In a rare move for Apple, at WWDC today, it announced a product six months ahead of shipping: the filmmaking-happy iMac Pro.
At the worldwide developer conference (WWDC) this morning, Apple announced a host of new features that are clearly intended to keep filmmakers happy, built primarily around the iMac line. The biggest news is the iMac Pro, which will ship this December. It is designed for the professional content creator who needs the top-end performance long associated with Apple's workstations.
The iMac Pro features so many improvements, it's hard to settle on a marquee feature, although Apple itself is pushing one: the Pro can be configured with up to 18 cores (though the 8-core base model will likely be plenty for most filmmakers who need GPU power more than CPU power). GPU power can be configured all the way up to an 11-teraflop Radeon Vega Pro, available with up to 16GB of video memory. You can configure it up to 128GB of RAM and a 4TB SSD.
This announcement is intended to tell professionals that Apple is still designing products with pros in mind.
Also, the 27" Retina screen will now be brighter, offering 500 nits of maximum brightness, which doesn't quite bring the iMac into HDR territory but is a major leap forward from the last generation.
Of course, none of this will be cheap: the base configuration starts at $4,999. However, for the power you receive and the quality of the iMac monitor, the price is actually quite reasonable.
Also shipping today is a revision of the plain old iMac that will make many filmmakers happy. Discrete graphics have come to the 21.5" iMac (in the 4K model), making it useful for editing and perhaps even color grading.
Both the iMac and the iMac Pro will now have a combination of normal USB-A ports and Thunderbolt 3/USB-C ports, which should provide plenty of connectivity, though it will also remind us all on a daily basis of the ports we wish we could get with a Macbook Pro.
Apple is clearly pushing the Pro as both a VR consumption and a VR creation tool.
If you are in desperate need of a new computer now, are on a budget, or simply don't need the massive computing power of the Pro, the last-generation iMac has been very popular as an editing platform. The normal iMac with new ports and improvements will be very useful as well.
One improvement across the line is hardware acceleration for H.265.
H.265, if you aren't familiar, is the newer video format designed as a replacement for H.264, and offers H.264 quality at half the data rate. Cameras like the Pansonic GH5 are already capturing in H.265 (and you're going to see a lot more of it in the near future). Hardware acceleration makes it easier to bring in a 4K H.265 clip and play it back without transcoding. It will save a lot of filmmakers a lot of time in their workflows.
VR was also a big part of the WWDD presentation. Apple is clearly pushing the Pro as both a VR consumption and a VR creation tool. Apple is also promoting Metal 2, its new architecture for leveraging the power of graphics processing, and mentioned more than once support for external graphics processing, which is a bonus.
Announcing this early is almost news unto itself, as the company tends toward product announcements shipping same-day or within a few weeks. After the disappointment many pros felt with the Macbook Pro and the increasingly affordable power of gaming laptops, film industry professionals are thinking more and more seriously about moving on from Apple. This announcement is intended to tell professionals that Apple is still designing products with pros in mind.
Our favorite new feature is a 10G Ethernet port.
While six months is a long time to wait for the Pro, knowing that it is coming and what will be included once it does ship will help a host of filmmakers as they make decisions on their next machine upgrades. Many companies which have been pricing out the move to PC now finally have an indication of the direction Apple is going for the pro user space. While some will still make the jump to PC, with these announcements in mind, many will stick with Apple.
Our favorite new feature is the inclusion of a 10G Ethernet port. It feels like old-school Apple, pushing the market forward, bringing out new standards, and rolling to new speeds before anyone else. 10G Ethernet is theoretically 10 times faster than the 1G Ethernet most of us have running for our Ethernet solutions, and with many indie filmmakers using Ethernet for filing-sharing between systems, 10G is crucial.
Unfortunately, 10G won't be useful for most of us in the short term, since switches are so expensive for 10G Ethernet that most of us will stay with the good old 1G copper. However, if you are a post facility thinking of buying five or more iMac Pros, the cost of a 10G switch will quickly start to seem very reasonable for the benefits.
After a long drought and some disappointments, there was a lot of evidence this morning that the pro market still matters to Apple, and we're excited to start working on these machines when they ship in the fall.
The new iMac is available now, while the iMac Pro will be available in December. For more info, check out Apple.com.