Mac Workflow

A place to discuss non-Moho software for use in animation. Video editors, audio editors, 3D modelers, etc.

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Thrashador
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Mac Workflow

Post by Thrashador » Fri Apr 26, 2013 9:41 am

Hi all,
Just curious what software, hardware, and workflow fellow Mac users have? I've been toying with Final Cut Pro X, but I know I won't have enough disk space without getting an external drive, and my early-2011 MBP only has the Thunderbolt port.

Can the early 2011 MacBook Pro take advantage of any speed gains in a USB 3.0 drive? I'm pretty sure my Mac only has USB 2.0 ports, and I'm worried about getting a big 3 or 4 terabyte drive that still is slow when I try to edit video in my NLE software.

As for sound recording and editing, do you use Audacity, GarageBand, or something else? Both of them, along with FCPX, have some noise gates and background noise removal features. Which one is the best?

Any other general information would be awesome. Thanks for the advice!

Thrashador
JCook
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by JCook » Fri Apr 26, 2013 1:01 pm

Hi Thrashador,

I can't give you an answer about the USB question, or about the 3 or 4 terabyte drive on the 2011 MacBook. I use an iMac at work and at home. My home one is older, slower and smaller, so most of this is about the one at work, which is not 2 years old yet (of course, computers, it seems, become obsolete in about 6 months these days). For audio I generally use Audacity (home and work). I do have Adobe Audition, but haven't used it much. I don't have Final Cut Pro, but I have Premiere, which is what I use for most of my video editing. I have actually used ASPro as a video editor also a couple of times, bringing in videos and stills and dissolving them together and adding text. Photoshop and Illustrator are essential for what I do, whether it's animation or stills. I use Cinema 4D for 3D animation and modeling, and have used Vue, but I find it clunky and difficult to use. Quicktime Pro is also essential (it's Quicktime Player 7, not the newer Quicktime, which I detest); it can convert movies and edit them to some degree, as well as compile image sequences (I usually render everything as a JPEG or PNG sequence, then compile in Quicktime). I'm always looking for new software to do various things, and when I find it I like to try it out. That's actually how i found ASPro, which at that time was Moho. There is a lot of software out there, some of it free, that is useful.

Hardware: an iMac, OS 10.8.3 (it's Mountain Lion, which I don't like as much as I liked Lion), 3.4GHz Intel Core i7, 16GB RAM. Also, I have a 2 terabyte external drive to back up using Time Machine.

So, that's what I'm using these days.

Jack
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slowtiger
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by slowtiger » Fri Apr 26, 2013 3:40 pm

I prefer a desktop mac for work:
MacPro Quadcore 3GHz 16GB RAM OS 10.6.8
3 TB on 4 disks
FinalCut Express
Audacity, Logic
Photoshop, TVPaint
and for the next job I need to learn Blender ...
AS 9.5 MacPro Quadcore 3GHz 16GB RAM OS 10.6.8 Quicktime 7.6.6
AS 11 MacPro 12core 3GHz 32GB RAM OS 10.11 Quicktime 10.7.3
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heyvern
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by heyvern » Fri Apr 26, 2013 6:02 pm

Hardware
I had to deal with getting all new cables for my work/home computer. I work at home and my boss got me a new macbook pro with retina display and maxed out ram. Previously I was using a not so new mac mini. Over time you buy stuff and... then you get a new mac and have to get all new cables. We made the decision that the freaking fast powerful MBP was as good as a desktop system AND it's freaking portable!

USB 2 should be fast enough for doing heavy drive reading tasks like video. It might depend on the number of tracks, external resource linking etc etc. I have heard of people doing HD capture using USB 2. I think it should work okay depending on what you are doing. Not sure of the exact specs but I do know that USB 3 is WAY faster, like exponentially faster than USB 2. And now that intel has USB 3 built "on the chip" Apple basically threw it in the mix (they didn't want to) and include it on their new machines (same is true of thunderbolt, intel is putting it on the chip, so PCs will also have that option, hopefully pushing the price down).

