Post-Production : Apple M1 chips vs PC Intel - mobile workstation by Alexa Vallejo

Alexa Vallejo

Apple M1 chips vs PC Intel - mobile workstation

Hello everyone. New here to Stage 32 but so grateful to have found this community. I am a freelance video editor and am in need of some insights. Last year, due to the pandemic, I ended up building my first PC desktop. I've been an apple fan for years but with the quick turn around to have a remote workstation, and the Apple M1 chip release date being in November, I chose to go the PC route. I will be traveling in between states and am looking into purchasing either an editing laptop or possibly the M1 chip Mac Mini. I love my PC desktop because it's a beast but I need something that I can travel with. Mobility is key. I use both media composer and adobe cc (Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, Illustrator) working with pro res proxies as well as 4k footage. Curious to know what other editors or filmmakers are using and the pros or cons you've come across working on PC/windows machines vs Apple/M1 products. Thank you in advance for your insights!

Lindbergh E Hollingsworth

Get a Windows laptop since you already have a Windows desktop. You can remote into your beast without issue.

Joey Morelli

Hey Alexa. I'm a Mac guy for 25 years. I currently edit / grade 4K footage in Premiere Pro & Resolve (no proxies) with a loaded Macbook Pro (late 2019 - thunderbolt3) with a Sonnet eGPU with a WX9100 GPU card. It smokes every workstation I have ever had. Easy to move around. I am definitely holding out for the next big M1 MBP update and keeping that eGPU.

Karen "Kay" Ross

Hey, Alexa! Oooo... I want in on this action, too! I have a PC laptop that I've been using for the past 3 years? Adobe Premiere Pro/AE/Audition/Lightroom - but I have to tell you, it's prevented me from attempting to film on my iPhone. Also, it may be a laptop, but I would agree with you - it is NOT portable LOL! Not in any easy sense, that is. It's great if you want to be DIT/editor on set because of its functionality.

Joey Morelli - how does Adobe function on your Apple? I feel like keychains would drive me up a wall LOL!

Joey Morelli

Karen "Kay" Ross - Adobe After Effects / Premiere Pro / Photoshop / Illustrator have always been my bread and butter. My newest Mac rig is the fastest I have ever had...and it's a laptop (specs above). No keychain issues. Love the OS / working environment - always have.

Vital Butinar

Hey guys. This has always been a Mac vs PC debate in the creative circles.

But I'll tell you from my experience since I have a good 10 year IT background in the field.

Realistically the only difference is the price. With one you pay way more than with the other because you're paying a brand name. The only difference is that Macs tend to be more beefed up up front because people don't know specs and don't know what to buy.

That being said there's also another consideration.

No matter how much you want a laptop will never be the same kind of workstation as a workstation because it comes down to cooling. Laptops run way hotter and when you're looking at laptops that are very good for editing, CGI and grading you quickly run into numbers that it would be better to realistically buy a works station so beefed up you'll be using it for years.

For example Leya and I have been using the same PC workstation for about three years and it's still a beast and didn't break the bank. I expect it has another 3 years left in it with no problems and we only upgraded some additional RAM and drive space.

I also have a laptop capable enough to do editing on the fly but honestly I don't like working on it and especially exporting on it because it turns into a drone and almost takes off and some other stuff is way slower. But I can use it to do individual stuff.

Third thing is the software. No this is a huge issue. Adobe regardless of the fact that most of us use it a lot has not had the best track record for being optimized in the field of hardware. In the past couple of years I've had better experiences using more professional optimized software, that has for the most worked flawlessly.

And the last being the user. Most of the problems when it comes to editing and working with graphic material comes to users not knowing what they're working with and what to do about it. For example it's fine shooting something with your phone or your DSLR but most people at the beginning don't know that huge 4K compressed h264 files or similar that come from phones and DSLRs are not very good for editing because the h264 coded is a delivery format and very compressed. Meaning the computer's CPU is doing most of the heavy lifting and other components like the graphics processor aren't doing much. Just creating smaller proxy files in the correct codec can make almost a antiquated computer be able to edit something well.

For example two weeks ago Leya and I shot a short kids dance show and we needed two cameras. Since we've only got the one Leya shot on her trusty Pocket 4K in 4K at 25 fps and I shot on my old DSLR in HD at 25 fps. Now the P4K shot in braw which is a type of raw codec and mine shot in a compressed h264. When I synced everything up in a multicam sequence the P4K footage would play flawlessly all 8 tracks of it but the HD footage would not even play three tracks simultaneously do to the need for the CPU to work so much.

So to sum up everything first you need to know what you're going to be doing and then decide how much you're willing to spend and 9 times out of 10 an IT expert who knows what they're doing can build you a way better PC for the money you'd be willing to spend on a Mac or get you the same performance for a much lower price.

But you still need to know what you're doing and know some basic technical stuff like why some codecs are better for some stuff and what some software is better for and what not.

