Configure the 2019 Mac Pro for Video Editing [u]

Apr. 19, 2020, with more thoughts on AfterBurner, the new Radeon Pro W5700X GPU, and revised system recommendations.
Dec. 23, 2019, with more information about video compression.]

Like many of you, I’ve been reading many initial reviews of the new Mac Pro from Apple. And, like many of you, I’ve been wondering whether I should buy it and, if so, which version I should buy.

In thinking about this new system – a lot – I realized that, while my work doesn’t require a Mac Pro, I certainly WANT one! Let me share my thinking with you – feel free to add your opinions in the comments.


Apple deserves MAJOR congratulations for designing, building and releasing the new Mac Pro. Virtually every one of our power requests has been granted… except the standard consumer complaint that we always want everything to cost less.

Apple describes the 2019 Mac Pro as a system “with the greatest performance, expansion, and configurability yet, it is a system created to let a wide range of professionals push the limits of what is possible.

“Mac Pro is designed for pros who need the ultimate in CPU performance. From production rendering to playing hundreds of virtual instruments to simulating an iOS app on multiple devices at once, it’s exceedingly capable. At the heart of the system is an Intel Xeon processor with up to 28 cores — the most ever in a Mac. In addition, large L2 and shared L3 caches and 64 PCI Express lanes provide massive bandwidth in and out of the processor. (Apple website)


What is critically different from all other Mac systems available today is the degree we can customize this system AFTER we purchase it.

This means that we no longer need to decide, before we even start working with a unit, all the different hardware we MAY need in order to maximize its performance while protecting our investment for the future. With this new Mac Pro, as our needs evolve, we can add new gear into it.

This requires a big shift in how we think about purchasing an Apple system.


There are many reasonable use cases for the Mac Pro, may of which don’t involve media:

I’m sure you can think of others.

Another big one is bragging rights. If you have the money, buying a Mac Pro is a STATEMENT. Especially if you are running a creative shop, there is no questioning your ability to push the envelop when you invest in one or more Mac Pros for your creative team.

The short answer, though, and probably the best, is that if you can’t get your work done on time and on-budget with the gear you have, you need to consider the 2019 Mac Pro.

Yes, the press got a large laugh out of fully-configuring the Mac Pro and watching it top out over $50,000! I know that the first thing I did, when Apple released its pricing, was to see how much a fully-loaded system would cost.

But, that misses the point. Very, very few of us and no video editor I know of, would need a fully-loaded system. Rather, we need a system that’s optimized for the work we need to get done.

For film-makers, that allows us to leave out the most expensive options: excessive RAM, excessive SSD storage and excessive GPUs. Apple needed to provide these options to prevent all the nay-sayers from asking: “Is THAT all you did???” But simply because these options are available does not mean that the work we do needs them.

If you have the money – buy whatever you want! The Mac Pro is amazing and, if I had the money, I’d buy two!  Sales will encourage Apple to release more upgradeable systems. But when budgets intervene, we need to look at the best way to balance performance vs. cost.


Afterburner is a PCIe accelerator graphics card that offloads the decoding of ProRes and ProRes RAW video codecs in Final Cut Pro X, QuickTime Player X, and supported third-party applications.

If you are editing 4K or smaller media frame sizes, you won’t see enough increase in performance to justify spending $2,000 for a video-optimized graphics card. As frame sizes increase beyond 4K, the Afterburner card will help – but converting to a proxy workflow will achieve the same performance benefit without the additional cost.

NOTE: Keep in mind that Afterburner only accelerates ProRes files. If you are working with MXF, RED or other media, Afterburner won’t help – while adding another general purpose GPU to the Mac Pro will.

While it is very cool to say: “I edit 8K multicam video natively!” my first question would be “Why?” There are so many better ways to work with media files that size. On the other hand, Afterburner is designed for those edge cases that are working with 8K ProRes media in real-time for live productions. In which case, this card becomes essential.

UPDATE (4/19/20): Here’s a more detailed look at AfterBurner, which I wrote after writing this article.


Apple just released the Radeon Pro W5700X graphics card as an option for the 2019 Mac Pro.

