June 12, 2012

The Real Update to the Mac Pro May Be Coming from Apple After All, but When?

So if you were one of the many professionals (or enthusiasts) that were disappointed by the almost non-existent Mac Pro update, and a little jealous of the attention that the Macbook Pro received, there may be some hope after all. This should be taken with a grain of salt, but it seems that people are getting emails from a certain Mr. Cook who just happens to be the CEO of Apple. In these emails, Tim Cook describes Apple's philosophy and its dedication to professional users -- not relying on sales to dictate where particular product lines are headed (though that seems slightly hard to believe). There was also a New York Times article from David Pogue and a Forbes article confirming those same words, that new iMacs and Mac Pros are coming. The only real question is when?

Here is the full email from Tim Cook that appeared on the Facebook Mac Pro page, thanks to user Andy Kaczé for pointing this out (fake or not it is interesting to read):

Stephen,

Pro customers like you are very important to Apple.

As you probably know, we’ve been continuing to update Final Cut Pro X with revolutionary pro features like industry leading multi-cam support and we just updated Aperture with incredible new image adjustment features.

Although the Mac Pro has been selling to a smaller audience (as you noted) , financial projections have never been the filter for determining our product pipeline. So stay tuned. We are planning a new Mac Pro for later next year.

I’d recommend you also give the new MacBook Pro a look. It is truly jaw dropping.

Best,

Tim

So it seems like the new Mac Pros are coming. This is confirmed by the New York Times, and Forbes, not just a Facebook comment that may or may not be truthful. Unfortunately, if your system is starting to show its age, and you are beginning to invest in USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt, you may have to wait until sometime in 2013 to get these updates on an official system. That may not be the news many wanted to hear, but Apple may not be abandoning the professionals like we originally thought. Unfortunately for Apple, many pros and post houses don't have time to wait around and see what Apple is planning to come out with. They've got big projects with speed concerns and to wait around with 3 year-old systems just doesn't make sense from a productivity standpoint.

Why didn't Apple give a real update to its Mac Pro? There are a few possible reasons. They could be waiting for the Ivy Bridge Xeon processors, which have not yet been released. Another possible reason, which may actually be more likely, is that they want to transition their entire line to 4K ready and capable. There's no question that higher-end productions are moving to 4K, and TVs will move to 4K sooner rather than later. It's certainly possible that they are going to wait until all of the higher-end product lines match up and are "Retina" 4K capable. The iMac will surely get a Retina update at some point, and it's possible we will see a 5K display if they continue the trend of quadrupling screen resolution.

Their Cinema Display is also beginning to show its age when it comes to actual cinema productions. There are at least three cameras (Alexa, RED, and F65), that can all shoot motion picture quality images right now that exceed the resolution of the current monitors. Still photography resolution surpassed monitor resolution a long time ago, but working with video is an entirely different animal. If Apple is really dedicated to professionals, and they are aiming for the future rather than the present, higher resolutions must be in the works. While the productions that really need those resolutions are limited at this point, we all know that technology is moving there. It seems that Apple would rather release another minor update to show they still have "faith" in the line, while they work behind-the-scenes to make their entire workflow 4K-ready.

Sometime in 2013 we will know for sure. Are any of you going to wait for new releases next year or move on to PCs or Hackintoshes? If Apple moves their iMacs, Mac Pros, and Cinema Displays to 4K and above, will you buy one? Let us know in the comments below.

[via New York Times & Forbes & Mac Pro Facebook Page]

Your Comment

29 Comments

ivy bridge processors have been out since last month or so.. apple is known to get processors early, macbook pros and imacs have had thunderbolt for about a year theres no reason why they decided not do this.

June 12, 2012

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edry

The Xeon Ivy Bridge processors are not out yet. The Xeons are the only ones they would have put in a new Mac Pro.

June 12, 2012

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Joe Marine
Editor-at-Large
Shooter/Writer/Director

I've stayed on PC since the beginning. The only software I'm really missing out on is Final Cut and Autodesk Smoke. My PC runs Adobe CS6, it runs Avid Media Composer, it runs Nuke, it encodes ProRes for my Apple brethren.