Another option is to use your external drive for storage ONLY. Internal drives are always faster. Keep that drive as small as possible. I have a solid state drive on the MBP so it's really fast. I moved all the "crap" to the external drive, stuff like iTunes, downloads etc. I always have enough space on the internal drive for a few big projects.

You said you have Thunderbolt? Cables and drives that use thunderbolt are pretty expensive but FAST AS HECK and infinitely expandable with no loss of speed when daisy chained (cables have "smart chips" thus the expense). Thunderbolt is way better than USB 3 if you can afford it. Cabling and hook is also way easier. I did have to buy a few adapters for my MBP. There is no ethernet connector so I got a TB ethernet adapter. I could use wifi but I want the maximum speed. I also got another TB adapter for a second monitor (MBP has HDMI hook up. With TB I added a "second" monitor... third if you include the retina display).

My solution for you to "prepare" for future use would be to buy a drive that has the OPTION for more so you can update it when getting new computers. If you need a new external drive right now (who doesn't) then try to get one that at least can be updated without having to buy a new drive later and want the faster speeds of USB 3 or TB.

I bought an external Seagate Goflex 2tb drive that can hook up to ALL the connectors, USB 2, 3, FW and Thunderbolt. Currently I am just using USB 3. I have to by a thunderbolt adapter for that option. The "gizmo" is kind of expensive and the USB 3 is fast enough to do what I need right now. Hopefully TB connectors, adapters and drives will drop in price over time.

The drive itself is affordable because it comes WITHOUT the TB built in. So, if you do need more later you can get the adapter and not have to buy a new drive. This drive can work with USB 2 and 3 as well. Faster is always better. My brother does a ton of multi track music recording and mixing on a REALLY old mac mini. He complains that it slows down when he has more than 25 audio tracks. :)

Software

I use to use all of the open source stuff, like audacity, Gimp etc, but since Adobe started the subscription plan I jumped on that in a heartbeat. I have never been able to afford the FULL Adobe design suite. $2500 was just too much. I basically had photoshop and... well just photoshop. For a while I didn't even have that and used Gimp (I hate Gimp).

The monthly plan for the Adobe suite is reasonably priced and you get ALL the products. I think it's like $50 a month but check the Adobe site. They may have cheaper plans. When you consider a year of the full suite is around $500 and the Adobe updates are usually expensive, the subscription is a real bargain. Adobe Audition is great for audio editing (I recently used it to rip all of my vinyl albums to digital, cleaned up pops and noise etc), and of course Premier and AfterEffects are super cool. Plus all of these tools work together seamlessly.

Open source and "Free" stuff
I will say that Audacity is FANTASTIC. For an open source app it is REALLY powerful. If you want something GOOD AND FREE definitely try Audacity. It has TONS of filters and the other feature of Audacity I liked is that, just like Anime Studio, Audacity is scriptable. This means the Audacity community has bunches of cool filters and widgets you can add to it or create your own (I created a really really simple gizmo years ago for a project) The drawback of course is that it isn't "pretty" and can in some ways be a bit klunky to use, but it works great. With Audacity and a membership on FreeSound.com you can create any type of audio effects you need.

I was never able to find any easy to use, quality open source video editing software. There are some out there and I suppose they work. It was just too much of a chore figuring them out. For a while before getting the Adobe suite I was simply using iMovie. iMovie is actually pretty dang cool. It can do a lot of basic stuff to get the job done. when working in Anime Studio I try to do EVERYTHING in Anime Studio or as much as possible. On a lot of projects I only needed video editing for "stitching" and cropping, adding sound and music etc. Now with all the Adobe stuff I'm getting "lazy". I render out of Anime Studio with transparency and add backgrounds in Premier or AE.

