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For Video Editors

While the price and performance of this machine will benefit anyone, there’s a not-insignificant bonus for anyone who edits using Adobe Creative Suite products. This section is for video editors, so if you’re just interested in building the Hackintosh and don’t edit video, feel free to skip this page.

In February 2010 I wondered if editors were going to start switching to PCs in 2010, because of Adobe’s obvious performance advantage over Apple. What is this performance advantage? Well, Premiere Pro has a Mercury Playback Engine which puts its editing performance worlds ahead of Final Cut Pro 7. FCP 7 can’t edit DSLR footage natively; Adobe achieves this by using nVidia graphics cards to accelerate all manner of effects (in my testing, I’ve been able to get 5 streams of un-transcoded DSLR footage playing at once). Apple’s new NLE, Final Cut Pro X, utilizes any brand of GPU to accelerate DSLR (and other) editing functions, but many pro editors don’t feel FCP X is a viable solution.

If you’re an Adobe editor, then, I recommend a nVidia graphics card for this Hackintosh — which, I should note, is unavailable as an option on the Mac Pro. Your reward for spending $1,000 less on a Hackintosh is you’ll have a GPU that drastically accelerates Premiere Pro. In fact, for any operation that’s eligible for GPU acceleration, the GTX 285 is on average ten times faster than software-only. Other nVidia cards follow suit. Did I mention nVidia graphics cards are not available on a Mac Pro?

Here’s Adobe with a demo of the Mercury Playback Engine, if you’re not convinced; they’ve also set up a page for switchers.

Final Cut Pro to Premiere Pro

I’d previously switched to Premiere Pro from Final Cut, and it’s a painless process thanks to Adobe’s inclusion of Final Cut Pro keyboard shortcuts. As any editor knows, keyboard shortcuts are the key (ahem) to working efficiently, and switching NLEs can wreak havoc with your ability to edit quickly because your muscle memory tells you to reach for old keystrokes. To switch to the exact same keystrokes as Final Cut Pro 7, in Premiere Pro go to Edit -> Keyboard Customization… and select “Shortcuts for Final Cut Pro 7.0.”

Now FCP editors should feel right at home, with only minimal adjustments necessary.

Why not just switch to a PC?

According to Adobe, PCs get 3-5% better performance than Macs. So if Adobe is that much better than Final Cut Studio 2, why not just switch to a PC? Here’s why I think it’s worth it to stay on a Mac:

  1. Small performance differences aside, most of us like OS X a lot more. In my case, I’m a lot more efficient with a Mac (I should note that I haven’t used Windows 7, but even the act of switching would come with a productivity hit).
  2. Many of us are invested in a lot of Mac apps that don’t have Windows equivalents, or if they do, we’d have to buy new versions and learn them all over again.
  3. Final Cut editors invariably have a lot of Mac-based projects – e.g. Final Cut timelines – that we will probably have to access/update/revisit at some point, and we can’t do that on a PC.
  4. A lot of people hate the new Final Cut Pro X but still love Macs.

We’re building a high-powered PC that just happens to be perfect to use as a Mac. If you truly want the best of both worlds, you can dual boot and install Windows 7, too. Or if you fall out of love with Apple, you can just switch your Hackintosh into a Windows-only machine. It’s the best of both worlds.

Special considerations for video editors aside, let’s get started and build this machine.