Do my clients bat an eyelash? Never.

Regardless of how old the specs are for the Mac Pro.... I can't move to one since it only has 4 PCIe slots. I have an nVidia card, a Red Rocket, and a Black Magic decklink card... I'm tapped out. No room for eSATA or USB3 expansion. It's impractical in numerous ways besides the Apple markup.

June 12, 2012

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How do you encode ProRes in Windows? I really want to know. The only solution that I've found so far has been ffmbc, but I haven't tested it thoroughly. Thanks.

June 12, 2012

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Shenan

I encode to uncompressed from my programs (Redcine X or Adobe Media encoder for instance) and I have a Python script that will feed it to FFMBC. It allows me to automate some conversions better than using a frameserver. Beyond it being a bit awkward, it saves me a ton of time. http://www.fallenempiredigital.com/blog/2012/06/06/encoding-apple-prores... outlines how I do it with Redcine X but it'll work in many other situations. The speed bottleneck is really your hard drive setup at that point.

As far as its stability, I haven't had any major issues and it seems pretty vetted in terms of the number of Linux and Windows users using it on a daily basis.

June 12, 2012

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Great, thanks! Good to know that the ffmbc prores encode works in the real world!

June 12, 2012

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Shenan

If Apple moves their iMacs, Mac Pros, and Cinema Displays to 4K and above, will you buy one? Absolutely YESSSSSSS.....

June 12, 2012

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Meh

I am so done with Apple (for now). If or whenever this update comes out, it will likely already be outpaced by the competition by months. This is just another insult from Apple to professional users, continuing the loud and clear statement: "WE DON'T CARE ABOUT YOU".

I read what the email said, but talk is cheap. Apple is investing more in consumer-level products and less in professional products. That is all they have shown since the extremely marginal update from Final Cut Pro 6 to 7.

June 12, 2012

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David

seriously. if i listened to apple, i would be wading around the in the kiddie pool that is fcpx now, waiting for them to piecemeal bring it up to pro standards --- if ever. they told us to wait for a revolutionary version of fcp, and delivered a baffling soccer mom edit toy.

now the same deal with the tower ? how many customers do they want to lose ? i already jumped from ten years of fc to cs6 in one swoop, now today: i've spent the day pricing out souped up pc towers, and really liking what i see.

and i can't directly co-relate it, but i also switched from iphone to android this year; probably subliminally influenced by all this nle nonsense.

is this a strategy ?

June 12, 2012

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This whole "waiting for Apple..." talk is silly. It's all Intel on the inside, baby. Apple's OSX is okay but it's not worth "waiting for", and I don't know many "professional" people who are holding their breath for a computer tower when there are plenty of viable options now. Don't get me wrong...Apple makes mighty fine (albeit overpriced) machines but a computer is a computer. Pro Res is a dying codec any way, and like an above poster pointed out...there are work arounds for it on a PC if you MUST do it.

June 12, 2012

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Sapphire

All this anti-Apple talk is just stupid. If you don't like they don't update there towers as much as you'd like, find someone who does. Personally I only use towers when I'm hired for a job and they supply it. All my other editing is off a MacBook Pro and it works great!

Yes it's a bummer they haven't updated the MacPro in some time, but like someone else mentioned, pro level equipment typically has longer life cycles. I've worked on Warner Bros shows that used Mac Pros from two generations ago. Such entitlement with you guys.

Something tells me the guys screaming the loudest aren't pros at all. Much like those that worry about their script being stolen. If you're concerned about that, you probably aren't 't that level.

And to the comment about ProRes being on the way out... You realize Alexa shoots ProRes natively and that camera is used on the majority of network television right?

June 12, 2012

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Jeff Asher

You're completely neglecting the point of view of those guys supplying you with towers. Company's are built around certain workflows and programs (still FCP7 for us cause we can't just switch). The company I work for owns 10 Mac Pros. It's not as simple as picking up a bunch of new badass windows machines.

Also for the record, the Alexa is now or soon will be shooting dnxhd as well.

