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Old April 21st, 2007, 04:27 PM   #1
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MacBook vs MacBook Pro for HDV Capture

Extremely excited about heading off to the South Pacific for my first documentary.

I am currently just looking to get a laptop to capture, view and store unedited HDV footage while in the field. When I return in the fall and start to edit, I will move to a desktop.

I was curious if I can get away with the MacBook or should I spend the extra funds and get the MacBook Pro for the above needs?

I would get the G-Raid Q external hard drive for storage.

On the software side would iMovie HD be adequate for HDV capture and viewing of unedited clips? Or would it be better to get Final Cut Studio 2 in May? I was kind of hoping Apple would update DVD Studio Pro by the fall. If I understand correctly, iMovie HD will capture in Apple Intermediate Codec (AIC) while Final Cut Pro can capture native HDV. Are there any pros & cons to either? My main concern now is capture quality and then editing down the road.

By the way, I am switching to Mac from PC. Other than being a proud owner of an Apple II+ way back when, have always been in the PC camp. As I am relatively new to video editing, I have decided to make the switch sooner than later. Looking forward to the switch and joining you folks.

Thanks for any input in advance.

Jonah
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Old April 21st, 2007, 09:52 PM   #2
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Jonah,

I dont care what ANYONE TELLS YOU!!!!... i switched from PC to a Mac book from not touching a mac in ten years.

I went mac book because i wanted the smaller size. Since i shoot HDV on the go... here is the rule.. i use FCP on my macbook... YOU MUST HAVE 2 gigs of ram on it... you dont need to buy it from them they rip you off you can get a nice set at compusa. but it works 100% fine... If you search a few of my posts you will see alot of videos... all done on FCP and all done on my macbook while i sit at home.

Others will tell you FCP or HDV wont work unless you get a Macbook pro.. so not true... but again you must have 2 gigs of ram.

Today i went all mac at home and the office... i think we broke the bank.. ill have a post and videos on our trip to the apple store later this month.

as far as software.. just load up FCE on your macbook for your trip and take a portable harddrive... this way you can capture at night and view... even do a little editing. save it all on the portable harddrive then load it up on your desktop with FCP and boom your done... Even better... i did this waiting on the mac pro 8core... take the mini dvi to dvi or vga adapter. hook up a 2nd screen and you can use your macbook as your editing station....

also one more thing i upgrade my harddrive to 7200RPM that helps a tad. But of course external harddrives are what matter at this point.

If you have any questions hit me up.

~mike

P.s. reason i suggest macbook is it's a bit smaller for travel and it works.. plus the extra money you will save can go toward video gear or in case something should happen fund. It's always wise to save a buck and put it towards something else.
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Old April 21st, 2007, 10:09 PM   #3
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Jonah

Down the road you're going to need real editing software to put this doco together. With that in mind, and given that you are choosing the Mac platform for this, then there is little reason not to go with Final Cut Studio, which is by far the best bang for the buck as far as Mac-based video production software is concerned. And consequnetly, there is little if any reason not to buy now. Get FCS2 when it ships in May.

To take advantage of all the apps in FCS2 you will need a MacBok Pro ... even if you didn't I would advise it anyway. The MBP's are good solid machines ideally suited to field work. The 17", while larger and heavier, has the screen real estate that you need for these apps too.

Internal hard disc, bigger but slower or smaller and faster? I'd go for the bigger but slower (unless you can get one of those new 200GB 7200rpm toshiba drives which is best of both worlds). Why wouldn't I go for the 7200 Rpm ? Well first, my internal is not my media drive. Even so, I've never actually had a problem with the slower laptop drives for capture or playback at a pinch, but I may have just been lucky in that regard. So, for me, given that discs have a habit of filling up with crap, and given it is not my primary media drive, then bigger is better.

RAM? As much as you can afford. 3GB is the current limit for the MBP's. Although you a purchasing for a specific job, this purchase will stay with you for some time to come. And as we all know, OSes and app's have a RAM hungry nature which seems to know no bounds. As things progress, 3GB will not seem like so much.

