Creative Cow Newsletter

Capture and performance

ProRes likes new computers. Really, really likes them.

I’m surprised that this is a surprise, but it really appears to be. I saw this again and again, across multiple forums. The fact is that, for all of the talk about ProRes being a lightweight format, it’s massively processor intensive, especially for live capture.

Yes, manufacturer’s minimum specs are frequently a suggestion, a conservative, butt-covering dodge. We both know that we’ve often worked under the spec just fine. But especially as we enter the HD age (like we have for the past 10 years, and probably the next 10 too), we’re losing the wiggle room.

There’s also a difference between the minimum spec to run the product, and the spec to run all of the product’s features with all of the performance you expect from the demo, the whitepaper, or whatever else you’re basing your expectations on. It gets even hairier when you consider that ProRes isn’t just a new feature. It’s a new technology. That means it’s looking forward, not looking back.

Which also means that the demos and white papers aren’t based on minimum spec machines. They’re not based on last year’s model.

Nevertheless, I have enormous sympathy for the many, many variations I saw on this quote: Apple's recomended system is the dual 2.5; I purchased FCS2 based on those recomendations, my system being in excess of that.

I’m so sorry if this has happened to you! Yes, a dual 2.5 gig G5 is really truly up to reliably running every application in FCS 2.

But for zippy ProRes? Not according to the experiences I’ve read so far.

Here’s Gary Adcock: ...it appears that the non-intel desktops are not suited to LIVE capture of material to the Apple prores codec in any HD format.

Followed by this from Walter Biscardi:
Absolutely true. The older systems, even one year old, simply won't be able to keep up with the Pro Res codec in realtime

As with all technology, if you want to absolutely keep up, you need to plan to update your computer ever 12 months. What I do here is we have three edit suites and I generally purchase a new computer every 8 - 10 months. The newest one goes in one suite and the others slide down. So my oldest machine is about 2 1/2 years old.


However, G5s may not be entirely out of the picture. I also read that
Capturing to ProRes (10-bit) with a Quad G5 works fine with 1080P from a D5 so far.

The good news is that the benefits of ProRes over uncompressed HD on new computers are staggering. An octo-Mac jumps from a single-stream of uncompressed 1080i/60 to 4 streams of 220 Mbps ProRes. The benefits jump even higher with lower resolutions: 3 streams of 10-bit uncompressed 720p/24 to 14 streams of 10-bit 220 ProRes.

Did I mention that this on Octo-Mac? You’ll need not just a new Mac, but a really, really beefy one to get the full benefits. (At least for 10-bit 220. Read on for the rest of the story.)