Larry Jordan Blog

Configuring An iMac For Video Editing

Posted by on December 02, 2012

I bought a new 27″ iMac when they went on sale Friday, specifically for video editing. And, because I’ve had a lot of requests recently, I wanted to tell you what I bought and why.

I bought: 27″ iMac

All versions of Final Cut Pro and Adobe Premiere like large screen sizes. It allows us to see more of the image with more detail. In my case, because this system is exclusively for video and audio editing, the bigger screen was an easy decision.

I also have a second 27″ Apple monitor sitting unused on a shelf that I want to experiment with. I’ve generally found dual monitor displays at client sites to be more trouble than they are worth. But, I’ve never worked with one for a long period of time, so I’m looking forward to seeing how this new setup works.

However, for my webinars, I use a smaller 21″ Mac, because I find software easier to learn when the screen sizes are kept smaller.

I bought: 3.4 GHz, Quad-Core Intel Core i7

CPU speed is important, but it isn’t everything. The speed and connection of your storage play a much bigger role in overall system performance than the CPU. So does the speed of the graphics card.

In the old days, the CPU did all the work. Today, that load is shared between a variety of components. For this reason, I decided to get a fast CPU, but use the money I saved in not buying the fastest CPU to getting faster storage. Especially for multicam work, faster storage provides more benefits than a faster CPU.

Given the speed of today’s processors, just about any CPU is more than fast enough to edit any flavor of HD video.

I bought: 1 TB Fusion drive

I upgraded to the 1 TB Fusion drive. This new technology from Apple combines the speed of SSD (Solid State Drive) with the storage capacity of standard spinning hard disks.

However, the Fusion drive delivers the fastest speeds when it is accessing the same material over and over. This means that it is optimized for the operating system and applications. Since we are constantly changing media, a Fusion drive won’t delvier the same level of performance with our media.

I have long been a fan of storing media to a separate drive, rather than on the boot drive. In the past, this was primarily for performance reasons. Now, the internal drive is faster, but an external drive allows far more storage and flexibility.

I strongly recommend using an external RAID system, connected via USB 3, or Thunderbolt (more on that in a bit), because it will store more than any single internal drive, provided more than enough speed, protect your data using the data redundancy in the RAID, and allow easy upgrading by simply swapping out devices.

For me, the ideal situation is the Fusion drive for the OS, and an external RAID 5 for all media.

I bought: 16 GB RAM

I upgraded to 16 GB of RAM. Both Premiere and FCP will use all the RAM you have available. So will video compression software. 16 GB is a nice balance between performance and price. And, unless you are creating some truly massive edits, you won’t notice enough difference between 16 and 32 GB of RAM to justify the additional cost.

I bought: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX

This was a harder decision. Both Premiere CS6 and Final Cut X take advantage of the graphics card. However, in the CS6 release, Adobe only initially supported the graphics cards in the MacBook Pro. (Traditionally, Adobe only supports nVidia cards and all the Apple gear uses ATI.)

Now that the new iMacs include nVidia, I’m hoping (but do NOT know for sure) that Adobe will quickly support the graphics cards in these new Macs. I’ve sent a note off to my friends at Adobe to see what I can learn and will let you know what I find out.

NOTE: Even if Adobe doesn’t support the graphics cards, Premiere Pro CS6 will run perfectly OK using just the CPU. It won’t do as much, or work as fast as when the graphics card is involved, but you can still use Premiere on these new systems.

This isn’t the fastest GPU that’s available, but it is the second fastest. Again, for me, this was a balance between performance and price. Video editing requires a fast overall system, balanced amongst all the major components.

I bought: 1 GB GDDRS

The RAM in a graphics card determines how many elements, for example frames of video, it can store for processing.

3D software and Motion makes extensive use of GPU RAM. However, video editors are using it principally for pixel painting. Since I am an editor more than a motion graphics designer, I don’t need the extra GPU RAM. So, I stayed with the base level of 1 GB.

I bought: Apple Keyboard with Numeric Keypad (wired) and mouse (wired)

Wireless gear is great, until your system starts acting up. At which point, you need a wired keyboard for maintenance. Also, there are a number of very useful keyboard shortcuts in all my applications that take advantage of the keypad.

If I were shooting a television commercial, I’d use a wireless keyboard and mouse because it looks cool on camera. Because I am editing television commercials, I’m using a wired keyboard and mouse because they work great, decrease my stress, allows me to easily do maintenance on my system, and don’t require batteries.

I bought: (um, nothing yet)

Since ProRes 422 is the default video codec of Final Cut Pro X, and a great codec to use for Adobe Premiere, I need storage that is big enough and fast enough to handle this format.

Prores 422 requires about 18 MB/second of data transfer between the computer and storage. Because much of what I shoot is 3-5 camera multicam projects, this means I need to move about 100 MB/second of data.

The problem is that FireWire 800 tops out around 80-85 MB/second. Gigabit Ethernet tops out around 100 MB/second, assuming your switch and server can handle the speeds, and most data switches that cost less than $200 can’t handle that much data over a long period of time.

NOTE: A “switch” is a device that allows multiple computers to connect to the internet or a server by switching data from one device to another. These are made by NetGear, LinkSys, Cisco, and others. A “server” is a computer with a large hard disk or RAID that allows multiple computers to share the same files. Servers can be a simple as a Mac Mini, or as complex as an Avid Isis system.


This means that I need storage that connects via either USB 3, or Thunderbolt. (This is an iMac, which means that plug-in cards are not an option.) Yes, I could buy converter boxes – for example, from Thunderbolt to eSATA, or mini-SAS, but these boxes cost several hundred dollars apiece. If I were integrating existing hardware, this would be an inexpensive way to go. However, I’m buying all new gear.

It is at this point that I’m puzzled about why storage vendors are having such a hard time shipping RAID 5 Thunderbolt-based storage devices. Yes, Promise Technologies is out there, and they recently dropped their prices. But where are the traditional storage vendors? G-Technology and LaCie both offer RAID 0 (which is fast, but provides no data safety in the event one of the hard drives in the unit dies), but no RAID 5. Drobo was way late in shipping their Thunderbolt storage and I haven’t had a chance to look at the shipping product. And, as far as I know, traditional RAID vendors haven’t even announced RAID 5 storage with Thunderbolt connectivity.