Okay, I have rambled on again. Hope this is helpful.
of413
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by of413 » Tue Jun 18, 2013 2:01 am

heyvern wrote:I was never able to find any easy to use, quality open source video editing software. There are some out there and I suppose they work. It was just too much of a chore figuring them out. For a while before getting the Adobe suite I was simply using iMovie. iMovie is actually pretty dang cool. It can do a lot of basic stuff to get the job done. when working in Anime Studio I try to do EVERYTHING in Anime Studio or as much as possible. On a lot of projects I only needed video editing for "stitching" and cropping, adding sound and music etc.
As for solution, I suggest AppGeeker, It supports converting pretty much of video/audio files, and can allow you to edit videos including trim, crop, merge, split, effect, add background music/photos.
dm
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by dm » Wed Jun 19, 2013 7:25 am

Drive speed gains don't come from the interface as much as the drives. USB is NOT the interface of choice for editing. A small external RAID through firewire 800 will go as fast as through USB3, and be more stable (because of how the interface is handled and shared). It's more about how fast the drives can move data. There are Thunderbolt drives out there. There are eSATA drives (you'd need to get an eSATA Thunderbolt adapter, I think). If you really care about speed, get a Thunderbolt to SAS or Fiber Channel adapter, and get the appropriate RAID array to go with it.

Which gets to the more important question of: What is it you think you want to do with this stuff? That matters more than throwing around a bunch of specs. You could certainly edit footage functionally with a slow USB2 drive connected. You'd probably be happier with a 24 drive SAS array. A two drive G-tech GRAID seems to take care of most people's needs though. And, they make a Thunderbolt version of it too.

software-wise: NLE: I don't like FinalCutX. I use Premiere mostly. Smoke is really nice. Avid is good too.
Audio: I use Logic Pro
What else do you want to do? There's a lot of software and hardware out there that might apply. (my application folder has about 200 apps in it).
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heyvern
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by heyvern » Wed Jun 19, 2013 2:59 pm

Keep in mind you will use as much as you have. If you have the speed and power then your projects will probably "expand" to use it.

This happened to my brother with his music projects. On an older slow computer he would subconciously limit the tracks in his audio application. He didn't realize he was doing this, he just adapted to what worked without crashing. When he got a new, faster computer he would call me about technical issues because he started creating projects with 50 tracks, piles of effects and things started to "slow down". He wanted to know if a new, faster drive would help.

I told him, "Yes, you can get a faster drive... or... simply use fewer tracks and save the money!". ;)
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slowtiger
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by slowtiger » Thu Jun 20, 2013 12:02 pm

50 Tracks? I noticed that the good stuff I'm listening to rarely uses more than 12 (distinguishable) tracks (counting drums as 1).
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heyvern
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by heyvern » Thu Jun 20, 2013 4:49 pm

slowtiger wrote:50 Tracks? I noticed that the good stuff I'm listening to rarely uses more than 12 (distinguishable) tracks (counting drums as 1).
:) Exactly!

After discussing why his relatively newish computer was slowing down and crashing while editing certain projects, my brother casually mentioned he had nearly 50 tracks. He uses a program that has a ton of loops and instruments and then he records his own instrumentals and vocals to mix in. Vocals are often layered harmonies he sings separately. He will often record odd things like banging on empty soda bottles to emphasize the base drum, or other objects etc etc.... etc. The result? 50 freaking tracks. :)

The only reason this happened is that when he got his new computer he discovered that he could add way more tracks than he ever could in the past. He became drunk with power and got carried away.
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Scot Solida
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by Scot Solida » Thu Jun 20, 2013 7:12 pm

slowtiger wrote:50 Tracks? I noticed that the good stuff I'm listening to rarely uses more than 12 (distinguishable) tracks (counting drums as 1).
Speaking as an audio pro (and as a 12-year veteran writer for Computer Music magazine), I'll point out that drums themselves generally require a minimum of four, but usually many, many more tracks for a good mix - and if you're going to use only four? You'd better be damned good at microphone placement. Sure, some guys will use pre-fab loops with the drums all mixed into a single track, but that gives them no control whatsoever of the individual parts and therefore no control of the balance of instruments and frequencies. Therefore, lot of guys will use multiple loops (construction kits) to give them control over the individual elements in the mix. More tracks equal more control and more control (in the hands of a talented engineer) means better mixes.

