June 10, 2013

If Apple Unveils a Radically Different Mac Pro at the WWDC, Will Anyone Actually Want It?

[Update]: the new "R2D2" Mac Pro is here. By the time some of you read this, we may already know whether we are getting a new Mac Pro at the Worldwide Developers Conference in San Francisco. Put aside for a moment if it even makes sense to keep investing in Apple on the pro end. A new Mac Pro, in whatever form it takes, is going to fill a specific need for specific people, whether you think people are crazy for being loyal to Apple or not. The Mac Pro has been a workhorse in the creative industries for some time now, but the lack of updates has sent many people in many different directions. There has been some information floating around that points towards a very different design with limited expandability. If Apple decides to go in that direction, however, will any professionals -- the market Apple would target with this computer -- actually want one?

Lou Borella, an editor and post-production professional, began a Facebook page last year asking Apple for an update regarding the Mac Pro (and they did get one from CEO Tim Cook). While the response left out a lot of the details, Apple did say they were planning something for later in 2013. Only a few days away from the WWDC, Lou posted some information he'd been given from a credible source:

- It will be heavily reliant on Thunderbolt. 
- There will be no internal expandability.
- It will have support for Dual GPU's with three monitor support right out of the box. 
- No FW800 or Optical drive
- It will be released in the fall
- It will be a completely new design

Two days later, he mentioned that the Mac Pro Product Manager had a conversation with video professional Andrew Baird, saying that the new machine was going to be "something really different." This certainly seems to allude to the fact that Apple may try to reinvent the way we've thought of these computers in the past, but whether or not their approach actually delivers something professionals want -- which is a machine that is as fast as possible with as many options for expansion as possible -- is another question entirely. This is some of what has been speculated over the past year about what Apple may have up its sleeve, but while a device like this certainly changes the concept about what a "professional" computer should be, does that mean it's actually a good thing?

Apple has been a huge proponent of Thunderbolt, and with the recent official announcement of Thunderbolt 2, it may or may not line up in time to make its way into a Mac Pro. If a new Mac Pro were to be heavily reliant on Thunderbolt, speed is crucial, as the Thunderbolt spec, even at its best throughput, is still much slower than a native PCI-E connection. Not having any expansion ports would be a serious issue for many video professionals, as the speed of their workflow would be limited by a cable, not by the hardware in their specific cards.

Apple-Mac-Pro-Cropped

The final Mac Pro design may take on some of these features, but not being expandable seriously limits its usefulness, especially when a souped-up iMac would be able to do most of what this possible new Mac Pro would be capable of. If this is the machine we get, I think you'll see it adopted by some, but we will likely see more people moving to Windows machines or building Hackintoshes (which Apple could certainly limit the more proprietary they get with their hardware).

With the WWDC being as packed as it is this morning with announcements, they may be holding off until later to announce the new Mac Pro. But either way we'll know soon enough just how "different" they want to be with a new design.

Regardless of what Apple does, however, it may be too little, too late for lots of pros, as Lou so eloquently puts it:

Apple, here is the most important bit of advice you might ever receive: Your reputation with the professional market hinges on the next Mac Pro. Fairly or not. The years of silence regarding almost all Pro level products have created great skepticism in the Pro market. You need to fix this. The cloak and dagger approach is not working. Right now many of us are still here because of your history of delivering outstanding products. You've had your mulligan with FCPX. You probably will not get another one.

Do any of you see any reasons why not being expandable would be good for users? If you've already got a machine that you can upgrade at will, what would interest you in something like this?

Link: We Want a New Mac Pro -- Facebook

Your Comment

38 Comments

I really hope Apple get this Mac Pro sorted. I've gone with a Hackintosh mainly for reasons of cost, and because I don't mind dealing with the odd IT hiccough. But the thought of having to go back to windows makes my heart sink.

June 10, 2013 at 5:21AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Totally... I'm about to jump on the hackintosh wagon and I'll just keep my MBP for when I wanna look cool in a coffee shop designing kids birthday party invites :)

June 10, 2013 at 5:31AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Chris

what's wrong with windows? it's a serious question?
but please, without the standard compatibility/stability/hardware issues babble that used to be a problem in W95 era... :)

June 10, 2013 at 6:19AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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JB

You're so naive. Win95 is still there.

