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Question re: Cuda/ Mac Pro Build Spec's

Apr 17, 2012 1:23 AM

Tags: #help #hardware #video #effects #cuda #premiere_pro #graphicscard #premiere_pro_cs5.5 #premiere_cs5.5

I haven't ventured into the MPE/ Cuda realm yet and with the new update on the horizon, i am thinking of doing it but a bit confused as some people are reporting that the Mac Pro isn't using the MPE/ Cuda to its potential. Are there any seasoned editors/ graphic designers that would be able to assist me and provide some useful advice.

 

I purchased this my Mac Pro in January of 2011.  This is my current build below:

 

  MacPro5,1

  Processor Name:          Quad-Core Intel Xeon

  Processor Speed:          2.4 GHz

  Number Of Processors:          2

  Total Number Of Cores:          8

  L2 Cache (per core):          256 KB

  L3 Cache (per processor):          12 MB

  Memory:          16 GB

  Processor Interconnect Speed:          5.86 GT/s

  ATI Radeon HD 5870

 

Im using mainly Photoshop, Premiere Pro, After Effects... basically the 'Premiere Production' bundle (will be getting the upgrade). I shoot mainly on the Canon 5DMII, and edit in PP... Mostly outputting for the web but will soon be doing some for broadcast in the fall.

 

Is this setup with my current Mac Pro effeciant enough to use the full power of the Mercury Playback Engine?


And which of the Nvidia graphics cards should I go with? Is the Quatro 4000 the only card that will work with the mac pro?


Thank you.

 
Replies
  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 1:37 AM   in reply to straightryder

    Yeah. Effectively, yeah.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 1:52 AM   in reply to straightryder

    Waiting for a new card for the MAC is more an Apple issue than nVidia. nVidia has many cards available, but it is Apple who writes the drivers for a MAC, so you are wholly dependent on Apple to write a driver for a new card instead of the Quadro 4000, which is outdated, underspecced and overpriced, but since Apple does not come forward with new drivers for newer and better cards, you have to ask Apple about their plans. Given all the mysterious update plans for a new MAC Pro, I don't have any hopes for new card support.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 5:24 AM   in reply to straightryder

    straightryder wrote:

     

    Should I take some time and wait for Nvidia to release a new video graphics card or just go with the Quatro 4000; cause i might be waiting a while.

    It depends entirely on how adventurous you want to be.  With the latest releases of Mac OS Lion, Apple has slipped new generation nVidia driver support in.  The cards will reportedly work in the Mac Pros, but they won't boot with the grey Apple screen that you're used to because they don't have the proper EFI support.  However, once the machine boots, the normal login window will pop up and everything will work as expected.

     

    This conceivably means you can pop a GTX-series card into the machine, boot it up, and have at it with Premiere Pro.

     

    jas

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 8:28 AM   in reply to Jason Van Patten

    Here apparently is a way to "hack" the Mac

     

    But do not take his 768 MB as minimum go with a 1 GB minimum.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 9:47 AM   in reply to Bill Gehrke

    Couldn't get the link to work Bill.  Could you edit?  I'd love to see how I can get better performance out of After Effects on my employer's mac.  Any other mac tips or places to look for such?

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 9:50 AM   in reply to Seastage

    The link worked for me. No problems.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 10:00 AM   in reply to RMO2011

    What's the page then?  I tried chrome and firefox.  no luck.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 10:03 AM   in reply to Seastage

    Now it's empty - does not work.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 10:08 AM   in reply to RMO2011

    The link is broken. Bill, please correct the link, it is currently encoded as "http://" and the rest is missing. I know Jive is again playing its tricks, corrupting links nearly all the time, so before posting check the html code for anomalies or corruption.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 10:09 AM   in reply to RMO2011

    Sorry. The link I clicked and that worked was this. Same subject.

     

    http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=223244http://

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 10:19 AM   in reply to straightryder

    Thanks for the link. When running AFX and Premiere (if price isn't an issue) what is the best performing graphics card for a mac?  I see lots of different quadro models and I'm lost trying to get any definitive data.  Too bad there's NO mac's on the ppbm5.  ):

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 10:29 AM   in reply to straightryder

    Some more reading on the subject can be found here.