The AMD Radeon Pro W5700X GPU comes in two options when customizing a Mac Pro: A single graphics card with 16 GB of GDDR6 memory for $600 USD, or a dual option for $1,000. If you’ve already purchased a new Mac Pro, and want to take advantage of the W5700X graphics card, Apple lists the single GPU option on their site for $1,000.

The 5700 is much more affordable than the Radeon Pro Vega II card which starts at $2,400.

According to Apple’s Mac Pro page, the 5700 has about 67% better performance than the base level 580X, 9.4 vs. 5.6 teraflops. While the 5700 has about 32% less performance than a single Vega II, 14.1 vs 9.6 teraflops, the 5700 costs about 75% less.

Both the 5700 and Vega II support the same number of ports, same number of external monitors (with the exception of the ProDisplay XDR, where the Vega supports one less than the 5700), and roughly the same power consumption.

If you know you need top of the line GPU power, go right to the Vega II. However, for most editors, based upon the specs provided by Apple, the W5700X provides an excellent value with solid performance that’s worth spending the extra dollars to get.


Unlike iMac and MacBook Pro systems, both the iMac Pro and Mac Pro use an Intel CPU that does not support hardware acceleration for H.264 and HEVC codecs. What I learned recently is that, while the iMac Pro and Mac Pro do not have the Intel Media Engine, they do include Apple’s T2 chip which features built-in, hardware-accelerated encoding of H.264 and 8-bit HEVC.

NOTE: 10-bit HEVC is still software encoded, and the faster your CPU, the faster the encode.


Unlike analyzing large data sets, or compiling programs measured in gigabytes, media editing is always stop and start. With any creative process, you need time to think. During those times when you’re thinking, the computer is calculating behind the scenes.

The 2019 Mac Pro is a monster machine, but we don’t need to fully load it to speed our work. And that’s an important point: The Mac Pro delivers speed, not higher quality.

Here are my thoughts:

NOTE: Here’s a tip on how to track memory use on a Mac.

These suggestions create a powerful system targeted at media editing for only $8,299 (US). While not cheap, this is a far cry from the initial reports of a $50,000 system. (And about $2,000 less than my original recommendation using a single Vega II card.)

While your needs may not match my suggestions, here’s my central point: the Mac Pro delivers high-performance in an expandable chassis. By thinking about what you need to get started, rather than where you may potentially end up, you can take advantage of the power the Mac Pro provides without breaking the bank.

After that, you can expand as your needs require.

Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to Configure the 2019 Mac Pro for Video Editing [u]

← Older Comments
  1. Steve Barnier says:

    Very insightful article. And I really appreciated it from an editors point of view. One thing I was hoping to hear was how to get audio out of that thing. I have a 2013 Mac Pro that connects to an amplifier and then to two good quality studio speakers. As I understand it, the only audio out on a new Mac Pro is the headphone jack. I’m not an audio pro by any means, so I’m wondering what do I do to hear through my speakers. Will I need an expansion card for that?

    • Larry says:


      Audio is easy – you connect any number of devices using USB. My favorites include FocusRite Scarlet and Steinberg. Extremely high-quality audio in or out on any Mac, not just the Mac Pro.

      • Steve Barnier says:

        Great. Thanks Larry. I wasn’t aware of these.

        • seanie blue says:

          And let me add that a small Behringer mixer is around $100, has two XLR ins and two more 1/4-inch ins for electric instruments, has a headphone jack (so you’re not tethered to the actual computer), and has some basic mixing pots to control your inputs and outputs, which makes it super-handy for recording narration or even singing vocals right from the same seat you edit in, AND through the mixer you can connect two studio speakers (I use Alesis MK2) which will blow away your clients when they look over your shoulder at your edit. All of this goes into your Mac with a USB cable, and is easy to configure in your system preferences.

          • Larry says:


            Behinger is also a good brand, though I have had MANY issues with their documentation and support for their larger mixers.


  2. seanie blue says:

    Great article, Mr. Jordan. Helped clarify my thinking about a purchase. I am more or less in synch with you in the configuration, with the only difference ($1,000 worth) being the 16-core versus the 12-core. I have not been able to find a single real-world editor’s explanation of why the 16-core might be more useful in three years, but something in my belly tells me to go for it.

