Munich - 5th June 2019 

 

A New MacPro for 8K Editing?

Or just a better codec?

By Jan Weigner, CTO Cinegy

Everyone loves a good show and nobody beats Apple. They do the best shows and their Apple Developer Conference Keynote this Monday was no exception. Apple introduced their forthcoming MacPro machine in all its glory, the machine, the savior, the one all of us had been waiting for all this time, with some weak souls almost having lost faith already.

Here it final was. Taking the Cheese Grater design to the next level. But importantly to top it of Apple did show a new – price and details yet unknown – “programmable ASIC” (or do they mean FPGA) PCIe 3.0 accelerator card called Afterburner. That amazing technical marvel allows the acceleration of apps such as Apple’s FCP X editing software. With the help of the Afterburner card, FCP X can play three 8K ProRes streams (at 29.97fps) simultaneously. Simply amazing. A shame it is seemingly a PCIe 3.0 x16 connected card, which means four streams of 8K ProRes @ 29.97 would have been at or above the physical bus bandwidth limit anyway.

Sitting back at my desk, having slept-off the “Apple-WWDC-late-night-watching” hangover, I am now writing these lines using my battered four-year-old PC. With its old six core Intel Core i7-3960X processor (no AVX2 support sadly) and its three-year-old Nvidia GTX1060 graphics card, it is of course no comparison to the new MacPro. I was wondering how badly my old, trusted companion would hold up against the new Precious from Apple.

The idea I had presented to the wife the previous night of having to buy the new MacPro, not the base model, but one with a little bit more oomph, along with the shiny new Apple monitor and of course the Afterburner card, projected by me at around just $15-20k, did not receive the joyous response I had hoped for.

To make my case more convincing I decided to enlist scientific help. Benchmarks. 

I had to show how inadequate and slow my gear was (not mentioning my 32-core Threadripper CPU and Nvidia Quadro RTX5000 equipped box on my other desk of course) and that the new Precious was a must have.

First test playing Apple ProRes 422 HQ UHD – merely 35fps at 55% CPU load. Looking good. I can’t possible work with something this slow.

Now for 8K. Not having any 8K ProRes files I found some files with the same technical specs as the ones used by Apple at their keynote – same color space, frame rate and quality, but these were encoded using Adobe Premiere CC using the Daniel2 codec.

Started the first clip using the free Daniel2 Player (the command line version, I am a shell guy) – instant playback of 8K 4:2:2 10bit at full 29.97fps with a CPU load of 20% and the GPU being loaded at around 30% (CUDA).

Not looking good for helping with the plea for a new MacPro.

Started a second, simultaneous player – being a shell guy pays off here – cursor up and enter – now we are up to 35% CPU load and 57% GPU load. OK, not working out as planned.

Starting the third player – still working now three streams of 8K 4:2:2 10bit @ 29.97 fps playing on my screen. Luckily now the load is only 54% for the CPU but 88% for the GPU, which means it will not play a fourth 8K stream.

See the screen shot for details:

Screenshot: Three 8K streams @ 29.97fps

 

Screenshot: Playing three streams of 8K 4:2:2 10 bit @ 29.97fps on a <$1000 computer

DIY

Don’t believe any benchmark you did not fake yourself is my motto. The video I used is the “Timesquare Scene” which can be downloaded here: https://www.daniel2.com/index.php/download/videos

The player I used is the automatic build done via AppVeyor from the Github repository (https://github.com/Cinegy/Cinecoder.Samples), which saves me from doing the compiling – here are the binaries for Windows: https://ci.appveyor.com/api/buildjobs/ejb185e5oc029hgx/artifacts/CinecoderSamples-master-0.0.250.zip

For the “non command line people” there is also a player with GUI: https://www.daniel2.com/index.php/download/products

This is the exact command I used 1, 2, and 3 times in a row:

start /b Daniel2.SimplePlayerGL.exe i:\NHK-MLB-Timesquare-Scene-60fps-18s11f-10bit-CQ-Q20.mxf -decoders 2 -cuda -d3d11

Summary

No new MacPro for me, sadly. At least not based on those arguments.

If 8K (or multi-cam UHD) editing is a performance issue, then maybe the choice (or internal design) of video codec used is the bigger issue. 8K editing is possible today easily using existing CPUs and graphics cards and does unfortunately not serve well as an excuse to get a new Cheese Grater.

The Daniel2 codec exists for Adobe Premiere CC for Windows and Mac, but unfortunately there is no GPU support on the Mac as there are no official NVIDIA drivers, but the new CPU-only codec is also blazingly fast and on a new 8-core MacBookPro will also decode more than 120 frames of 8K 4:2:2 10bit per second.

Now I will go and see how many 8K streams the Threadripper/RTX5000 machine can handle – my guess is 12-16 streams, maybe more. 

If anyone from Apple reads this and wants to provide me with a new MacPro to use e.g. for benchmarking I will gladly accept the donation.