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.
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.
UPDATE 2019-12-13: Current reports are that Adobe Premiere is not able to fully support the graphics card. Hopefully an update will be out soon, but you'll need to use the deprecated OpenCL support on this machine for the time being. Heavy Premiere users take note.
- 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.