June 10, 2013 at 7:00AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

Microsoft seems to be dominated by bureaucrats and constantly makes stupid decisions.

For example, their original dekstop UI is okay and their metro UI is pretty sleek but some guy decided to throw them together in Windows 8. Metro doesn’t work on a large screen with mouse input, it just wastes a ton of space and forces one to move the mouse around much more while the desktop UI doesn’t work on a tablet cause everything just isn’t touch friendly and often even too small to tap.

Windows is also much more chaotic in terms of "inner workings" when you need to fix something and neither keyboard shortcuts nor user interfaces in third party apps have any consistency. The (still prevalent) lack of stability is an issue as well. Seriously, my hackintosh is much more reliable than my Windows installation on the same machine.

I could probably go on for a while but if you have any eye for detail, it's ovious that Microsoft doesn’t seem to have a proper roadmap when designing an OS and - for me - that sucks when using their product. You might also consider that some people still use Apple specific programs like Logic and can’t just switch to Windows.

June 10, 2013 at 7:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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"What's wrong with Windows?" - I wondered that too...then I spent some time with OSX and realized how outdated, disorganized, tedious and bloated Windows STILL IS to this day. Windows 8 is a joke; you can't put makeup (Metro) on a pig and call it pretty.

June 10, 2013 at 11:23AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Christian Anderson

Here in my Windows, the apps that I use most of my day looks identical to the Mac ones. Adobe, Resolve, Cinema 4D.

June 13, 2013 at 1:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Rafael

Windows 7 has been great for me. I use both, but prefer Windows for a long list of reasons, many of which involve performance and flexibility. I don't begrudge anyone who prefers the logic of the Mac OS, but find the snooty fan boys unpleasant. Luckily I only encounter them on the internet.

June 10, 2013 at 1:28PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Our industry (post) always pushes computers to the bleeding edge more than anything else. Being in the cold without an upgraded hardware platform may have made us bitter, but no less hungry.

June 10, 2013 at 5:41AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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lol, the only good thing on that list was this;

- It will have support for Dual GPU’s with three monitor support right out of the box.

and it's not that even good - Windows PCs had the ability to do this since the dawn of the mainstream GPU age - even low end graphics cards can do that these days.

Con - It will be heavily reliant on Thunderbolt.
Con - There will be no internal expandability.
Con - No FW800 or Optical drive

And the BEST selling point;
- It will be a completely new design

I'm already throwing my money at the screen.

However expanding on that idea of no room for expandability - the reason Macs work so well is because out of the box their OS is designed for the parts. If someone was to - I don't know - want a better graphics card - the terribly coded, un-modular OS wouldn't like it very much and 'stability may suffer'. Apart from something along the lines of hardware/software limitation there should be no reason at all to limit what people can put in their own product.

I hopefully doubt anyone at Apple sat at a meeting room table and said "Heres a good idea - remove all customizability and make up for it with a kool new screensaver and wallpaper... maybe even engraved cases!"

June 10, 2013 at 5:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tyler

no disk drive in a tower is a bit of a shitter but I took mine out of my MBP and put in another HDD by far the best move I ever made.

Find myself using disks less and less nowadays to the point my external usb drive is only used ever for burning dvds nowadays.

totally agree on the customization though most people would rather spend 1/2 the money on a bigger spec hackintosh product that they can upgrade than be stuck with a spec several yrs down the line at twice the price, not sure I like the way apple is slowly heading here.

June 10, 2013 at 5:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Chris Lambert

I replaced our MacPros with the latest iMac 27" + all options.
It is great for video.

June 10, 2013 at 6:05AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Tulio

There seems to be a tendency with Apple lately to have the people end up with set-ups that assemble a lot of boxes on the table instead of a single housing for all the components. Certainly not something I would like.

