I’ve been using the new MacBook for various tasks – nothing too arduous, just general computing tasks and it’s been well up to the job.
Recently, I had the opportunity to record the local Dance School show at a local theatre, just to allow parents to keep a record of the show. As I have a Panasonic GH4, I decided to record the show in 4K – as you do!
So after two hours, I had a fair bit of 4K footage to edit.
During the performance, rather than trying to pan and zoom and keep up with the action, difficult with a dance performance with so many different groups and routines, I basically just framed the stage, used a small aperture to ensure a deep depth of field and made sure the focus was spot on. The idea being that I would import the footage in 4K and do the zooms and pans in FCPX on my Mac Pro. As the final output was intended to be a DVD (!), I had plenty of scope to zoom and pan without losing any quality.
Once all the 4K footage was imported, I went through and removed all the dead space/gaps and decided to create a new 4K master track by exporting in ProRes 422 LT. I could then re-import the video as one continuous clip – much easier to add keyframes for the panning and zooming. I ended up exporting as two clips, the first and second half of the show. The files were approx 200GB each and the Mac Pro handled the export with aplomb.
Then I had a thought.
I wonder how the new MacBook would handle the 4K footage?
You may think I’m joking following all the negativity surrounding the performance of the new MacBook, but I thought I’d give it a go.
I’d already bought a fast SSD external USB3 drive to use with the MacBook so I had plenty of disk space. The drive is a Samsung Memory 1 Terabyte USB 3.0 Portable External SSD Solid State Drive from Amazon.
I connected the USB3 drive to the Mac Pro and copied the files across. Unmounted the USB3 drive and connected it to the MacBook via the USB-C adaptor.
I created a new 4K project in FCPX on the MacBook and imported the two master 4K clips into FCPX, leaving the original files in place.
The import happened almost instantaneously as no data needed to be moved.
I selected the first clip in the browser and hit the space bar to play it.
It played the 4K clip flawlessly.
I skimmed the clip in the browser and again, no playback issues whatsoever. Don’t forget, this is a 200GB ProRes 422 LT file.
I dragged the first clip to the project and skimmed the primary storyline effortlessly. Playback from anywhere on the timeline started instantly.
I changed the Project properties to 1080p and still playback was fine.
As I started to add keyframes to pan and zoom I had no issues what so ever. FCPX remained responsive and I completed editing the first segment in exactly the same time as it would have taken me in FCPX on the Mac Pro.
Now obviously, once I’ve completed the edit, it would be foolish to export the entire project and transcode on the MacBook when I have a Mac Pro sitting here. The Mac Pro should export much faster.
To test the relative speed of export I tried exporting just the first 5 minutes of edited 4K footage in H.264 format at 1080p resolution on the new MacBook – It took 13 minutes 20 seconds writing to the same SSD drive as the project and source files. Obviously, performance will be an issue when doing heavy transcoding and exporting – not really unexpected with the class of processor in the new MacBook. Although it’s just the extended time – it still works, just not as fast as the Mac Pro.
I then unmounted the SSD drive containing the Project and source files and mounted it on the Mac Pro.
I ran the identical H.264 export on the Mac Pro and as anticipated, it was much, much quicker – only taking 5 minutes and 20 second – pretty much transcoding and exporting in real time.
It’s a bit of an unfair comparison as the Mac Pro is a 3.5 GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 with 64GB RAM.
Of course, I could have run the entire export from the MacBook, it just would have taken longer – much longer, but the resultant exported file would be identical on both machines.
But as far as the actual editing process is concerned i.e. the responsiveness of FCPX whilst cutting and editing clips, adding keyframes, browsing clips, etc., – it’s virtually impossible to differentiate between the MacBook and Mac Pro.
My take away from this…
If anyone says “of course you wouldn’t use the new MacBook for video editing” – you most certainly can!
With correctly encoded video and enough fast storage, it’s really not an issue.
Just so that no-one gets the wrong idea, I really wouldn’t suggest anyone gets a new MacBook as a primary video editing machine. But I could easily use mine to edit fairly hefty projects whilst on the road without any issues when working in tandem with my Mac Pro. With the screen resolution pushed to its maximum Retina option of “looks like” 1440 x 900, I even found I had enough screen real estate for a minimum FCPX window layout.
The perfect travel laptop!