After 30 years of editing on both PCs and Macs, Tom Daigon shares the long journey of using both, and why he's switching back to the PC.
So, I'm sitting here in the edit bay with my trusty 2008 Mac Pro tucked under the edit desk, staring at Adobe CS6 on the monitors. I feel like I'm at a crossroads and need to make a decision soon. I don't really want things to change, but decisions made by Apple and developments made by Adobe are pushing me in that direction. I'm sure lots of folks can relate to how I feel.
PCs and Macs have inhabited my edit bays over my career of 30 years. I didn't always get to influence the choice of which system to get. That was tasked to Engineering with input from the Senior Editor most of the time, which meant that I didn't have to stress about it… unlike today.
Flashback many years…
The CMX system I started editing with was based on the PDP-11 computer. Editing by numbers was the interface. I worked in a large expensive facility, so I never worried about computers there. Problems? Just call Engineering. They picked the system and fixed it, as well.
The beta release of Avid Media Composer was my first Mac experience. The whole system was magic to me. Editing pictures, on a beautiful, friendly computer. Again, engineering / upper management was there for any decisions and messes.
The Age of Digital was experienced in an all-digital bay from Abekas. It was amazing technology with minimal generation loss, and layering with pre-read on D2 machines. The computers were proprietary and I didn't choose the system, but I got to use it everyday and holler for help when it broke.
When the facility had a chance to be a beta site for Avid DS, I was very excited. This software reportedly did it all -- and was powered by a Silicon Graphics beast of a computer. Another PC. I worked with it for 10 years. The facility I edited at had downsized, so this time I was more responsible for maintenance of the computer. It was challenging, but necessary, so I got used to taking care of the PC's needs.
Then HD came along and changed everything. The maintenance fees for upgrading the DS were exorbitant, so eventually the facility switched to the up and comer FCP. I lamented the "death" of the DS at our facility and decided to build a bay at home to accelerate my learning of this new technology. Once again I got reacquainted with Apple. But this was the first editing computer to be bought with my money. Getting the Mac Pro was my choice, my decision. And all responsibility for fixing things fell on my shoulders, which was something I had learned to do with the PC, so it was no big deal. I have enjoyed my Mac Pro for four years. I also enjoyed the amazing innovation of the Apple's Pro Apps, until it all came crashing down that night at the Super Meet in Vegas when FCP X was announced. I tried it, I hated it and even more, I hated Apple for screwing such a good thing up with FCP 7. I did my share of ranting and raving along with many others.
I was initially at a loss as to what to do. The alternatives were not appealing. A fellow editor mentioned Adobe. My only memory of Premiere was when someone came into my DS edit bay and asked me if I used Premiere. I'm usually very sensitive to others feelings, but I started laughing and said I wouldn't be caught dead editing with it. I've been an After Effects diehard user for many years, and owning the Suite allowed me to sneak a peak at CS5. It was quite a nice surprise. This motivated me to get involved in forums and beta testing it since I was very excited about its potential. And my 2008 Mac Pro performed like a real champ with my newly adopted NLE. It still does. Which brings us back to the present. What the hell do I do from this point forward?
Well, I don't like or trust Apple to make decisions that serve my needs. Their current behavior portends that there will most likely be no more Mac Pro and the lack of any announcement at WWDC seems to support that. Just like their behavior telegraphed the death of Pro Apps in the past. Damn, I really like that computer. If they came out with a Mac Pro I don't think that would change anything for me. I have learned how there are some downsides to how OSX utilizes hyper threading when running CS6 apps, as opposed to Windows. The wider choice of hardware at cheaper prices is also a big consideration. Of course, this would be based on the assumption that Apple had changed its stance to professionals like me. And it's pretty clear that ain't going to happen.
So, the obvious choice moving forward is a computer that can provide the juice that Adobe apps and the Mercury Engine will thrive on. Since I am on my own now, I need the kind of computer that can handle anything -- from AVCHD to RED, and everything in between and can give After Effects the power it needs. So even if we ignore my distain for Apple, iMacs just don't have the brute strength I need to deal with the unknowns that folks in my situation have to deal with.
Over my career I learned not only the skills of editing, but also the skill of keeping my computers happy, be it Mac or PC. And that experience makes working with either one comfortable to me. So I realized switching once again back to the PC would be a positive step.
So, as I fondly stare at my old Apple friend, I realize its time to be proactive and start researching all the details necessary to consider when buying a PC. It's a jungle of choices (both a good and a scary thing). I want to make an informed choice on all the components that are crucial in supercharging the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine.
So, it's time to get reacquainted with a new, old friend while creating that PC.