As a solo musician, I often do songs with four, eight or twelve tracks (I like limitations), but have done full productions where I needed thirty or more tracks (especially if live drums and other musicians are involved). Depends on the situation. At the bare minimum, what you describe as 12 tracks would likely actually be 16 if the drums were recorded in even the simplest way with a live band (stereo overheads, kick and snare mics, maybe a mic on the hi-hat. Led Zeppelin's drums were sometimes recorded with three mics, but then, drummer John Bonham was a master of dynamics who could control the levels of each drum hit as needed). But then there are tracks that are not obvious. For example, most singers will be double or triple-tracked even on the verses. Probably more on the choruses (producer Roy Thomas Baker created the "sound" of The Cars by tracking all of the band members singing choruses up to five times - that's five additional tracks with a total of 25 voices added to the main two or three vocal tracks). Even when you can't discern them, those tracks are probably there (Paul McCartney was legendary for singing his doubled and tripled vocals so precisely that they sound like one voice). Additionally, the various instruments may be multi-tracked... a lead guitar may be tracked two or three times for a fuller sound. Even after all the instruments are accounted for, there may be tracks solely for processing. For instance, I personally like to record my vocal processing (reverb, echoes) onto a separate stereo pair for more control. I also like my choruses to have separate tracks, so I might have up to three vocals for a verse and another five for the choruses. That's eight just for a vocal that might sound like one or two on the final mix. And I'm actually pretty restrained in my productions. :shock:

It's really down to whatever gets the job done and done well. Some times four tracks is enough (intimate folk ballad? Retro rock mix?), sometimes you need dozens (fully orchestrated symphonic soundtrack or modern pop production). If it gets in the way, it can be a problem and more tracks will take more time to record and be that much harder to balance in the mix. Yes, some people can get "drunk with power", but usually it's more a matter of finally being able to realize the productions they hear in their heads. It's better to have the speed/power and not need it than to be hobbled by a slow CPU or sluggish hard drive interface. In the magazine, readers have asked me "what's enough?" and I tell them "the best you can afford". You'll use every bit of it. For my animation and illustration, I'm happily using a 2011 MacBook Pro Quad Core, but in my studio, I have a much older Core 2 Duo iMac and have never felt the need to upgrade. I can run as many tracks as I like (I am not terribly plug-in dependent in the studio, having lots of hardware synths, samplers and effects). I have even done full 24+ track productions on an old Pentium 4 Linux machine in the studio and even a full 17-track production on an iPad 2.

As an interesting aside, the oft-cited and age old example of The Beatles doing Sgt. Pepper's on a 4-track is worth exploring, but actually for the opposite reasons it is often put forth. Yes, the Fab Four did actually use a 4-track (no 8-tracks available in Abbey Road yet - in fact, George Harrison owned one at home before EMI let them use one at Abbey Road), but they also had the very best engineers in the world - guys who knew beforehand how to balance the sound of the band on a single track so that it would stand up in a mix when they started overdubbing and bouncing to other machines (they called it "tape reduction"), which in turn would allow yet more tracks to be added. So a typical song, though recorded on 4-track, might actually consist of a heck of a lot more tracks and instruments. Take for example the classic "A Day in the Life". Yes, recorded on 4-track machines (Studer model J37), but just before the final orchestral tracks were added, George Martin prevailed upon Abbey Road boffin ken Townsend to come up with a means by which two of the Studer decks could be synchronized - Townsend obliged and the trick provided a way that the final eight tracks could be mixed individually. However, those eight tracks? They were the result of 19 individual tape tracks consisting of a total of 27 instruments (many recorded simultaneously to single tracks), including a 50 cycle sync tone - and only five tracks for the orchestra bits. Hardly the limiting factors that come to mine when "Sgt. Pepper's" is trotted out as an example of working with limited track counts.

It should also be noted that a solo musician/engineer will not have the ability to track multiple instruments to a single track (and why would they?) so would need a lot more tracks than the above 19 to get this same recording made.

But then again, The Eurythmics recorded "Sweet Dreams" in an attic on a semi-pro 8-track deck.

