November 13, 2019

Why Should Filmmakers Buy the New Macbook Pro?

There is a new Macbook Pro, and after hating the 2016 model, and getting along OK with the 2018 model, we got hands-on time with the 2019 and... wait for it... we are impressed!

The 15" Macbook Pro retina is the "default" filmmaker laptop for the vast majority of working pros. 

Yes, PC has been making inroads, but the vast majority of film sets we visit, working filmmakers we meet, and people we know are all on Apple.

The 15" Macbook Pro is the most common device we see.  That might change with the new Mac Pro tower... but it's absolutely going to change with the new 16" Macbook Pro; this is going to be the new default device for film and creative professionals.

"...this is going to be the new default device for film and creative professionals."

Let's talk about the last few iterations

First off, let's get over the elephant in the room. We hated the 2016 Macbook Pro. The touch bar felt gimmicky. The lack of MagSafe was a bummer. And the keyboard was super, duper loud... enough so that some didn't want to type notes in meetings. There are reports of people who actually practiced typing quietly on it.

But a laptop shouldn't require practice, it should accommodate you! The 2018 model fixed a lot of these flaws (though its keyboard, which was quieter, had a weird issue with repeating keystrokes), and software devs got better at setting up the touch bar, and the very real gains in power started to be worth it.  We spent a year with the 2018, and honestly... really dug it.

More space between the keys and the touchbar, and the return of the ESC key.

However, we would estimate a full 40% of the people we run into regularly are using a pre-2015 model. They want to keep NVIDIA processors. They want to keep the SD card slot. They love function keys.

Look, there is a lot of foot-dragging. 

Having spent the morning getting press demos as well as hands-on time with the new 16" MacBook Pro announced today, let us just say: it is time to let the SD card slot go and dive into the new Macbook Pro.

What's new in the Macbook Pro?

First off, the keyboard feels great. Quieter, useable, not as "soft" as the 2013, but with enough key travel and feel that you could type all day. They also added back the full-on ESC key (for developers) and added more space between the keys and the touch bar to decrease accident touch bar presses.

I think they also might have maybe added a bit of room between the giant touchpad and the keyboard as well.  

The power is impressive. 

The demo unit was set up with a ProRes444 4K project, and it played back in Resolve perfectly. 

Drop on a noise correction node and you still saw 6-8fps playback, instead of dropping to 1fps, and with node caching you would barely notice it. 4K ProRes444 is a bear to play unrendered on many desktop machines. The combination of graphics horsepower, OS optimization, and the software developers really taking AMD graphics seriously made this feel as natural as cutting 1080 Prores 422. 

That alone is worth finally upgrading.

But on top of that Apple managed to make a laptop that also sounds really great. Like, REALLY great.

Laptop audio isn't something we generally worry about. Why? 

We're filmmakers! We'd rather plug in some accurate studio headphones and hear it correctly. 

However, in reality, we've all watched a cut on a laptop, or a movie with a partner while traveling, and suddenly laptop sound matters.

Cut to this laptop being the best sounding laptop we've ever seen. 

The tech demo, Mad Max Fury Road in Dolby Atmos, sounded ridiculously good.  Considering how much content is watched on a laptop these days... that matters.

On top of that, Apple has added a "studio quality" microphone and played some tests of its recording that were very impressive even holding up well against common USB microphones in terms of signal to noise ratio and overall audio quality. 

This is something easy to dismiss, but many filmmakers we know buy something like a Blue Yeti just for having around for podcasts of VO temp tracks. This microphone is now arguably good enough that, if you build yourself a little blanket fort in a hotel room, you could record scratch ADR, VO, or even guest on a podcast into this microphone. Which is kind of crazy. 

We can absolutely imagine using this to record quick hits while on the go.

Okay, now for the bad news.

We're never getting function keys and the SD card slot back. But honestly, there's enough here to make filmmaker workflows faster, and overall user experience better, that it's finally time to let go of the past and take the plunge. 

Tech Specs

  • 16" Retina display
    • 500 nits of brightness
    • P3 wide color gamut
  • Up to 8TB SSD storage
    • 3.2GB/s sequential read speed
  • AMD Radeon Pro 5000M series graphics
    • 189GB/s memory bandwidth
    • Up to 24 compute units
    • 2x faster than previous-generation models
    • Optional 8GB of GDDR6 VRAM is 80% faster than Radeon Pro Vega 20
  • UP to 8-core processor
    • 28% increased airflow
    • 35% larger heat sink
  • UP to 64GB of memory
    • 4.3x faster than 16GB
  • Six-speaker sound system and studio-quality mics
  • 100-Wh lithium-polymer battery
    • Up to 11 hours of battery life
  • Apple T2 Security Chip
  • 4 Thunderbolt 3 ports
    • 40Gb/s data transfer
    • Supports up to 2 6K displays

Pricing and Availability

We recommend going for the $2799 for a silver or space gray 2.3GHz 8-Core Processor, 1TB storage, and AMD Radeon Pro 5500M graphics card.  Upgrading to 32GB of RAM, or even 64GB, and 8GB of VRAM, are absolutely worth it.  Internal storage upgrades are probably a bit too pricey, though maybe the 2TB might be worth it.

Head over to Apple's website to learn more.          

Your Comment

18 Comments

Why did you hate the 2016 model? I have been editing on it for 3 years. Had a problem with the keyboard for a week and then it went a way.

November 13, 2019 at 3:16PM

0
Reply
avatar
Jan Becker
DP, Director, Producer
655

Does anyone know if I'd be able to upgrade the RAM on my own or would I have to buy it upgraded?