It is troubling to me that this new format is taking so long to take shape and appear in quantity in the market. Is this a licensing issue? Technical or integration issues? Are there hidden problems inherent with the Thunderbolt format that are holding things up? I have been inquiring about this for months and have not gotten a clear answer from any vendor.

So, I decided to hold off buying storage until I could do more research. My iMac is still a month away from shipping, so I have some time to figure this out.

I bought: (also, nothing yet)

Long-term data storage, today, means LTO tape. The problem is that all the tape vendors – Cache-A, The Tolis Group, XENDATA – provide solutions much closer to $10,000 than to $2,000.

This is the other big issue in our industry: how do we protect the assets that we shot for 5, 10, 20 years into the future? If you are a major studio, money is no object and there are many solutions. However, if you are an independent producer, or small production company, dollars are hard to come by. There are no good archiving solutions that are reasonably priced.

I spoke with the three founders of Ultrium, the consortium of HP, IBM, and Quantum that invented LTO, about when they expect to provide Thunderbolt-based LTO storage? All three said that they had nothing to announce and the consortium did not have a position on how devices connect to computers.

Again, we could take existing gear – currently costing $7,000 – 9,000 and use Thunderbolt converter boxes to connect it to an iMac, but, this simply takes a unit which is already too expensive and makes it even more unaffordable.

NOTE: The Tolis Group announced yesterday new gear aimed at creative producers. The ArGest line supports both LTO-5 and LTO-6, and the Thunderbolt version, which still requires a converter box, starts at $6,898. (Information about this new product is not yet on their website.)

I’ve said this before and say it again: The LTO vendor that can figure how how to provide a direct-attached LTO drive that works with a Mac and connects directly via Thunderbolt for less than $4,000 is going to make a lot of money.

For now, I REALLY need some way to archive my media. but none of the units out there support either my budget or my computer.


Buying any computer is always a trade-off between dreams, performance, and budget. I’m looking forward to getting my new system. I’m also looking forward to figuring out what I can use for external storage. To me, THAT is the key to successful video editing – storage that is large, fast, secure, and affordable. That, and some way to back it all up.

I’ll keep you informed as I decide what to add for the remaining pieces. As always, feel free to share your opinions.



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Leave a response

  1. Kes Akalaonu Dec 02, 2012 18:31

    Great article, Larry. I was configuring a new 27 inch iMac for editing the other day myself. Mine was similar except for the graphics card and RAM but I like your rationale for not going all out spec mode. I could probably survive on 16 GB but I guess I’ll wait to see what others have to weigh in on this computer.

  2. Marc Dec 02, 2012 19:24

    For the same total amount you could have gone minimum RAM maximum GPU and buy 32GB RAM from OWC (for less than $200) as it is user upgradable.

  3. Josh Dec 02, 2012 19:26

    I configured and ordered a very similar system. Two main differences, I did not up the RAM. Instead, I ordered 32 GB of ram from crucial, for around $150. The RAM is user replaceable on the 27inch, so no point in getting apple’s crazy priced RAM. I put that $ toward upping the GPU, Premiere will majorly take advantage of that as soon as they put it on their list of supported cards, which I’m sure they will. Let us know what Adobe says on that subject.

  4. David Dec 02, 2012 19:51


    Are you familiar with the trick to get CS6 to recognize your video card if it’s not supported? This is what I’m doing for my current iMac with the Radeon 6750 and it works perfectly. I know there are several reasons certain people might not want to do this but we know that all Adobe is doing is whitelisting certain cards after they thoroughly certify them. If you want to be a rebel you can go into your PPro package and then into the ‘Contents’ folder. There are two txt files there, ‘opencl_supported_cards’ and ‘cuda_supported_cards.’ You can add your card name exactly how it appears in your ‘About this Mac’ section or you can simply delete these files, no harm done. The only thing to note is that they return with every update so you just have to repeat.

    On a separate note, I have it on good authority that these new iMac cards will be supported. I don’t know when the update would come but I was told they would be.

  5. Josh Dec 02, 2012 21:54

    a few more tips… you can get an esata to usb3 cable that does a nice job of converting an old job to usb3 for about $25. I have tested this with success and gotten speed tests as high as 170mpbs read and not to far off for write.

    you can also get new usb3 drives for fairly inexpensive, typically about $150 for a 3tb and on black friday as low as $100 or $120.

    that said, in my tests on my macbook air, usb3 support on the apple front is awful! some drives work, some don’t. it seems random and spotty and apple has no answers. i confirmed it with an appointment at the genius bar after they tested their drive and my drive on my computer and theirs. same inconsistent results.

    i would say, hey, maybe its just the 1 drive, but i’ve tested on 2 drives, and also had crappy performance with a usb3 hub.

  6. Larry Dec 02, 2012 22:06


    Thanks for the feedback – I’ll encourage caution as we figure out which USB 3 drives work well and which don’t.


  7. Dan McGuire Dec 03, 2012 00:16

    How much did the Imac cost with this configuration?

  8. Larry Dec 03, 2012 00:26


    I bought it using the online Apple Store at normal retail prices.


  9. Michael Ray Brown Dec 03, 2012 02:33

    The new iMac can be outfitted with a GeForce GTX 680MX, which has an impressive 1536 CUDA cores. Avid qualfies the 2011 iMac, which has an AMD GPU, but what about this new one? Avid seems to prefer nVidia Quadro GPU’s, at least when it comes to PC’s.

    Can anyone speculate whether Avid will have problems running on the new iMac? I ask this because I’m weighing whether to come over from “the dark side” (Windows 7 on a PC).

  10. Renier Dec 03, 2012 05:23

    Thanks for your detailed explanation.
    You did get the fastest CPU however didn’t you? At least in The Netherlands this is the fastest CPU available on the new iMac.

    Isn’t the CPU busy with transcoding on the background after you’ve imported some h.264 dslr footage for example? Or does this not affect the responsiveness of FCPX?

  11. Dec 03, 2012 08:51

    I bought the same iMac, but with the faster GPU and 3TB fusion drive.

    Sadly it is still true that the most economical strategy is buying the minimum Apple RAM and throwing it away, rather than trying not to waste it.