External media drive? Yes of course, highly recommended. If you don’t have one then your internal disc will be eaten up by clip media in no time (especially if you opted for the smaller faster internal disc... And, as noted above, if you get an external drive for your media then the speed of your internal drive is les of an issue). There are a number of options for external HD. There is one primary questions that you need to answer. Do you envisage needing to edit in the field without any access to a power supply ?
If the answer is “yes”, then you need to buy a “bus-powered” solution ie one that can be powered just by plugging it into the laptop. This limits you to using a laptop hard disc in an external Firewire enclosure. As mentioned before, laptop drives have a smaller capacity than their desktop cousins (and they’re more expensive). The best bus-powered solution is either G-Technology’s “G-RAID Mini” or Lacie’s “Little Big Disk”. Both contain 2x160GB hard discs in a hardware RAID, and connect via Firewire 800. This makes them very fast, and gives them a larger capacity (320GB). They are very reliable but also very expensive. Single disc solutions are of course much cheaper. You can buy these from the big brand names too (Lacie’s “Rugged” line are supposed to be hard wearing), or you need not go with a ‘brand name’ drive at all. You can buy the discs and Firewire based drive enclosures separately in most computer malls, as we did in KL, and then put them together yourself. These are not RAID solutions of course, so not as fast and not the same capacity ... But much cheaper.
If “bus-powered” is not necessary then your other choices expand significantly. Currently the best (and fastest) option would be an SATA RAID. This requires using an ExpressCard/34 eSATA adapter in the laptop to provide the eSATA interface for the RAID. SATA drives/interface are very much faster than Firewire. You could add a single drive or an entire eSATA RAID. If SATA is overkill for your needs then you can choose a external firewire drive. My drive of choice for this is G-Technology’s “G-RAID” which has a large capacity, and is fast and very reliable. Again, its not cheap.
Don’t buy a USB harddrive. They cannot maintain a fast enough sustained data rate such as is needed for working with video.

With a combination of the MBP and FCS2 you will be ready and able to log and capture, view and pre-cut in the field, all in the camera native HDV codec.
Later you'll be able to save yourself significant time by using these precuts and batch lists to recapture (if necessary). Your license for FCS will be valid for both the laptop and your future desktop too, which is an added bonus.

Best of luck in the South Pacific you lucky bugger, how bad can that be eh?

cheers
Andy

Last edited by Andy Mees; April 22nd, 2007 at 01:07 AM.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 08:58 AM   #4
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Originally Posted by Michael Ferreira View Post
Others will tell you FCP or HDV wont work unless you get a Macbook pro.. so not true...
Well remember that things are changing as Apple releases Final Cut Studio 2. I think FCP will run on a Macbook, but who knows about future versions? However Motion and Color will not run (according to Apple's specs) because the MacBook doesn't have a dedicated graphics card. It would be a shame to spend all that money on hardware and software and not be able to use two of the most exciting components of Final Cut Studio.

See the following for more info: http://www.apple.com/finalcutstudio/specs.html
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 10:54 AM   #5
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Apple also said FCP should not work with a macbook... Try before you buy...

again if when your done in the field your going to be editing on a desktop why waste more money on a bigger computer. the macbook is smaller to travel with you wanted a computer that you could capture HDV and view out in the field. the macbook will do that and more is what i was getting at...

when you shoot your first doc you always remember when you wish you had more money to spend. on this or that... the macbook pro users here will keep pushing the macbook pro.. i use almost everything apple but the apple tv. the advice i give is due to the fact he wanted something to capture and view.

again i think save the extra money invest it in your project speed it on the software,camera,ect.

I know i wont have any backup on this issue since everyone always thinks you need the best of the best because they have it or they cant have it or whatever.

But spend some time at the apple store feel the units out.. they even install software on them.. ask to have fcp installed ect. at the end of the day make up your own mind see what fits your budget and what fits your needs.

~Mike
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 06:14 PM   #6
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I don't wish to get drawn into a debate. My editing requirements are not the heaviest. I have FCE on my MacBook, and Final Cut Studio on my PowerMac. With the exception of video scopes, log & capture, and a wider range of sequence presets, FCE does most everything. If I wasn't writing plug-ins (FxPlug) that needed to be tested with FCP and Motion 2, I probably wouldn't even own FCS.

The only thing I'd think about, if I were going to use my MacBook exclusively in the field as an HDV capture tool, is whether or not I wanted log & capture ability. That would require FCP.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 06:38 PM   #7
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This thread made me think about one question about the firewire interfaces on external drives that I've been sidestepping, and maybe somebody here can answer. The MacBook has a single Firewire 400 port, so you either need to run the hard drive off of USB2, or daisy chain the camera to the hard drive. But most external drives with a triple interface have a single Firewire 400 connector. Is it possible to connect the camera to the Firewire 400 port on the external hard drive, and then connect the hard drive to the computer through the Firewire 800 port using a 9-pin to 6-pin cable? I think I have all the cables necessary to try this, but I've never gotten around to testing it and its easier to ask....

-Terence
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 06:55 PM   #8
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You can daisy chain the camera on the FW 400 port. 4 out of 5 of my FW drives have 2 FW ports for daisychaining, and the FW 400 has enough bandwidth to handle a DV capture, while writing back to a FW drive on the same bus.