     

    jas

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 10:33 AM   in reply to Harm Millaard

    Man that is weird, but as RMO2011 above said it is:

     

    http://www.insanelymac.com/forum/index.php?showtopic=223244

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 10:47 AM   in reply to straightryder

    It all depends on how you use Premiere, how much you are willing to spend and how you are looking to the future.  The best current new generation GTX card is the GTX 680 which is $500.  A step down from that is the GTX 580 ($380) then GTX 570, GTX 560 etc.

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 10:50 AM   in reply to Bill Gehrke

    Thanks Bill.  I'm familiar with the gtx's.  How sure are you that they perform better than any of the quadro's (for afx and premiere)?

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 10:56 AM   in reply to Seastage

    Seastage wrote:

     

    Thanks Bill.  I'm familiar with the gtx's.  How sure are you that they perform better than any of the quadro's (for afx and premiere)?

    I can't answer the performance questions; Bill and Harm are much better armed for that bit.  However, what I can tell you is that: the interior of the Mac Pro can be a bit challenging for cards that require dual power inputs.  Specially if one of them is an 8-plug.  The Mac Pros power their video cards using cables that attach directly to the motherboard.  It's quite elegant and clean, actually.  And there are two connectors for dual cards, as well.  But the connectors are only 6-plug, not 8.

     

    Does that matter from a power delivery perspective?  I'm honestly not sure.  Perhaps there's a 6-to-8 PCI-E power adapter you can connect to one of them.  You'll need to research that a bit more before you jump.  Otherwise you'll end up with a great nVidia card that you can't get power to.  Doh!

     

    jas

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 11:05 AM   in reply to Jason Van Patten

    Thanks a lot for your input Jas.  I was just looking at your upgraded cpu on the other page.  I'm thinking of doing that as well.  Can you share where you bought the cpu and the process?  Did you need like artic silver and stuff?  If it isn't too hard I'll probally go your route as opposed to dishing out extra cash to these guys.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 11:07 AM   in reply to Seastage

    Also, anyone have experience using Areca cards on the mac?

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 11:28 AM   in reply to Seastage

    Seastage wrote:

     

    Can you share where you bought the cpu and the process?  Did you need like artic silver and stuff?  If it isn't too hard I'll probally go your route as opposed to dishing out extra cash to these guys.

    My upgrade was an adventure in patience, dealing with Customs, and dealing with people who are ESL (barely).  I bought the processors from a Chinese OEM company that sells them at a substantial discount (at the time... this was back in December).  I found these jokers on EBay and contacted them through their website here.

     

    That web page actually does, in fact, belong to a serious business.  They just don't understand how to present themselves properly, IMHO.

     

    Anyway, the chips were held in Customs because these folks didn't know how to fill out the import forms properly.  So I had to.  And that was annoying.  But it saved me a bunch of money.  I'm glad I did it, but I doubt I'd do it again.

     

    For the process, I purchased the thermal paste cleaner as well as new thermal paste.  I mainly bought the cleaner because I polished up the tops of the Xeons I pulled out of the Mac, so that I could send them back to the same Chinese company for a trade-in.  The heat sinks on the Pro are interesting and annoying simultaneously.  They have 4 hex head bolts holding them down to the board, and you need a very long hex head driver to get to them.  It's easier if you just pop the CPU tray out and look rather than me trying to describe it.

     

    Either way: 4 bolts and the heat sink is off.  The chips sit in standard ZIF slots like any other motherboard.  Pop them out, clean everything off, pop new ones in, apply some paste to the top of them, and re-attach the heat sink.  The process was very easy assuming the proper tools (hex head driver, mainly).

     

    jas

     
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  • Currently Being Moderated
    Apr 17, 2012 1:47 PM   in reply to Seastage

    Look at our PC oriented PPBM5 web site and you will see GTX's score much better than Quadros--mainly because the current Quadros do not have as many CUDA cores

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 4:28 PM   in reply to straightryder

    I have a 2009 Mac Pro that I updated from 4,1 to 5,1 firmware, added an ATI 5870, swapped in a 3.33GHz 6-core CPU, 32GB of RAM, and installed an Areca 1880ix-12 RAID card and 8-bay Sans Digital tower of 2TB WD RE-4 disks.