    But I’ll also describe the financial reality I am in right now, as I press “buy” with the business financing team at Apple, in case anyone is interested. A $12,000 leasing finance will cost me $14,350 for a 36-month term. That’s a car payment every month, around $375. Or, a half-day job shooting or editing. We are a small LLC with 10 years of legal standing but ZERO credit, so this lease will open up other business opportunities for us, but that’s $2,350 in financing I could save by going with Barclay for 0% financing for 18 months; the APR is 16% after 18 months. If I could manage a payment of $750 a month for 18 months, I would save $2350.

    I am currently on a souped up iMac 5K (2016), maxed out on RAM, and unable to deal with my creative situation: codecs dating back to the Canon L1 Hi-8, to the finicky DJI 4K drone footage of today, and every conceivable codec in-between (SONY FX-1, Canon 300, NIKON D-850, etc.), and my external drives are now at 76 TB and rising, and I need access to all of it, all the time.

    The clients are easy: shoot, edit, store, done in a week. Forget about it. But I’m in the middle of a dozen personal movies that need access to everything I’ve ever shot of my own. So I am in a daisy-chained bottlenecked hell. I am in El Capitan, for instance, because of my reluctance to uproot my FCPX and Lightroom usage. So for this reason, the Mac Pro and its expandable bays for external drives is a godsend. The conversion of DJI 4K footage to ProRes results in huge files, and I shoot three or four times a week; so my situation is only going to get worse.

    I’m ordering the Mac Pro when I finish this text, 16-core or 12-core, I think I’ll be batch-processing a huge amount of footage from the native codecs into ProRes, so I think I’ll deviate from your configuration only to get the 16-core, which will add $30 to $40 to my monthly payment to the Apple business team. (And I will be signing up to your online FCPX courses to undo some bad habits I have taught myself since 2002!) Thanks for your continued guidance through the video editing forest; I imagine there are a lot of other lurkers who make panicked pilgrimages every month to your site!

    • Larry says:


      I wish you GREAT success with your new Mac Pro. Given your description, it is an excellent choice.

      Regarding 12-core vs. 16-core, for multi-threaded applications, in general, the 16-core will be 20-25% faster. Not all applications – or codecs – are multi-core, but you are definitely buying more speed; especially useful for video compression.

      I also agree with your decision to keep your storage external – for the most part. Given what you are doing, external storage will be more than fast enough and cost less for more capacity.

      Report back after you’ve used the system for a while and let us know how its going.


      • seanie blue says:

        Will do. Went with the 16-core. To my surprise, Apple CIT knocked off $600 as a small business “loyalty” support, and this taught me again to always make the buy in person, even on the phone, if possible and not in a crowded store, when people are lining up to get a sales rep’s attention. Also learned that Apple’s business financing unit is not as concerned with credit scores as they are with the length of time the business has been legal; our LLC was established in 2009 in Colorado, that’s all they needed to hear. Computer should arrive by January 15th. Extra RAM, LG 5K Monitor, and another 20 TB in ext storage will round out the holidays, I think. Cheers!

  3. William Buchanan says:

    Hi Larry

    We’re budgeted to replace my circa mid 2012 5,1 with a new MacPro in Q2 of 2020.

    In regards to media storage, I see three viable paths, external enclosure RAID 5 24TB via Thunderbolt, internal MXP Promise Pegasus R4i Raid 5 24TB, or OWC Accelsior 4M2 8TB via PCIe.

    The Pegasus and external should deliver somewhere in the ballpark of 700MB/s +/- transfer speeds yes? While the Accelsior should deliver up to 6000 MB/s transfer speeds – or so it’s claimed.

    I have a 1TB Acceslior PICe card in my current MacPro as my boot drive and it’s been rock solid for over seven years now.

