28 September 2009

The Editor's Upgrade: Why iMac?

Let me begin by saying, I almost didn't get a Mac.  After that long pause of "huh?" silence, let me explain.  To be frank, I wasn't excited by the idea of having to upgrade hardware in order to run an OS update.  I had it all planned out in my mind that I would stick to Avid, after all they're attempting to clean up their image, right?  I'd get a much better deal on a certified PC and continue frolic down the freelance yellow brick road.

Then logic set in.

On the NYC freelance scene, it feels as though more than half of my clients use Final Cut for editing.  To deny myself the flexibility of Avid / FCP could possibly be the thick-headed act a freelancer could make†. 

The choice to invest in an iMac over a MacPro editing station was not an easy one.  I had long been under the (at the time correct) assumption that iMacs were the consumer product that fell short of any professional needs.  That thinking is " so 1999" of me. 

 After reviewing the tech specs, High end graphics cards and Duo Core processors, 8 gigs of RAM, oh my!   Apple has seriously made the higher-end iMacs into a true workstation.  I will admit, they are limited in upgrade paths, meaning in about three to four years I'm sure it will need to be sold off, and another investment made. 

BUT.  Yes. There is a but.  The iMac comes with significantly lower price tag than the MacPro.  Which, unless you're doing very high-end graphics or plan on mastering directly to HD tape from your home/office, you're really buying up a lot of extra processing power you're never going to need as an editor.  Also, to all those like me coming from PowerPC (PPC) land, the proformance difference is astonishing.

I asked myself some very basic questions about the use of the workstation.  I edit, occasionally do some light graphics work.  80% of my clients use tapeless workflows, meaning the lack of a secondary firewire port isn't a big deal (I can use my old system to capture DVCAM / HDV matchbacks).  If I do have large format tape outputs to do, its way cheaper to outsource that to RoofTop Edit, PostWorks or what have you than owning a deck myself, so no need for a Mojo, AJA or BlackMagic boards.

On a side note, there has been lots of rumors about new iMacs ready to hit the market between mid-October and January.  Supposidly faster, and a little cheaper than the current models.  I stray away from Alpha releases.  Sure, they've been tested in a lab, BUT just ask my cousin Larry (a mechanical engineer by trade, Assistant Director and gaffer by hobby) that the first release of any product is never a good investment.

Comments, questions, war stories?  Please post comments or share (herrhaas@gmail.com) and I'll be glad to talk about them in my next post.

In the end the decision fell to the iMac, 3.06 gHz, 4Gb Ram, NVIDA 512 vRam, wired keyboard (pfft, I can't stand wireless interface devices!)

Image is © 2009 Apple.com used without permission, please forgive me! I show your products lots of love in my posts!

† I know what some of you are saying, "Avid does not work in Snow Leopard!" I'll cover this in another article

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