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Old January 21st, 2009, 03:23 PM   #1
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Poof and then FCP's gone!

I am a video manager for an international charity. What that really means is I have to fulfil all the production roles on a very tight budget. About a year ago we purchased a Mac Pro from a well known UK Mac/video specialist to edit HDV footage in FCP.

The spec of the Mac is as follows:

Mac Pro - 2.8Ghz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
4GB Ram (2 x 1GB {presumably Apple} + 1 x 2GB Kingston module)
NVIDIA GeForce 8800 GT 512MB GDDR3
1 x 320GB 7200rpm Serial ATA + 3 x 750GB 7200rpm SATA 16MB Cache HDD
AJA Kona He SD/HD PCI Express Video Interface
The system was preloaded with Apple Final Cut Studio 2 and Leopard OS X (currently using v10.5.6.)

Note that a AJA Kona card was purchased not only to allow component breakout to a HD TV, but also to assist with HDV handling (at least that's what the supplier informed us).

When the Mac first turned up everything was fine for about 3-4 days of solid use. Thereafter it started to crash more and more regularly, up to 10 times in the average working day. By crash I mean I would get the spinning beachball for a few seconds and then FCP would vanish and I'd be left with the standard "The application Final Cut Pro quit unexpectedly" dialogue box.
I lived with it for a while and then one day FCP just wouldn't open and so we went back to the suppliers who eventually took it into their workshop and did various hardware tests.

Sadly I was without an edit machine for nearly 3 weeks, which really knocked my budget. None of the tests revealed the fault and eventually they formatted and reinstalled everything and handed the Mac back to us saying 'see how you get on now'.

Since they couldn't find any faults we were charged for their investigations. They did say if it continued they would have it back in again for even more intensive investigation and we'd get a refund if the fault turned out to be hardware related.

When the Mac came back it was fine for about 2 or 3 days and then the crashing started again. I kept a log of the circumstances of every crash.
A good 80% of the time they occured in this scenario. I will have about 2-3 sequences open/tabbed on the timeline. One will be my main edit the other two will have all my rushes/footage split across them for me to scrub back and forth through. It is often when scrubbing on any of the sequences that I get the beachball and subsequent crash. The other 20% of crashes have occurred during rendering, applying a video filter to a clip, exporting to QuickTime, closing a sequence tab.

The crashes tend not to occur in the early stages of a project, i.e. when blocking clips on the timeline to create a Rough Cut. It's only when I start applying transitions and effects that they tend to occur.

Overall my conclusion would be that they're linked to intensive processing of larges amount of data. But here's the interesting thing on a regular basis the crashes start half way through the day and will occur much more frequently after the first daily crash.

Quite a few times I have looked at the error report that is sent off to Apple. It's mostly gobbledegook to me but this line did stick out "EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGSGV)".

I would really appreciate it if someone can give me a clue to what's behind all this.

Thx

Nigel.
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Old January 21st, 2009, 03:46 PM   #2
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I had nothing but stability problems with a Kona installation on a previous edit machine that I used in a freelance capacity. However, many on here have had NO issues. Try removing the Kona card and see if things get stable?
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Old January 21st, 2009, 03:57 PM   #3
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My initial thought is that your hard drive is filling as you get on with your work (through footage and render files). Not having enough drive space on the system drive can cause slowdowns and eventually app crashes.

How much free space do you have on your system disk? How big is the system disk? Where are you storing your footage from FCP? Where are you storing the render files? How are the other 3 drives configured?
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Last edited by Cole McDonald; January 21st, 2009 at 03:58 PM. Reason: added a question?
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Old January 21st, 2009, 05:17 PM   #4
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System disk is 320GB with loads to spare. Footage is across two of the 750 HDD's linked together (don't ask me how, it was configured by the supplier). There is still plenty of space left.

Personally I wondered if it is a RAM issue. When I was quoted for a similar build by another company they made a big thing out of the fact that they only installed Apple RAM and anything else could lead to issues. They may be right since from the paperwork I understand that 2 of the memory modules in our Mac are from Kingston. However I was assured by the supplier that this didn't make any difference and they've run tests on the RAM.
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Old January 21st, 2009, 06:29 PM   #5
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That was the first thing that came to mind when I looked at your specs-- RAM. Generally, it's not recommended to mix different kinds or brands or sizes of sticks of RAM. Especially since you're saying your two 1GB sticks are presumably Apple, it makes me nervous. And even if it is Apple RAM, if it's ECC bufferred and the Kingston module isn't, you're gonna have some issues. Personally, I would ditch all of that RAM and buy 2x2GB sticks from a reputable online dealer. Maybe try to sell off those other sticks on ebay or at your local computer store.

