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25 Jan 2021
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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 26 Nov 2022 19:59 #123077

  • TerryB
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I'm considering an end of year purchase to upgrade an FCP 2020 27" iMac and am wondering if the Mac Studio Max is a good choice and if the Ultra is overkill and still has issues (hw and/or sw?) with FCP and certain types of media.

We typically shoot FX6 XAVC-I QFHD and occasionally onto a Shogun in ProRes 422. Storage is 10GbE QNAPs. Final projects are not terribly effects or color correction heavy (usually motionVFX, FXFactory and custom Motion templates) for multicam green screen interviews and scripted multicam vignettes. Audio is output to AAF with X2Pro for ProTools sweetening and final is delivered as stereo, HD, Rec709, mp4.

Is the Mac Studio Max good enough? Max the Max with more GPU cores? Stay away from the Ultra until issues are worked out? Is the 5K Studio Display a good companion? Would love to hear from others with similar workflow about their experiences with a Mac Studio.

Thanks,
-Terry

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 28 Nov 2022 01:49 #123086

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I'm considering an end of year purchase to upgrade an FCP 2020 27" iMac and am wondering if the Mac Studio Max is a good choice and if the Ultra is overkill and still has issues (hw and/or sw?) with FCP and certain types of media.

We typically shoot FX6 XAVC-I QFHD and occasionally onto a Shogun in ProRes 422....Is the Mac Studio Max good enough? Max the Max with more GPU cores? Stay away from the Ultra until issues are worked out? Is the 5K Studio Display a good companion? Would love to hear from others with similar workflow about their experiences with a Mac Studio...

I have a top-spec M1 Ultra Mac Studio, M1 Max MacBook Pro 16, various Intel Macs, and formerly had a 2017 iMac Pro and the 12-core D700 "Trash Can" Mac Pro. I also have the 27" Mac Studio monitor and the LG 27" 5k monitor.

My documentary team has two Sony FX6 cameras, we shoot a lot of XAVC-I plus ProRes 422 to Atomos and we shoot lots of 6k/8k R3D using a RED Komodo and V-Raptor.

The M1 Max is very fast but in general I don't think the M1 Ultra is overkill if you do much grading or finishing. E.g, when using Neat Video noise reduction or Resolve Magic Mask, if you look at Activity Monitor, it is often maxed out on GPU -- even on the M1 Ultra.

I don't know of any bugs specific to the M1 Ultra. There was a bug in FCP common to the M1 Max and M1 Ultra which involved duplicated or mis-ordered frames. That was fixed in 10.6.4.

The 2020 iMac 27 is a good machine, esp. if equipped with the 10-core Intel i9-10910 CPU and higher-end GPU options. The GeekBench 5 CPU numbers are 1252/9076 single/multi, vs the M1 Max at 1777/12047 single/multi and M1 Ultra at 1779/23648.

On GeekBench 5, my M1 Max GPU numbers are 68528 (Metal) and for the M1 Ultra 101,382. By comparison my 2017 i7 iMac 27 has a Radeon Pro 580 GPU and those numbers are 41589. My Geekbench 5 GPU numbers for my iMac Pro which had a Vega 64 GPU were 59717 (Metal).

I think most people would be very happy with the M1 Max in either the MacBook Pro or Mac Studio. However if you're doing grading or finishing there is no limit to the GPU horsepower you can use, in which case the M1 Ultra is better but even that is not enough.

If you are transcoding large amounts of ProRes material, Compressor has a trick whereby it can use "multiple instances" which is enabled in Preferences>Advanced>Enable Additional Compressor Instances. Only the M1 Ultra will accept a value of 3 which runs 4 total Compressor instances in parallel. It segments the ProRes files, distributes them across the instances then combines them for output. It is faster than single instance but scalability is less than desired.

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 28 Nov 2022 18:19 #123097

  • TerryB
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Thank you very much for your detailed reply joema.

I'm aware of the duplicate frame issue that was resolved, thanks to you and others here.

The issue I'm referencing is one that has cropped up on the Apple discussion forums where during export the VTDecoderXPCService eventually takes all available memory and the export fails. It doesn't appear to be related to the usual culprits of Chrome, CleanMyMac or cruft from previous OS migrations. I thought it was specific to Apple silicon. Maybe Tom can chime in with more details. The workaround for these users has been to have FCP do something else, like open a Duplicate Project dialog to relieve the memory pressure.

Here's one discussion. discussions.apple.com/thread/254107532?page=1

I'm glad to hear that you and your team are not experiencing any issues like this with FX6 footage and M1 Max or Ultra.

Thanks.
Terry

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 29 Nov 2022 03:41 #123101

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I'll try to look at this problem, but I'm getting ready for a field assignment right now. I haven't encountered it but from the comments it's apparently a real issue and has been for some time.

We have several A7SIII cameras but we mainly use the FX6 and record to UHD 4k/23.98 10-bit 4:2:2 XAVC-I. If we use the A7SIII we use the similar 4k/23.98 10-bit 4:2:2 XAVC-SI codec, both All-Intra. Most of the users reporting the problem seem to be using the A7SIII 10-bit 4:2:2 XAVC-HS or HEVC codec.

