August 5, 2010

Coming Soon: The No Film School Hac Pro

When I priced out the components of the new Mac Pro, I realized Apple's pro line is not a good value proposition. When the same new Mac Pros left off an nVidia graphics card as an option, I took it as a slight to Adobe. When I asked you guys if you'd like me to build a hackintosh in an attempt to have the best of both worlds, you said yes. So I've done the research, priced out the components, and drawn my conclusions. Here's what I think is possible for a video editing-optimized hackintosh: compared to the $2,500 Mac Pro base model that will ship this month, I believe the Hac Pro can have a faster processor, four times as much RAM, a Blu-Ray burner, USB 3.0 connectivity ((Mac OS X does not presently support USB 3.0, but presumably a motherboard with USB 3.0 will be ready once the OS is.)), more storage space, and an nVidia graphics card that accelerates Adobe CS5. The kicker? This Hac Pro will cost $1,000 less.

The question, of course, is whether a Mac running on PC components will be as stable for professional use as the real thing. In this respect, putting together a hackintosh for video editing is a very different proposition than building one for fun and games. But there's only one way to find out...

Just how fast can a hackintosh go? Take a look at this user, who built a PC around an Intel Core i7-930 chip, overclocked it from 2.8 to 4.2 GHz, installed SSD hard drives, hacked it to run Snow Leopard, and proceeded to open 56 apps at the same time (see this at the 2:15 mark). It's ridiculously fast. You might say it runs at ludicrous speed.

Is overclocking dangerous? Potentially, but one doesn't need to take it all the way to 4.2 GHz. It's a well-documented fact that attaching a decent cooling system to an Intel i7 chip will allow it to run much faster than its stock speed, safely. This guy, in fact, pushed his hackintosh all the way to 4.38 GHz, and runs a bunch of pro apps (Apple's Final Cut Studio, Adobe CS4) as well as a number of benchmarks. His Xbench score of 430 eats my 2006 MacBook Pro's measly 106 for lunch. More to the point, the average of 29,000 Mac Pro Xbench scores is only 166. Yes, the hackintosh is appealing:

However, this is not going to be easy. I built my first PC when I was a teenager in order to have an editing machine that I worked better than the Media 100 I was using as an intern at a local video production house. I wasn't happy with the fact that the Media 100 was limited to one video track at the time, so I built a PC around a miroVIDEO capture board and edited some award-winning video on the homemade setup. So I do have experience with this kind of thing, but it seems there are no easy answers to building a hackintosh uniquely suited to video editing. While I did find a few solutions, they would not be ones that others can easily replicate (meaning, the parts were not widely available, or the install process was incredibly convoluted, or the system would not be stable enough for pro work). So, over the next few weeks, I'm going to attempt to put together an optimal machine for maximum-impact video editing with minimal wallet-emptying. When I have something that's working and stable, I'll post a how-to here. And I'll benchmark it against "real" Macs.

Is this time that could be better spent shooting? Yes and no. I'm going to be shooting a trailer and some other promotional videos for my upcoming crowdfunding campaign, and while I was originally going to make "I desperately need a new computer" part of my appeal for funds, I also realize that these videos would take me significantly longer to edit while staring at a spinning beach ball on my four year-old laptop. I'm done with editing on this thing. Plus, if I'm successful at building this Hac Pro, perhaps I can pay off the cost of the components by using affiliate links in the how-to article.

One last note: hackintoshing is a practice that violates Apple's EULA. If Apple wants to come after me for doing this, they're welcome to, but suing paying customers (I buy other Apple products, I just happen to think their Mac Pros are overpriced and don't meet my needs) is a great way to further disenfranchise the pro community. That's one of the draws of a hackintosh: if something goes wrong, worst comes to worst you've still got a fast PC.

Your Comment

22 Comments

Great timing, Koo - was just considering this myself. Looking forward to the results.

August 5, 2010

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If people will be using Premiere Pro, is a hackintosh still necessary? I know the main reason I was looking into one was to use FCP, but I've started using Premiere and I like it a lot. Is there some consensus in the video editing community about OS X vs Win7 that I haven't heard of? Or is this for all the creative professionals who are used to OS X?

I'm still very interested in your results though! I had thought of making one earlier this year but I went with a bit of a stopgap laptop. In the coming year, I will be looking into getting a dedicated editing station, so yeah, I'm very much looking forward to what you find. I'm just curious about why a hackintosh is so desirable if Premiere Pro seems to be edging out FCP...