Nevertheless, some remarks:
-A radically different approach could turn out to be really that. So, we just can't judge how Apple might be able to solve the problems for a high perfomance Mac. A modular stackable design? Mac mini pros that could be clustered on the fly to get more power when needed? CPU and GPU connected by QPI instead of PCIe?
-Somebody did a test on a graphics card that he 1st plugged into a PC, and 2nd connected to the PC via Thunderbolt and an external box (MSI, iirc). Thunderbolt turned out to be only a bit slower, which essentially means that at least for the benchmarks used, the bandwidth via PCIe was not so important.
-We are encountering a phase with little progress CPU wise. Westmore to Sandy Bridge did see some performance improvements, but SB to Ivy Bridge and Ivy Bridge to Haswell seem to have been rather disappointing. So, I would not be surprised if Apple tries to alleviate these CPU problems by significantly deviating from the classic PC concept. I just have no clue how.

June 10, 2013 at 6:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thyl Engelhardt

Obscenely overpriced hardware with same Intel boards inside, not even the most powerful ones? Nope.

June 10, 2013 at 6:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Natt

Whenever I ask people to proof this allegation, based on truly comparable hardware, I get no answer. What about you? ;-)

June 10, 2013 at 8:16AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thyl Engelhardt

Google Hackintosh. Better parts for cheaper cost.

June 10, 2013 at 8:59AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Will Thomas

My Compaq PC (home machine) compared to my MacPro (work machine)

Mac pro (early 2008)
Dual 2.66Ghz quad cores
16GB ram 1033Mhz ram
Radeon 3870 512MB

Compaq (Oct 2007)
Single 2.66Ghz quad core
16GM ram 1033 Mhz ram
Same Radeon 3870 512MB

I might have the graphic card number wrong, but they were the exact same Radeon cards with the same ram....Frankly, these two machines can't get any closer in specs.

Bought my Compaq machine at FutureShop here in Canada for $1100. My company paid $3800 for my MacPro. This was in 2008.

Working in CS3,everything about my home machine was faster than the MacPro, with the exception of rendering and complex, multi-tracked video playback. Even then, running stopwatch tests on gaussian blurs
showed the MacPro as being 10-15% percent faster. For triple the price.

Currently, I have a new-ish MacPro (mid-2010) with 20GB 1333Mhz ram, Four 1TB hard drives, RAID card (which was DOA btw), 1GB 5770 Radeon, dual 2.66 six core Intels, Configured 1 HD for OS, 2 as RAID 0 working drive and one for caches/previews. This cost my employer over $6000.

In Nov 2011, I bought a custom PC. The fastest Intel at the time, i7 3.5Ghz 990x, 24GB 1600Mhz RAM, nVidia GTX 560 Ti 1GB, 240GB SSD OS drive, Two 1TB WD SATA3 HDs as RAID 0 working drives, and a single 60GB SSD for caches/previews. Running very mild overclock, I'm at a never failed, perfectly stable 3.96Ghz and my RAM is running at 2000Mhz. This machine costs me $3200 shipped to my door, taxes and all in.

Which one is faster? Same story, the multi CPU of the MacPro is faster at some intensive tasks, but generally speaking, my PC is far quicker and snappier to work on. Plus it has USB3, so it's faster at transferring content than the FW800 of my MacPro.

I edit with Adobe. The software is the same at work and at home for me. My PC has louder fans, the case isn't as nice to look at, or work inside. The CUDA is nice for working in PremierePro though. My company won't let me put an Nvidia card in my MacPro :\

I've been using MACs since 1992...designing restaurant menus using Macdraw on an old IIc. I've always loved them, but don't kid yourself....they have always been and will always be, much more expensive than the PC alternative.

June 10, 2013 at 11:14AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sean

Build a system running a flavor of Linux. If you need OSX for older applications or preference, build the rig in a way that you can dual-boot Snow Leopard, and install it to a separate disk.

June 10, 2013 at 7:51AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Drew

Why? I wouldn't want to go to an technically less ambitious system. And BSD always looked better to me than Linux anyways.

June 10, 2013 at 8:15AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Thyl Engelhardt

If you need a car just build a Ford Escort, when you need it to look really nice just dual boot a Ferrari. Sorry but some people have professional needs and can't really on a shit box to run their pro apps. If we wanted un-reliable we would all be using windows vista right now. However, I would be using Windows 8 if my business wasn't completely built around Apple's Motion. After Effects would slow my production down to a crawl.

