – I think trashcan owners kinda got the screw job on that one, and I’m nervous about that – but at the same time regular (errr AMD) GPUs can be used in those slots so that’s some solace

      I also wonder if Apple is just skipping PCIe 4 for PCIe 5? As Joey mentioned, I’ll be doing an article on my Threadripper 3970X rackmount builds soon and that system is PCIe4. Not only does it allow for much faster NVMe storage overall system thru-put but because 3rd gen threadripper is PCIe4 aware, many more lanes are available than Intel can currently do. PCIe 4 spec was stuck in ratification for a long time and 5 is right behind it. So I’m worried about getting a PCIe 3 system for a lot of $$$ to only have a PCIe5 system available in in 18 months.


    • Frederick A Wilson I
      Guest

      I went for 16 core with a single Vega II buddied up with my Radeon VII card. Figure if need more VRAM I can disable the Radeon VII, but I rarely need more than 16GB VRAM. Radeon VII speed is very similar to the Vega II. Love that the Vega II gives you 4x more thunderbolt ports.

      I did a couple of tests on different GPU configurations, here’s some results of a few render tests with the Vega II speed as the baseline.
      UHD timeline, all ProRes, lots of nodes and NR exporting to ProRes all on the same machine to the internal SSD:

      2x Vega II + Radeon VII – 204%
      2x Vega II – 180%
      Vega II + Radeon VII – 175%
      Vega II – 100%
      Radeon VII – 90%
      (% speed compared to Vega II)


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      Interesting! Good to know normal PCIe GPUs work well.

      How did you test dual vega IIs and a radon vii? Did you put the radon into the top x16 slot, or use an eGPU chassis?


    • Pat Inhofer
      Guest

      A HA! Now I know what I’m going to tell people why I haven’t upgraded my PC rig… I’m waiting for PCIe5! The timing is about right.


    • Mark
      Guest

      I’m down. I’d be curious to see how much more I gain IRL with my config over a lesser one. And to see if dropping that extra thousands of dollars is worth the gain.


    • Jean-Francois R
      Guest

      My attempts at selecting nodes based on Node Labels are giving mixed results. Node labels are above the node, on the grid background, which interferes with the image recognition. On top of that, nodes can overlap and they actually have a drop-shadow that darkens the background around them. In short, my macros are unreliable.Your approach should to be more successful, as node numbers appear on the node itself.


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      yea I’ve noticed the same thing – image recognition is very picky. There is a threshold you can adjust which helps some – but the most reliable way ive found has been to only look for node 1, then use the next node key.

      the downside is that obviously its slower, and gets slower the higher node number you do.

      I’ll be playing around more with the image recognition and if i find a good solution that consistently works – i’ll update my keyboard maestro insight with a download.


    • Soren
      Guest

      here is a comparison between a vega 2 duo and a vega 2 + vega vii –
      https://barefeats.com/mac-pro-2019-8k-deliver.html
      the latter being slightly faster


    • Jean-Francois R
      Guest

      Regarding image recognition for the node number: I could not figure out why it would work sometimes, but fail at other times. Then I noticed that it depended on whether the display is toggled on or off next to the node tree. For some reason, the node number is displayed slightly differently depending on the mode, which cause the image recognition to fail.

      So I took screenshots of the node number in both situations. My macro now looks for the first image, then the second (I disabled Failure aborts macro for both image check). Now it works in both situations.

      The annoying thing is how slow it gets when the macro needs to repeat Next Node multiple times. I wonder whether it’s Keyboard Maestro that’s inserting a delay between each command or if it’s just Davinci Resolve that is slow in responding.


    • Jose Santos
      Guest

      Hey Joey, what are your thoughts on getting a base Mac Pro with the base 580x just for GUI and getting two vega VII (or the upcoming navi GPU’s) just for processing in Resolve, updating the CPU myself (though I couldn’t find any xeon W CPU’s online, in Europe at least) in addition to the ram and sliding in an m.2 pcie card with a 2tb ssd for cache. Couldn’t find anything online about using vega VII on the mac pro just for the processing not as display cards.


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      Hi Jose,

      Honestly – I wouldn’t recommend the path you are proposing because the Apple markup on CPUs isn’t very high, and non-vega GPUs won’t have the advantage of infinity fabric.

      that said – the cool thing about this box is that you definitely do have that option. The cpu is easily replaceable , and non-MPX GPUs do work. I can’t tell you exactly how many/what type of non-MPX GPUs will work as I’m not sure how much aux power is really available to them – but check out this Linus Tech Tips video, he replaces the CPU and a bunch of other components so you can see how it’s possible:

      YouTube video

      He even ran a Titan in it (which only worked in windows under bootcamp, but it did work)


    • Evan A
      Guest

      So Joey, It’s now been a little over a month since you posted this great and helpful article. Can you add anything about using this system so far with 40+ days under your belt?
      What are you using for cache files and exporting to?
      Also storage?
      Thanks!


    • Joey D’Anna
      Guest

      Hi Evan –

      Thanks! Sorry for the late reply – but a few months in, I’m still loving the machine. I haven’t had a single major issue. In fact, I think it’s only been rebooted twice since I wrote the article! The biggest challenge has been slowly re-working all my macros and streamdeck layouts – every time I think I’m done, I find one that I haven’t updated yet and doesn’t work!

      As far as storage/cache goes – I’m keeping everything on my FreeNAS server. I haven’t actually had to cache anything to the internal SSD – the FreeNAS box performs well enough to use it for everything I’ve thrown at it so far. I’m caching to ProRes (one of the advantages of using a mac) – but I’m rarely caching unless I build up a seriously heavy grade or timeline.

      My biggest complaint? there is a bug in the current mac Wacom driver that makes the middle button stick if you don’t lift the pen before releasing the button. It’s annoying in Fusion when zooming, and I need to report it to Wacom. There is also a bug in the latest stream deck software where API based plugins (like keyboard maestro) don’t expose their custom controls – but I’ve been able to work around that pretty easily, and I’ve been in contact with the El Gato devs and they are working on a fix.

      The really cool thing about having a machine this powerful is that I’ve been digging into Fusion a lot more recently. I’ve done some seriously heavy 3d comps right in the timeline that I wouldn’t have even attempted before – and it’s been really helping me expand my Fusion skillset, which I’ve been having a great time exploring.

      So yea – to summarize I’m still glad I bought it – I still think it was 1000000% worth the money, and I still recommend it.

      EDIT – El Gato just emailed me to let me know the bug in the streamdeck software I mentioned is now fixed, with a new version released today. I just tested and verified it all works perfect now!


    • Tim W
      Guest

      Hey Joey, Now Resolve supports Reds metal gpu playback acceleration can your spec machine render source res Red 8k to ProRes 422 hq / 4444 with temporal noise reduction and grade – in a 4k project but rendering to source res 8k ? I quite often have to deliver source res individual shots – I have a duel GTX 1080 Ti setup and it renders 8k with a grade with out noise reduction but GPU memory error as soon as noise reduction is added so not possible on my set up but looking to upgrade and thinking of similar spec to yours.
      Also will your spec playback 8k Red r3d full debayer playback with Temporal noise reduction and a grade in a 8k project ? If not what kind of playback would you expect? Not so important as I would never need to grade in a 8k project but good to know if possible 🙂
      Cheers, Tim

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