November 13, 2019 at 4:21PM

1
Reply

There’s nothing upgradable in MacBooks already for a long time. So no, you won’t be able to upgrade anything. Apple at it’s best still. And they will probably solder ssd to the motherboard again so if it dies all your data is waiving goodbye. Gotta wait for iFixit and Louis Rossmann comment on this particular model.

November 13, 2019 at 6:56PM

2
Reply
Frytech
74

I hope the next iteration of "high technology" results in a mainboard, where everything is encapsulated in a solid block of indestructable resin. The model after that simply detonates when trying to fix it. That`s gonna teach the users!

November 14, 2019 at 3:26PM

67
Reply
DingDong
1953

2018 i9 MacBook Pro has horrendous throttling. This does talk about that. I’m guessing based on the dimensions it will be a nightmare all over again.

November 13, 2019 at 11:49PM

11
Reply

Well they do say it has a larger heat sink and more airflow. So now it will just throttle after 9 seconds instead of 3. lol

November 18, 2019 at 9:39AM

0
Reply

"Drop on a noise correction node and you still saw 6-8fps playback, instead of dropping to 1fps, and with node caching you would barely notice it. 4K ProRes444 is a bear to play unrendered on many desktop machines"

I can get 25 fps playback with ARRIRAW 4.5K with color correction on a 2017 PC with a 4 core I7 and a GTX 1070 in Da Vinci Resolve. Same with Prores 4444 4K, without any rendering or cache. You can get even more on new hardware, even on laptop now with the RTX Studio line..

November 14, 2019 at 2:45AM

2
Reply
John Dureuil
Director
154

I concur, as long I you don't use the denoiser though.
I7 and RTX 2060 serie m (6gB VRAM), 32GB ram (but it already worked with 8gB). All in a laptop.

Premiere doesn't have the same performances though, but well, it's premiere

November 14, 2019 at 11:01AM

2
Reply

What model of the 16 inch used in this analysis?

(The demo unit was set up with a ProRes444 4K project, and it played back in Resolve perfectly.)

November 14, 2019 at 6:29PM

1
Reply
avatar
Telmo Domingues
Videographer, Editor
96

This seemed like a puff piece... To spec this laptop out to be usuable in a professional setting it will cost at least $5500. To spend that type of money I need more improvements than a keyboard. The Asus Predator Helios 700 edits RAW video from the MAVO LF with no dropped frames. That laptop has much better performance and cost half the price.

November 14, 2019 at 7:39PM

0
Reply
avatar
Walter Wallace
YouTuber
1466

Yeah but you may as well be getting a desktop if you are going to buy that hideous loud monstrosity and then you can get the 27 inch 5k imac.

downsides of the predator.
big
heavy
ugly
loud
worse screen for video
much shorter battery run time
no mac OS

So yeah theres a few cons there. No way would I buy one. I would save for the macbook and as you see they last and last and last. Its really a no brainer.

November 15, 2019 at 12:27AM

1
Reply
avatar
Isaac Elliott
Director - Producer
273

...and let's not forget that PC resale value doesnt come close to Mac resale value...

November 16, 2019 at 11:05AM

0
Reply
avatar
Kerrin McLean
Director / DP / Editor
260

I'm on the fence, as I'm in the same boat as Jan - my 2016 model is still going strong.. I'll wait for all the bugs to surface, and for Apple to adjust their pricing to more reasonable and less inflated amounts. Apple is on a slippery slope, imho.

November 15, 2019 at 12:30PM

0
Reply
avatar
John Watkins
Consultant
40

I laugh every time I hear words "Retina Display". Who could be silly enough to fall for such marketing bullshit. The display is 3/4 4k - what? It can't do 4k, at this price level that is unbelievable. It should be doing 4k in 4k HDR. Still stuck at a maximum HD resolution, heh man it's 2019, HD is so 2004.

How you could advise anyone to buy this is beyond me. It's amateur power at best. No serious editor would be editing on something so weak. You can do far better for the half the price. The AMD Radeon Pro 5300M or optional 5500M is class 2 only and doesn't even surpass a 980 5 year old nVidia chip. The 5700m would have been a much better choice, at least that can compete with a 3 year old nVidia 1080 family chip.

It seems pretty clear if you want top performance and decent prices you need to go elsewhere. This is article sounds like Fanbois stuff to me.

November 15, 2019 at 12:32PM

0
Reply
Dave Reid
106

Still waiting for an actual retina display - one that projects directly to the eye-retina, giving a virtual screen in mid-air. Like I trialled in 1996, but better (e.g. not just monochrome).

November 15, 2019 at 2:39PM

1
Reply
David Esp
Freelance Videographer and Occasional Cinematographer
79

I think Macintosh has the fastest operating system and that's why people but is because the software which is being used for video editing requires higher processor and fastest OS.

November 16, 2019 at 2:39AM

0
Reply

I'm less impressed with ProRes playback (since it's light to decode) than something like a 4k 60p H.265 codec, which requires more CPU/GPU horsepower and is currently gumming up my edit workflow. Yes I know I can transcode.

November 16, 2019 at 11:13AM, Edited November 16, 11:13AM

3
Reply
avatar
Sandy Chase
Producer/DP/Editor
77

As a documentary filmmaker, I can live without the SD slot, but it sure is nice. I already travel with so many small pieces that are easy to lose. Also, I often need to connect my laptop to a projector to show my videos/films (need an HDMI port). And all of my footage is on external HDs that, guess what?!, don't connect to this laptop.
Apple makes your life a living hell so they can sell you ways to actually make their laptops functional. With the quality of PCs out there right now, save yourself the misery.

November 23, 2019 at 11:13AM, Edited November 23, 11:14AM

2
Reply