    The iMac comes with 2×4GB of RAM.
    It has a total of 4 slots, each capable of 8GB of RAM.
    Buying 32GB of ram from a third party in the UK is £120.
    Upgrading Apple’s 4GB mods to 8GB mods is £160.

    Incidentally, Apple buys this stuff way ahead of time when the market is dear, which makes all their RAM ridiculously expensive. It’s not just an evil whim. Nonetheless, it results in a lot of waste.

  12. brian barnes Dec 03, 2012 10:03

    I have been using LTO3 and now LTO4 connected by scsi with retrospect software for backup. It has worked pretty well. I am now looking forward and have seen this system, it does need a thunderbolt to sas adaptor but seems reasonable to give LTFS compliant LTO5 tapes.

  13. Paul Dec 03, 2012 10:19

    Larry – You mentioned you saved money by not getting the fastest processor, but mentioned you got the 3.4GHz. I think that is the fastest for the 27″, isn’t it?

  14. Mitch Lewis Dec 03, 2012 10:35

    Larry – I would suggest you consider the new Drobo 5D. They have a 6TB kit for $1250 (it’s actually 4TB) It has two Thunderbolt connections, is RAID 5 and the best part of all, you can simply insert another drive as you start to run out of room. (or replace a smaller drive with a larger one).

    We’re then using a 4TB G-Technology G-DRIVE for backing up the system.

  15. Larry Dec 03, 2012 11:08


    I am considering the Drobo 5D. I’ve been a fan of Drobo for a while; however my concerns about them are two-fold:
    1. They have never published any performance specs on their latest gear, even though their website says they will publish specs prior to shipping
    2. Their Drobo 5D and Drobo Mini FAQ pages are seriously out of date.

    Not maintaining a website for shipping hardware is a troubling sign to me.


  16. Don Dec 03, 2012 12:16

    Good article. I think what’s not being mentioned is what everyone’s concerned about, and that is, what’s happening with the Mac Pro. If we’ve learned any lessons from FCP you’d have to doubt there will ever be a Mac Pro as we’ve known it, and need it. Apple’s ‘re-imagining’ of ‘pro’ is consumers who want ‘pro-like’ features that are easy to use. Apple no longer makes real money in the actual pro market. We all agree that Apple is now a consumer electronics company — really a cell phone company — right? Look at where their revenue comes from if you still don’t believe this.

    Thunderbolt RAID is probably in the same kettle as the Mac Pro. It’s a technology that really only excites video pros. No one else needs that kind of speed, so third parties aren’t putting anything into it — and it’s really only available on Macs, further reducing the market. Still, there has to be a profitable niche for these devices — but makers are probably, like potential users, waiting to see what happens with the Mac Pro. Otherwise they’d be betting that video pro shops will edit on iMacs and Mac laptops, which from what I’m hearing on other forums isn’t likely. I’m sure makers are hearing this too.

    LTO seems more like a big shop solution, and makers have their customers already. Why develop something for shops that don’t have large backup needs, and corresponding budgets? And niche-ing for ‘iffy’ Thunderbolt presents the same business caveats as above. Personally I’ve done OK using a Firewire base and bare eSATA drives for off-site backup. Inconvenient? Somewhat, but cost effective and not bad if you’re doing backup in 2 – 3 TB chunks overnight.

  17. Larry Dec 03, 2012 12:30


    I’ve adopted a “wait-and-see” attitude on the MacPro. Developers and media creators make the programs and media that makes the iPhone successful. It could be argued that creating a high-end system for the pro user benefits Apple’s consumer products. That’s my personal point of view. Others, however, disagree. Only time will tell who’s right.

    As for Thunderbolt, interface cards are starting to appear for PCs, so that market has the potential to expand, though, I suspect USB3 to be the protocol of choice on the PC.


  18. Wayne Conover Dec 03, 2012 12:38

    Dear Larry:

    After reading your most recent newsletter, I though I would share my solution for connecting a LTO-5 tape backup to my 15 inch MacBook Pro Retina. The whole system was only about $3K!

    I purchased a Tandberg 3530-LTO drive unit for $2,228. I added a Sanlink 4H Fibre Channel-to-Thunderbolt adapter for $718. A $41 plug-in card is required to allow connection of the a fibre cable to the converter (850NM OXIDE VCSEL 1X/2X/4X FC 4.25 GB/S/ Transceiver – 4.25 Gbps – Wired – Plug-in module). A 16 foot Tandberg Fibre cable added $84 for a total of $3,071

    A Thunderbolt cable from Apple will add $49 to the price. Tapes are about $53 apiece.

    I set the whole thing up in about 5 minutes. I installed Retrospect Desktop on my MacPro and it instantly recognized the drive and proceeded to perform a backup of my video files without a hitch. A restore to another drive also worked flawlessly.

    All parts were purchased from with the assistance of my sales contact Marjory Dodd.

    Hope you will find this info of value.

  19. jolyon Dec 03, 2012 12:42

    Hi Larry, thanks for the article.

    I am curious as to why you are holding back on a Promise Technologies Raid system. Is it to do with price, reliability or something else?

    I’m about to do the same as you and get an iMac 27″ plus Raid external drive so you have piqued my curiosity…


  20. Larry Dec 03, 2012 12:44


    I suspect it is because I don’t know Promise as well as I should. I will do my homework.


  21. Ryan Dec 03, 2012 14:07


    I ordered the same 27″ iMac with the 3TB Fusion Drive, 32GB RAM and GTX 680MX.

    I work with a 50/50 split between video editing/motion graphics and 64-bit applications can use all the RAM you can throw at them. Final Cut Pro X and Adobe After Effects are my primary editing applications, I’m starting to venture into 3D modeling applications.

    As far as production storage goes, I purchased the 6TB Promise Pegasus R6 Raid. I was torn between that and the Drobo 5D. The decision came down to the Pegasus has had more time in the world, and the Drobo 5D hasn’t been tested in heavy production that I could find. I also reached out to other industry professionals that I know, and they endorsed the Pegasus.

    Thanks for the great articles. I look forward to your thoughts on your new system.


  22. Larry Dec 03, 2012 14:26

    All good thoughts, Ryan, thanks.


