Aden L.

Working with 4K Footage

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Hello! I am new to the world of UAS cinematography, and am having a lot of trouble getting videos to play on my computer. There is a lot of different info out there, so I was just hoping to get some advice on what I can do with my current computer to improve its processing power, and what I should be looking to purchase in the future.

At the moment, I am working on a 2011 MacBook Pro with a 2.3GHz Processor, and 8GB RAM. I understand that this set-up will not support 4K, but is there anything I can add-on that may improve my viewing and editing capabilities? 

Next question: What do you all suggest as I move forward and begin to build a more powerful system? What are some must haves for working with 4K? I am embarrassed to say that I get lost in all of the computer jargon, so please dumb it down for me. 

Thank you!

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Welcome Aden.  I too am an Apple user and I have a 2007 Macbook Pro, a late 2009 iMac 27" loaded up, iphone 7plus, Apple routers all over the place, and I just picked up an iPad Pro.  The iPad pro seems to do things faster than anything - I love it.  As far as your Macbook Pro goes, there may not be much more you can do to upgrade it.   In a perfect world, where cost is no object, I would say take what ever you can get for it and buy a new Macbook.  Easy to say of course.  The more I think about all this, I will defer to our friends on here for further advice.  I love the Apple world and I dislike all things Microsoft but you can get a lot more for your dollar on that side of the fence.

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Aden, since a macbook is a laptop for all intents and purposes, there isn't much you can do to speed up video processing. Both the CPU and Video card are tied to the mother board - no way I'm aware of to swap those out for newer units.

Honestly, as much as I love apple products (I have both iphones & ipads in the family, parents have mac desktop products), their desktop hardware has completely stagnated for the past 2-3 years. So you will pay a premium for the newest mac in that it will be more expensive than the PC counter part and its instantly 2-3 years old technology wise. I generally don't like to make recommendations for mac vs pc, I tired of those battles years ago. 

Generally at work, I try to get the fastest CPU speed I can afford and build everything around that. On a desktop tower, CPU and motherboard are fixed items and can't be swapped down the road for improved performance. RAM, Video Card and hard drive can all be upgraded later. So pick the fastest CPU and go middle of the road for RAM & Video card.

For a hard drive, I would say to definitely go with the new type SSD called NVMe PCI-Express. There is a huge performance difference between this current generation SSD and first generation SSD. If the large storage SSD NVMe's are too expensive, go for a small one, say 128 or 256MB in size and opt to add a larger, secondary drive later for data storage. This way you can handle work jobs on the local, fast primary drive and store to the secondary in a pinch. But if you can fit everything on a primary, that's best.

We like nVidia cards here at work, we are stuck with the Quadro series due to their support tie-in with Autodesk products. However, I've heard lots of people have success with their GeForce line of cards too. Other people love ATI. To each their own...

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Steve covered the issue of upgrading hardware, there are things you can change about workflow and software that make it possible to "work" with 4K.  

I have about the same vintage MacBook Pro, shoot 4K with a GH4 and post it on my MBP.  Some things to consider, most consumer cameras compress 4K to H264/MP4, this is an "acquisition" long-GOP CODEC which was not intended to be used for post processing.  A better way is to convert the footage to ProRes which is an "Intermediate" CODEC that is designed for post processing.  It uncompresses the H264 so there's considerably more data but once encoded to ProRes requires a lot less compute horsepower to work with.  

The resulting media should be stored on an external hardrive, that's true of all streaming media used for editing regardless of resolution. Use MPEG Streamclip, a free app to convert to ProRes.  I use DaVinci Reolve to edit the selects and color grade the 4K but finish in 1920.  I have never had to deliver a 4K master to a customer and if your doing this for YouTube it's arguable whether 4K is noticeably different.  Also I can go back and export 4K from Resolve if I decide to master a 4K project.

From there I'm simply editing an HD project.  If you export 4K and you have a Thunderbolt drive it should be capable of editing two or three 4K streams.  If your using a USB drive then your performance will suffer but if you don't mind waiting for transitions to render or are doing cuts only, 4K can be accomplished on your current MacBook. 

Im not saying that's the ideal setup but it can be done.

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This is all great advice, couldn't have said it better myself. I have a 2011 MacBook Pro I still work off of. You can upgrade the RAM to 16GB even though Apple says it only goes to 8GB. And, I put a fast SSD in it. Still won't do smooth 4K but if I use use a proxy workflow it works fine for my purposes. The real editing I do is with my Mac Pro 2013.

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Thank you all for your advice! I'm glad to hear that it is do-able, although maybe not the most efficient way to go. As I was exploring options, I came across the Dell XPS 15 laptop, which seems like it covers a lot what was mentioned here, and may be a more cost-effective option in the long run. I was curious if you all saw any issues with it that I should take into consideration before purchasing.

Here are the specs:

Processor: Intel Core 6th Generation i3-6100H Processor (Dual Core, 2.7 GHz, 3M Cache, 35W)
1TB M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive
500 GB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
8GB (1x8G) 2133MHz DDR4 Memory Non ECC
15.6inch FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge
 
Thanks again, everything you guys have said has been really helpful!
 

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2 hours ago, Aden L. said:

Processor: Intel Core 6th Generation i3-6100H Processor (Dual Core, 2.7 GHz, 3M Cache, 35W)

1TB M.2 PCIe Solid State Drive
500 GB SATA Hard Drive (7200 RPM)
8GB (1x8G) 2133MHz DDR4 Memory Non ECC
15.6inch FHD (1920 x 1080) InfinityEdge
 
Thanks again, everything you guys have said has been really helpful!
 

Since you'll be doing video editing, which is a CPU intensive task, I would slice your primary storage SSD to 500MB to save money and go for an i7 CPU which will handle a lot more compute cycles than the i3.

I also don't see what video card you are looking at - you definitely want a dedicated card, not the onboard intel chipset.

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^^ What @Steve Bennett said!

You definitely want a decent i7 and dedicated GPU. I would also get at least 16GB of RAM (but you might be able to do this as an after purchase upgrade yourself and save a bunch of money). I like the M.2 PCIe SSD, they are fast.

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12 minutes ago, Christian Tucci said:

^^ What @Steve Bennett said!

You definitely want a decent i7 and dedicated GPU. I would also get at least 16GB of RAM (but you might be able to do this as an after purchase upgrade yourself and save a bunch of money). I like the M.2 PCIe SSD, they are fast.

One term I see thrown around interchangeably is video card/graphics card/ GPU (graphics processing unit). They are essentially the same thing for those that may not be familiar with the terms - basically they move the pixels around your screen and drive vector based linework in design applications (sometimes they actually provide data processing boost in addition to CPU).

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