When it comes to tasks like this, thank goodness for Google and the research it excels at on the web. In the past, I might have just gone with the computer that had the most persuasive ads on TV or magazines. But now, worlds of information are at my fingertips.
So the first step is to decide where to get it. There are big box stores that are well promoted (HP & Dell). And there are stores that are widely used in professional circles (Boxx & HP). Then there are turn-key operations that have a presence on the Adobe forums I frequent often (ADK & Video Guys). And others that friends suggested (Puget & Rain). Yikes, which vender do I choose? Which processors / memory / storage / graphics cards do I need? OK, this is giving me a headache.
At this point I realize I have to get a system that does what I need. So the first step is determining what exactly that is. Since I am on my own, I need a system that can handle just about anything that is thrown at me. The means all codecs (h.264 to Epic), all show forms (short and long), straight cutting or lots of motion graphics, fast encoding, timelines that playback with minimal rendering. To sum up: speed and power.
After lots of research, I know what I want. I want a desktop. Since I need to be prepared for the unknown, I want the Sandy Bridge Dual Xeon EP system. Now if you don't plan on editing RED / Epic footage you can save mucho bucks by getting a Sandy Bridge E system which is a real powerhouse. I want the fastest CPU with the most cores for encoding and other functions. So I went with the E5-2687W 3.1 chips. Here are some other Sandy Bridge EP choices you can consider if you want the dual Xeons. Remember, Sandy Bridge E costs a lot less and rival the Xeon's ability, except when handling large files like R3D, etc.
I also want the most CUDA power I can get for those Premiere Pro functions that use it and for AE's new raytracing mode. So I went with the NVIDIA Maximus configurations (Quadro 4000 & Tesla 2075). I already had a great raid array (EVO 2 from Maxx Digital) and the AJA Kona 3. The PC allows you lots of choice for hardware as illustrated by this list.
And finally, I want lots of ram for AE. I am getting 64GB. Matching the amount of ram to cores in your processor is very important. It makes sure the CPUs and ram work efficiently together.
So now that I know what the system needs to do, and some of the components necessary to do it, it is time to pick the folks I want to make it for me. The process of interactively configuring a machine with a rep from each of the companies helped me get a feel for them. Most were very helpful. Some knew about video. Some were even combative. They did not make the cut.
As I searched for a place to buy the system, I immediately found out I didn't like the experience I had when interacting with pre-sales support and pricing for Dell and HP. I had questions about whether certain graphic & video card configurations would work in systems I was considering and they didn't seem to know. The lack of intelligent personal service was annoying in these big box companies. And I felt there was a limited flexibility in the choices I had. That was also a big turn off. HP seemed like they wanted to help, but never followed thru on things they said they would check into for me. The prices of Dell, HP and Boxx were also a bit inflated when compared to some of the smaller turnkey system companies I checked out.
I also checked out some "mom and pop" companies, and found that many were gamer oriented, so I didn't care for the components they used.
I found one company that was ideal, I thought...
The main tech support guy for video was knowledgeable and helpful. I was pretty sold on using them until the owner got very aggressive and combative as we talked about what I wanted for the system. It was with great regret that I decided to look elsewhere.
The company that impressed me the most was Puget Systems -- especially their enthusiasm and listening skills. I could tell from their web site that they were efficient and organized. I spoke at great length with them about specific editing needs and thoughts I had about the configuration. They spent whatever time was needed and would research and report back to me in a timely manner. Truthfully, I felt I could trust them. Then I went to their website. Wow! Check out the following series of images. The first is my order for a PC. I already know what I wanted, but they were ready with answers to any questions or requests I had. For example, I wanted the NVIDIA Maximus configuration to speed up certain processes in CS6. It turns out they were one of the few venders certified to offer these products. They had suggestions about power supplies that would support the cards. I also wanted the Dell Ultrasharp 27" monitor, which they did not normally offer. Not a problem, they got it as promised.
The second bunch of images are the Status Updates, Benchmarks and Pictures pages. Just look at the detailed info. From a checklist to show what is being done to your system, to infrared photos for evaluating the cooling systems, to benchmarks and bios settings. Talk about efficient and organized!
So there you are. This is how I've handled leaving a valued friend behind and rekindling old relationships. The PC realm still worries me. I want to keep the system off the Internet to avoid virus/worms/malware. But I do need to authorize my software and download updates. Clients bringing me stuff for edits could give me infected files. Norton is ill advised by most edit system manufacturers, but how then do I protect my system? These issues still trouble me, but I'm sure they will be resolved over time.
I hope this info can help ease your transition in some small way.
So its time to tell Apple "Hit the road Mac...." while greeting my new system "Hello PC, my old friend."