  23. Martin Dec 03, 2012 15:14

    Larry … I am just about to follow all your recommendations, but am stalling at the same issues:

    - which Thunderbolt RAID to get
    - how to back-up

    I am glad to learn your thoughts once it has cleared somewhat! Thanks as always !


  24. Larry Dec 03, 2012 15:31

    Will do.


  25. Breht Dec 03, 2012 18:34

    Larry, my suggestion for external storage is to go with the Drobo 5D. Mine actually arrives today from B&H. I bought it during Cyber Week when it was $100 off (normally $849 got mine for $749). I think they did something very good with this new solution allowing for both thunderbolt as well as USB 3.0 but also adding in a mSATA SSD slot underneath the unit to help with speed ver much like Apple’s Fusion Drives but rather than allocating small amounts of data like 8 or 16 Gigs, you can allow whatever size SSD you install into the Drobo 5D. As you know the Drobo allows you to mix and match drives, I plan on filling mine with all 4TB drives (7,200rpms). So far I’ve ordered two but as my storage needs tend to grow, I’ll order another 4TB here and another there. As a matter of fact, I may back up the stuff I have on my G-Tech G-Safe to the Drobo 5D and just pull the two 3TB’s out of there and add them into my Drobo (2 – 4TB’s and 2 – 3TB’s) until I need more storage. The additional benefit is further down the line being able to purchase another Drobo 5D box and just adding it to the Thunderbolt chain. I don’t have to sweat about Pegasus or other traditional RAIDs where I have to buy the box with all the slots populated, I can grow as my needs grow. I did a lot of research on the Drobo’s and I think they’re about to corner this market. They’re affordable and they’re now finally Thunderbolt speeds and with an SSD (they recommend 32 or 64 but I went ahead and bought a 128 from Amazon for $99) this thing should blaze away. They claim it can handle uncompressed HD so I’m sure it should be able to handle your 3-5 camera 100MB/s needs. I have been looking at the iMac and have built it out a few times. Another thing you should always consider is, they sell their RAM for a fraction of what Apple charges. You could go 32 Gig’s for a fraction of Apple’s rape rates. Although I’ve recently been wanting to upgrade my current i7 MacBook Pro to a Mac Pro, I need something in the interim and I believe the iMac would be the right solution but for whatever reasons, Apple is tripping on adding USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt to their flagship Mac Pro. Thank you for this article and hopefully you will take a look at (and maybe even review) the Drobo 5D for your storage solution needs.

  26. Larry Dec 03, 2012 20:38


    Drobo is sending me a 5D to review later this week. I’ll write it up for next week’s newsletter.


  27. Breht Dec 03, 2012 20:43

    That’s great to hear! Can’t wait to read it :)

  28. Fred Dec 03, 2012 23:27

    I’ve been using USB 3 on the PC side for some time and the issues that Apple is having with it are not new and not Apple-exclusive. USB 3 is notoriously dicey. If you try to use a hub with it, it will become completely unreliable. Some early interface chipsets in the drives are very fussy with speeds ranging all over the map. I’ve had good luck lately with the newer stuff and the small Buffalo drive I got with both USB 3 and Thunderbolt seems to perform pretty well both ways on my Mac Mini. But my thinking is that Apple won’t have answers on the USB 3 issues for you because they aren’t specifically Apple’s issues.

  29. Dimitri Dec 04, 2012 04:17

    I would go for the maximum configuration when buying a iMax 27″ for video editing and motion graphics. Use a Pegasus 4TB or 8TB Thunderbolt and you don’t realize that your Thunderbolt drive is external, it’s so fast it is almost like using an internal drive. I prefer the 768GB flash drive considering you’re archiving all video files on a external disc.

    Although Pegasus is based on traditional drives, why not use the fastest internal drive with a flash memory. Think of buying something that you will meet your requirements, not only today, but also within one or two years. I would not doubt … choose a flashdrive as an interal drive, a thunderbolt xTB external drive. Flash memory isn’t cheap … but nevertheles the fastest to edit smoothly with large video material (from fullHD to 2K and even 4K in the future). No or Yes ? :-)

  30. Maureen Dec 04, 2012 15:55

    I have been training at Light Iron to use the Lilypad and Outpost carts on set and was told that they come with a LTO writers built in. I was told the robots that write 6 tapes at a time are around $6000 but that a single writer was around $1600. I’m pretty sure, I would only need a single writer for archival purposes.

  31. kursad yonet Dec 05, 2012 18:26

    hey Larry great job .Thanks and i would like to ask you about After Effects.Can your configuration handle that too.

  32. Larry Dec 06, 2012 01:01

    Theoretically, yes. However, Adobe has not said anything formal about whether they will support the graphics card in these new iMacs.


  33. Breht Dec 06, 2012 13:11

    I hope they do support the new graphics card in the iMac, that’s one of the programs I tend to use most often. To be honest I wanted a Mac Pro but Apple did a B.S. silent upgrade to them and won’t add USB 3.0 and Thunderbolt to them for some reason. I’ve read that they’re releasing a new Mac Pro in 2013 so I was considering getting something to hold me over until then, either a maxed out Mac Mini with an SSD and 16 Gigs of RAM or this new iMac with 32 Gigs of RAM. Apple charges around $500 to max out the RAM on the iMac when you can get the same amount of RAM from Crucial for $180. The problem is the new iMac is glued shut and you need a heat gun to remove the screen and you literally have to take the entire computer apart then flip the logic board over to access the “user replaceable” RAM. That’s soooo messed up! I’m currently running everything off my dual core i7 MacBook Pro attached to my 30″ cinema display so the Mac Mini at quad core with 16 gigs or Mac is an upgrade for me. But I would definitely like to know about Adobe utilizing the graphics card in the iMac.

  34. Craig Dec 06, 2012 14:58

    I think people here don’t understand the challenges Apple faces in designing the new MacPro replacement.

    1) There doesn’t seem to be any Xeon motherboards with Thunderbolt implementation.
    2) All Thunderbolt computers to date have the GPU on the motherboard as I understand.

    Either Apple is going to do some amazing workaround or Intel is working with the to introduce an amazing new computer. That it’s taking so long probably means this will have Thunderbolt and they are working through these challenges. Theres’s nothing “BS” or any abandonment of “Pro” by doing this.

    I do have my own speculation about where Apple is going with this but I do think it will be radical, new, initially unique to Apple (and Intel) technology.

