The State of the Mac Desktop (after Apple’s October 2016 Presentation)

October 28, 2016

Apple provided a much needed glimpse into their thinking about the Mac Desktop. But does it bode well for video post-production professionals?


Series

A Mixing Light ‘Quick Reaction’

It’s been 18 months since Apple hosted a stage presentation featuring their non-iPhone, non-iWatch hardware. That’s a long stretch since a Mac Laptop or iMac has been on-stage in Cupertino. And a much longer period of time since Apple, Inc. has talked about the Mac Desktop and its hero machine, the Mac Pro. Except to issue a GPU recall, the Late 2013 Mac Pro has yet to get a single refresh of its components.

During this time, creative professionals working in video post-production have been asking themselves… should I stay on the Mac platform? Is Apple, Inc. committed to producing cutting-edge hardware that can drive, for example, 4K OpenEXR workflows? When a client walks in the door asking about finishing a VR project, is there Mac hardware that can push pixels in real time for client-attended sessions?

In this Insight Dan, Robbie and Pat ask: Did Apple, Inc. just release gear inspiring to color correction professionals?

Team Mixing Light discusses the recent Apple Special Presentation, that was clearly focused on Apple’s laptop lineup (in addition to the appleTV), and reads the tea leaves about the future of the Mac hardware. We survey the state of the Mac Desktop, covering such topics as:

  • First impression of the Touch Bar? Gimmick or useful?
  • Have Apple and Microsoft switched roles?
  • Is the MacBookPro now the new Mac Pro?
  • What’s with Team iPhone and Team MacBookPro not communicating, releasing two incompatible hardware devices?
  • Conversely, does the LG partnership foretell a new co-operative hardware spirit at Apple, Inc.?
  • Is the Mac Pro dead? Or alive? Or should we stop caring either way?

This edition of the Mailbag is Team Mixing Light’s initial reaction to the Apple presentation and how our industry (and careers) may be effected. Enjoy!

-Team Mixing Light

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Comments

16 thoughts on “The State of the Mac Desktop (after Apple’s October 2016 Presentation)”

    1. Thanks for the this informative inside.

      The big anounment of Thunderbolt 3 last years was the support of GPU with external expansion box, which currently Thunderbolt 2 doesn’t support.

      Does the new MacBook Pro Thunderbolt 3 connection support the external GPU through the expansion PCI card.

      Kind regards,

      Willian Aleman
      DIT (Digital Imaging Technician)
      NYC

  1. As someone who’s always been in the PC multisphere … and used to be more than a bit jealous of the way that Mac gear was what graphics software was written for … it’s still sad to see the way Apple has moved away from supporting big-time graphics work as they have. Nobody working in post gains from this.

  2. They must be planning a big desktop release too. They need to update the Mac Mini, iMac and Mac Pro. If not they may be on track to just say buy a MacBook of some sort and plug in your peripherals. This would actually work for us because our systems all work from our rack with fibre thunderbolt running to the suites and everything is broken out in there. The issue really is power but perhaps Apple feels that in a few years the difference between a Mac Pro and a MacBook Pro will be insignificant, but I’d say there will always be a difference. Do I want to think that different? Have all our talent have their own maxed out MacBook Pro they just jack into the station they are working at? Maybe but I’d rather have as much power as I can get. I think there is a bigger problem with this and that is the breakdown of the “Halo” effect. This is what MS is trying to replicate. I worked at Apple prior to the iPod release and this was something that was drummed into us, having all the “cool and creative pros” using their kit created the cool factor and got everyone into the Apple ecosystem. Apple has forgotten that and is focusing on the products that give them the most money rather than the things that give them the cool factor. It’s a bit like that with Avid at the moment wanting to focus on high-margin Servers but forgetting to invest in the Media Composer development which leads to server sales. I’m kind of just having a rant now…
    A couple of questions for you. My experience with Hackintosh has been that a bit more time than I can afford to spare needs to go into maintenance and hardcore testing of updates. Is there a good off the shelf unit that is stable? And the same for Windows, do you guys have a preferred off the shelf config that will give me the same or better performance to the maxed out Mac Pro?
    Because I do finishing for projects that have come from FCP7/X Prem Pro, Media Composer etc I will probably just keep waiting until they really just throw the desktop to the curb, but always keen to look at other options.

    1. I built a machine based on this build thread – https://goo.gl/cz1ivd – with the idea that I wanted to try a move to Windows but if I didn’t like it, at least I could get a working OS X machine up and running. I tried Windows for a week, which is maybe not enough time to adjust, but there were too many “language barrier” issues for me, especially around Windows explorer so I moved back to OS X. My machine took a day to install, with a few hiccoughs, but since then I’ve spent zero time on maintenance, and performance-wise it’s right up there with top-end custom build nMP. I’m on 10.10.5 and won’t be updating any time soon, but when I do have to, I guess it’ll be Windows…

  3. For myself I have been on the fence for the past year of transitioning from my 2013 New Mac Pro to a HP or ADK box full of GPUs. The main obstacle has been the fact that more than half of my jobs require delivery in some form of ProRes. Which in the Windows OS world would call for extra steps and more time in providing the media to the client by transcoding back to ProRes on a Mac (a second computer) that I have to bring with me. Yes I am aware of some programs that can create ProRes on a PC such as Scratch but the major tools in my daily use currently can not. Which leads me back to the question to switch or not.