     

    I had no problems at all editing DVCProHD footage from P2 cameras, even for a feaure-length movie (104 min) when it was still 4,1 on a quad 3.33GHz CPU with 16GB RAM and 4870 GPU. Then, I was asked to edit another feature shot on 5D MkII, and it was not happy. That was when I tried both a GTX285 and the 5870, an Areca card and 32GB of RAM, which solved it. I then added the 6-core for good measure, but it only sped up rendering in After Effects, really. Don't get me wrong, I like the 6-core, but it doesn't seem any different as far as playback of DSLR footage.

     

    I only get the benefit of software MPE since I took out the CUDA card, but it plays back perfectly smooth, even with six layers of video, including effects like color correction and what-not. I credit the 3.33GHz CPU and the speed of data throughput of the footage on my RAID for that. I've had the eight disks set in a RAID6 now for some months, and I get a nice 750-850MB/sec sustained, depending if it's read or write speed. Having 32GB is really nice, as I stopped seeing any page outs or swap file usage, and the most RAM I've seen used at once during editing is 28GB. I set up CS5 to only get 24GB and only use four of the six cores on the CPU, so that I have two whole cores (four threads) and 8GB of RAM for system and other program use. I can't say definitively, but I believe that's the reason I've had neither a system nor a program crash with this setup.

     

    So, my opinion is that while you may see some benefit in a CUDA card, it's not exactly required, and you may gain more from a substantial RAID instead. That's my approach to the handicap of using a Mac, and it's worked very well for me. I have 12TB of data on the RAID, and any two of the eight disks can fail without any loss of data. I even pulled one disk out for a half hour and reinserted it while editing 1080p DSLR footage, and it still played back fine. There was the occasional stutter every few minutes or so, but five hours later, my RAID was rebuilt and all was well. It felt good to keep editing that complex H.264 footage with a disk down, knowing I wasn't even getting GPU hardware acceleration.

     

    The only trick to this approach is also having plenty of backup disks, or some form of backup. I use a few external disks and older internal disks for this purpose. I have a Voyager Q, which allows me to pop any 2.5" or 3.5" SATA disk into it and copy away via USB3 or eSATA via my bootable Caldigit FASTA-6GU3 card. It works great, by the way, and I can even boot my OS/program clone backup boot disk from it.

     

    Having said all that, if I were building a new system today, it would be a PC. You have so many cheaper options for GPUs without the hassle, and Windows7 is pretty nice. No better / worse than Snow Leopard. (I have avoided Lion like a plague.) Hope you find this info useful!

     

    PS. I should add that I don't even render any of my footage. Not even DSLR footage. The bars above it are either yellow or red, depending on whether or not I've applied effects (most of it is red, haha) and it plays / scrubs smoothly. Sure, the fans on the Mac Pro kick on if it gets pretty intensive, but it's actually pretty rare for the fans to get loud enough to notice them going up. Fans will go mad every time I render out a project, but almost never during normal playback while editing. When I put in the CUDA card, more of the footage stays yellow, but otherwise it seems the same to me. What I don't like about the GTX285 card is that now and then, one of my two screens will suddenly go to a solid snowy picture (like a TV channel set to a non-existant channel) for a second or two, then go back to normal. Once it didn't go back, and I cycled the power off and back on, which fixed it... but this has never happened with my 5870. Also, the 5870 works better in After Effects.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 8:09 PM   in reply to straightryder

    So, you'll have 4x3TB drives in the four slots in a RAID. Which RAID level do you intend to use? I'll state up front that I'm NOT a fan of a RAID-0 of the OS drive, so I'd say DON'T do that. If you have a fifth drive for the OS and programs, like maybe an SSD in the lower optical drive bay, then by all means, RAID the four drives in the slots together, as long as you have backups of your data somewhere else. Without that Apple RAID card, you can't use RAID-5, and I prefer some redundancy. Striping four together should give over 400MB/sec, which is decent... but my eight disks in RAID-6 provide over 750MB/sec, which is pretty rad. In fact, I think it's a large part of why I don't have to render DSLR footage at all.