    Keep in mind that FCPX takes advantage of AVX technology found only in Sandy and Ivy Bridge chips which don’t exist in current MacPro Xeon processors. This is probably why many people report that FCPX seems faster on various Thunderbolt Macs than many MacPros. The MacPro replacement will likely have at least a Sandy Bridge Xeon if not newer depending on what happens with motherboard, Thunderbolt, GPU implementation.

    Apple’s decision on USB3 is also tied to Intel technology. Intel only started implementing USB3 on their motherboards recently. While that hasn’t been a problem for desktop manufacturers who use fast busses, it has been for laptops. Note that the Blackmagic Intensity Shuttle USB3 is only certified for a single MSI laptop. USB3 have been uneven at best. Apple, which likes uniformity across its product line, waited for reliable motherboard implementation so users can get consistent performance with consistent design from Apple.

    Apple is NOT a “consumer” company. They are a commodity company. Design uniformity and consistency means increased parts orders at lower prices and easier implementation and support.

    Thunderbolt is primarily used for Video I/O, RAID, PCIe chassis. Now even the MacMini has 4 lane PCIe access as does the MacBook Air. Your very expensive “pro” devices are no longer limited to desktop use.

    Even iOS devices are not “consumer” even though they certainly hit that market. There’s a large number of very professional apps used for both content creation and business management. I certainly don’t consider my PrompterPeople iPad Prompter “consumer” nor do the professional journalist looking at the PadCaster.

    That Apple makes products that can meet the “consumption” needs of the “consumer” and the content creation and business management needs of the “professional” is a testament to their success as a COMMODITY manufacturer. Each product hits a wide market allowing for large parts orders across several related hardware products.

    Given the pattern, you’re probably going to see the same thinking in the MacPro replacement. While it won’t be a broad reach machine, it may satisfy a wider array of “pros” than the current narrow focused MacPro. I can explain why bit that involves even more speculation I’d rather not go into at the moment.

    In any case the MacPro replacement will probably be a major technology advancement. If anything, with Thunderbolt, Apple is probably more focused on “pro” hardware than they have ever been.

  35. Larry Dec 06, 2012 15:04


    Some VERY interesting thoughts – thanks for sharing them.


  36. WTL Dec 06, 2012 16:43

    I’m an editor with a 2008 MacPro – four internal drives, four more connected via an second SATA card, and three Drobos (two four bay and one five bay). One is connected to my Time Capsule for DVD storage. The other two are FW800, with one for current project storage, and the second as completed project storage.

    I’ve never been a fan of tape. Spinning, redundant disks, I am. And of course, I have off-site backups of everything. Drives are relatively cheap now, and it’s easy enough to manage.

  37. Mike South Dec 10, 2012 08:42


    Great article here. I am mostly interested in what you come up with for your storage solution. I’ve just been reading your August article about RAID systems – Im looking to build a RAID5 for my 2009 Mac Pro.

    My question is – what’s the best way to go about this? Is the best way to buy a good ‘empty shell’, and fill it with say 4 matching drives? I was thinking USB3 might be the way to go (3 drives won’t make thunderbolt necessary) – but I still am trying to work out how to get my Mac Pro to read the RAID. Presumably I would need a USB3 card. Would I also need the Apple RAID card? (I didn’t order this when buying the mac originally).

    Or maybe ESATA is still a good way to go?

    Sorry – pretty clueless on this. Can’t seem to find any good examples of anyone building their first Mac Pro RAID5 online. Maybe one of your readers could also weigh in?

    Thanks in advance!

  38. Larry Dec 10, 2012 10:46

    For pure speed, Promise is probably the best choice. For greatest flexibility, look at Drobo. For low cost, look at G-Technology. Here’s a product review I wrote yesterday about the Drobo 5D:


  39. Austin Dec 10, 2012 12:20

    Hi Larry

    Thanks for the article.

    I too will be holding off on storage till the prices drop a little.
    What sort of results can expect if I partition my 3TB fusion drive, leaving one half for media and scratch disk? I image final cut would be on the SSD. My alternative is an external FireWire 800 drive.


  40. Larry Dec 11, 2012 00:32


    I would not recommend partitioning the Fusion drive. Since we have no control over what gets stored on the SSD drive – the OS handles that independently of us – and since media is not played often enough to take advantage of the SSD, I would recommend doing a test between an external FireWire drive and storing on the Fusion drive. The FireWire drive will be more convenient, but, I suspect, the Fusion drive will be a bit faster.


  41. Austin Hitchcock Dec 12, 2012 11:19

    Hi Larry

    I was just talking with an Apple tech and he said that video media should be stored to an external drive. The reason is that the fusion drive will drop frames due to the speed difference of the two sides of the fusion drive.

    What kind of benefits will I see when editing if I use a Thunderbolt Raid over nonraid?


  42. Larry Dec 12, 2012 11:35

    A RAID provides greater speed and greater storage capacity.


  43. Don Dec 17, 2012 12:05


    Enjoyed your post very much, especially your observation that Apple is a ‘commodity’ company. I agree completely that they’ve broadened their products’ reach by blurring what a ‘pro’ is, ie: ‘consumers that want pro features, plus people making money at video who aren’t Hollywood,’ and that this broadening is fundamental to their procurement and manufacturing processes (as well as profitability) — all good things.

    The problem is, however, that 4-lane MacMinis will never touch what 4-slot MacPros are capable of doing. If I understand correctly, a Quadro card by itself requires 16 lanes (view this excellent commentary for more: Also, iOS devices running apps that pros find useful is more an indirect benefit of these well-powered devices’ media capabilities being exploited by savvy developers, than anything that Apple has done strategically.

    We’ll see what they come out with next year, but after FCPX I get a little nervous when Apple ‘re-imagines’ anything that has to do with pro video. They used to serve pros well, and in fact needed the business. But times have changed. Today they just don’t make enough money there for me to believe that they’re focused very much on ‘pros’ at all.

  44. Mark Dec 17, 2012 17:44

    You’d think that if they did a good job with this Pro X and made it work well they would sure sell a lot to pros, semi-pros, and anyone wanting a little extra. Especially at a good price point which they have here.

