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  • Question about PC or Mac

  • Todd Schmidt

    February 5, 2006 at 12:53 am

    Hey guys,

    Well, I know the debates, and I know that everybody has their preferance, but I’d still like some feedback. I’m a PC guy, but am in the market to upgrade. In doing so, I’d have to spend the money in getting cross over software…yikes.

    Anyways, anybody have a couple of suggestions in what kind of computer I should look at getting. I’d like suggestions for PC and for Mac.



  • Alexander Gao

    February 5, 2006 at 3:23 am

    I’d look at intel power macs when they come out.

    Alexander Gao

    “When the revolution happens, I’ll be leading it.”

  • BJ Ahlen

    February 5, 2006 at 9:56 am

    [thewanggao] “I’d look at intel power macs when they come out.”

    …but not buy until Adobe releases an IntelMac version of After Effects, which I just saw is currently scheduled for “next major AE release”, i.e. most likely Spring 2007.

    For PC vs. Mac you need to look at the overall picture. If you are doing a lot of collaboration with Mac users, it is slightly to significantly easier if you are on a Mac also. Ditto if you’re mostly collaborating with PC users, it’s easier to be on the same platform.

    If you want to run an application that is only available on either platform, you got your choice made.

    If you are doing a lot of CPU intensive work, you have to consider that even a $1,000 Gateway PC with an AMD 4400 X2 dual-core CPU, bought at Best Buy, blows the doors off most Macs.

    A Dual-Opteron PC costs more, but has a performance for heavy compositing, 3D work, etc. that even the top Mac can only dream about. In other words, you can get more work done in less time.

    Plese don’t get me wrong, I like Macs a lot and I have worn out 3 Macs so far, but right now I need performance (and I also don’t care for FCP).

    I will look at getting a Mac again next year (because I like OS X), but right now is a funny in-between time because of the changeover to Intel CPUs, and pro application support will be lagging for quite some time.

    And for the first releases that come out for IntelMac, well let’s just say I’m happy to have somebody else send in the trouble tickets until the revised apps work smoothly with optimized performance.

  • Lee Arnold

    February 7, 2006 at 6:28 pm

    I am also looking to upgrade but think it is a bad time to buy a new Mac. I really no nothing about PC’s – could someone estimate how much a PC comprable to the Mac Quad cost and where I might get it?

  • BJ Ahlen

    February 7, 2006 at 11:41 pm

    Boxxtech makes very high quality professional PC workstations. I just configured a 7400 system with Double Dual-core Opterons, a mid-range nVidia Quadro workstation card, a couple of hard drives, etc., and landed at $3,163. This machine more than matches a Quad Mac. They have a configurator at their site, they make them to order, and their customer support seems to be very good so far. It is possible to load it with options to the point you feel like it is like buying an American car in the good old days (I kinda miss the V-8s, although the electrical motor in my Prius has more torque than my old Chevy 350 engine, 395 lb.ft. to be exact). Don’t buy any software bundles there, it’s all full price except Maya.

    HP/Compaq workstations are also very good, they also have Opterons. Local vendor support is best, otherwise there are lots of vendors on eBay, some of those are actually serious vendors.

    For a smaller budget, you could do really well with an AMD X2 dual-core processor. I even saw a Gateway PC at Best Buy a few days ago for $1,099.00 that had an AMD X2 4400+, 2GB RAM, and decent hard disks.

    Even this would match a Quad Mac in some benchmarks. I don’t like consumer computers much though, they cut corners everywhere.

    Avoid Dell like the plague. Their workstation support is much better than their infamous consumer support, but the machines are restricted in various ways that make it more difficult to upgrade them, and they don’t have Opterons yet.

    You probably have a fair investment in professional software at this point. This software is abviously worthless on a Mactel computer, even if there were pro Mactel computers available now. Some vendors have exchange programs though, where you can transfer your Mac license to a PC license.

    For programs that are not available on the PC platform, like say FCP, you obviously can’t benefit from this. OTH, you can do a lot of things twice or even four times as fast in say Sony Vegas 6 as you can in FCP. Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 is most like FCP though, mean people call it an FCP clone (I never liked earlier versions of Premiere, but the latest V2 package has impressive integration and a vastly improved user interface, you can even shuffle video between PP and After Effects through Dynamic Linking, with no rendering needed, and you can create Photoshop documents from inside PP for example). Neither one of these NLEs destroys entire disks like FCP has had a tendency to do recently.

    As for switching from OS X to Windows XP, there isn’t much difference frankly. OS X is more elegant to be sure, but the rest is 98% the same. The widgets have free equivalents, such as the excellent Google Desktop instead of Searchlight, etc.

