iMac would not be my first choice for After Effects. I prefer a proper workstation that can be upgraded. (Hint: that also doesn't include the Mac Pro cylinder.)
If you're willing to buy some used components and you don't mind putting a few components together, you can get some very good pieces for a machine on eBay, Amazon, etc. and build yourself a pretty powerful Windows workstation. I put together a really nice setup that has more power than is even available to be ordered in the current Mac Pros for around $1,000 (plus the monitors I already had on hand).
Now, all of that advice might change after Apple's event today if they surprise us with some professional grade products.
Ideal specs for After Effects include:
- A high processor clock speed (number of cores isn't very relevant to the way AE currently renders, but it does matter for Cinema 4D)
- At least 32 GB of RAM
- An SSD for AE's cache that is separate from the drive containing your footage, assets, and to which you render
- A decent NVIDIA GPU - AE doesn't use it for much now, but more and more of its native effects are becoming GPU-accelerated (If you plan to use Element, Red Giant Universe, Red Giant Magic Bullet, or any other third-party effect that renders on the GPU, you'll want the best GPU you can afford)
Also, if you plan to use Premiere Pro, the GPU also matters a lot there.
This advice applies regardless of if you're looking to get a Mac Pro (no thanks), iMac (maybe), or PC (best option). Again, we'll see what Apple offers us in their event today, but I'd go with a PC as of this moment. You get more bang for the buck.
The choice of manufacturer is completely up to you. I look at longevity and value and workflow. Things change quickly in the PC world, not so quickly in the Mac world when it comes to hardware. That said, I abandoned the PC platform about 12 years ago, I upgrade my mac laptop hardware about every 18 months because it's very economical to do that. The trade in value far surpasses any PC laptop that I have seen and followed. You cannot beat Apple's customer service, especially if you are close to an Apple store. My Mac Pro is a 2008 intel tower that is running just fine thank you. I never had a PC last more than 2 or 3 years without feeling a desperate need to upgrade, but then again, I have not owned a new PC for the past 12 years. Before that I bought a new machine every 12 to 18 months. Why? Because it costs me way more to fiddle with machines than it does to keep them up to date. In the past 12 years the total cash outlay for repairs and IT service has been less than $100 and I'm always using a new or nearly new laptop for about the cost of an annual Creative Cloud subscription. Because I depend on my hardware to make a living I'd never build my own machine. I couldn't afford it. If I still ran a company with 10 or more employees, like I used to do, I'd have an IT department and they would be responsible for the platform and reliability. If we were constantly down, I'd find a new IT specialist. It's as simple as that.
As far as starting a production business let me give you some sound advice. Keep your full time job until you don't have time to go to work anymore because you are making too much money with your new production company. Production has become a commodity and the day rates that a newbie can generate are NOT high enough to make a living and pay the rent. When I started my company in 1975 if you had the gear, because it cost more than a new house, you could get a day rate that paid your bills. It's not that way at all today. I get a call every week from someone that wants a 30 minute product video and they have a budget of $2,500. You can't make a living at that rate. Not even close.
You have to establish yourself as a production problem solver and an artist to command more than minimum wage. You can demonstrate your creativity with a modest system and a smart phone. A few weeks ago I got paid big bucks from a client to walk around an event they hosted with an OSMO and shoot some interviews with my iPhone 6 - because they trust my creativity. The iPhone interviews were very unobtrusive to the guests and the client loved the work.
If you really want to learn to use a camera and make some movies then pick up a camera that performs well in the situations you anticipate will comprise most of your work. The projects I have lined up for the next several months are pointing me to a Sony A7s and a 7.7 Convergent Design Odyssey 7Q+ OLED Monitor/Recorder because of the low light capability and the fact that most of my shooting in the next several months will be in extremely low light. The last project I worked on was shot on a Cinema EOS | EOS C300 Mark II and with the support gear we had on set, there was about $60,000 in camera gear on the set - but the job required it. It was a 4 day shoot so We did not buy the gear, we hired it.
So here's my point, get yourself a computer that will allow you to explore the capabilities of the software you are planning to use, look at every creative site you can for inspiration, figure out what you want to shoot and develop your creativity and your eye as well as you can while keeping your full time job, and then, and only then, will you have a chance at making a decent living while making movies.
Rick Gerard wrote:
You cannot beat Apple's customer service, especially if you are close to an Apple store.
They really are the best at customer service.
I really hope today's event shows a renewed dedication to professional hardware. I still use my MacBook Pro from 2011 almost every day. It's my travel workhorse. I love my iPhone and my Apple Watch and I'd really like to love their "Pro" lines of machines again.