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Thread: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

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    Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Thought I would share an experience that many of you will have to go through at some point - upgrading the workstation that processes and edits all your MFD files.

    Working in post prod is one of the most time consuming parts of the MFD experience. A fast, slick computer makes the whole experience a joy. A slow one and the whole process is a nightmare, especially when there are time constraints. So when the time comes to upgrade, I fret, worry and then do a whole load of research. After all I'm going to have to live with the decision for a long period of time. I thought I would share the solution I came from, what I ended up going with and first impressions of this new system. If you end up learning from my experience, great, hopefully I have reduced your pain a little.

    Abstract

    The solution had to efficiently work with 1000's of Phase P40+ files, Capture 1, Lightroom & Photoshop. Plus there had to be a location solution too.


    So what do I currently use?

    Studio
    Mac Pro / 2008 / 2x Quad 3GHz / 16GB RAM / 500GB HDD
    Proavio 3TB RAID 5 Disk Array / 8x 500GB / Port Multiplier (limited to about 250MB/s)

    Location
    Macbook Pro 15" / 2008 / 2.53GHz / 8GB RAM / 240GB SSD (macsales.com)

    I am probably similar to many people in that I have a beefed up Mac Pro but need a Macbook Pro for location. Basically great in the studio, but a bit of a pain on location. I had grown accustomed to desktop + laptop as the accepted solution.

    What were my issues?

    1. The Macbook Pro was too slow on location and I needed to upgrade. I had maxed out the RAM and installed a fast SSD, but it was not cutting it with large P40+ files.
    2. The Mac Pro was getting old and was pretty beaten up. It could handle the Phase P40+ files pretty well, but was noticeably slow in certain processing areas.
    3. I had a feeling that the RAID 5 enclosure was a possible bottleneck in performance as the port multiplier technology limits the disk access speeds to about 250MB/s.

    Upgrading My Existing Kit

    For the Mac Pro I considered buying a SSD and boosting the RAM. However this would cost $1,400 for the component upgrades as RAM on older Mac Pro's is very expensive. I would still need to upgrade the Macbook Pro @ $3,000 for a good spec. So minimum spend @ $4,400.

    Buying New

    I could buy a new Mac Pro @ $4,000 for the sweet spot model, 3.33GHz 6 Core, boost the RAM and install a decent SSD @ $1,000. Ouch. $5,000. PLUS I would still need to upgrade the Macbook Pro @ $3,000 for a good spec. So absolute minimum @ $8,000.

    Add to this a possible new disk array, a critical component in the whole workflow. I had estimated an additional @ $1,400.


    So upgrading would probably be @ $5,800 and buying new @ $9,400. So painful and ... damn!


    I had a niggling feeling that putting money into Mac Pro's when they were so long in the tooth was a mistake. I had also been researching the new Thunderbolt technology for fast external RAID 5 disk access and found out that it will *probably* not be possible to make a PCI card that retrofits to the existing Mac Pro's. Apparently Thunderbolt compatibility needs to be built into the motherboard. So buying a new Mac Pro just felt bad.

    Thinking laterally

    Then a photog friend of mine suggested I research the top end i7 Macbook Pro's. He suggested that they were a significant improvement over older models and potentially there was no need to buy a Mac Pro. There was potential that they would be more than capable of handling P40+ files and the processing associated. Plus they could be linked up to Thunderbolt technology for really fast disk access. I also discovered that they can be upgraded to 16GB RAM, a bare minimum IMO. So a top end Macbook Pro @ $3,000, SSD @ $450, and 16GB RAM @ $550 brought the budget in at $4,000. Not bad. But would it cut it?

    I still had concerns that the setup would not be able to handle the workload, but I knew Apple have a 14 day period to try and if I didn't like it, I could simply return it. So the only thing I had to loose was my time.

    So what did I buy?

    Macbook Pro 17" / 2.5Ghz i7 / Matt Screen / 16GB RAM (macsales.com) / 240GB SSD (macsales.com)
    Promise Pegasus / 6TB / 6x 1TB HDD

    Total spend came in @ $5,400

    Initial Impressions

    I cannot give facts and figures, just how it works in post prod for me. The setup works considerably faster than my existing Mac Pro. Especially in Lightroom. It really does stay out of the way when I am working through the Library and viewing 100% previews and moving in and around Develop mode is much faster than the Mac Pro. Processing files in C1 is again much better and reading macperformanceguide.com it seems that the only faster Mac Pro's are the 3.33Ghz and above. Even then, only slightly. Basically I am delighted with the setup. Mac Pro performance that I can take on location! Sweet. Plus I can now sell the old Mac Pro / Macbook Pro and make some of that spend back.

