Premiere Pro on a Mac – what is the truth?

Genesis Project by Dennis Radeke

Premiere Pro CS5 has been a successful release by any measure and many people have come to know about the Mercury Playback Engine. What’s been less clear is what the MPE really is and what it means for users of both Mac and PC.

So to begin, it makes sense to start with defining what MPE is. It is NOT(!) just about hardware GPU acceleration.

The Mercury Playback Engine is three discrete components:

  • 64-bit native application – as opposed to 32-bit like most applications
  • 64-bit memory addressing – use more RAM
  • GPU hardware acceleration for effects – ‘go faster juice’ for your system

Todd Kopriva recently did a run down on MPE, CUDA and what it means to Premiere Pro. You should give this page a peak and then come on back. By the way, Todd is a great resource and his blog is a great page to bookmark.

Now, lets get specific on the Mac and some of the questions I’ve gotten over the last several months…

Q: Can I use Premiere Pro on a Mac?

YES. Shockingly (at least to me), there is still a portion of users that are not aware that Premiere Pro is available today on a Mac. It is worth noting that Premiere, which started 20 years ago, originally started on a Mac. It’s been written from the ground up three times including the current 64-bit CS5 version. With CS3 (our first re-write), we returned to the Mac in response to customer demand and delivered the first Mac version of Production Premium, which is the primary product that contains Premiere Pro today.

Q: Is Premiere Pro 64-bit ‘native’ or ‘optimized’, because I hear there is a difference?

Premiere Pro CS5 on a Mac is a 64-bit native application and all of the benefits that this implies. Premiere Pro and After Effects in the CS4 timeframe were 64-bit ‘optimized’ meaning they could address more than 4GB of total memory, but did not do much beyond that. As a side note, Adobe Media Encoder is also 64-bit native.

Q: Do I need an NVIDIA graphics card (GPU) to be able to use Premiere Pro CS5 on a Mac? All of the new Macs (both towers and laptops) use ATI graphics cards and I’m on a budget!

Let me be very clear about this answer – ABSOLUTELY NOT! This is a big one. As much as I absolutely love NVIDIA technology and what it can do for our users, it is not necessary for running Premiere Pro or any other CS5 application. Remember: the MPE is a combination of three technologies or features, but you don’t have to have all three in order to use it. If you get a Mac Pro tower and it has an ATI card, you’re still getting two-thirds of the MPE technology and it will still run rings around FCP7 or any other software NLE in terms of how many video streams and effects you can run in real-time. Why? It’s the 64-bit goodness and memory addressing that makes up Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop and Adobe Media Encoder. read more...

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