Hope it helps a little because this is a very general explanation. :)

Joey Morelli

That's a great description Vital Butinar...but I will add on the Mac side of that a big reason I am a Mac user - Applecare. When I buy a machine it's usually every 3 years like you said...because I buy Applecare protection which covers the machine fully for 3 years and when that runs out, it's time for a new machine. This means one place for Tech Support (Hardware & OS) and replacement components & labor @ 100% covered. One time they could not fix an issue...I received a brand new machine at no cost. Just recently had a power supply and logic board go on an iMac Pro under Applecare...$1399 repair invoice = $0 charge. I do not mind paying extra for my Macs as I love the whole package :)

Alexa Vallejo

Good Morning stage 32 community. Thank you to everyone whose commented. These are the types of conversations that are truly helpful. Joey Morelli I will most definitely look into a sonnet eGPU. Vital, thank you for your IT insights. As an editor, it's so necessary to be informed in IT since many times we have to trouble shoot on the fly or work across multiple platforms. If anyone has any IT blogs they follow please share. Thanks again!

Vital Butinar

Joey Morelli of course. That's a completely different situation and I understand. Where I come from I don't think we even have that kind of insurance or whatever it is. and on the same side I've always had to count on myself to fix issues.

But your points are all valid and I completely agree and of course it really depends on the situation and needs of the user.

I've never been fond of the Mac OS since I've used Unix and Lunux, not forgetting Windows, so Max OS seems a bit limiting to me. Even though I understand and know it, as well as I also realize the benefits of some Apple services. Which can be really great.

I come from a time when people still had dialup connections I had a router and a network, when people started using usb drives I already had a network with a server that created backups. So I've never been reliant on services to help me with backups and similar stuff. But I won't deni that these things are great.

Vital Butinar

Alexa Vallejo sure thing and it's my pleasure. Of course the eGPU is a great thing and I also know it only works with Mac. Like I said to Joey it's more of a user preference and if you have a reason to do something or use something then that's it.

I'm not sure what kind of blogs you're looking for? My first computer was a Comodore 64 and then an Atari and an Amiga. I got my first PC in 1995 and I've used Linux and Windows for ages and I really used to do enterprise level IT on my own by myself where my competition had 10 people employed to do the same thing. Which was take care of clients who had a four story building with a 140 PC's, 8 to 10 servers, surveillance, IP phones, network printers etc. and I did most of it remotely most of the time.

But I haven't worked in IT for almost 8 years now and at the same time I'm pretty well self reliant so if there's anything that you need help with or at least explained or pointed in the right direction don't hesitate to ask. :)

Joey Morelli

Vital Butinar - So do I, my friend (I had dial-up). I started on a US Robotics 56k Modem in 1996. I did not even have a router...modem went right into my first computer: a PowerMac 9500 ;) No backup. My first SCSI RAID-0 was a 2-drive unit - 10GB total - and cost $4500. I still have floppy disks I keep as momentos of what I used to carry around and where we are today.

Vital Butinar

Joey Morelli yeah I have floppies too. I remember how psyched I was when I got my first zip drive.

Those US robotics 56k Modems were great! I remember how much I hated connecting myself, so I stuck a modem in an old machine with redhed linux and stuck it to a network and had it be a dailup router for the whole network with a transparent proxy. Worked flawlessly.

Damon Claussen

@vital points for bringing up Amiga and C64. I'd imagine the Atari you're speaking of is the ST. I had a Coleco Adam, C64 (best game computer ever... Fask hack'em and Nibble Copy ruled), and still have my Amiga 1000.

Digressing... I just picked up a fully loaded M1 Mac Mini as a test to replace my 12 core cheesegrater. I think things will only get better with native code in the Adobe Suite. Your comments about the cooling on the laptop side are huge. I don't have much else to offer @alexa other than if you must be mobile, make sure you get something that plays nicely with your home system. All my clients in television use Mac but many fellow editors have jumped to PC. I work in proxy files so not much call for Native 4k and higher that often. Go with a solution that will allow you to create and stay in that zone and not battling the tech compatibilities. Thankfully, those are less than they were in the 90s and early 00s of Mac vs PC but they can still rear their ugly head. Good luck @alexa

Alexa Vallejo

Hey Damon. Appreciate the input. I ended up going with the mac mini. Feels like the best fit for my current situation. I still have a PC workstation at home but for mobile, the mac min it is. Thank you!

Joey Morelli

Alexa Vallejo ...keep the eGPU in mind with that Mac Mini...would turn it into a beast. I use the Sonnet 650 with an AMD wx9100 (16GB VRAM) and they just released a 750ex with a built-in USB hub & ethernet port. Cool thing is you can upgrade your computer later and you can easily move the eGPU right over and plug it in to your next box if it has a Thunderbolt3 port. Best investment I ever made in computer equipment.

Alexa Vallejo

Hey Joey Morelli. Yes, will most definitely keep the eGPU in mind. Thank you for the update on the 750ex. Appreciate it!

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