Configuring a Mac Pro for Editing

digitalfilms by Oliver Peters

Nearly any modern laptop or desktop computer has enough horsepower to run the leading graphics, editing or encoding applications. The right choice depends on your need for expandability, interconnectivity and/or performance with specific formats.

I do a lot of Apple Final Cut Pro editing, so I stick with Macs. This also equips me for the other possibilities, including Adobe CS5, Avid Media Composer 5, Media 100 or Autodesk Smoke for the Mac. If I opted to set up a Windows partition under Boot Camp, Parallels or VMware Fusion, I could also run other PC-based NLEs like Sony Vegas Pro.

Although this article is going to be Apple-centric, the hardware considerations of how best to configure a Mac Pro are the same for a comparable HP if you are a Windows user. You can run most of the popular desktop editing applications on a MacBook Pro, iMac or Mac Pro, but if you need the most versatility, then the Mac Pro tower is the best option.

CPU/processing cores

Manufacturers hit the wall at around 3GHz of CPU speed. Companies like Intel re-engineered the CPU architecture to build more processing pipelines (cores) into a single chip. Current designs offer two (dual), four (quad) or six (hex) cores. Mac Pros come with either one or two Intel Xeon processors, each with either a quad-core (“Nehalem”) or hex-core (“Westmere”) design. You can configure a Mac Pro with four, six, eight or twelve cores of processing power. In addition, these chips allow for hyper-threading, which effectively doubles the core count, by making each physical core function as two virtual cores. Depending on the software, your eight-core Mac Pro may perform with the processing power of sixteen virtual cores. read more...

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