  4. Yeah, I gotta admit, I’ve been one of those guys hanging on to the hope that Apple hadn’t abandoned creative pros at the high-end. I would easily switch to Windows if Resolve/Adobe/Nuke was the only tools I used, but I’m currently spending about 50% of the time in Flame on Mac. I could, of course, build a PC and run Flame on Linux, and MAYBE get Resolve Linux to run on the same machine, but that leaves out Adobe.

    I’m looking at having a dual boot machine – one in Windows, one in Linux – but I’ve been a Mac-only guy for 25 years, I can’t even help my Mom troubleshoot her Windows PC for simple things – I’ll be starting at Square One for all things admin, which is the scariest part for me…

  5. A lot was said about not being able to plug the iPhone 7 or lightning headphones directly into the new MacBook Pro without double adaptors, but there are direct lightning to USB-C cables for this purpose. Same as it always was with plugging Lighting to USB-A cable into the old MacBook Pro. Am I missing something about why swapping 1 single cable for a different single cable is a huge problem?

    http://www.apple.com/shop/product/MK0X2AM/A/usb-c-to-lightning-cable-1-m?afid=p238%7CsrbXGZDuM-dc_mtid_1870765e38482_pcrid_52243316890_&cid=aos-us-kwgo-pla-btb-slid–product-MK0X2AM/A

    1. Speaking for myself – it feels like the Left Hand doesn’t know what the Right Hand is doing. And if you’re building a cohesive ecosystem, that’s a problem. For instance, I just upgraded to the iPhone 7 and it’s completely annoying that I can’t use the same headset on my phone as in m computer. The adapter that shipped with the iPhone is already permanently attached to a set of high-end headphones I use on a daily basis. By my count, I’ll need another 1-3 adapters – and they’re tiny.

      With two new ‘flagship’ products released within weeks of each, the necessity of additional items for them to pair together isn’t encouraging when you try to read the tea leaves that there’s some Master Plan for the Pro gear. More than ever, I’m convinced the new MacBook Pro is the new Mac Pro.

      1. I hear you, but you won’t need an adaptor to connect iPhone 7 to the new MacBook Pro. Just a single Lightning to USB-C cable, same as before. Why keep saying otherwise? No offense meant here, but I really think people are making far too much of what is really a non-issue. The move to standardize on USB-C connectors is the right and ultimately user friendly move. Did you notice that Apple’s new Thunderbolt 3 to Thunderbolt 2 adaptor works both directions? That’s a great feature. It means that any new hard drives I invest in can be Thunderbolt 3 even though all my current Mac computers have Thunderbolt 2 ports.

        1. If I were in the market today to buy a computer to drive a color grading suite, would I make my choice based on the number and type of adapters (or new cables types) I’d have to buy? I guess it depends on what’s being connected together. But given the totality of the discussion we had – if I’m doing RAW 4K workflows (and beyond) – there was nothing that Apple said in that presentation that would give me confidence to hold off and see what they introduce.

          Personally, I believe Apple signaled that they think the MacBook Pro (and whatever revised iMac they will introduce) have gotten powerful enough for 80% of the creatives out there—hence the demo of Resolve with the Touch Pad). If you’re in the other 20%? Their actions say: Look elsewhere.

          This is not a dig on Apple but an observation of Apple’s behavior and how it lines up with the needs of that 20%. The caveat: Apple can keep a secret, so who knows what they might introduce – but until they tell us affirmatively otherwise… I suggest to those of us in the 20%: Move on. You can always circle on back later with your next rig in a few years.

          1. I hear you guys. It must be a frustrating situation for anyone who actually needs the power offered by the latest GPUs. Who knows about Apple? I’m certainly not holding my breath. I’m just lucky that I don’t care for high framerates and VR, so until the day someone really truly needs a 6K or 8K deliverable from me, the maxed out 2013 Mac Pro I’ve got does the job well enough, even with 4K raw files and 4K deliverables.

            Sorry to hear the TB3/2 adaptor doesn’t work on your Windows machine Robbie. I hope the adaptor situation settles out with USB-C standardization. It may make it all more confusing though as in the past we knew what a cable could carry just by it’s type. Firewire 400 was Firewire 400 and that was it. With USB-C cables, manufacturers really should come up with some kind of color coding or other visual cue as a standard that will allow us to know for sure what various USB-C cables are actually rated to carry in terms of power, connections, display standards and bandwidth. I went to buy some the other day and it wasn’t so easy to see quickly what each USB-C cable that I saw could and could not do as I was comparison shopping.

        2. James –

          I think the point I was trying to make at least and was lost in the discussion or not really made explicit is that why you are 100% correct that a cable sans adapter is available – but it requires user action. So to me the optics of providing a cable with a flag ship product (iphone 7) that does not natively connect without the use of an adapter or a cable swap with another flag ship product just doesn’t seem like a cohesive product strategy.

          Granted, a decision has to be made on what to put in the box and when it comes to iPhones overwhelmingly most users would still connect Lightening to USB-A for chargers etc etc. But I think Apple would have benefited at least from a PR point of view of putting a Lightening to USB C cable in the iphone 7 boxes and or Mac Pro boxes.

          Regarding the TB3/2 adapter I got one the other day it works as advertised on Mac but can’t get to work on my TB3 enabled PCs – I’m thinking the adapter might have a newer chip set and or I need to do a TB firmware update on the my PCs.

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