    The Acceselsior 4M2 is RAID 0 (as I understand it) but I would do a daily back up of all media to a spinning disk drive using the Pegasus J2 8TB MXP. I currently do a daily back up my A RAID 0 to my B RAID 0 so that’s a workflow that I’m happy with. I would also use the other slot in the Pegasus J2 for a drive that backs up my main OS drive every day – or for my Time Machine drive. Yeah, I’m kind of paranoid on the backup front…

    My work is a mix of HD and 4K and I often have multiple streams playing at once with various plug-ins, color correction, graphics, multi-cams and what not all layered together – it’s a lot of commercial spot work.

    The blazing speed of the Acceslesior 4M2 seems like the most robust, future proof path. The 8TB size is sufficient for my work as I regularly archive libraries off to keep a tidy house. Am I missing anything thinking that the Accelsior 4M2 is the best path for active media storage?

    This would all be on a 3.3GHz 12-core with 96GB of RAM.

    Thanks for taking a look at this and any input is appreciated.

    • Larry says:


      There’s nothing “wrong” with your thinking as there really isn’t a “right” answer. The best answer is what works best for you.

      Personally, I prefer using more external storage because it can be moved from one system to another, while its lower cost means I can purchase more storage capacity for the same amount of money.

      That being said, if speed is more important than capacity, the system you outline is perfect. For example, for effects heavy work, faster GPUs are more important than faster storage – especially for projects with smaller frame sizes.

      Still, if your budget supports it, this will be a truly fast system that should support you long into the future.


  4. Marc Sedaka says:

    I purchased my MacPro before reading this article and was relieved to see that I followed all of Larry’s suggestions EXCEPT the graphics card which I kept as the base Radeon Pro 580. Can’t really test it fully until Avid is compatible with Catalina, but should I already be considering the upgrade? And how much (if any) have I screwed myself by not upgrading from the git-go? Is this one just a loss? And should I be looking at aftermarket models now or do I have to stick with the Apple offerings?

    • Larry says:


      You haven’t screwed yourself at all. Worst case, rendering is a bit slow. The image quality is the same, regardless of the GPU you use.

      If your deadlines are tight, adding an eGPU later makes sense.

      For right now, take a deep breath. You should be fine.


      • Marc Sedaka says:

        Thanks so much, Larry. Deep breath taken! Out of curiosity, if I did want to upgrade down the road, would any Radeon Pro work (W5700, WX7100, etc.) or just the ones listed on the Apple site?

  5. Franco says:

    Thanks for the detailed article about the new mac pro, very interesting.
    Since I intend to buy a mac pro 2019 especially for video editing Final Cut X and Adobe Premiere as well as other Adobe Creative Suite programs, I have Two questions, also in relation to costs:
    1) Is better to buy 1 or maybe 2 AMD Radeon Pro W5700X or just 1 AMD Radeon Pro Vega II ?
    2) Is it possible to install 1 AMD Radeon Pro W5700X and subsequently 1 AMD Radeon Pro Vega II (together)? or they must be similar graphic cards.

    Thank you.

    • Larry says:


      1. I would buy the W5700X to start and see if that meets your needs. You can add more cards later.

      2. GPUs do not need to match if you add more.


      • William Buchanan says:

        The Radeon Pro W5700X cards that are offered as double are actually two physically separate cards, yes? I know that seems obvious but I get caught on the obvious questions sometimes. Does each card then take up 2 PCIe slots then? for a total of 4 PCIe slots consumed just by the two cards?


  6. Peter Lutes says:

    I am a “hobbiest level user” user just moving up to final cut pro. I want this machine to last for 10 years.

    It is a budget stretch and I was wondering if the 8 cores will “kill me in the future”.

    8 cores, 48GB of ram, 2 TB SDD and the W5500X (just $150- so seems like a deal) was my planned setting which is right at the edge of my budget (which was just cut by 4000 dollars….) Some of this may need to come from….

    I may need to cut something (the thing I am most hesitant to CUT is the SDD (I know I can run external drives) because I will need at least 1TB of space for stuff I normally have on my Mac….

    is the 12 core the most important thing ( I will have money to upgrade ram in the future, etc)

    • Larry says:


      As a hobbyist, most Apple gear will last for ten years or longer – you may not be able to upgrade it toward the end of its life, but it will continue to run and perform as you expect.

      That being said, 12 cores simply buys you speed, not quality. Since you are not driven by critical deadlines, 8 cores is fine. The GPU is more important than the CPU, in general. Make sure whatever system you buy is an i7, not an i5.


