June 5, 2017
WWDC

The New iMac Pro: What You Need to Know

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.

Credit: Apple

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. 

Credit: Apple

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.

Credit: 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.      

Your Comment

32 Comments

>most filmmakers who need GPU power more than CPU power

Exactly which filmmakers are those?

June 5, 2017 at 6:18PM

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I think that answer is ... A. all of us

June 5, 2017 at 6:32PM

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simon cade ?

June 5, 2017 at 6:37PM

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kevin barton
editor and photographer
83

I don't think that's correct. Yes a good GPU can help but from my experience the two most important components for an NLE like Premiere are a powerful CPU and fast hard drives.

June 6, 2017 at 12:14AM

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Tim
251

While these upgrades may help a little with Premiere performance, they are really going to boost FCPX performance. Apple optimizes all of it's hardware for FCPX, thus the AMD graphics cards. With all due respect, Premiere is an absolute turd on a Mac. I have no idea why Premiere editors don't just go buy a MUCH cheaper Windows machine which would literally double it's performance from that of any Mac.

June 6, 2017 at 9:34AM, Edited June 6, 9:40AM

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With Premiere core count does help but only to a point. Puget systems did testing and found that even for pro codecs the point of scaling speed with core count is about 12 cores. Having a high speed CPU with around 6-8 cores will be more beneficial to most creators. GPU also makes a huge difference for playback smoothness and on some parts of an export (effects must be supported via GPU acceleration or the codec itself must be GPU accelerated). There does become a point of diminishing returns happens around the mid-high to high end cards.

My concern on the GPU side is that Apple will not pick cards with enough power to make a huge difference in Premiere (they do have Final Cut X to worry about so it makes sense). Also how are they even going manage to keep an 18 core CPU running at full tilt cool in that case. Every iMac I have been around/used gets very hot to the touch. Maybe the TDP of the chips will give them a chance.

Either way I think this a good call, but I was hoping to see a more modular Mac Pro to replace the trash can.

June 6, 2017 at 3:53PM

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Kyle Acker
Cinematographer/ Video Editor
446

Apple has already stated a new Mac Pro is coming but not this year.

June 6, 2017 at 5:41PM

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Tenolian
237

You say us like you are a filmmaker yet clearly you don't even know the needs of an NLE. Odd.

June 6, 2017 at 1:51PM

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CGI and 3d in general are getting more accesible, and that means more and more gpu needs. Both Houdini and Maya likes a good solid gpu.

Too bad Apple are still stuck with AMD. Would have love to have seen a titan xp in that iMac :)

The biggest issue that could arise with the new iMac is that the custom pc market will be treated with i9 processors at the same time as these iMacs come out........

June 6, 2017 at 4:43AM, Edited June 6, 4:45AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
734

Yet he said filmmaker, not animator. Obviously editing is the chief need for filmmaking, and CPU is king for that. Mid level GPUs are more than sufficient.

June 6, 2017 at 1:54PM

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which would indicated that the iMac Pro is minded at the post houses and not the indie nle film maker...

I'd still wait and see what the i9 does though. 2 years with my custom pc and not a single crash *knock on wood*

June 7, 2017 at 9:23AM, Edited June 7, 9:23AM

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Torben Greve
Cinematographer
734

LOL to the ones that jumped in hyped by the Late 2016 15,4'' Macbook Pro that spent 2.799$ + 500$ upgrading the processor from 2.7 to 2.9, the graphics card from 2Gb to 4Gb and storage from 256SSD to 512SSD, as now those specs are standard at 2.799$. Sorry, but i can't stop laughing. xD

June 5, 2017 at 6:56PM

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Rafa Ga
Digital Film-Video Editor / Colorist / Motion Graphics
79

Yeah spec bumps can suck sometimes but they happen in any tech industry so I'm not sweating that part. I'm a little bummed that if I use the same tier of upgrades I did for the original it comes out $100 cheaper. But that's computers!

Side note though, you sound like you're a giant douche to hangout with, and I don't have to, so I've got that going for me. ;)

June 5, 2017 at 7:42PM, Edited June 5, 7:42PM

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Timothy Cook
Self employed storyteller.
163

Yea, i'm not nice... but if you realy like REALLY DARK humor we'll be friends. But, i have to say, i want a MBP with touch bar (not for the touch bar itself, just cuz' i need to upgrade my Late 2008 MBP that's not helping me anymore)... yeah, i know, i know a Windows machine can have much much more for less money, but i can't use Windows anymore. I CAN'T AND I WON'T. And i knew from October last year that i needed to wait for the MBP to get 7th gen processor, the bumped up specs it's just a very good bonus for me! - still laughing - xD

June 5, 2017 at 8:41PM, Edited June 5, 8:43PM

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Rafa Ga
Digital Film-Video Editor / Colorist / Motion Graphics
79

This isn't at all unusual, when Apple first switched to Intel chips they followed Intel's upgrade path every six to nine months pretty faithfully.

The past few years that has been derailed partially because Intel has fallen behind on its own timeline and partially because Apple has focused less on the Mac and more on the products and service that make it the most money.

June 6, 2017 at 5:51PM

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Tenolian
237

Metal 2? Can't they just admit they misread the market?

June 5, 2017 at 7:28PM

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Craig Mieritz
Color, Light and Camera Geek

I'm a little hyped by the iMac Pro, but i'm much more hyped for what that might mean to the future Mac Pro (hopefully they ditch the trash can desing, they know they fuck it up BIG time)... Question! Someone know how come the got 7th gen processors in all the line up with 2400Mh DDR4 memory, yet the MBP refresh is still DDR3LP?