  45. Mateusz Czuba Jan 03, 2013 19:45


    I’m planning to buy a new computer soon (mainly for HD video editing) and I was thinking about the new iMac. But the best model I can afford is the 21.5 one with the following specs:

    2.9GHz quad-core Intel Core i5
    8GB of RAM
    1TB hard drive
    NVIDIA GeForce GT 650M with 512MB

    My question is – do you think this model (with Final Cut Pro X installed) will be “better” (faster, more reliable, more intuitive) than a PC with better specs – i7 processor, GeForce GTX 670 with 2 Gb VRAM running Sony Vegas Pro 12?
    I’m not a pro, but I’m planning to go to film school soon and I’m going to need a decent machine (and a decent system) for editing.

    I’m wondering if the simplicity of Mac OS X and the interface of FCP X are worth the extra money. I’m not sure if 512 mb of GPU memory is enough for smooth HD editing.

    Also – what do you think about Sony Vegas Pro?

    I’d be very glad if you could answer my question or at least write what you think.



  46. Larry Jan 09, 2013 00:12


    Without question this iMac will be fast enough for virtually all video editing. The KEY is not the computer, but the speed of your storage. I strongly recommend you budget to add a Thunderbolt RAID so that your storage will be both fast enough and large enough for video editing. Promise, G-Technology, and LaCie (with TWO drives) are all good choices.

    I have never edited video on a PC – nor do I intend to start – so I have no opinions on how well it works.


  47. jon p Jan 14, 2013 09:53

    Do you know something we don’t? Is this a nudge by apple to show the mac pro is not necessary for editing? I’ve still got my FCP 1.0 disc and have edited on 7 for years. I have lost my trust in apple and recently switched to the Adobe suite for all my post production needs. If the pro is dropped I can at least buy a pc to run adobes programmes. (I have one core i7 27″ imac edit system, fw800 works ok. it has no thunderbolt or esata so it’s outta here)
    damn, I hate dealing with phone companies.

  48. Larry Jan 14, 2013 13:10

    No. This article is NOT to imply or say anything about the MacPro. I fully expect Apple to ship a truly stellar MacPro later this year. Why? Because there is no reason or advantage for Tim Cook to lie about this. I think the MacPro will be completely different from the current version, but I expect it to be released, to emphasize Thunderbolt, and to be a powerhouse.


  49. Bibiana Jan 14, 2013 18:28

    I have a hardware question: I ordered 27″ iMac with lots of RAM and 3TB Fusion drive. I understand that solid part of internal fusion drive is under OS control, but I would be disheartened to hear that I can not use 3TB Fusion drive for storage of current project media (is this the same as scratch disk?).

    I hope that my 32GB RAM and 2GB VRAM (on graphics card) will allow FCP to run in memory as much as possible (though I have doubts whether FCP uses VRAM effectively i.e. for rendering). If my project does not fit in RAM, FCP should drop first to solid drive, then to internal drive for access to media of my current project, 3TB should be enough for current project. I would like to use external drive only for storage of source video clips ( and for storage of finished projects) and do not mind to duplicate clips used by current project from external drive to internal Fusion drive.

    Am I being naive assuming that FCP accesses scratch drive for current project media and does not go to original source clips? Can you set FCP to do this if it is not a default? I get a sinking feeling reading this forum as you guys only refer to one type of “media” storage, i.e. on external drive. If FCP always goes to original source clips during editing this would mean I wasted money on 3TB Fusion drive.


  50. Larry Jan 14, 2013 18:46


    Answers depend on which version of FCP you are using. If you are on FCP 7, no, it won’t take advantage of much of this RAM or graphics card, but it WILL use the Fusion Drive properly.

    If you are using FCP X, it will access the RAM, GPU, and Fusion Drive. The Fusion Drive is totally controlled by the OS, not FCP. What the Fusion Drive does is load frequently used files onto the SSD. In general, this means OS and application files rather than media files, which tend to only be used once. FCP does use VRAM for rendering, because it uses the same rendering engine that is in Motion, which is heavily dependent on the GPU and VRAM.

    You determine where your scratch disks are located (in FCP X) when you create the project and event. Scratch discs can be on either internal or external drives. Also, you can determine whether you want FCP X to copy media to the Event folder or link to the original source clips when you import the files.

    In other words, YOU, not FCP, determines where media is stored and how it is accessed.


  51. Bibiana Ormandy Jan 15, 2013 22:04


    Thank you very much for your answers, they are quite encouraging. I do use FCP X and did not loose any sleep over letting FCP 7 go.

    I assume that Event Library (and Project) is residing on scratch disk (residing on internal Fusion drive), is that correct? Would that mean that if I copy my media files to Event Library than during the editing FCP would never go to external drive?

    I am delighted to hear that FCP X uses the same rendering engine as Motion and does use GPU. On my existing 4 year old iMac I have to wait for rendering very long time. 1500+ cores of 680 MX GPU should speed my work significantly.


  52. Larry Jan 15, 2013 22:12

    The Event LIBRARY is the collection of all your Events. It can include Events on multiple hard disks. Same with the Project LIBRARY; which is a listing of al your Projects on all hard disks. Each Event and each Library can be stored on any disk. Any new media added to an Event will, by default, be stored with the rest of the media for that Event.


  53. Bibiana Ormandy Jan 17, 2013 16:00

    Thanks Larry,

    I still do not understand concept of scratch disk. I assumed that FCP keeps on scratch disk temporary files created by editing actions for fast retrieval during editing. What I want to prevent is constant access to my slower external drives while I am editing the project. Is there a general way to do that or do I have to manually copy all my events needed by specific project from external drives to my faster internal fusion drive before I start a new project? That seems awkward to me.


  54. Larry Jan 18, 2013 02:27

    Scratch disks are where FCP X stores media. In more common terms, these are the locations of the Event and Project folder. So, when you create an Event or Project, be sure to select the hard disk where you want them stored FIRST. You select the hard disk and create the Event/Project inside Final Cut Pro.


  55. Tyler Jordan Jan 30, 2013 00:06

    Mateusz, I respect what Larry is saying in regards to using the system you can afford for video editing, but I have a similar system here: iMac 27in. 2.66GHZ i5 with 16GB Ram and 512mb video RAM and it is downright awful for video editing. I’m reading this blog for info on upgrading and am trying to make sure the next Mac I buy can handle Premiere Pro and After Effects because this computer cannot. Well, not to any satisfying speed. We need our workflow to not force us to spend double the time waiting around. I would save my money for a faster video card and an i7, but many here probably know more than me. Just saying that from personal experience I would never recommend a system like this for video editing unless it was the very last option in the world and you simply have no choice.