June 13, 2012

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Alex

I agree with David. Just look at what we know to be true... Apple has released new IMacs, IPads, IPhones, IOS, in abundance over the past few years. IF the Mac Pro actually arrives in 2013 it will be three years since a real update. Why put off so long unless it's low on Apple's priority list?

June 12, 2012

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Mike

Every other line in Apple has had annual releases, with big fanfare, and often only minor changes. I feel that if Apple had any serious inclination to pursue the pro-market that they would be doing the same, constantly trying to stay relevant and 'in the public eye'.

Also, I haven't used PCs in a while, nor have I been interested, but if I was, are there any other OS's that can run Adobe Creative Suite in a safer fashion than Windows? Every time I've had to use a PC I find it stalls on medial things (like running firefox), and I'm reluctant to see how it would handle ACS.

June 12, 2012

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Ben

I tend to work on a per project basis and tend only to upgrade between major projects. I'm just starting a feature project right now (currently finishing up storyboards/final script revisions, and will be casting and location scouting most likely next month with a view to shooting in late August or September), so I'm going to stick with what I have (Mac Mini/Macbook Pro + piles of external hard drives, CS6, Lightwave 11, etc) until post is finished hopefully some time around the end of the calendar year.

I took the decision to shoot 2k using an AF100 + Atomos Ninja for the A camera and a hacked GH2 B camera. Given the material, this should be fine for our project. I don't know what's going to happen on my next project, so I'll make my choices when the time comes. This time around, I'm trying to stay within a $10k budget (not including equipment or software, which is budgeted separately for reason's that aren't directly relevant here). Next time, we'll see what comes up, but for now, the data wrangling for 4k would be beyond our means, and the CG rendering time hit would be not at all funny either. If the technology has leveled up by the time I'm starting my next feature, I might well jump to 4k at that point, but for now, I'm not really willing to take the pain.

June 12, 2012

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Artemis Jaen

2k resolution on an AF100? What are you smoking?

June 12, 2012

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Robert

OK, 1920 if you must be a pedantic jerk.

June 12, 2012

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Sorry, that was bitchy, I should probably not have posted that as an angry reaction.

This is not by any means the first time I've been attacked over my choice of cameras. It's happened to me on Flickr because I happened to mention using a Bronica with a monochrome-only digital back, on Flickr again because someone took exception to some of my landscape work with a 150 megapixel scan back, on Luminous landscape when... um... actually I'm not really sure what the deal was there, it seemed to mostly hang upon the dimensions of my breasts. Or something. I've been thrown out of a camera club for winning too many club competitions (really -- go figure, and I wasn't even particularly interested in competing, I just got talked into it). So, this isn't anything new.

Despite the breasts and all, I do actually happen to understand this technology. PhD from Cambridge in CS/EE specialising in deep space electronics, day job at NASA working on various things including designing a camera system from scratch for a Mars lander prototype.

So, if I happen to conflate 2k and 1920x1080 as a figure of speech, please understand that I'm basically following typical convention. I do actually know the difference.

As for ridiculing me for choosing to use an AF100 to shoot a feature film, I think The Raid did pretty well, didn't it? It's not the camera of the month, but it cost me what the rental for something marginally better, and I get to own it.

So what was my technical rationale for choosing the AF100? Basically it was as follows:

1. Sensor size. I didn't want to go to 35mm stills full-frame because (gasp shock horror) I am not particularly fond of shallow depth of field. My stills work was (still is) heavily influenced by the f/64 movement. I didn't want to go smaller than m43 for practical reasons however.

2. Cost. Duh.

3. The sensor is basically 4k downsampled to 2k, with enough optical low pass filtering going on that aliasing isn't really an issue. Note that the actual resolution of a 4k Bayer sensor, best case, is 2k in the red channel, 2k in the blue channel and 2 times the square root of 2 in the green channel, and that assumes perfect upsampling, which isn't usually attempted because it causes artifacts. So a 4k sensor downsampled to 2k should be able to use most of the resolution, modulo any low-pass filtering necessary to avoid aliasing. Looking sharper than the AF100 is not necessarily a good thing because as you approach the Nyquist limit, aliasing is inevitable, and no optical low pass filter will have extremely steep rolloff so you have to push it out a bit further.