August 5, 2010

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L

@S & L: an easy test for your hypotheses? search for jobs on mandy, etc., looking for a Premiere Pro editor, then compare with the job listings seeking an FCP editor. 'Nuff said. PP has some features, but FCP is just a damn good product and integrated with the suite of ancillaries. Also, any editing house I've ever been in is running mac--so file xfer compatibility is a major issue; it's the same catch-22 that MSOffice has had deskmonkeys in for years (the pre-bootcamp years, that is).
I'm rooting for you Koo! Sign me up for a build once you fine-tune yours!

August 9, 2010

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billisutra

HA HA! Stick it to the Mac - I mean the Man! Ryan, I can't wait to see what you come up with, and I will be the first to click on your affiliate links to follow in your footsteps (assuming that you're successful).

As you've rightly pointed out, if it doesn't work, you'll still have a bitchin' PC to run Premiere or LIghtworks (soon) on. Hackintosh, F**k yeah!

August 5, 2010

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Wondering the same as L - why go the hackintosh route with its associated hassles? I haven't looked at it recently, but it just seems like a headache. Why not just throw Windows 7 64bit on there and have at it? I thought I read that CS5 is generally faster on Windows than on Mac anyway? Give it a good try and don't be discouraged if Windows 7 is "different" from the Mac.

August 5, 2010

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S

That's a good point, and one I should've addressed in the post. Here's why I wouldn't just switch to windows:

1 - small performance differences aside, I still like OS X a lot more. I'm a lot more efficient with it (I should note that I haven't used win 7, but even the act of switching would come as a hit).

2 - I'm invested in a lot of Mac apps that don't have windows equivalents, or if they do, I'd have to buy and learn them all over again.

3 - I have a bunch of Mac-based projects - e.g. Final Cut timelines - that I will probably have to access/update/revisit.

4 - if Apple does come out with a big update to Final Cut, it's still possible to recant and stick with it.

I suspect a lot of Mac-based editors have at least some of the same motivations...

August 5, 2010

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

> You could always also try dual-booting and as the saying goes, "play the field". Good luck in your Hackintosh pursuit though.

August 5, 2010

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S

Sweet! Can't wait for the results.

August 6, 2010

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Marc Bellomo

I'll be watching this one closely. Good luck!

August 6, 2010

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Stevep

Great post Ryan, i'm really curious to see what you come up with!

August 7, 2010

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I'm in the same boat. Probably a year ago I did some research into this, and couldn't find anyone that had built a hackintosh for video editing and motion graphics. I've got a fast PC at home now, and definitely can't afford a new Mac Pro. I'll be following along, hopefully you can get something working stable enough to use.

August 31, 2010

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Oh, it's already working -- just need to run some benchmarks and put together the how-to. Also swapping out a few components to make it even better.

August 31, 2010

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

I'm very excited to see the fruits of your labors. Although, I confess, if Adobe comes out with CS5 for Linux, I'm going to put OS X and Windows to the curb for good.

September 1, 2010

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How much all the comunity will wait for your report !!! please please !! let as know. Since you post your thinking about making a hackingtoch I visit everyday our site waiting for your post with the instalationg tutorial ;)

September 7, 2010

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ATD3D

ATD,

It's done and it's working perfectly! However, I need to re-trace my steps to make sure I can tell others exactly what to do. And of course I need to write the article. It'll be up soon, promise!

September 7, 2010

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

> Thanks Koo

I can not wait to finish drafting the article. I think you should be prepared for an immense amount of visits since this not a few who want them.

I hope that you consider working with Adobe suit, and if possible if there is some sort of compatibility with the Mercury Playback of CS5 with Mac and nVidia. Great expectations!

I look forward to and we cross our fingers.Good Luck

September 8, 2010

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atd3d

Any updates on when the "How-To" and component/specs will be posted?

September 15, 2010

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Nathan

It's going to be a couple weeks -- the machine's working 100%, but I need to start over from scratch in order to ensure the process works for everyone (there are a lot of steps!). It should be worth the wait, though...

September 15, 2010

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

> Can't wait to see this! Also thanks for the DSLR guide, much appreciated!

September 16, 2010

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Neil

I can probably guess what your hardware config since I saw some posts that looked like yours on the hackintosh forums. I'm in the midst of researching a build for myself for premiere and after effects, and if you get your guide up soon, I'll buy the components through your links!

September 18, 2010

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Clayton

Clayton -- yeah, I've actually gone through a couple revisions; I wasn't happy with some of the forum builds. Coming soon!

September 18, 2010

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Ryan Koo
Founder
Writer/Director

Youre telling me you don't use CS5 yet??

October 14, 2010

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Alexander Miller