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 29 Nov 2022 05:08 #123102

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I tried various methods to reproduce the VTDecoderXPCService memory leak, so far without success. I used 450 short 4k/23.98 10-bit 4:2:2 XAVC-HS clips from the A7SIII, various effects and transitions, but it never enters the never-ending memory cycle some report. Unfortunately none of them have reported a detailed reproducible scenario with sufficient specifics. Therefore it becomes a trial and error guesswork process of trying to reproduce the problem. Without that it is very difficult for Apple to fix it.

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 29 Nov 2022 18:33 #123104

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Thank you joema for taking the time to look into this. Good to hear that you weren't able to reproduce the problem.

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 29 Nov 2022 23:46 #123109

MaxTech did a lot of Max v Ultra tests, and he was quite happy with the Max. The tests he ran didn't scale on the Ultra as much as they should - diminishing returns for a lot of money.
Take a look and see what fits your usage.

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 02 Dec 2022 18:28 #123152

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I have both top-spec M1 Ultra and M1 Max machines, and there are definitely cases where the M1 Ultra does better. I just tested Neat Video 5.5.6 on some 6k/23.98 ProRes 422 HQ material, and if using the "better quality" settings the 64-core Ultra is about 2x faster than the 32-core Max.

I've tested various "difficult" codecs in multicam, e.g, 4k/23.98 10-bit 4:2:2 from the Sony A7SIII in XAVC-HS (HEVC), and XAVC-S (H264). When editing three angles of those with the Angle Viewer up, the Ultra is definitely smoother.

MaxTech is right there are several areas where it doesn't make much difference, but it's not due to a hardware design problem on the M1 Ultra. E.g, it would be very difficult to parallelize a single stream H264 or HEVC export, yet those simple tests constituted much of their testing.

M1 Ultra has 2x the encode/decode units of M1 Max, which you naively might think could easily be used in parallel on a single-file export. Some Long GOP formats are independent, ie each one can be decoded or encoded independently of the others (theoretically in parallel). Other Long GOP formats are dependent, ie you can't decode one GOP without already decoding the previous one -- no mater how much parallel hardware you have. There is no simple metadata that discloses dependent vs independent GOPs, so maybe that's part of the problem.

Multiple streams of Long GOP data can be more easily decoded (or encoded) in parallel and maybe FCP does that because it's smoother on multi-stream Long GOP input.

In some cases M1 Ultra can process a lot more video data in parallel than M1 Max. E.g, if transcoding in Compressor a batch of 4k ProRes files to H264, it's about 2x faster. This is likely because Ultra has 2x the decode/encode units and in Compressor>Preferences>Advanced>Enable Additional Compressor Instances, you can set that to 3 (IOW 4 total instances) on the M1 Ultra vs 1 (IOW 1 additional instance) on the M1 Max. That limit is likely due to the difference in underlying hardware available for parallel operations.

For ProRes transcoding (e.g, 4k PR4444 to ProRes Proxy, etc), Compressor can transparently segment a single input file, dispatch each segment to a Compressor instance, transcode the segments in parallel then put them back together when writing the single output file. That seems to work faster on the M1 Ultra than Max but there's nonetheless some kind of scalability issue as the speedup is less than expected.

So there are several areas where M1 Ultra is significantly faster than M1 Max right now, but it's not in easy, simple-to-test areas typically examined by Youtubers.

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Last edit: by joema.

Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 03 Dec 2022 00:46 #123158

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joema, forgot to ask: are you running Monterey on the Mac Studio Ultra? Do you know if it's possible to install Monterey on a Mac Studio if it now comes with Ventura preinstalled?

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Last edit: by TerryB.

Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 03 Dec 2022 00:58 #123159

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joema, forgot to ask: are you running Monterey on the Mac Studio Ultra? Do you know if it's possible to install Monterey on a Mac Studio if it now comes with Ventura preinstalled?

I'm running Monterey 12.6.1. I don't know if you can install Monterey if it comes with Ventura, but maybe you can. Here are the older MacOS versions: support.apple.com/en-us/HT211683

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 03 Dec 2022 01:23 #123160

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Thanks for the quick reply. I'm getting ready to pull the trigger on a Mac Studio but don't want to run FCP in Ventura yet.

Here's another way to get installers that I just learned about:
$ softwareupdate --list-full-installers
<list of available installers for this mac>
$ softwareupdate --fetch-full-installer --full-installer-version <version>

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Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 03 Dec 2022 02:44 #123162

Unfortunately Apple systems do not allow installing an OS earlier than the version that was factory installed.

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Last edit: by Tom Wolsky.

Mac Studio Max or Ultra? 03 Dec 2022 03:28 #123163

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My Mac Studio Ultra came with a pre-Ventura OS. Wouldn't they have to hard-code into any currently-sold Mac Studios not to allow pre-Ventura OSes?

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