The Underpowered MacBook?

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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!

 

My First 3rd Party Apple Watch Strap

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I mentioned on Twitter a few days ago that I’d ordered a Black Leather 3rd Party Apple Watch Strap (or Band) from Amazon for the princely sum of £19.99 . Several people asked me to post my thoughts when it arrived.

I’ve been using the Steel Milanese loop with my 42mm Stainless Steel Apple Watch.

Well the 3rd Party strap arrived today!

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The packing is fairly basic but functional, and there are no markings to indicate that it’s Apple certified  – I don’t even know if that’s available yet. The packaging also indicates that it was made in China, surprise, surprise.

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The lugs fit into the Apple Watch just fine, although you do need to make sure they are the correct way round.

Finish is good, although the band is just stamped out – no stitching, but the leather feels quite soft and supple.

The stainless steel lugs are a perfect match for the stainless steel watch, although the buckle is more of a brushed metal effect.

It feels comfortable to wear and there is plenty of adjustment in the number of holes on the strap.

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So yes, it feels fine.

I’ll wear it for a couple of days and see how it goes. Mind you, the Apple Sports Band I ordered weeks ago is out for delivery today – Typical!

And yes, I’m still wearing the Apple Watch reverse crown style.

 

 

Photos – Faces Data Update

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Following on from my blog post yesterday, I’ve been informed by several people that the Faces UI is not syncronised between any Photos Library regardless if it’s optimised or not. In other words, if you go to the Faces panel of any synchronised Library except for the “Master” library, it looks like there is no Faces data available.

This seems totally nonsensical, so I thought I’d do a bit more digging.

It transpires that although the actual Faces UI presentation and bubbles are not synchronised, the actual Faces data is.

So although you can’t see the assigned faces in bubbles in the Faces panel of the other Library, you can still search for previously assigned faces using the search panel. So your Faces data is still accessible even on the optimised Library (and also iOS).

You can also set up a Smart Album based on an assigned face or a combination of faces and other attributes, and these will be synchronised across both types of Libraries. The full list of assigned Face names is available when setting up the Smart Album on either type of Photos Library.

This is where it starts to go a bit wacky!

If you start assigning face names on a second machine, it will start to create and populate the Faces UI bubbles with the names you assign on that machine. You can use the same names as you’ve used on the “Master” Library, but only those photos of faces that you assign on the second machine will appear in the bubbles. Any photos you’ve added names to on another library will not appear in the bubble results.

However, the face names from all Libraries are consolidated in the search or Smart Album results.

So in the Faces UI bubbles on the first machine you only see faces assigned on that machine.

In the Faces UI bubbles on the second machine you only see faces assigned on that machine.

But search results and Smart Albums for names on both machines will show consolidated results across both machines.

So for now, if you like using the Faces bubbles, I’d recommend only assigning Faces on your Master iCloud Library, but you’ll still be able to access all your faces data in Smart Albums on other Mac Libraries.

On iOS, the Smart Albums and Faces panels are not available although it is still possible to use Search on Photos on iOS to access and search your consolidated Faces information.

Ideally, it would be much simpler if Apple decided to replicate the Faces UI and bubbles across all Libraries. Version 2 perhaps!

 

Photos – Optimise Mac Storage

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Following on from my recent post re the new 12” Macbook and my first impressions, I forgot to mention that the background sync of my iCloud Photo Library was happening whilst I used it for the initial 24 hours. This may have had an impact on the performance I noticed. I’ll need to play with it for a few more days now that the sync has finished, to see if performance improves.

I’ve switched the Photos library on the 512GB Macbook to “Optimise Mac Storage” – this means I can have my entire 230GB Photo Library with me on the Macbook when travelling. The optimised version of the Photos Library is 132GB on the MacBook, saving me 100GB of storage.

One thing I have noticed is that even though I’ve switched on “Faces” on the main Library, the optimised version of the Library does not contain the “Faces” data and no photos have been updated with the “Faces” information?

The projects created within the main Library have also not migrated across to the optimised library?