     

    I ran a stripe (RAID-0) of three 1TB drives, and later 3x2TB in a stripe for my edit media, and left the fourth drive (in slot 1, not that it matters) for my OS and program files. It worked fine for a long time when I was editing simple P2 footage (DVCProHD), but eventually, I was pushing the limits of 6TB, and I was unsatisfied with only 330MB/sec of the three drives running together. Given the history I wrote above, you may find an internal RAID will give you some grief as well, since you're going to edit 5D DSLR footage like I do quite often.

     

    I'm not saying it won't work, but you may be back complaining about jerky playback, even with the Quadro 4000. It's because DSLR footage such as from the 5D requires a lot of processing by the CPU before it even gets to the GPU, and your two processors are still only 2.4GHz. You have eight of them, and Adobe sees that as 16 total due to hyperthreading, but I've seen complaints from those with the same system you have when it comes to DSLR footage.

     

    As long as you're prepared for the possibility that the NVIDIA card doesn't give the performance you may be expecting, and you may need to spend money to upgrade other things such as disk performance and RAM, then go ahead with the Quadro 4000 purchase first. I base my opinion on the unimpressive results I got from a GTX 285, which is not a Quadro 4000, but it was supposed to be awesome all the same.

     

    If it were me, I'd start with a more robust media / disk system, then 24GB or 32GB of RAM, then even upgrading the CPUs, which is easier than most realize. (I did mine in a half hour and no fuss.) You can get a really nice hardware RAID card for about $700. Towers to toss disks into can be had for $300 or so, and then you just have to get the disks. The price on those vary with proportion to the sea level in Taiwan (I kid... too soon?) but you can always buy a few at a time, and rebuild the RAID in a few hours from backups as you acquire more disks. Areca is my choice for RAID, and it's been dreamy on my Mac Pro, but I realize that I have unique needs. I have to be able to edit several very large and complex projects at a time, and therefore 12TB of high-speed and redundant data is a business requirement, not status or kicks.

     
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    Apr 17, 2012 8:22 PM   in reply to straightryder

    By the way, there are many who will advise you to just transcode all your footage and not worry about it. That's an option, too... but I like being able to just import, edit and export, with the only rendering happening in that export.

     
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    Apr 18, 2012 4:41 AM   in reply to straightryder

    straightryder wrote:

     

    I kinda don't know what your getting at - is it a bad thing or something i should or shouldn't worry about if im not able to boot with the grey screen. What exactly am I losing out on if this is the case. 

    The Mac's EFI is like a PC's BIOS.  When you fire your Mac up, you see that grey screen with the Apple in the center of it; that's prior to any part of the OS booting.  Similar to when a PC boots and you see the, "Press Delete to enter SETUP" message.  In order for a video card to display that booting screen, it needs to have Mac-compatible EFI support burned into it.  And most cards don't.

     

    What does this mean?  Well, assuming you never need to boot off of a device other than your internal disk (ie, you don't need to boot off of a USB drive), and you don't need to do a Network Re-install because you've nuked your OS install, you'll be OK.  These are things that the EFI allows you to do, and you need to make sure the video card can support/display it.  None of the cards you can buy for a PC will, unless they're re-flashed (which I've no experience doing).

     

    Does that mean all is lost?  No.  Conceivably, you can leave your factory ATI card in the machine and just have the PC-compatible nVidia card in another slot as purely extra processing power.  The problem with doing that is, as I said previously: power.  You'll need to power both of those cards, and you won't have enough leads in the machine to do that.  The Mac's OEM power supply is 1000W, so it has more than enough grunt to handle two hungry cards.  But the power leads are another story entirely.  Folks have come up with interesting solutions tapping into the power connectors for unused drives or the DVD slot or... something.  I'm not sure because I haven't looked into it.

     

    As for Wonderspark's comments about the need/use of CUDA-enabled cards.... it all depends entirely on what you're doing with Premiere.  If you're purely converting from one format to another, then no, the CUDA won't help.  If you're doing any scaling whatsoever, it will help in spades.  Even the older Quadros will squish the Xeons in the Mac when it comes to scaling because the code in Premiere is so well optimized for that parallel processing.

     

    jas

     
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