June 10, 2013 at 8:25AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Jimmylee

I know so many pros who are in a holding pattern over buying a new computer because of this, including me. I felt like I made so many compromises by buying an imac amfew months ago, and it sucks. If I hadn't made the time and money investment to learn Final Cut Pro X and plugins I probably would have gone with windows. My faith in Apple has greatly diminished

June 10, 2013 at 8:45AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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claude riban

Heavy Reliance on Thunderbolt + No internal expandability =
me spending a ton of money on third party peripheral hardware. On top of this upcoming Mac Pro already being too expensive.

Wait a sec, Where is my Rocket card going to go???

Probably into a PC.

June 10, 2013 at 8:47AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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David Sharp

I think the future of Apple desktops will be basically them selling you a processor in a box with solid state memory in it. Third party thunderbolt expansion will be the only way you will be able to expand graphics cards, hard drives, etc. Not a terrible idea as all I really care about is the ability to expand. Other companies can make stuff to make it look pretty. Just give me the power and power to expand.

June 10, 2013 at 9:48AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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mac or windows, it doesn't matter at this point especially when you consider them both being equally powered machines. One reason to stay with mac for obvious reasons is FCP. If you can break away from it you will fare no worse. Premiere pro is turning out to be ok. While there is no OS more pleasant, more stable and enjoyable to use than mac, for video editing windows is not that bad. I use windows 95% of the time editing and mac for everything else. A system for just under $5,000, a mac with similar specs would easily be double the price. From what I learned recently is that it boils down to your hdd/ssd set up. I've read even the red rocket card is no longer needed with the right drive set up. (i hear red is updating it too, so?) On adobe forums they're achieving R/W speeds well over 800MBps. That should be good enough for most 4k applications these days, right? (correct me if I'm wrong) That should be our goal, get the fastest drives we can buy. CPU, GPU of course matter but that's not what's expensive. Monitor, raid card, SSD's and HDD (use only enterprise drives) from my experience is what's so costly. I think the new macs will address a lot of issues. But at what cost? At least you pros will be back in business. I say this as a mac guy... practically my whole youth and adulthood was with apple, believe me when I say there is nothing wrong with premiere/windows for editing. Ok I said it. It took me a while. It was rough in the beginning. Not knowing where to go, I built the wrong machine. I was lucky however to be able to exchange my configuration. After discovering the folks over at ADK video editing. Had a ton of help from Eric Bowmen (he gives free advice and is excellent in both windows and macs) can give you first hand advice for those who may be considering giving windows a try. They know how to build stable machines. For me that's paramount (and they sell the bmcc too, ha). Yes a shameless plug but for FREE sound advice it's worth a mention. It could save you thousands. :) Thanks

June 10, 2013 at 9:55AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Marino

meh. learn the lesson from fcpx. apple doesn't really believe in a pro market. soccer moms and skateboarders are the new content creators, pros are dinosaurs.

i do have to thank apple, PROFUSELY, for screwing us with fcpx, however. drove me into the arms of adobe after ten years with fcp -- and made me realize what a great suite of software cs6 is. not perfect, but at least the company seems responsive .. unlike ......

June 10, 2013 at 10:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sjk

Why is a "pro" computer hardware market necessary these days? The new technology age is all about offering opportunity to people of all skill levels. From newbs to seasons veterans. Finally there is total emphasis on drive, creativity, perseverance, vision, etc. NOT expensive 'pro' gear!

June 10, 2013 at 11:39AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Christian Anderson

For drives i'd only go enterprise with a great raid card (lsi or Areca)

June 10, 2013 at 12:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Anthony Marino

An iMac type system, using a breakout box for expansion, connected by Thunderbolt 2. That's it.

June 10, 2013 at 10:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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sean

If I want a computer with limited expandability, I wouldn't be interested in a work station. Apple already has plenty of products like that. With a 2K/4K gaining steam, there will be an even greater need for connecting to an external RAID. So unless Apple is trying to extricate itself from the professional production market, they will deliver an expandable item with plenty of PCI-e lanes and slots.