    So what makes it work so well?

    In my opinion, and from a photography slant, I think the following factors are important.

    1. Having the extra fast disk access gives a great boost in performance. Especially when writing large files to disk; moving into Develop mode in Lightroom; and opening files in photoshop. These seem to be HDD intensive and are now much faster.
    2. Having a fast internal SSD separate from the image files is fantastic. In fact I would go as far as saying I will never use an internal HDD again.
    3. 16GB RAM is the minimum for Phase files. Ideally I would have loved to take this higher, but it is enough.
    4. Keeping the Lightroom Catalog files on the internal SSD and the image files on the external disk array seems to also give a performance boost. Coupled with an increase in the Raw Cache available to lightroom.
    5. The processor is very important, but IMO, it comes after really fast disk access, an internal SSD and RAM.

    I have talked endlessly, my apologies. I have spent a considerable amount of time researching what to do and I wanted to put it down on paper so that other people might be able to benefit in some way.

  2. #2
    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    LOL Interesting you came down to a MBP as i did this quite awhile ago giving up the MacPro in favor of a laptop. I'm pretty mobile so I needed the fastest ship I could travel with and also process hundreds of images on location and than present them. Its been tough as i have been going through this a couple years but finally I find my system has got some meat to it with the latest MBP. I do have a early 2011 15 inch 2.3 Matt screen with also 16gb of ram and I also have a Sata 3 OWC EXtreme Pro 240gb Drive than pulled out the optical drive and have a 500gb spinner drive for storage and also a OS backup. I suggest you think about pulling the optical sticking in a second drive for backup and more important a OS backup in case the SSD fails you can still roll on the road. Now i am shooting the IQ 160 files and came from the P40 like yourself so little more burden on the system but I am running as fast as its legs will go and end of day i am pretty dang happy as C1 also has improved with quicker processing times to add to my delight.

    Now here comes the big issue and starting tomorrow it gets addressed as my Promise pegasus T bolt 4TB drive shows up. My big issue and you may run into this also as a MBP user is fast backup working drive storage. The MacPro has this solved as you can stick fast internal drives in the box and actually work on them right off that drive. The limitation here for MBP users is the only thing we have is external drives working off Firewire 800 which has been a bitch of a time bringing back down a folder and working on it from the desktop and saving it and all that. Now I can actually work on a file on a external that will be fast enough where i don't have to pull it down and actually work from that drive . I am going to set it up as Raid 0 to get the fastest speed I can in basically a 4TB drive. I have Drobo and other solutions for backup but this expands my desktop drive that i can work from. I will update the forum on this as not sure anyone has walked down this path with T bolt yet here on the forum( usually I am the crazy one here or main guinea pig, or just plane stupid enough enough to try it. LOL). BTW don't buy it from Apple i found one for 939 dollars which is nice savings from Apple. I'm actually getting ready for its arrival by moving data around to pull my existing 2TB external OFFLINE now. Yahoo and I can't wait as it has been a juggling act for awhile now.

    But to answer sort of your question or statements the MBP finally have enough horsepower to eliminate a MacPro of lets say a factor of 2 years old or more. Now i will still get my butt smoked with the newer MacPros but I am at least on the same racetrack. LOL

    Being mobile is not easy especially for photography needs and more so having 60 or 80 mpx sensors and all the weight they carry with raw processing and simply just working on them. I do have a NEC wide gamut monitor 30 inch also to work off of when in office but this has not been easy until 2011 models. Now given you got the 17 inch you can work with e-sata drives with your express port which is by far cheaper solution than T bolt right now.

    BTW welcome to the forum and thanks for sharing this is helpful to a lot of people your data.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Oops I just read you did buy a Pegasus. Very cool , like to hear your thoughts on it. Actually slightly worried about my 30 inch display as i do use the two adapter device one is USB and the Other T bolt. I would imagine i still need the USB for power for my big monitor.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    guy are you using the 30" thunderbolt display?

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    No John I have the older NEC with a standard DVI plug. So I have to use the Mini DisplayPort to Dual-Link DVI Adapter http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB...ode=MTY1NDA5OQ

    So the USB has to be plugged in to get power for the display. Now i am not sure T bolt can handle the power load that this display needs. Depending where I put the Pegasus I may need a USB extension to run to a Powered USB port I have running
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Hi Guy. To *sort of* answer your setup concerns ...

    I am using the following thunderbolt setup / configuration:

    Macbook Pro i7
    Promise Pegasus 6TB
    Eizo CG241W 24" Display

    I have configured them so that:

    Macbook Pro outputs 1x Thunderbolt cable. This plugs into one of the Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt ports (It has 2). The second Promise Pegasus Thunderbolt port has an Apple standard mini-display port to DVI connector adaptor in it. This outputs to the standard DVI input of the Eizo 24" display.

