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Stressing the graphics cards in the new Mac Pro with VJ and live performance tools

stress GPU Mac pro

So just how good are the dual GPUs in the new Mac Pro? We asked audio visual performer Jim Warrier to take them to their limits by running visual performance benchmark apps. The faster they go, the faster FCPX and Motion will go too.

Jim Warrier makes video for a living, not editing, but for live performances at festivals and events as well as installations for museums. He's after sheer visual processing grunt and powerful GPUs means he can produce more pixels faster for his audience. He visited the FCP.co office just before new year to put our Mac Pro to the test:
 
 
So I arrive at the FCP.CO office to be handed the Mac Pro and left to play for a few hours. The first things that surprised me is how small it is. I was expecting something much bigger and it isn’t until you hold it in your hands your realise what a great piece of design the new mac pro really is. It’s also surprisingly heavy for its small size.
 
I mostly work with live real time video so GPU power is what I’m looking for, Thankfully the Mac Pro that the fcp.co folks have is fitted out with the top spec Dual D700 GPU’s with 6GB of video memory on each. The Mac Pro also has 3.0GHz 8 Core, 64GB Memory, 1TB SSD, Dual D700 6GB GPU.

Given the Mac Pro has only been available a short time I think it may take a few months for software developers to catch up and fully take advantage of all this power but from my my initial tests we can be sure it will crunch through GPU intensive tasks with ease. A quick play with Final Cut 10.1 showed how easily the Mac Pro handles multiple streams of 4K video without dropping frames on playback even with a few heavy effects dropped on a clip. Motion also ran exceptionally well with lightning fast render times and playback.

So over a few hours I sat down and ran a few of the apps I use most frequently namely Quartz Composer part of the Graphics Tools suite that comes with Xcode and VDMX, a real time modular VJ application. 

In Quartz Composer I created a quick Particle System using Sun Beams as a image input and was able to smoothly run 5000 particles at 1920 x 1080 60ffs and above. I also tested out a few GLSL Shaders within Quartz Composer with all of the running smoothly. 

stress GPU Mac pro 4 small

The Sub Blue Mandelbulb GLSL shader ran well above 60fps at 1920 x 1080 with Julia and Iterations at full and Antialising switched off, The whole patch was running much smoother than I had previously seen it running and navigating large quartz composer patches was much better even when working inside Iterators.

I installed the latest beta of VDMX which uses the newly introduced ISF shader format for image filters that run directly on the GPU and I was quickly up and running with a 16 layer project running eight 1920 x 1080 layers at a time with a 1920 x 1080 output window. I dropped 3/4 effects ISF effects on each layer and was still unable to get it to noticeably drop any frames.

stress GPU Mac pro 3 small

The application already offers support for Dual GPU’s so as I expected the new Mac Pro had no trouble handling the video streams. The PCIe SSD in the Mac Pro really shines here helping push all that data around. All the clips were encoded with the open source hap codec that is optimised for SSD’s and encoding/decoding on the GPU and VDMX ran smoothly no matter what I threw at it. 

The biggest thing holding back the current generation of VDMX and other VJ applications is the lack of third party codec support in AVFoundation. All the most popular VJ application are still compiled in 32bit using QTKit which limits the application to only 4GB of memory, I know many of the developers of VJ applications are eagerly awaiting AVFoundation becoming feature complete so they can update their applications to 64bit and start addressing all that memory that the newer models offer.

stress GPU Mac pro 2 small

It was clear from using the Mac Pro the hardware is without a doubt up to the job of running multiple streams real time streams of HD video and will be of great use to live video performers. The ability to drop a Mac Pro in your rucksack on jump on a plane is going to be great for many visual artists that are used to travelling with towers in flight cases. I have seen many visual performers adopt the Retina Macbook Pro as their computer of choice over the past year for it’s portability, extra video ports and power, I expect we will see the Mac Pro becoming just as popular.

One last thing is that I didn’t notice the sound of the Mac Pro once whilst testing, Although it was rather windy outside FCP.CO towers, even when getting close the sound is not noticeable. 

