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Apple Watch: The 2013 Mac Pro and Final Cuts

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The new Mac Pro is pretty impressive as a piece of industrial design, and I mean that for inside and out.

But beyond that, as a dedicated Final Cut Pro workstation (which is how Apple likes to demonstrate it) it's amazing.

The hardware is fast. And I'm not talking about compared to super computers or PCs people might (spuriously or not) compare them with. I don't have the resources to do that. I'm talking about fast for a Mac. I'll talk about speed tests and stats for the 2013 Mac Pro in another Apple Watch, but do you remember when thumb-drives (aka USB sticks, Flash drives etc) used to seem really fast compared to transferring files from hard drives to hard drives? I copied a 2GB movie file from a Lexar 16GB thumb drive onto the Mac Pro in 1 minute 27 seconds. Then I duplicated it on the Mac Pro's internal drive: 4.39 seconds ...

But what about for the rest? I mean, sure, you could get one of these to do your email and check Facebook - if you can afford to do that, you can also afford a good head examiner. And that's what I'd recommend, over buying a 2013 Mac Pro for such simple tasks, if that's all you want it for.

Because this is the first Mac for a long while that has the upper echelons of computing tasks squarely in frame - it really is for professionals. It can do everything else a Mac can do, of course (professionals need to check emails too) but it's hardly what you'd buy a Mac Pro for. If you're sane, anyway.

A few - very few - apps are optimised to take advantage of the new Mac Pro's multicore powers. Final Cut Pro X is, of course. So is Logic. These are both Apple software products for professionals. Apple's Motion is too, and Compressor. That means they're ready for 4k video as well. But Adobe hasn't got its (also professional) apps to the point where they'll take advantage of the Mac Pro (I think you can edit in 4k on PCs?), while interestingly the fastest rising successor to Photoshop on the Mac, Pixelmator, has been updated to take advantage of the Mac Pro. The Marble version (Pixelmator 3.1), released last week, added support for 16 bits per channel. The Mac Pro has two Graphics Processor Units (GPUs) and the CPU (Central Processing Unit) hands tasks off to GPU capacity using technology Apple calls Grand Central. This adds grunt, if you like, to demanding computing tasks, and Pixelmator 3.1 uses that too, but most other apps simply can't leverage the full potential of the new Mac Pro yet.

I have been playing around with Pixelmator myself, since most image work I do these days is just prepare images for the web and for my monthly free PDF newsletter of iOS and Mac tips and tricks. I can't flatten images easily and crop/resize in one action using Pixelmator - if I could, I'd be using Pixelmator for this. That's hardly high-end use, but making Pixelmator Mac Pro friendly is kinda laying down the gauntlet, don't you think?
In the case of Adobe, usually engineers from companies this important in the personal computing scene get to see what's coming from related concerns, in highest secrecy. This is so they can tool their apps up ready. And it happens more than you think, even between those we think of as rivals. I mean, Adobe hasn't been too happy with Apple for the last few years, but it's an important platform for its products regardless. You have to wonder why Adobe hasn't: is it because its engineers didn't get the opportunity? Didn't want to, hoping the enlargement of its installed base on Mac since the Final Cut Pro X thing would keep Mac users loyal to Premiere? I don't know. Wish I did. Maybe it's coming, maybe it's not.

Meanwhile, if you're serious about Final Cut Pro X and Logic, the new Mac Pro is a very good reason to stick with Apple - its hardware and software - if you're one of those pro users working in the fields of moving image and audio. You might even change back to Final Cut Pro X in concert with a purchase of a Mac Pro simply because it's so awesome.
Of course, other pro apps will be coded to take advantage sooner or later. While they'll feel fast already, on a Mac Pro, this is thanks to its sheer power and all the RAM and other goodness. But they actually promise more power and speed in the future if you're a Mac Pro user. Buy it now, benefit more later. This is a common trope with various Apple releases over the years. Even OS X promised more power and speed as developers rewrote their apps in native code for it, and adding USB then Thunderbolt to Macs before there were virtually any viable peripherals is another example.

It's an interesting scenario because Apple upset a lot of people when it originally released Final Cut Pro X, changing features and removing multi-cam support. Also, it was not backwards compatible - if videographers upgraded to FCP X, they suddenly discovered they couldn't open their old - and worse, ongoing current - projects. Apple hadn't been as upfront about this as it could have been, and the backlash was swift. And the chief beneficiary was probably Adobe.

Apple has never really apologised for the debacle, but worked hard to gradually add those features back in. FCPX is now backwards compatible, it does now have very good multi-cam support, and lots of other goodies too.

I said back then that, despite the criticism, Final Cut Pro X had some great features and was far from 'iMovie Pro', as some very disgruntled video people branded it. Meaning I copped some of the backlash too (I guess that's partly what tech bloggers are for - venting at).

I don't know how far the schism carried on. I'm not sure how many angry Final Cut users turned to Adobe's Premiere or Avid for Mac (meaning they had a lot to relearn, which upsets people too). And I don't know how many, if any, came back to Apple's Final Cut Pro once Apple made good on it.

I do know some managed to stay with Apple's cinematography software, and there's a healthy and growing community of people working in that field.

The curious thing is that people must be wondering if it's time to move from Adobe. Adobe's shift to a subscriber model and the deletion of yer actual disc-based software releases appears to be causing some people to look for alternatives. Maybe the subscriber model will work for Adobe and we're still in the change-averse stage. Only time - and some good marketing and user success stories - will tell.

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