Smart Searches and Albums are fine.

The projects is no big deal but I’m surprised that the “Faces” information is not available in the optimised Library. It’s not as though it’s disabled in the optimised Library, “Faces” is available as though I’ve not already started on the other machine.

A version 1 bug or a future enhancement?

 

MacBook 12″ – First Impressions

macbook-box-hw-silver-201501.jpegWell the new 12″ MacBook arrived yesterday and I spent a couple of hours setting it up. I ordered the 1.2GHz Space Grey with 8GB RAM and 512GB SSD.

It’s really easy to set up new machines these days, and the transfer of data from my MacBook Pro went without a hitch.

I’ve been pretty bullish on the new 12″ MacBook and I’ve been looking to use it primarily as a travel Mac, especially as I’m well served my my Mac Pro back at the studio. When travelling, I’ve been trying to rely solely on my iPhone 6+ and my iPad Air 2. Whilst both are great devices, there are certain tasks I can only do effectively on my Mac, but the overhead of carrying the 15″ MacBook Pro around was a little bit too much. I fully appreciated that there would be a performance hit with the MacBook, but I considered that a worthwhile trade off towards its portability and lightness. I’d previously discounted the current MacBook Airs, as once you’ve used a Retina Display, there’s no going back!

Somewhat ambitiously, I had also hoped that I would be able to use the new 12″ MacBook as both my travel Mac, as well as my ScreenCastsOnline screen recording machine. I usually have a separate machine to record the tutorials. It doesn’t need to be that powerful as all the heavy lifting of editing and encoding is done on the Mac Pro.

I’ve had the 12″ MacBook for less than 24 hrs but here are my initial thoughts…

The screen is gorgeous and gives me enough screen real estate to do the majority of tasks on it easily. I found the original 11” MacBook Air didn’t give me enough vertical space, but the 12” screen of the new MacBook is just dandy. Both ScreenFlow and Final Cut Pro both run fine and allow all the screen elements to be displayed on the MacBook One – exporting and encoding is bound to be significantly slower than my MacBook Pro, but that’s a given.

I’m not a touch typist by any stretch of the imagination, but I’m finding a few unexpected difficulties with the keyboard. The lack of travel does feel strange, but I daresay I’ll get over that in a few days. The main concern is the lack of accuracy, especially when reaching for the left hand shift key. I keep missing and hitting the key next to it. Very frustrating. It seems the keys are bigger than what I’m used to, but probably something I’ll get used to.

As far as performance is concerned, I think it will be fine for travelling, but I’m not confident I’ll be able to use it for my ScreenCastsOnline screen recording machine. I’m currently prep’ing a show using Photos and Time Machine and I’m experiencing some delays that I’m simply not used to on the MacBook Pro. It’s an absolutely unfair comparison I realise, comparing a 1.2 Ghz Intel Core M machine to a 2.6 Ghz Intel Core i7, but the difference is striking in some instances. Using the machine for standard operations I’ll expect to be doing whilst travelling seems fine and perfectly useable, but I’ll probably stick with the MacBook Pro for screen recording. Perhaps I was being a little optimistic in expecting to use the MacBook for screen recording.

The lack of ports have been a non issue as I purchased the USB-C Digital AV Multiport Adapter. This allows me to power the machine, connect my 4K monitor via HDMI as well as an Ethernet cable via an Apple Dongle in the USB 3 port – not the most elegant solution but it works. There are a number of USB-C docks under development via Kickstarter, so I really don’t see it as an issue.

One bugbear is that Apple saw fit to provide a USB-C to USB-C cable and a power adaptor with a USB-C socket. I would much rather they provided a USB-C to standard USB cable to give me more charging options.

It’s a perfect “in front of the TV machine”, hardly even know it’s there.

So initial thoughts are a little mixed after less than 24 hours.

I’ll need to play with it a bit more using a variety of applications and I’ll also need to spend a bit of time with it on the road. I just might give it the benefit of the doubt and use it to record a couple of shows before dismissing it for that task completely.

Will keep you posted.