  56. Tyler Jordan Jan 30, 2013 00:16

    Then again, perhaps Thunderbolt and RAID makes up for it? Then why all the hoopla over these new graphics cards? I hope someone can help me understand. Thanks.

  57. Larry Jan 30, 2013 00:23

    Tyler, stuttering playback is “generally” caused by either a hard disk that is too slow, or a video codec that is too complex for your computer to playback in real-time. Examples of the first include drives connected via USB 2, or FireWire 800. Examples of the second include older computers trying to play back H.264 or AVCHD media, or editing lots of multicam streams. Adobe Premiere only accesses the graphics card in your computer if you are running a MacBook Pro. iMacs are not supported by Adobe, yet. Thunderbolt provides FAR more speed than FireWire 800. Given current editing software, almost all rendering is done by the graphics card, which is why it is so important. This was NOT the case a few years ago, when the CPU did all the work.


  58. Tyler Jordan Jan 30, 2013 01:06

    Thanks Larry. Sounds like some are still getting around the Adobe support issue with these cards or no? I’m at a point where I want to update my Mac (I have a VERY fast PC laptop which I use for heavy edits now, but prefer the Apple experience for obvious reasons.) I just don’t know if I want to save some cash by buying this new iMac and hope it will suffice and not make me waste a lot of time like my current machine does, if even a little faster, or wait for the new Mac Pro.

  59. Larry Jan 30, 2013 01:12


    First and most important rule: Never buy, or not buy, on a rumor. Only make decisions on shipping products. Rumors have many fathers, and not all of them are friendly. Second, try renting an iMac, or borrow one from a friend / associate / store and do a quick test. Is it faster? Make your decision then.


  60. Mishi Feb 17, 2013 18:01

    Hi Larry,

    I found your article to be quite enlightening. I’m considering using the 27″ iMac for an FCP X edit system and I have a few questions that I’m hoping you might be able to answer.

    Why did you choose the 1 TB Fusion Drive instead of the 768GB Flash Storage?

    What is your opinion of using the 768GB Flash Storage as the iMac system drive?

    Besides price and speed, are there any other benefits to using the 768GB Flash Storage drive instead of the Fusion Drive?

    Thank you.

  61. Larry Feb 17, 2013 23:23


    1. Why choose Fusion? Because it holds more and costs less. Also, I have about a zillion applications, yet my total boot drive uses only 190 GB of space. I don’t need tons of room on my boot drive, only my data drives.

    2. Why spend more money to get less storage? The Fusion drive is a great combination of more storage, SSD speed, and price.

    3. Remember, an SSD drive works best when accessing the same files over and over. This makes it ideal for the OS, applications, and databases, but less so for media files. I only need 200 GB of Flash storage, there is no benefit to me of spending more and getting storage that I won’t ever use.


  62. Davide Mar 09, 2013 12:49

    Excuse me for my bad english, please.
    What about export media video on BR? I’d like see my camera video on BR reader. Tank you

  63. Larry Mar 10, 2013 01:24


    Burning a movie to a Blu-ray Disc on a Mac requires an external Blu-ray Disc burner. Once you have that, you can burn a single movie to Blu-ray using Final Cut Pro 7 or X, burn several movies to a Disc using Roxio Toast, or author a complete Blu-ray title using Adobe Encore.


  64. Euan Williamson Mar 13, 2013 10:56

    Hi Larry,

    Greetings from Scotland.

    Have you as yet heard any good news ( from your Adobe friends ) about the NVIDIA GeForce GTX 675MX and 680MX getting Adobe support for CUDA?

    Thanks Larry.

  65. Larry Mar 16, 2013 20:22



  66. Will the Thrill May 25, 2013 15:17

    my Imac 27 won’t boot, even in safe mode. In case I need to buy a new iMac, what would you change in your configuration today?
    I’m thinking going for Drobo 5 as in your review with 3 drives and 60GB SSD. Does the SSD take up one of the slots? what size/make drives recommended for the other two slots? I also need Blu-ray player – rec? And a way to read my g-drives and other portables that have FW800. I need an adapter again recommendation. Many thanks for the advice and recommendations.
    I’m budgeting $6,000 and hope it would hold me 3 to 5 years.

  67. Will the Thrill May 25, 2013 15:21

    running FCPX and FCP7 and its assorted tie-in Compressor, Motion, STP and 3rd party tools for X & 7. No intention on AVID or other NLE. if that helps. Again thanks .. time is of the essence as of course I have editing projects to do!

  68. Larry May 25, 2013 15:23


    I would go with the configuration outlined here, but up the VRAM to 2 GB. I would use the Drobo for backup, but NOT for editing – it is far too slow. For Blu-ray players, check into Blu-Stor. I have never used one, but they come highly recommended to me.

    And Apple sells a Thunderbolt to FireWire 800 adapter cable that will allow you to attach your FireWire devices to your new iMac. I have one and it works great.


  69. Mishi Aug 25, 2013 12:53

    Hi Larry,

    Since you’ve been using your iMac have you experienced any FCP X editing issues with the Fusion Drive?

    You mentioned getting a Drobo drive for back-up. What brand of external hard drive are you currently using for your media and editing?

    What role will the external Super Drive play in an editing system such as yours? Am I able to author regular DVDs with the Apple drive? Would I be better off with a BluRay burner?

    Do you see any benefit to choosing the 3 TB Fusion Drive instead of the 1 TB Fusion Drive?


  70. Larry Aug 25, 2013 21:33


    I’ve had no problems editing with the iMac. I have a Drobo Elite for backup and it is OK, but slow. Currently, I’m using a G-Technology Thunderbolt RAID for my main production hard drive..

    I use an existing MacPro for all my DVDs, and have not, yet, been asked to create a Blu-ray Disc by a client.

    Personally, I find the 1 TB Fusion drive is adequate, as all my media is stored on the external RAID.


