I’d been a loyal Apple user and fan since before I started my business in 2000. A Macbook Pro and version 1.3 of Final Cut got my business off the ground. Since that time, I’ve purchased many Mac Pro towers, many laptops, some iMacs and all manner of Apple software. I loved the hardware and the OS. For me though, the beginning of the end started with Apple completely rethinking Final Cut 7 and introducing the radically different Final Cut X. When it was first released as the “upgrade” to Final Cut 7 it would not work in shared storage environments and had a long list of other issues that made it unsuitable for my professional environment. I reluctantly began looking at Adobe Premiere as a solution, and also Avid as a return to my early roots. I didn’t consider FCPX because of the three it was the only one that was not cross-platform. Based on rumors and speculation I was hearing about Apple’s potential change in direction regarding the Mac Pro hardware, I was not comfortable with any software that would only run on OSX.
When Apple officially announced the new Mac Pro “trashcan” design they forced my hand. In our facility, it was the EXACT machine that I did NOT want. Less configurable than ever — proprietary GPU design, only one CPU, no PCI except through a much slower thunderbolt connection — literally a round peg of a computer in the square hole of a professional post-facility. I began a serious exploration of windows-based computers and found mediaworkstations.net. They are a custom integrator focused on the needs of the post, vfx and animation community. Their i-X2 caught my eye as it could be configured with twice as many CPUs, more GPUs, more RAM… more everything really, than anything Apple had to offer. I could get a machine literally twice as powerful as the new Mac Pro for the same cost. The big drawback to me of course, was that it would be running Windows. After many conversations with Christopher at mediaworkstations, I decided to take the leap. Over time, I learned that my fear and loathing of Windows was based on an outdated perception:
That Windows was not for creative professionals, and was difficult to deal with.
Since our facility now has both Macs and PCs, I can easily see strengths and weaknesses in each OS and see where they have “borrowed” from each other. Apple would have you believe it is a one way street, but there are things Apple has borrowed from Windows too.
In the end, switching from Mac to PC has been very good for us.
For color correction, compositing and rendering the benefits of the i-X2 far outweigh what current Macs have to offer. I can customize it to my needs and am not limited only to what Apple thinks I need. There’s simply nothing close coming from Cupertino in terms of hardware, and while OSX may be more “elegant”, Windows 8.1 has been working very well for me. Inside the applications I use, there’s no discernible difference between the two operating systems anyway.
Is the i-X2 the fastest PC for Premiere Pro, Resolve, or the fastest PC for Cinema 4D? I don’t know. What I do know is that unlike the Mac Pro, I have the freedom to make it the machine I want it to be. Four years ago GPU acceleration was a new thing. Now, nearly every pro media post production application has it. Other media workstations like the Mac Pro and HP Z840 only offer up to 2 full size GPUs, where the i-X2 offers up to 4. For what we do – these things matter.
Next, integrating a Windows machine into a Mac based facility…
Chris Tomberlin has been in the post-production business since the early 90’s as an editor, visual effects artist and colorist. He currently owns and manages Outpost Pictures, a wily band of story tellers, visual artists and problem solvers based in the Southeast. Reach him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.