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the RAW need for power

07 Jun the RAW need for power

When I started to shoot timelapses in raw it became very obvious that the processing power of my 17 inch top of the line MacBook Pro was not sufficient. At the time is was annoying to wait for the render to finish, but it did not impede on the work I was doing. You never expect to edit the timelapse sequence from the source images regardless of how much power your computer has, it is always necessary to render out the images to a movie container such as prores. So I did my grading in Lightroom and used AfterEffects to produce a prores file for editing.

In February the Blackmagic Cinema Camera was finally delivered and it forced me to find a solution to my processing problems. The day after the camera arrived I was booked to shoot an interview with Darren Heath and of course I wanted to use my new toy… and of course I wanted to shoot the whole thing in raw. 2 hours of interview was captured resulting in 780GB of data and 202,500 image files. The additional broll footage (which I would shoot again in raw and not prores) consumed 220GB of space on another SSD. The 5D footage was just 87GB on the mark iii, and 42GB on the mark ii.

I always expected to render out the Blackmagic footage to prores for editing, but working with the MacBook Pro was a lot more than annoying. DaVinci was not really usable to look at the footage so it was difficult to find a representative frame of a take for color correction. Rendering out the interview to prores took 13 hours. I finished the edit on the MacBook Pro but made a decision that I need more processing power and faster hard drives and more capacity for backup. Just for guidance the final edit of the 45 minute piece including grading etc took 9 hours to render.

Given that there was no MacPro on the horizon and that I needed CUDA support for DaVinci and PremirePro / AfterEffects I decided to go down the Hackintosh route. After a lot of research I bought the following components:
- Gigabyte GA-Z77X-UP5 TH motherboard
- Corsair Carbide Series 300R CC-9011014-WW Mid-Tower
- Intel i7-3770K CPU
- 32GB Corsair CMZ32GX3M4X1866C10
- 2 Crucial CT512M4SSD2 512GB m4
- 2 Seagate 3TB 3.5 inch 7200RPM
- 2 NVidia GTX 580 4GB
- Corsair AX1200 Professional Series AX 1200W
- Corsair Water Cooler CWCH100 and 5 more fans

Setting up the Hackintosh was straight forward and took about 3 hours. There are many guides online, but I would recommend following the NoFilmSchool guide and using Multibeast. I had a few issues with getting the right screen resolution but in the end managed to get the package up and running and stable.

In terms of hardware I run the CPU Overclock to 4.4GHz and the memory at stock speed. To optimize the disk speed I use one SSD for the system, one SSD as the scratch disk and run the two 3TB drives in a OSX software raid giving me 380 MB/s read speed. The two GTX 580 graphic cards are very power hungry, hence the large PSU, but it in terms of performance they are very good for DaVinci. Again for reference the piece that took 9 hours to render on the laptop takes just over 1h now.

I also bough the new late 2012 iMac with top of the range configuration. This is now my main edit computer and once the projects are finished I use the Hackintosh to render. Just to test I rendered the same interview and it took just under 3 hours to render on the iMac.

Beyond computing power storage is key when dealing with raw files. I run a lacie 4 bay raid5 array connecting to the iMac via a eSATA / Thunderbolt adapter to store my working files. Once the projects are finished I move them to a 5 bay Thunderbolt Drobo and keep another copy on an additional 4 bay raid 5 drive in my server cabinet.

Of course I do not shoot interviews in raw anymore on the Blackmagic Cinema Camera, but I feel with the recent developments for extracting a higher image quality from the 5Ds I will be forced to shoot raw on long takes with the DSLRs. Now we need faster broadband of h.265 to transport the quality we capture to the wider audience.

  • Ravi Ghowry
    Posted at 11:22h, 21 July Reply

    Hi Mario

    Thanks for your blog post on this. Quite interesting to read your choice in using a hackintosh. How reliable is a Hackintosh? Do you have issues with updates that Apple release making Mac OS X unusable?



    • Mario
      Posted at 12:48h, 21 July Reply

      Hi Ravi – the hackintosh is pretty reliable, but I have to say I am not pushing my luck. Once I had a stable config I left it alone. This is a computer I only use for rendering so it usually does not need the latest versions.

      When updating I check the forums before as many people share if a new version works.

      Hope this helps


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