4. I'm not much interested in H.264 except for slow motion, so its 4:2:0 colour downsampling isn't really an issue.

5. The AF100 outputs pretty decent 4:2:2 via HDMI and HDSDI, which when recorded at Prores HQ bit rates is actually very nice indeed. 4:2:2 is basically full 1920x1080 resolution in the luma channel and (1920/2)x1080 in the chroma channel, which looks totally fine and isn't a particular problem in terms of file sizes or data rates.

6. User interface/ergonomics. It basically just works, you power it up and it's there, it never crashes, and nearly everything you'd need to set up has a physical switch or knob. Weight-wise it's not too bad, within the range of what can be flown on a lower-end Steadicam. I'm building my own wireless follow focus, which should still be well within the weight limit for any of the lenses I'm intending to use.

7. With actual testing, this thing gives really nice images. I'm very happy with it, and see basically no reason why I shouldn't shoot a feature with it. The movie is going to suck (or not) because of the casting, direction, acting, lighting, editing, etc. I am not shooting Test Chart 4: When pincushion distortion bites back!

June 13, 2012

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I apologize. I wasn't attacking your choice of camera. I've probably used the AF100 more than most, and it's no doubt a sensible and decent camera for the price. Your phrasing made it sound as if you thought that you were shooting in resolution beyond what the AF100 is capable of shooting. I apologize again, and good luck with your feature.

June 13, 2012

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Robert

whoa,...can i buy you drink, Artemis Jaen? ....

June 15, 2012

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RJ

It really feels "too little way too late". The least they could have done was thunderbolt and USB3 on the Pros for an update. The least. They failed. It's truly disappointing.

My towers will make great video for another year or two, but once they need to be replaced, I'm looking at everything out there- not just Mac.

June 12, 2012

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It's not even too little too late, because that implies they did anything at all. All they have done is make a promise that they have shown little proof of actually fulfilling.

June 12, 2012

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David

Something tells me Apple doesn't really care about a bunch of butthurt "professional" editors. They'll release a new lineup of Mac Pros when the time is right, and they'll sell a ton of them. I frankly enjoy FCP X and use it in conjunction with AfterEffects for web production work. I would not be surprised if CS 6.5 or 7 switches to a dynamic timeline.

June 12, 2012

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Hummer

my 2011 6 core hackintosh is doing just fine with 4k files. 3.75ghz beats the new offering of cpu's in quad core format hands down - I have USB 3.0 and can add more GPU's. To me, GPU's, SSD and RAIDs seem to be the issue we face. 6 core with a slight OC is rockin man.

June 12, 2012

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No need to wait. why do you think most films like The Avengers, MIB3, Spider-man, Dark Knight Rises looks good?

That means, we already have machines that can run good enough for today generations. New stuff doesn't make you better.

June 13, 2012

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Donald F.

I've been waiting since January for the new IMac and can't face the thought of buying one just before they are upgraded. With no date on the horizon to wait for and a need for USB3 and a faster/current generation processor I'm sadly and reluctantly buying another pc. I already have a MBP so dont want a new one but I cant help feeling (unjustly) a little bitter that there was nothing released or even said at WWDC about IMac or MP.

June 13, 2012

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Phil T

HAHA they took down the sign that said 'New' next to the Mac Pro...they must have had complaints about it not being 'New'

June 13, 2012

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Joe

Here's a video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qAIz4iPMMSg that sends off the Mac Pro into the next world. Thou' my heart breaks.... but what can you do. Sure they say there's an update in 2013 but remember what Steve Jobs said about FCP X... "Its going to be awesome".

June 13, 2012

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Basic thing is that in a couple of weeks I have to double my speed for my projects workflow amd I cannot wait fo apple to get on desicions that can fit my needs.After 12 years of being a mac heavy user,it comes time to build some xeon based pcs with usb 3.0 and firewire for running Ae and C4D projects.
Sory to hear that they are swaping long distance conusmers who have held them and supported them in the "bad years" ,for iphone and ipad users.Thats what this business is at the end of the day.

June 16, 2012

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JC