Setting up a Mac Pro for Video Editing
October 5, 2014 2:00 PM   Subscribe

I recently bought a preowned Mac Pro that is wiped clean except for the OS. I need some guidance on how to configure it to optimize its awesomeness for video editing. The OS is installed on a 128GB SSD. It has three other drives (2x640GB, 1x500GB). How should I use the other drives? Where should the applications live? Backup space? Scratch disk? In case it's relevant, here are some other specs: 22GB RAM, 2x2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon. Thanks!
posted by timnyc to Computers & Internet (4 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Applications should live with OS on the SSD. If you had another higher-capacity SSD to use for scratch disk, that would be great, but it doesn't sound like that's the case. I would devote one of the drives to media storage and operation, and the other to back it up.

But realistically, storage access time will slow you down at every turn, so I would recommend upgrading to faster, higher capacity HDDs. HDDs are cheap.

Also, you never said which application you're planning to use - Old Final Cut Studio, Final Cut Pro X, Avid, Premiere? You may want to consider different set-ups depending on what you're using. I've used mostly Final Cut, so if you're using something else, consult with somebody who uses that.
posted by Strudel at 2:34 PM on October 5, 2014

if you can configure the two 640gb drives in RAID 0 as a scratch disk that would be a good idea.

the very first upgrade i would get is a 256gb+ SSD. SSDs have become so cheap that 256 gigs is like, $100 now too. I'd probably hunt for a 512 honestly if you can afford it.

any HD video editing i've done on a spinning drive-based machine has felt like molasses compared to doing it on my macbook pro(of the newer retina dedicated graphics variety, so a pretty fast machine, but still). The specs of the machine were sort of irrelevant. Hard drives will be your biggest bottleneck.

Disk speed seems to be to video editing what a graphics card is to gaming, or a CPU is to DAW work. It's your primary "spec". a system from 2007 with a stack of SSDs might overtake you on a lot of activities in FCP or premiere or whatever. If i had to choose between a 2nd gen mac pro from 07 or so, and a brand new maxed out imac without an SSD... i'd take the old mac pro every time, even if on paper the imac is faster.
posted by emptythought at 2:45 PM on October 5, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for your answers. I'm using Final Cut 7, but want to learn Premiere and Avid.
posted by timnyc at 6:46 PM on October 5, 2014

I have a similar Mac Pro and have been running smaller SSDs in it for a few years. I am just about to upgrade to a 1TB Samsung 840 EVO. This is because they're cheap enough now so that I can afford to keep all my media (still photos for me) on the boot disk where I will suffer no slowdowns due to disk IO issues, which is what makes (nearly) everything feel slow these days.

You could stripe the 640GB drives to get increased speed for a scratch disk, but striping doubles your risk of losing data and more or less eliminates any chance of recovering it from a failing drive, so you would want very good backups. You could use the 500GB for Time Machine until it's full and then get something larger too perhaps.

Overall, for video, I would be starting with bigger drives if I could. The ones you mention must be a few years old at least and could fail anytime. You could have 12TB (or more) in those 3 HD spots if you wanted to. Why limit yourself to such low capacity?

But if you can afford it, get something bigger than that 128GB SSD - the smaller sizes are the slowest - and put everything you can on it, as long as you don't try to keep it too full. I try to keep mine under 50% where possible.
posted by mewsic at 2:08 AM on October 6, 2014

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