June 5, 2017 at 8:52PM

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Rafa Ga
Digital Film-Video Editor / Colorist / Motion Graphics
79

The New iMac Pro: save your money and build a custom pc

June 6, 2017 at 9:20AM, Edited June 6, 9:20AM

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Or, spend the money and have a trouble-free reliable working computer.

June 6, 2017 at 9:38AM, Edited June 6, 9:39AM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
860

From my experience the whole "Mac is more reliable/stable than windows" hasn't been true for a while. For the last 6 years I have worked on both Mac and PC regularly doing the same exact kind of work on both.

The majority of production companies I worked for used Macs, plus I have owned 3 different Macbook Pros during this time, all of which I did a considerable amount of editing/motion gfx work on. I also built my own PC back in 2012, and I just upgraded it with a new processor and motherboard earlier this year.

Having consistently worked on several different Macs from iMacs, Mac Pros, and Macbook Pros plus my custom built PC ... I can tell you that there is little difference in reliability and stability between the two platforms. I have just as many issues on the Macs that I do on my PC.

If I had to lean one way, I would choose my PC. I like having control over my hardware and upgrading is much more affordable.

I think that many people who believe Macs are so superior only have used bloated store bought PCs. If people take the time to learn how to build a PC ( which really isn't hard at all) then you get a lot more bang for your buck especially considering the long term and upgrades.

June 6, 2017 at 11:19AM

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Until an internal component dies and you have to send the whole unit off for repairs...

Given the thermal issues the nMP had, I'd be giving this iMac Pro a wide birth for a little while. Apple look to be prioritising form over function here...

Since I've already invested in a monitor setup that I like (ultrawides FTW), I'll hold out for the modular MacPro (and maybe look at building a X299 based Hackintosh similar to this iMac Pro in the meantime if the mMP looks to be too far off in the horizon).

June 7, 2017 at 1:07AM

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yeah spend the money on good parts for your pc build and have a reliable working computer

June 7, 2017 at 2:46AM

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This is really the question isn't it? How much would you actually save with a PC with similar specs? Even if you bought the parts individually wouldn't it be pretty similar price give or take $2,000 or so? Can anyone answer?

June 6, 2017 at 10:16AM

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Sam Hakes
Videographer
20

It's a tough comparison. Things like Xeons and VEGA CPU's are expensive parts that are optimized for pro-use, but also for serverparks. Naturally the software from apple is optimized for that hardware, but with the i9's coming out and Nvidia 1080TIs going strong id say those would be a much better choice when building a windows system for the adobe environment. Therefore, comparing prices of parts is probably not the best idea, although nothing is stopping you to google each part and totalling it.

The point here is that using these parts for windows/adobe wouldn't necesarilly be the best choice.

June 6, 2017 at 10:54AM, Edited June 6, 10:54AM

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Jeroen Rommelaars
Animator - Videographer - Motion Tracking
731

Adobe utilizes open CL as well as it does Cuda. This use to not be the case many years ago but Adobe has since updated their code and tests have shown almost no difference in in terms of GPU performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g7cQK8jFPzo

June 6, 2017 at 4:18PM

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Brad Jones
Director/Producer/Writer/Editor
606

Home editors who have the time to build custom PC's aren't the market for this machine. It's the studios and production houses that need a quick set up and go. To be honest if you spec out the HP Z840 workstation which has been gaining ground in post houses to the same specs as the base model iMac Pro its actually $2500 more. Soooo yea

June 6, 2017 at 11:33AM

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Charles C.
Editor/ Director/ Director of Photography/ Wannabe Thinker
915

so $2500 more without a 5K display?

June 7, 2017 at 8:51AM, Edited June 7, 8:51AM

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Sam Hakes
Videographer
20

I often wander how often people speak about things they don't understand and blame in that case Apple that it's to expensive. Please try to build first similar spec. DELL workstation. I've tried. Entry level iMac pro vs dell - dell is 5650$ without screen at all. Pro stuff is expensive because it just work. You can build cheaper custom hackintosh or PC but it will always be, well sort of Frankenstein. If you need it to be reliable just buy Dell or iMac Pro. To be frank I'm the owner of hackintosh and it's really good, but I sent hundreds of hours to make it work, hours that I can spend earning money.

June 6, 2017 at 10:39AM

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Piotr Numowicz
Director / Cinemaptgrapher
29

A 10 bit, 500 nit, 5K screen by itself would cost around $1,500, before you even get to the CPU or GPU which themselves are expensive.

For those speaking ill of this configuration, who here honestly could make productive use of or even afford a computer with 18 cores, be it Mac or PC.

June 6, 2017 at 5:43PM

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Tenolian
237

There is no 10 bit monitor for $1500. They are 8bit. Some may mimic 10bit with some special circuitry but, real 10bit monitors are much more expensive.

June 9, 2017 at 2:30PM

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Richard Krall
richardkrall.com
860

Bye apple. Def will keep you for portable devices and computers but goodbye desktops.

June 7, 2017 at 2:46AM, Edited June 7, 2:46AM

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Not a real big win for Premiere users. It's also a bummer they are putting so much into this ancient form factor. As a professional, I don't want to have to take my computer into an Apple store when I want to replace something. Over the years the fact that they have eliminated the ability to tweak pro machines is a let down. I suppose for the FCPX users this is a fairly nice win, pricey, but decent. One day maybe they'll stop holding ProRes hostage and let us build and tweak our own hardware. The baked in screen is the absolute worst part of the iMac form factor.

June 13, 2017 at 5:15PM

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Anthony
Writer/Director
77