  71. Mishi Sep 08, 2013 14:41


    Until a decision is made on an external hard drive or Raid could the fusion drive be used as the scratch disc and for media / video storage? Would this present too many problems?

    Has there been any change in thought on reformatting the fusion drive into two separate volumes 1. the SSD and 2. the HDD? Then use the SSD as a boot volume and the HDD for media and/or other data?

    To bring the machine up to 32 gigs of RAM, which brand do you recommend adding to the iMac – Axiom, Crucial or OWC?

    Did you buy the 16 gigs from Apple?

    What type of projects do you edit with your system?

    Thanks for your feedback!

  72. Larry Sep 08, 2013 15:35


    External drives are cheap, even RAIDs are not that expensive. A two-drive Thunderbolt RAID is about $500 and WELL worth the money to store media. Yes, the Fusion drive will work, but a second drive is MUCH better.

    You can’t access the SSD separate from the HD – Apple made them act as a single drive. So partitioning is not an option.

    I used Apple RAM, but next time will consider a third-party. The Mac is VERY particular about what RAM it will allow. I would look at Crucial or OWC.

    Most of my projects run an hour or less. Medium complex video, fairly simple audio.


  73. Emmerich Pendl Oct 04, 2013 16:16


    thanks for this article – it is very useful. I am not shure, if i schould order my Imac with a 3TB Fusion Drive or a 512GB SSD. I want to edit with FCPX and mainly single cam. If for editing it is not nessesary to have the SSD than i would prefere the 3TB Fusion Drive. I also have the drobo mini to store my data while editing and i am happy whith this. And i am looking for the drobo 5D for more capacity.

    Thanks for your feedback.


  74. Larry Oct 04, 2013 16:23


    I store all my media on external drives and have a 1 TB Fusion internal drive. This gives me all the speed I need, and I’ve only filled 20% of it. If you are using external storage, a 3 TB Fusion is overkill.


  75. Emmerich Pendl Oct 05, 2013 03:14


    thanks for your quick response.


  76. Chris Dolan Dec 18, 2013 15:31

    Thanks for being such a great resource for us Editors. Im looking for a recommendation for external video and audio monitoring. In the SD world we did DV through a VTR out to a CRT monitor… Im looking at the BlackMagic Intensity EXtreme breakout device and a 27″ Broadcast Monitor…. or Should I just hook up a second computer monitor through a thunderbolt to HDMI (or DVI) and monitor the audio from the headphone jack to my M-Audio speakers.


  77. Larry Dec 18, 2013 15:34


    I always recommend a separate video monitor, not a computer monitor. And the interface you use depends upon whether you have Thunderbolt or not. If you do, consider the T-Tap from AJA systems. If you have an older MacPro, the BMD Intensity card is a good choice.


  78. Shan Dec 27, 2013 08:01

    Hi Larry,

    First of all thanks for your wonderful resource and knowledge.

    I’d like to know your opinion on what you think is the better option for an editor between the base entry model new mac pro and a top of the line fully spec’d out 27 inch imac. I do mainly corporate videos and documentaries and work off external drives for media. The price difference when you factor in a monitor still makes the imac around $1000 (Australian) cheaper – from what I have read on the speed tests the imac would be the way to go as I’d have to spend alot on a higher model mac pro to see the benefits or am I completely mistaken on that

    thanks again for your great site

  79. Larry Dec 27, 2013 12:03


    Good question. I’m working on the answers right now to publish in next Monday’s newsletter –


  80. Cheryl T Jan 27, 2014 15:45

    Hi Larry and everybody else, I’m not a pro but want to process and edit home videos in addition to home-based real estate work. My current windows/PC setup is horrible and I have actually ruined by computer by attempting to edit videos. I am considering changing to MAC. I found this iMAC on amazon, seems set up well but not sure about the video card. You know so much more than I do, I would appreciate any advice you can give me. Price is a consideration and I like this price point $1,999). Let me know if you think this would be a good computer for me. Thanks so much!!
    •• 2.93GHz Quad-core Intel Core i7Processor (Turbo Boost up to 3.6GHz), ATI Radeon HD 5750 Graphics w/ 1 GB of dedicated GDDR5 memory
    •• 27″ Glossy LED-Backlit Glass Panel IPS Display w/ 16:9 aspect ratio and Super-HD (beyond 1080p) 2560 x 1440 native resolution
    •• 16GB (4X4) 1333MHz DDR3 SD RAM. Mac OS X 10.8 Mountain Lion (64-bit)
    •• 1TB (7200RPM) Hard Drive. Internal 8X DL DVD/R “SuperDrive”. 802.11a/b/g/n Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 2.1+EDR, 4 USB 2.0 Ports, 1 Firewire 800 Port, headphone/auxiliary Audio Port, and Audio-capable Mini-DisplayPort
    •• What’s in the box: Apple 27″ iMac Desktop Computer, Apple Wireless Keyboard, Magic Mouse, Power Cord, Mac OS X 10.8 (Mountain Lion) Preloaded with iLife 2011 (includes iPhoto, iMovie, & Garageband); Microsoft Office for Mac 2011 (Includes Microsoft Word, PowerPoint, Excel, and Outlook), Adobe Creative Design Suite CS5, and more

  81. Larry Jan 27, 2014 15:56


    This is a perfectly fine system. The speed of the computer is perfectly adequate. The one piece you MUST budget for is external storage. Your internal drive is too busy doing other things to be reliably used for video editing. A fast 2-drive Thunderbolt RAID is both fairly inexpensive, yet fast enough to support your media files.


  82. Cheryl T Jan 27, 2014 16:05

    Thanks so much, Larry. I was worried that the video card would not be adequate as most reviews sound pretty negative. I will invest in external storage. Will the Thunderbolt work with older firewire input? Cheryl

  83. Larry Jan 27, 2014 16:28


    Be SURE to check Apple’s website for supported video cards – – before buying the computer.

    And, no, a Thunderbolt RAID won’t work with FireWire. Looking into one of the FireWire RAIDs from G-Technology.


  84. Cheryl T Jan 27, 2014 16:38

    Never mind, stupid question! Thanks for your help and advice~

  85. Cheryl T Jan 27, 2014 16:40

    Oh gosh, glad you replied. I thought it was dumb but I guess not. I noticed only 2.0 USB on the computer. I’ll check out G-Tech.