June 10, 2013 at 11:10AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marc B

The calendar tells me 2013 is half way through, but reading yet another Mac/Windows OS discussion seems like waking up to Groundhog day circa 1995. Base OS is a non issue when speed and mass storage are a must, and has been like that for a long time. Those doing more than just NLE, but FX and 3D, do not have misplaced OS loyalty issues. If the hardware/OS that a given software cannot move and save files in a stable manner, then why bother writing the software, right? A little research on GPU - Software compatibility solves most issues from the onset. I bought a Dec Alpha 64 bit with a gig of ram in 1995 running Windows NT4.0 so I could use Lightwave with a DPS Animation board for 30K back then. Was rendering in 2 minutes a frame that would take 3 hours on a Mac. Do you think I cared was done on an ugly OS?

June 10, 2013 at 11:11AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Agni Ortiz

Well put. The 3d market has never cared about OS. Silicon Graphics anyone? We have suites running on Linux, Windows and Mac OS depending on what the needs are. No one cares what the underlying code is. Personally I've got a 2012 iMac at home cutting in Prem CS6 and for any projects less than 30 mins its pretty fantastic. I sold my 08 MacPro super cheap to a beginning filmmaker who is still happily cutting her projects in FCP7. I don't miss it.
For longer projects I use Prem on a Windows machine at the office. When I'm editing there is no functional difference. I wouldn't use Windows for my 'life' but professionally I have no issues.
Across 18 rooms the amount of Thunderbolt we use? Zero. I think so far its been a total failure.

June 10, 2013 at 11:44AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Marklondon

I have heard some bad things about Windows new operating system, but even if I stay with the Mac operating system, I'm may very well go the Hackintosh route. Apple seems intent to reinventing the wheel, when know one wants it too.

June 10, 2013 at 11:42AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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moebius22

What's the price difference between the top of the line MacPro and the custom built rigs by the likes of NextComputing? ( meaning, I have no idea what these custom rigs run)

June 10, 2013 at 12:56PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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DLD

So its a non-upgradeable cylinder, but with no firm release date or price? Ok.....:-)

June 10, 2013 at 2:27PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

Perhaps a bit off topic, but I would prefer to see a 4K iMac and a matching 4K Thunderbolt 2 display. But then again, I'm a freelancer not a giant post-house.

June 10, 2013 at 2:33PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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I think a lot of people would like to see that, no matter what the size of business :-) I'd certainly buy one.
Perhaps next year.

June 10, 2013 at 3:25PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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marklondon

I will buy one tomorrow, I hate sitting around waiting for rendering to complete! This will be a world class pro system, looking at the specs. Apple did not throw this one together overnight. Sorry folks the desktop in not going to die. Forget cloud computing, I want a powerful computer in my hands, one I can update and "control".

June 13, 2013 at 4:36PM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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Please, everyone and at least Mr. Borella. Stop being so critical. Two main reasons: FCPX is in less than two years, created from scratch a fully professional video editor. And the story of updates and upgrades isn't over yet. Avid, Premier Pro and Vegas is good software too. But they lack the fact that FCPX has: visual way of editing. And that's not stupid : video editing is a visual skill. FCPX is revolutionary and o' so very intuitive. And for those who are still doubting. Two advices: look at the speed of new plug-ins EVERY WEEK ! That, you wan't find for any other NLE. And after all, it's not important which NLE you use, it's the end result that counts, the FINAL CUT. Are you happy with one of the professional NLE's on the market for mac and for pc, stick with it and enjoy it too !! The issue about the MacPro. I have a the full capacity and most expensive iMac27inch for my editing together with a 27inch second Mac display. Both are running on Thunderbolt. And my iMac had 8TB drives, external drives with Thunderbolt. That's the same as building an older MacPro with internal discs. Don't underestimate the real power of Thunderbolt. Something PCusers don't know at this moment in comparison to Mac users. But again ... don't criticize those guys of Cupertino all the time. Nobody's perfect. Not Microsoft, not Apple, not Sony are anyone. Just use a positive approach and look out for hard- and software that matches your need, wether it is on a Mac or on a PC. It's the person behind those tools that can create visual magic, not the software or hardware on its own. So, stop being negative about this or that ... and start to do what you are capable of : being a CREATIVE. Best regards from Belgium - WonderPixel.

June 14, 2013 at 2:12AM, Edited September 4, 11:21AM

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