HTH,

Chris
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Old January 21st, 2009, 09:18 PM   #6
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a 3rd vote for bad RAM

After loading some third party RAM, FCP started to crash regularly. It showed up as "Okay" in all tests, other things ran okay, but FCP just didn't like it. I replaced it free from the manufacturer, added some extra and things have been great ever since.

There's a diagram showing what order to load RAM into a MacPro especially if you have certain mixes of sizes, that may help with overall stability.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 01:56 AM   #7
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If anyone has a link to that diagram it would be helpful to some I'm sure. IMO though, since a lot of the programs we use suggest 2GB of RAM, you're smarter to buy in 2GB sets (1x2GB or 2x1GB) and be consistent. If you're doing effects-heavy rendering in AE, Shake, Combustion, etc. and you plan on increasing RAM later, just get 1x2GB sticks as necessary. Stay away from 2GB+1GB or 2x1GB+512MB. Sometimes unevenly matched sticks of RAM can confuse the software, even if your actual amount of RAM is sufficient for the app.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 06:50 AM   #8
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If its only crashing while running FCS I would attribute the crashes to that and reinstall FCS. You should probably run a system update to make sure that everything is updated. Make sure all the ram is seated all the way, as the computer heats up the ram could be shorting. There could also be a micro fracture in one of the ram leads that is shorting due to thermal variation. I have never had problems from mixing ram in a mac. You can also try just removing the alien ram chips. Your error message "EXC_BAD_ACCESS (SIGSGV)" is referencing a memory block so do the memory first.
You could also try creating another user account.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 09:10 AM   #9
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mis matching RAM

there could be an updated version, I've had this one for awhile. My first third party RAM had less than adequate heat sinks. Possibly get the seller to replace free of charge and or give you a refund and buy your own. Most RAM from reputable dealers carry a lifetime warranty.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 03:37 PM   #10
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I'd pull the Kingston memory and see if that has an impact.
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Old January 22nd, 2009, 04:16 PM   #11
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I used to manage and maintain 300+ xserves at my last job. We began having problems with the 3rd party RAM we had been running happily for years crashing our machines randomly. I wouldn't ignore this as a possibility.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Nigel Davey View Post
System disk is 320GB with loads to spare. Footage is across two of the 750 HDD's linked together (don't ask me how, it was configured by the supplier). There is still plenty of space left.

Personally I wondered if it is a RAM issue. When I was quoted for a similar build by another company they made a big thing out of the fact that they only installed Apple RAM and anything else could lead to issues. They may be right since from the paperwork I understand that 2 of the memory modules in our Mac are from Kingston. However I was assured by the supplier that this didn't make any difference and they've run tests on the RAM.
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Old January 25th, 2009, 02:22 AM   #12
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if you didn't make a typo in this

4GB Ram (2 x 1GB {presumably Apple} + 1 x 2GB Kingston module)

there is your problem right there - you have to install *PAIRS* of ram, not singles. I'm surprised the mac even saw it or enabled it.

2 gig of ram us way too skimpy. its dirt cheap these days. FCP wants 2.5 G for itself, plus at least another 1G for the OS, plus any other open apps. I'd get 4 2G modules for a total of 8G of ram as a bare minumum on a 2009 machine.

kingston makes ECC ram, however, I personally think kingston ram = crap. they are a marketing company.

I've been using a iRam from NewEgg in several machines and its all worked fine. ideally you should install 4 matched ram modules because :

different modules can have different timing. faster ram should down clock to the slower... should, but its apple....

using 4 matched modules means the mobo runs in quad channel mode, netting 5-10% faster performance.

you in fact can use non-ECC ram in a new mac, but you must remove all ECC ram, you can't mix and match.

last, while ram is the easy suspect, there can be many other factors. Bad power is the top of my list. I've seen it where power spikes from an AC unit caused all sorts of random crashes. having a UPS to condition power solved the problem for $100.

other causes could be =

bad power supply

bad CPU(s)

bad mobo

bad cooling causing CPU's to overheat, but I think apple has aggresive monitoring to prevent this

so I'd change the ram out first, then check power, then work your way down the list.

a hardware problem should be covered under apple warranty and N/C. to be honest, your dealer is pretty incompetent to of taken 3 weeks and not fixed this. if they really installed a single 2G module and not a pair, they have no clue what they are doing. run from them.

I do on site service and normally resolve these problems in an hour or two. its not rocket science.
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