    Unfortunately I cannot comment on your particular display as mine does not need any USB connectivity.

    As for the Pegasus, it screams. In fact it is so fast (> 600MB/s in RAID 5) that disk speed is now a complete non issue.

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Music to my ears. Thanks
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    If it is that fast in Raid 5 than maybe I should just leave it in that . 3 TBs is enough working drive. Hmmm

    Yours is faster though but even 400 mb/s would be killer fast
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    I think in RAID 5 you would get a 3TB hard disk that is as fast as one of the new 6G SSD's. But you would get the benefit of RAID safety and loads of storage space.

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    I just could not help it. This is the bench for my working drive (it is actually appr. 500mb/s faster now after I have put 1 disk extra in it).

    This is what I call satisfatory write/read speed



    I am glad I use a MacPro but certainly the new MBP's are really potent machines. At the next version I will get another but still the MacPro I find much more comfortable working with (I like sitting behind my 30" Eizo and painting away with the Intuos). Ah, well. If you can it is nice to have both isn't it ?
    Last edited by Dustbak; 1st December 2011 at 04:29.

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Quote Originally Posted by 6x6 View Post
    I think in RAID 5 you would get a 3TB hard disk that is as fast as one of the new 6G SSD's. But you would get the benefit of RAID safety and loads of storage space.

    Yes . I have a Drobo that is for permanent storage but even so it would be nice to have Raid 5 on the working drive since EVERYTHING gets tossed in there . LOL

    Its like a junk drawer. If it is as fast as my 6G SSD drive than i would be happy for sure.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    6x6 - thanks for starting this thread. My Mac Pro and MPB are almost exactly where yours were. I had started a thread a few days ago on upgrading my MacPro. What you've done is very interesting and may reflect a solution with a better long term upgrade and support path (assuming that Mac drops the MacPro line).

    Like Guy I have an Eizo display. If I attach it via the Pegasus do I end up with a two display setup?

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Hi Woody. No problem.

    The resolution on the MBP 17" is 1920 x 1200 which is the same as my Eizo 24" CG241W. This was not planned, but a lucky coincidence. You can use the laptop and display together as a dual setup, or close the lid on the laptop and just use the display.

    A new top end MacPro will be faster, but my thoughts were that you have to pay a much greater cost for the incremental performance improvement. In a way I figured that buying into the MBP route would be close to the MacPro performance and it allowed me to upgrade, whilst waiting to see what Apple do with the MacPro in a few months.

    I have a feeling they won't drop the MacPro line, but could come up with a solution somewhere between the Mac Mini and MacPro (anyone remember the Mac Cube design?). I am positive that Thunderbolt will be a big part of any future plans they have, whatever the form factor.

    The only caveat is that I know this setup works great with P40+ files, but cannot vouch for bigger files. I am pretty sure it would be able to hold its own though.

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Interesting topic as i too have been looking at upgrades to my 2008 MacPro. Its still a fast machine but was hoping to get my workflow speeded up since purchasing my P65 and the endless LCC processing on every shoot.

    I looked at the MacPro again and the cost of them is astronomical and while my machine is still going strong and will for a few years yet the upgrade ability of a tower machine has not been there and is still pretty much the same as the day i purchased it.

    I have a 2010 i7 Macbook Pro and don't think they are fast machine at all and find it very frustrating to use. I know the 2011 version is better but its still a notebook and they are always a compromise. All I use my macine for is a glorified HD to shoot tethered to on location. I have the matte option screen and don't rate that either so using a Macbook Pro as a desktop alternative is not a happy solution for me.

    My feeling is when I next upgrade it will be to a iMac plus new external NEC/Eizo display. The top of the range machine looks super quick and with every new generation they step more and more on the toes of the MacPro.

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    Workshop Member Woody Campbell's Avatar
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Gareth - it strikes me that Thunderbolt is the game changer here - you don't need to open the box to add major drive capacity.

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Quote Originally Posted by gazwas View Post
    Interesting topic as i too have been looking at upgrades to my 2008 MacPro. Its still a fast machine but was hoping to get my workflow speeded up since purchasing my P65 and the endless LCC processing on every shoot.

    I looked at the MacPro again and the cost of them is astronomical and while my machine is still going strong and will for a few years yet the upgrade ability of a tower machine has not been there and is still pretty much the same as the day i purchased it.