    You’ll need a good virus checker, I recommend Trend Micro Anti-Virus as being best overall (don’t get their security suite though, it isn’t good). This is totally install-and-forget, and the only other thing I do in software is to turn on the Windows firewall (and I have a standard $50 Linksys hardware firewall/router too).

    Norton’s anti-virus, etc., was great in the past, but for the 2006 version you can read the reviews on Amazon…, although you may need to buy a bottle of hair coloring afterwards. Don’t go there!

    Working in Windows XP vs. OS X overall, well, unless you have an emotional tie to one of them, it really doesn’t matter if you are a video/film professional. There are good tools on both, and anybody can learn to become proficient in either one or both (I did support on both for many years).

    Oh, get a good 7-button mouse, if you didn’t get one already for your Mac. One-button mouse = obsolete T-Ford way to work. I use 5 of the 7 buttons for nearly everything I do, the time saved is enough to go home at least half an hour earlier everyday :O).

    My favorite keyboard and mouse today is the Logitech MX700 combo that sells for $40-$99 (yes, that’s the spread), you can even see it at Staples. Excellent keyboard feel, great extra special keys, no cables (it’s wireless), superb high resolution mouse with a longlife battery (and charger/holder). All for $40-$99. Many compositors in Hollywood’s leeding FX houses prefer this type of mouse over Wacom tablets even (for heavy 600-layer compositing and related paint).

    For a screen you can use any of the recent Apple screens, or if you buy new, the Dell 24″ widescreen for about $900 is outstanding (better than the 23″ Cinema Display that costs more), and the Gateway FPD2185W 21″ 1680×1050 is a very very good choice for $499-$599. The latter has HD & SD component, composite, S-video, and DVI inputs, and there is even a Faroudja DCDi chip inside that gives a great picture.

    Dell also has a 30″ screen for abt $1500 I think, but it is too early to buy this I think. There were complaints that it was too bright even at the minimum brightness setting, others were happy. My thought is that Apple’s 30″ is better at this point (I have used it and thought it was 10/10).

    If you need performance, PCs will have a significant advantage this year, and everything in my crystal ball indicates that this gap will even widen a bit next year (Intel may catch up with AMD in 2008, but my most trusted high level CPU expert friend says it is now looking like 2009).

  • Erik Lindahl

    February 8, 2006 at 9:28 am


  • Ron Lindeboom

    February 8, 2006 at 1:25 pm

    [B.J. Ahlen] “I just configured a 7400 system with Double Dual-core Opterons, a mid-range nVidia Quadro workstation card, a couple of hard drives, etc., and landed at $3,163”

    Hi BJ,

    I have looked into Boxx a few times and have never even got close to a price like that. No matter what I do to configure a system there, it ends up being $5,000 or more. (And I already own software, so I am not going to them for that.)

    So, when I need my PCs, I always end up going to Bold Data — — who build most of the boxxes (pun intended) for SpectSoft’s RaveHD and a bunch of others I know. In fact, I just ordered another dual Opteron from them just last week which should be rolling out pretty soon. It was way less money than for the comparable system from Boxx.

    Best regards,

    Ron Lindeboom

  • Ron Lindeboom

    February 8, 2006 at 1:59 pm

    I forgot to mention that just as I always tell people, any possible gains in speed you may or may not make while switching systems, has to be considered against the kind of time and effort you must and will spend to learn any new system — regardless if it’s a PC or a Mac or Linux.

    For example, I have been on Apple computers since 1982 or so. I have also been using PCs for about five or six years now. I know my way around Macs far, far better than I do Windows or Linux PCs. So I tend to still favor my Macs as at the end of the day, I can get more done on them.

    But *any* of my computers is faster than me, I always tend to be the slowest cog in the machine and the machines — if I could realistically measure their real usage, etc. — probably spend most of their time waiting for me. (I wonder how many CPU cycles are spent just idling waiting for “the attached human” to do something. Good thing that these machines have no life or brains as I am sure we’d all be boring our machines to death and driving them nuts, no matter which label was on the box.)

    The point I am making is that there should be major considerations taken when really considering any change of platform, no matter what platform you use or are thinking of jumping to. That old adage “The grass is always greener…” springs to mind and Dear Ole Dad always reminded me that it really ended: “The grass *is* always greener — over the septic tank.”

    Any major move is going to be made with the added expense of downtime and re-education. Hardly anyone ever factors those real but often hidden costs into the equation.

    Best regards,

    Ron Lindeboom

  • Erik Lindahl

    February 8, 2006 at 2:09 pm

    Very true Ron!