  7. alfred1965 says:

    Hi friends, as a user of 4k 50p 10bit4:2:2 footage from Canon in consider to get the Mac Mini M1 – with some doubt. Would the Mac Pro 2019 still be an option?

    • Larry says:


      All computers are options. It depends upon how fast you need new gear. With the change to Apple silicon now begun, we should see power systems with the new chips releasing next year. The Mac Pro is a good option if you need more power NOW.


  8. I am tired of equipment obsolescence and I hate slowdowns. I have loads of medical surgical videos plus patient testimonials to edit. Have there been any substantial hardware changes in the past year to change your set-up recommendation:

    I am looking at MacPro with 12 core GPU, 48Gb RAM, W5700X and two 27″ monitors?

    • Larry says:


      I understand your frustration. HOWEVER!!! I strongly urge you to wait before buying a new piece of gear, if obsolescence is driving your purchase.

      Apple has started the migration to Apple silicon (the M1 chip you may have heard about). This change is significant, long-lasting and promises a quantum leap in power and flexibility. Nothing Intel is currently shipping comes close.

      The initial release consisted of three computers targeted at general computer users. The power systems are coming next year. It would be unwise to buy a Mac Pro today, when it will be completely eclipsed next year. Once Apple silicon comes to the high-end iMacs or Mac Pro, buying a new system should provide you technology that won’t go out of date in a year or two.

      Just my thoughts.


  9. Nile Southern says:

    Hi Larry–thanks for your helpful article. I’m finally retiring my 2008-era mac pro–eager to groove with the 2019 just purchased! One optimization I got used to working with on my souped-up 2008 is a SAS JBOD (30TB RAID with ‘hot spare’)–ATTO controller. Though ATTO’s PCIe card is no longer supported, ATTO reports ‘no problems’ with it running on the new mac, and I’m hoping it’ll work just fine–esp since that SAS array contains my Premiere Pro project and files. I’ve installed the ATTO PCIe card and will download the drivers (hoping for the best)–but would appreciate your input on a) continuing to use the SAS/ATTO for as long as Mac OS will tolerate it, b) purchasing a couple of Thunderbay 4-bay thunderbolt enclosures from OWC (and using with (4) 10TB enterprise 7200 drives in JBOD mode–not RAID). I’m trying to understand whether the enclosure ‘throughput’ speed is critical–and can’t seem to get a handle on the 6Gb/ps (of the HDD drives themselves) vs 2750 mb/s of enclosure or is it 20Gb/sec? I see various ‘data transfer speeds’ posted. I’m not so drawn to RAID 5 config on these–as my intention is to use yet a 2nd SATA JBOD for backups… I see Yottamaster makes a 5-bay enclosure that claims 6GB/ps… Any thoughts on all this?!?

    • Larry says:


      Ah… it doesn’t work like that. A JBOD (“Just a Bunch of Disks”) treats all the drives in a RAID enclosure as a single drive. This means that the maximum speed you can achieve is limited by the maximum speed of each individual hard drive – which, today, is between 175 – 225 MB/second. In comparison, a 4 drive RAID 5 should deliver speeds of 600 MB/sec. More drives in a RAID will go even faster.

      The benefit to a JBOD is that each disk is separate and displayed on your desktop. The disadvantages are that you don’t get any improvement in speed, disk capacity or recovery in the event a drive dies.

      Personally, JBODs make sense for audio mixing, due to how audio software works, but there is no benefit to using a JBOD vs a RAID 5 if you have a RAID enclosure. (Connecting separate drives, by definition, is a JBOD.)


  10. Alex says:

    Hi Larry, we are a German based post house for Television and streaming productions and are currently looking at upgrading our Macs, especially for the heavy parts of post production like editing with Raw footage and transcoding. While most of our editors can these days works nicely at home with proxies on FCPX via Lucidlink (works like a charm!) – we still need 2-3 heavy hitters in the office. You have always been one of the most credible sources when it comes to post production with FCPX on Macs – so we are looking for a bit of advice from you if we may.