    I have a 2010 i7 Macbook Pro and don't think they are fast machine at all and find it very frustrating to use. I know the 2011 version is better but its still a notebook and they are always a compromise. All I use my macine for is a glorified HD to shoot tethered to on location. I have the matte option screen and don't rate that either so using a Macbook Pro as a desktop alternative is not a happy solution for me.

    My feeling is when I next upgrade it will be to a iMac plus new external NEC/Eizo display. The top of the range machine looks super quick and with every new generation they step more and more on the toes of the MacPro.
    The difference over the 2010 model on the 2011 is QUAD cores. Please trust me on this one my processing times in C1 where cut in half. Also you can use Sata 3 SSD drives which are lightning fast. I live on the edge on this stuff. LOL

    This is what I am using on my 2011 model http://eshop.macsales.com/item/OWC/SSDMX6G240T/
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Im processing as we speak 1300 small jpeg images right now and it takes 3 seconds each.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    So why is there no love for the iMac here?

    As Woody stated, Thunderbold cancels out the drive expandability feature of the MacPro and I understand the 27" 3.4GHz iMac the fastest single processor machine in the Mac lineup at the moment? Staggering considering its cost! Sounds like the photographers perfect machine to me along with an Air for traveling.

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    The 3.4 Ghz iMac is an amazing machine, especially if you consider the price point. For some people it would be perfect. I considered it, however I ruled it out for a few reasons:

    1. To upgrade the hard drives, you have to take the front of the screen off and mess around with heat sensors. This was too much of a hassle for me. (I would always upgrade the HDD because the Apple ones are expensive and 3G only)

    2. The screen is glossy and I get a lot of my printing done with these guys - metro-print.co.uk. For the print to come back as I expected, I would want my Eizo. I don't have space for 2 big monitors so the 27" iMac screen would end up being unused and take up space.

    3. The performance difference between the 3.4Ghz iMac and 2.5Ghz MBP is not big enough to warrant the concerns in 1 & 2.

    Plus I thought that maybe, just maybe, I could get away with just the one machine. If I can do this, then my money can be spent on a new LS lens or a 27" Eizo to replace my 24".

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    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    WOW running Raid 0
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Ditto on pulling the optical drive. My MBP has been setup like this for 2 years. SSD for startup, OS, ETC and old school drive for the filing cabinet, photos, music. Works great as long as you don't hang out with people who like optical media!

    Just a quick question, will a 17" MBP fit in a 1510 pelican? I put my 15" in the lid when I travel. It looks like it would.

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Quote Originally Posted by shaunmlavery View Post
    Just a quick question, will a 17" MBP fit in a 1510 pelican? I put my 15" in the lid when I travel. It looks like it would.
    Yep, 17" MBP fits in a 1510.

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    Smile Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Guy, you just cost me $600+. My new SSD drive will be here tomorrow, and then I will decide if I can forgive you. Oh yeah, a little extra memory also...

  24. #24
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Ah that drive screams you will love it.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Smile Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    I am liking it but a little pissy about having to reinstall all my damn plugins. It is freaking fast!

  26. #26
    Administrator, Instructor Guy Mancuso's Avatar
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Carbon cloaner is what I use and there is another could cleaning software just can't remember the name.
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

    www.guymancusophotography.com

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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    I used carbon cleaner. Does not work with CS5, nor with the plugins. All fixed and dumping garbage....liking it...

  28. #28
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    Re: Mac Solution For Medium Format Files

    Just to update working now with the Pegasus R4 which is the 4 1TB drive setup running Raid0. Have to say i was a little worried but this is turning out to be a huge benefit for me as the External Drive is as fast as my SSD which means i can actually work off that drive instead of downloading a 90GB file to the desktop took about 3 years to come from Firewire 800 than work on it and than replace it back on the Firewire. That extra work which don't sound like much but try that 5 times a day and you will see what i mean. Today I can just go to the externals run say 10 more files from one of my session folders save than copy over to the Drobo which I don't care how long that takes as i can go work on something else while it does that. Eventually I will get rid of the Drobo and add a second T bolt Raid 5 arrangement but for now this working out to be a big Plus for laptop users . In essence the only thing I am lacking in general from a big MP now is cores since now my external acts like a internal on a MP. This is HUGE of me. Sure 16gb seems like a limit but its pretty good still and i won't get to a MP but i'm also mobile so you take that in consideration and the high end laptop gets very close to a MP with a setup like the Pegasus. So far i am very very happy and well worth the cost. BTW i paid 939 for mine so look around and don't buy from Apple at 1169. I can finally not listen to Bob and Jack whine how weak my system is. Yea i am badass now and eat Cobra for breakfast the little Cobras at least. ROTFLMAO
    Photography is all about experimentation and without it you will never learn art.

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