    Back in 1999 I was studying in Australia and I got more work done on a Performa at 100 or so Mhz running MacOS 7.x compared to using a Wintel at 200Mhz box running Windows 98.

    The oposite probably goes for others. I do reckon though the trasision from Windows to MacOSX is easier than the other way around.

  • BJ Ahlen

    February 8, 2006 at 6:07 pm

    [Erik Lindahl] “First off, how did you configure a Boxx 7400 system for 3100 dollars?”

    Or $85/month? See this Boxxtech configuration.

    I was surprised myself, because I had previously only seen the $5K Boxxes that Ron is talking about.

    [Erik Lindahl] “Premiere Pro doesn’t today even have full format support (DV25, DV50, DV100, HDV, DVCPRO, UC 8-bit SD, 720P, 1080i etc). What have I been missing all these years? :)”

    I don’t use PP (never liked it), but my understanding is that PP 2.0 at least supports all those formats. (Btw, DVCPRO isn’t a data format, it’s a tape format with 50% wider tracks that uses either DV25 or DV50 for data.) PP 2.0 also supports 10-bit UC SD (720×486) and 10-bit UC HD (1920×1080), with deck control for high end decks.

    PP 2.0 no longer edits HDV natively, but that is something that should only be done by amateurs for home videos anyway IMHO. You may feel differently, but as soon as you start doing any compositing, transitions, or effects work, you are virtually assured to get nasty rendering artifacts in the output.

    HDV is an MPEG-2 transport stream, it was never meant to be edited. Straight cuts are OK, and this is used successfully in newscutting Sony’s XDCAM footage, as long as you have an NLE that knows how to handle the frames for minimal injury.

    This quality analysis shows the difference between native HDV editing vs. using an intermediate wavelet codec. You can see side-by-side what happens in each case. There are also additional comparisons, see the “Quality Analysis” link on the left side (and be patient with the 1MB page).

    [Erik Lindahl] “The way applications are handled in Windows for starters is very “1995, we have smallscreens how do we fix this””

    I’m not sure what you are referring to? Do you mean the small/large system font selector? That has certainly been an irritation for some people, but it hasn’t been a factor in any pro app I have ever used. (Btw, Windows Vista will have a user selected constant point size for system text regardless of screen size, so if this is what you are referring to, help is at least on the way.)

    In 1995, Windows was still using preference files like Mac is today. They were called .ini files, but the functionality was just the same.

    Which is worse, having to trash the preference file for your app on a regular basis, or tinker with the registry on rare occasions?

    Don’t get me wrong, I have cursed the registry many times, but it seems to me that it’s six of one vs. half a dozen of the other.

    Vegas is an unusual NLE. It started as a professional multi-track studio app many many years ago, for music production only. When “multi-media” happened, then-Sonic Foundry was pressured to add a feature where you could record and post music against a video window, and a mechanism for editing source video together with the soundtracks.

    Within a year some people started thinking, “this is a pretty darn nice way to edit video, it is so fast.” Since it was never meant for film, nobody thought to mimic how linear film editors worked, with film strips, trimmers, etc. It was just a new way, editing video like you you’re working on a DAW.

    Today Vegas is still used for audio-only productions by some top artists, but it is also used by people who appreciate not having to treat video and audio separately. No roundtripping to Soundtrack or Audition, you can do it all, with VST effects etc. on unlimited tracks.

    It has built-in medium-strong compositing support, so at least a chunk of what many use AE or Combustion for can be handled right on the timeline, with 3D planes and more. Oh BTW, the video antialiasing makes the output of DVEs etc. look much better than what you’d get from PP 1.5.

    There was a meeting at LAFCPUG last year, when a commercial editor demonstrated how he worked in Vegas. Many jaws dropped over how fast he could work, much of it because he didn’t have to leave the app, some of it because the different approach to editing is more efficient for some common tasks. [Still I recognize what somebody else suggested here that reeducation takes time too. Status quo is always the easiest :O) and I certainly approve of using what I’m proficient in rather than something esoteric that could do the job in half the time if I actually knew it well.]

    You can also drop just about any kind of still or moving image or any of 18 audio formats on the Vegas timeline, and just have it work properly, regardless of frame size or frame rate. Everything is automatically conformed to the Project Properties when rendering.

    Unlike FCP, Vegas has no support for film matchback, etc.

    OTOH, does anybody use matchback anymore now that 2K DI has come so far?

    I have seen a lot of 2K DI films recently, and as picky as I am, I totally approve of the end result.

    Who’d have thought that it would be so good so soon?

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