    Here’s what we need on our power machines:
    1. Editing 1080 or 4K from up to 8 different camera sources per project. (Canon, Sony DJI, GoPros, Red, etc, mostly shot in heavy codecs, sometimes for convenience everything is transcoded to ProRes, especially when editing in Multicam.
    2. Our projects in general have about 3000-5000 clips
    3. We edit mostly short and long form documentaries, most are about 60 minutes in length
    4. All Media is stored on a Qnap System (Thanks Bob Zellin!), Proxies go directly to lucidlink, Transcodded ProRes Files stay on the Qnap, Render Files are mostly kept on local storage for even faster access. (all together 4-5 TB per Project)
    5. Render Files per project can amount to 1 or 2 TB sometimes, especially when there’s heavy effects
    6. Money is “not an issue” but there’s also no need to waste it…

    We are looking for a really powerful system that eats everything with ease and is fast at heavy rendering and transcoding tasks.

    Our idea:

    Mac Pro
    12- 16 core
    96GB RAM
    either Radeon W5700X x 2 or the new “W6900X” with 64 GB
    4 TB SSD (we get loads and loads of footage transfers, sometimes they need to be stored locally upon arrival. We need the space).

    Main question: Where should we put our focus with our workload on FCPX, best possible graphics card, big amount of ram, more cores?

    As always – your advice is highly appreciated.
    Thank you in advance!

    • Larry says:


      Thanks for writing. Here’s the key point: Any high-end Mac system that you buy today needs to be considered an interior solution. Apple is migrating all their computers to Apple silicon from Intel. Since the Mac Pro currently has an Intel CPU, it will be replaced – probably within a year – with an Apple silicon system providing much better performance. So, make your investments with this in mind – Intel systems should only be purchased for short-term productivity, not long-term investment.

      So, where do you put your money? If you are getting a Mac Pro – and it is today’s powerhouse, I would recommend:

      * 64 GB of RAM – given the frame size of your project, you won’t need more than that
      * 12 core CPU – 16 core will have better performance – step up to that if you can afford it
      * Color grading, rendering and exporting all benefit from faster GPU performance. Put your money there.
      * A 4 TB internal SSD will be very fast. But an external SSD RAID connected via Thunderbolt 3 or 4 will be AS fast, hold more and be cheaper. Just be sure to get an SSD RAID using NVMe cards, not PCIe.

      Hope this helps,


      • Alex says:

        Hi Larry, your feedback is highly appreciated. Thank you! We have the Silicon Chips in mind and to be truthful it lets us hesitate a bit. On the other hand – when can we somewhat realistically expect the upgraded Mac Pro, by the end of 2022? That is almost 1,5 years from now. Our iMac Pros begin to age a bit, but they do they job just fine at the moment. Maybe we will wait a bit longer after all. Also I think the bigger iMacs with Silicon may be just around the corner, or at least see an earlier release than the next Mac Pro. They are just so nice and we want to have them 😉 Jokes aside – maybe you are right after all and waiting is the better strategy here. Our largest iMac Pros (2017) are maxed out, we just feel that the GPUs with “only” 16gb are beginning to age a bit and are struggling with 4K multicams. Anyway – I guess another year of transcoding it is until we get our hands on the next “big thing”. Thank you Larry.

        • Larry says:


          There’s no “perfect” or “best” answer – especially during this time of transition. Waiting – especially for higher-end Apple silicon – is a good idea.

          However, here’s an idea: Get one Mac Pro as you proposed in your original comment. Test it against your iMac Pros. Because it supports more CPU threads and multiple GPUs, it may be good enough to hold you over until Apple silicon is available in a new Mac Pro.

          High-end iMacs will be available months before the Apple silicon Mac Pro. (The iMac Pro, in all likelihood, won’t be coming back. However, there are credible rumors about a “mini Mac Pro.” Again, not till next year (2022).


← Older Comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Larry Recommends:

FCPX Complete

NEW & Updated!

Edit smarter with Larry’s latest training, all available in our store.

Access over 1,900 on-demand video editing courses. Become a member of our Video Training Library today!


Subscribe to Larry's FREE weekly newsletter and save 10%
on your first purchase.