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Old July 30th, 2010, 02:09 PM   #1
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Which macbook pro for FCP?

Sorry if this has been discussed before, but I figured this would be the best place to ask.

I have recently discovered the amazing world of video (thanks to those guys), coming from a background in still photography. I have subsequently bought a Panasonic GH1 with which I am extremely happy. But shooting in HD (both 720 and 1080) made me realize how lacking my current computer is (a Lenovo business laptop, the X61s). I tried Premiere Elements with it, and there is absolutely no way I can edit anything. Just playing the files is a struggle.

Which is why I am considering another big expense and buying a macbook pro. I have narrowed my choices to a couple of configurations but couldn't find information on which features were the most important in a video perspective.

My use would be as a main workstation (i.e. almost as a desktop computer), plugged to an external screen, but I would like the option to take it in the field, especially as I tend to do a lot of traveling and might need to edit on the go. I am not looking for the highest performance, but would want to be able to run FCP with HD footage without any significant lags or delays and, well, have an enjoyable enough experience that editing video wouldn't feel like a chore.


Since I have a nice external screen, I was considering the 13" option, as it is much cheaper, but the slower cpu (core 2 duo instead of i5/i7) and the fact that the video card is sharing memory with the main system scare me for performance.

If I were to go to the 15", would I really see a significant difference between the 2.66GHz i7 and its 512M of video ram compared to the 2.4GHz i5 and its 256M? I was thinking that for the same money, I could give the 2.4GHz an 8GB ram upgrade, would that be worth the investment? Or could I get away with a humbler machine?


Any help would be extremely welcome!

Thanks,
/Alexandre
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 11:16 AM   #2
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For video, it's always advisable to get the most horsepower, but it really just depends on how much need out of your machine.

I've done quite a bit of editing on my older MBP, 2.2Ghz & 128 video ram and it works pretty well, though I'm always anxious to get projects moved to my desktop for any serious editing.

I edit HDV which is a easier for FC to handle also.

If you didn't want to be portable with your editing, I'd say get an imac - way better for editing IMO.

The other thing to consider is that since you are a PC person, you can get a comparable or faster PC for much less than a mac, and put what you save towards CS5.
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Old August 2nd, 2010, 04:12 PM   #3
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I would echo Chris's comments. I can edit on my MBP (2.28Ghz Core 2 Duo) for I'm always ready to move the projects to the desktop where possible.

However, with a good monitor plugged in (e.g. 1920x1200) it does a pretty good job provided your hard disk can keep up. If you plan on doing more than one HD track then it's a problem. If you are simply editing a single HD track (or some short overlays) then you should be OK with pretty much any modern MBP.

My one tip here would be :

Get as much ram and as big a hard disk as you can possibly get. You will always want more of both!
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 01:49 AM   #4
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Get as much ram and as big a hard disk as you can possibly get. You will always want more of both!
Hard disk performance is more important for FCP so go for a 7200rpm disk if possible. Replace the DVD drive with a second disk to spread the IO load. I see that OWC now rather snappily call their gizmo to enable this the "Data Doubler" OWC Data Doubler Optical Bay Hard Drive/SSD... (DDAMBS0GB) at OWC

RAM in excess of 4GB (standard on MBPs now) is not so essential unless you are running other applications at the same time as FCP.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 09:05 AM   #5
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Replacing the DVD drive with a hard drive is certainly a boost for performance, but it will void your warranty, and though I've replaced HDs in our laptops, it is not "fun" for a novice. fast external drives should suffice.

One of the biggest boosts for FC is to also keep your main HD as uncluttered as possible, and keep all your video project files on another drive.
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Old August 3rd, 2010, 01:44 PM   #6
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Hard disk performance is more important for FCP so go for a 7200rpm disk if possible.
This would be true as long as the project with all capture files, render files etc will fit on the drives you have available. If this won't then the speed of the drive becomes rather academic.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 12:26 AM   #7
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This would be true as long as the project with all capture files, render files etc will fit on the drives you have available. If this won't then the speed of the drive becomes rather academic.
True but the choice isn't between a disk of sufficient capacity or one with a 7200rpm rotation speed. If you go to the Apple Store & configure a 15" MBP the standard disk is 500GB 5400rpm with the option of an upgrade to a 500GB 7200rpm for an extra $50 which is a price well worth paying if the MBP is intended for use with FCP.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 05:35 AM   #8
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Although a 17" MBP is expensive and heavier, and maybe too large for what you want to do: it's the only MBP these days with an ExpresscardSlot, so if I would have to give my recommendation, it would be that one.