FW 400 sustained transfer speeds are around 32MB/second
DV25 (miniDV SD) is around 3.5MB/second
HDV is under 3MB/second
Most external hard drives can sustain write speeds over 12MB/second

Therefore, there is lots of elbow room, if everything is working as it should.
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Old April 22nd, 2007, 07:46 PM   #9
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I would rather be on the safe side and get a Mac Book Pro. It already offers much quicker hard drives. You would have to replace the hard drive out of the Mac Book yourself if you wanted to match the speed. You get a much better graphic card that’s essential to playing back HDV and AVCHD files smoothly. Also the Mac Book has a limit of only 2 gigs of RAM as apposed to 3 gigs of RAM for the Mac Book Pro.

As you know, Final Cut Studio have gotten a massive upgrade so if your willing to spend the extra money, it should be considered.
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Old April 23rd, 2007, 06:50 AM   #10
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As others have said, if you can afford it, a MBP is much better. But in my situation, a regular MacBook was all I could afford at the time. Never mind what the official Apple statement is. Upgrade the RAM to 2 gigs and you should be fine. FCP and Motion both work fine for me, although in Motion I have only done very basic stuff. I'm assuming with more detail it may start to hang up. The Macbook does not have a video card so Motion takes a good chunk of RAM to operate. Not ideal but it has worked OK for me so far.
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Old April 23rd, 2007, 06:34 PM   #11
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Wow, thanks for all the responses.

What I have gotten form your suggestions is that Macbook will work for my temporary needs of capture/view/storage. This I confirmed yesterday with a visit to an Apple store yesterday, when I went for a quick look and walked out two hours later. However, if the budget permits go with the MBP.

Either way, I will go for one of the refurbish laptops on Apple’s site to save some money.

Also as suggested, I will go ahead and purchase FCP Studio 2 when it comes out in May rather than later. I am sure I can use the extra time to start to learn its INS & OUTS.

Thanks again for all the suggestions. I have listened attentively.

Jonah
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Old April 25th, 2007, 08:39 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Andy Mees View Post
If “bus-powered” is not necessary then your other choices expand significantly. Currently the best (and fastest) option would be an SATA RAID. This requires using an ExpressCard/34 eSATA adapter in the laptop to provide the eSATA interface for the RAID. SATA drives/interface are very much faster than Firewire. You could add a single drive or an entire eSATA RAID. If SATA is overkill for your needs then you can choose a external firewire drive. My drive of choice for this is G-Technology’s “G-RAID” which has a large capacity, and is fast and very reliable. Again, its not cheap.
Don’t buy a USB harddrive. They cannot maintain a fast enough sustained data rate such as is needed for working with video.
I'm just shopping for an external HD now. Do you think it's worth the extra investment for a eSATA solution? Would you actually notice faster workflow when editing in FCP over a firewire 800? Or is it more about being able to add on multiple drives?

And one possibly dumb question. Is there any issues surrounding having the camera capturing on the firewire 400 and a firewire 800 drive receiving the data?

Trish
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Old May 1st, 2007, 11:44 AM   #13
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Hi Trish,

There are others here with far more DV experience than myself, however here are the technical reasons why I chose to skip FW800 and go straight to an eSATA (SIIG ExpressCard-M) based solution.

1. When capturing HDV in Final Cut (Express in my case) there's an additional conversion step that converts the HDV stream into Apple's AIC format. I was capturing from my HV20 to a series-connected external FW400 drive - generic 3.5" drive in a Vantec case. I suspect that because of that extra conversion step, and the fact that I was both pulling data from the camera and writing to the disk via the one FW400. I was seeing capture lag between 10-15% by the end of a given session, even with FCE in the foreground for the duration.

2. Internal SATA hard-drives are cheap. Going the eSATA route means you can get something like a StarTech ESATCASE2 and swap out projects and/or source material as required. Just pick up another SATA drive and plug it in. It's the difference between $0.50<GB and $2/GB for an off-shelf, external FW800 drive.

ESATCASE2 info: http://www.startech.com/Product/Item...ESATCASE2&c=US

You can also get external cases like Vantec's NEXTAR 3, NST-360SU-BK/BL that have both eSATA and USB2.0 interfaces. Makes it a bit easier if you want/need to access your material on a machine without an eSATA port. As Andy sez, don't use USB2.0 as your primary interface; it's there just in case it's needed.

NEXSTAR 3 info: http://www.vantecusa.com/product-storage.html

I just captured some HDV last night using this setup and capture only lagged temporarily to 2% while I did other stuff in the foreground with FCE in the background. It caught up in a few seconds when FCE was in the fore again.

Aside: When I bought my MBP, I opted for the faster 7200rpm internal drive so for me, using eSATA is "as fast as" running internally. If you happened to go the 5400rpm internal drive route then you'll probably notice an improvement.

Hope this helps!

Andrew.
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