Here is some results from the Mad Shader application that benchmarks GLSL shaders. The three I tested,

Hot Showers
Generators Redux 
Relentless  - all posted very high scores. 

See bench marks below

Mad Shader benchmarks 
Retina Macbook Pro (Early 2013) 2.7GHz Quad, 16GB Memory, GT550m1GB
Mac Pro (Late 2013) 3.0GHZ 8 Core, 64GB Memory, Dual D700 6GB (12GB Video memory total)
 
Hot Shower
rMBP  Score: 1057 points, FPS: 17
MP      Score: 5605 points, FPS: 93
 
Generators Redux
rMBP   Score: 1880, FPS: 31
MP       Score: 7434, FPS: 123
 
Relentless
rMBP   Score: 7357, FPS: 122
MP       Score: 30257, FPS: 504      
 
Software used
 
jim warrier
Jim Warrier is a audio visual performer based in Berlin. He has worked doing live visuals at various festivals and events around the UK since 2006. He's also performed Live Audio Visual with Real Time Video since 2008 working with node based creation tools. A big fan of Quartz Composer and Motion, he creates all of his content using those 2 tools and then uses VDMX when performing live.
 
 
 
 
 

Written by
Top BloggerThought Leader

I am the Editor-in-Chief of FCP.co and have run the website since its inception ten years ago.

I have also worked as a broadcast and corporate editor for over 30 years, starting on one inch tape, working through many formats, right up to today's NLEs.

Under the name Idustrial Revolution, I have written and sold plugins for Final Cut Pro for 13 years.

I was made a Freeman of Lichfield through The Worshipful Company of Smiths (established 1601). Though I haven't yet tried to herd a flock of sheep through the city centre!

Current Editing

great house giveaway 2020

2020 has been busy, the beginning of the year was finishing off a new property series (cut on FCP) for Channel 4 called The Great House Giveaway. I also designed and built the majority of the graphics as Motion templates. It has been a great success and the shows grabbed more viewers in the 4pm weekday slot than any previous strand. It has been recommissioned by C4 for 60 episodes, including prime-time versions and five themed programmes. The shows have also been nominated for a 2021 BAFTA.

Tour de france 2020
Although both were postponed to later in the year, I worked again on ITV's coverage of the Tour de France and La Vuelta. 2020 was my 25th year of editing the TdF and my 20th year as lead editor. The Tour was the first broadcast show to adopt FCPX working for multiple editors on shared storage.

 

BBC snooker the crucible

BBC's Snooker has played a big part in my life, I've been editing tournament coverage since 1997. I'm proud to be part of a very creative team that has pioneered many new ideas and workflows that are now industry standard in sports' production. This is currently an Adobe Premiere edit.

amazon kindle BF

Covid cancelled some of the regular corporate events that I edit such as trade shows & events. I was lucky however to edit, from home, on projects for Amazon Kindle, Amazon Black Friday, Mastercard and very proud to have helped local charitable trust Kendall & Wall secure lottery funding.

As for software, my weapon of choice is Final Cut Pro and Motion, but I also have a good knowledge and broadcast credits with Adobe Premiere Pro, MOGRT design and Photoshop.

Plugin Design & Development

I'm the creative force behind Idustrial Revolution, one of the oldest Final Cut Pro plugin developers. It hosts a range of commercial and free plugins on the site. One free plugin was downloaded over a thousand times within 24 hours of release.

I also take on custom work, whether it is adapting an existing plugin for a special use or designing new plugins for clients from scratch. Having a good knowledge of editing allows me to build-in flexibility and more importantly, usability.

FCP.co

Now in its 10th year and 4th redesign, running FCP.co has given me knowledge on how to run a large CMS- you are currently reading my bio from the database! Although it sounds corny, I am pretty well up on social media trends & techniques, especially in the video sector. The recent Covid restrictions has enabled live FCP.co shows online. This involves managing a Zoom Webinar through Restream.io to YouTube and Facebook. 

The Future

I'm always open to new ideas and opportunities, so please get in touch at editor (at) fcp.co. I've judged film competitions, presented workflow techniques to international audiences and come up with ideas for TV shows and software programs!

 

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