The slot provides for the only way to get eSata, or putting in SxS cards and load them off directly and very fast.

If you will only work with HDV and drives connected trough Firewire800, you can ignore this post, and just go for a 15" MBP, which seems the best compromise in power/screen size.
I have an older pre-unibody 15" MBP with 2 firewireports and an Expresscard slot and matte screen and discrete graphics, and I still love it. Yes, I can edit HD without a problem, so I guess it wouldn't really be a problem on one of the new Macbook Pro's these days.
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Old August 4th, 2010, 07:48 AM   #9
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He's using a Panasonic GH1. which is AVCHD and an SD card, so he could get by without the expresscard slot. Would be limited to one FW 800 port, but that should suffice. Besides, he could almost get a 13in MBP & an imac for the $ of a 17" MBP.

Then again, we haven't heard back from him so...
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Old August 6th, 2010, 06:39 PM   #10
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Although a 17" MBP is expensive and heavier, and maybe too large for what you want to do:
Took delivery of a 2.66 i7, 7200rpm, 8GB, anti-glare MBP this week, Some quick notes coming from a MBP 15" 2.66 mid-2009 with dual graphics processors.

The screen, resolution and most of all the 7200rpm drive were immediately apparent. Went with 8GB because we run Autocue prompter under VMWare Fusion/WinXP

Using AJA system test I was getting well over 100mb/s read and write on the 17" internal drive. That pretty much beats the system drive in my MacPro and is not far behind our Promise Stor on eSata (RAID5 4x 2TB WD RE4). By comparison a RAID0 (2x WD 1TB 7200) sees about 120 mb/s.

Anti-glare is fantastic, we didn't need 17", but ExpressCard34 was a must for a number of reasons. There is a lot of talk being forced to lugg about a 17" if you need ExpressCard. I too was considering that - then did two things:

1. with a slight squeeze it fitted fine in 15" stm laptop sleeve

2. sit the 15 ontop of the 17 and there stuff all difference.

Very quickly came to conclusion there is no fuss going to 17 for ExpressCard.
It's the little things that matter - I'm forever swapping USB devices because the 2 USB ports are just a little too close together...with 3x on the 17 I can at least have the two end ones in use without having to disconnect a drive, cable or USB dongle we use.

15" vs 17" pic 1
15" vs 17" pic 2
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Old August 7th, 2010, 02:03 AM   #11
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2. sit the 15 ontop of the 17 and there stuff all difference.
<snip>
15" vs 17" pic 1
15" vs 17" pic 2
I keep hearing people who complain that the 17" is too big & heavy but this refutes that. The extra screen is easily worth it anyway. The new higher resolution screen on the 15" model is not too bad but the standard size 15" screen is only 1440x900 vs. the 1920x1200 of the 17" that's 1,236,000 vs. 2,304,000 i.e. over a million less pixels!
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Old August 7th, 2010, 08:51 AM   #12
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I'm sure most if not all feel that the 17" is the better choice for serious editing, but unfortunately, the issue is choice more than the 18-20% heavier & bigger and Apple has taken away that choice. People are passionate about their disappointment with Apple because they have increasingly had the attitude of, we're not going to give you what you want/need, we're going to actually narrow your choice.

I'm quite happy with my macs, but I don't think it's a great thing to sell THEIR idea of buy the model we want you to buy.
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Old August 9th, 2010, 03:54 AM   #13
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really on location?

I have the 17" MBP and it is a beauty no doubt. I got it for the potential of remote/location editing - actually less than 20% of my editing time is spent on location. I find that for anything more than assemble editing at home I really need a big monitor, so the advantage of the 17" has disappeared.

I also find that Logic Pro, Soundtrack pro and Color (as good as their interfaces are) use such tiny fonts that if I use the 17" screen I am forever squinting at the screen.

My view is that unless you definitely need the expresscard on a 17" for a RAID drive, it would be better to get the 15" MBP and a 23" monitor with it. If you dont need a RAID drive or expansion then the i7 iMac is incredible.

I guess if yr doing tons of location editing and a 23" monitor is too much luggage -then I would easily recommend the 17" MBP because it is a powerful and beautiful machine and I've had no issues with my HDV workflow to DVD output at all. A total pleasure!
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