Back on the subject of computer audio production, most modern desktop producers will require more CPU for real-time plug-in effects, synthesizers and other instruments than for track count. These can be very demanding and are only getting more so. It's a vicious technological cycle - computers get faster/better and allow developers to create software with higher quality that places higher demands on the CPU. As this happens, older, simpler, less-CPU-intensive products are upgraded to newer, better, more demanding versions. Depending on what you use, most of the non-sample based plug-ins don't care too much about disk transfer speeds... they tax CPU power and RAM. However, anything that streams samples from the hard drive will demand more from your drive. So using the drums as an example again: say you make a song that uses high-quality, 24-bit drum samples. The sampler software might have dozens or even hundred of drum samples layered on each key, to be triggered at different velocities. There may be 60 or more samples spread across the keyboard. These samples may be cross-faded so that though you are hearing only one sound, that sound might be made up of two or more samples. Each of these samples must be streamed in real time. That can place a lot of demands on your hard drive. Now, you may not actually need that many individual samples, but if you're using commercial factory instruments, you may have little choice in the matter. Sound designers love to pile on the GB of content - primarily because old-school musicians still equate memory size with quality, but also because massive, bloated software is a lot harder to pirate.

So even if you don't need a faster machine, better drive or more RAM for a higher track count, you might need to occasionally upgrade to run certain plug-ins you might want to use. Or maybe your favorite DAW is updated to include features you want - but also might be more CPU/memory/drive intensive.

The biggest problem I see is the ease with which the decision making process can be forestalled by all of the options at our disposal. I often recommend that engineers/recordists/producers try their hands at recording with a defined set of enforced limitations. Say, trying to do a full rock production with only eight tracks. This can teach a lot about using one's resources to their fullest and not necessarily relying on the next purchase in the never-ending "upgrade parade" to get a job done. More tracks, more plug-ins, more options - that all adds up to more power, but also a heck of a lot more decisions to make and the ability to put many of them off until later - which can kill creativity in a hurry.
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slowtiger
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by slowtiger » Thu Jun 20, 2013 10:23 pm

I do my own music since 1977 ... and use Logic on a Mac Quad, so I could have 50 tracks if I wanted. But do I want? The kind of "full sound" you describe is only one small part of what's actually possible in music. And while I may like some mainstream pop song once in a while, my favourite sound still comes from the 80's. I like the work of Lee Scratch Perry, Adrian Sherwood, Conny Plank - but George Martin as well!

That said - it's not the number of elements you use. It's about how you control and balance them all, in music as well as in animation.
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Scot Solida
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by Scot Solida » Thu Jun 20, 2013 11:02 pm

slowtiger wrote:it's not the number of elements you use. It's about how you control and balance them all, in music as well as in animation.
Well said and I agree wholeheartedly. Four or fifty tracks... it's really a question of discretion, style and need. I like and make music in a variety of styles. Some are best suited to smaller track counts and minimal production, others work best with lots of tracks and effects and all of the extra time, effort and power that requires. Most of my productions are actually minimal, but I can see why people might be inclined to use every bit of power at their disposal. Me, though my computers offer virtually unlimited (and inexpensive) tools, instrumentation and tracks, I still find myself firing up an 8-track reel-to-reel or even a 4-track cassette machine and recording older hardware just for the fun of it (and 'cause I like a good challenge). And though my larger productions have been reviewed very favorably in the press, my own personal favorite mix was a recording I did on an old 8-track reel-to-reel.

As I tell my readers time and again: there is no single "best" way that will work for everyone. The best way is the way that produces the music you hear in your head. You can use the most expensive mice, pres and fastest computers, or the cheapest 4-track portastudio and a single cheap mic. Whatever does the job for you and excites and invigorates you, then that is the "best" way. (I like all of the folks you mention too, with Conny Plank being a particular favorite of mine. I listened to "After the Heat" just yesterday, in fact).
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by dm » Fri Jun 21, 2013 7:19 am

What do you suppose happened to 'thrashador'? Posted the question, and nothing more for about a month. And the thread goes on with its own life...
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Thrashador
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by Thrashador » Thu Jul 04, 2013 8:01 am

Haha, sometimes I'm kind of a lurker. Sorry about not replying till now! I really appreciate the feedback.

Interestingly, I've been trying to figure out what to do for an audio setup, and since so many of you are musicians/audio pros...

I have a CAD U37 condenser USB mic, but I'm really looking to get something much better. I want to be able to record acoustic guitar, MIDI keyboard, vocals, and possibly electric guitar later on. I also want a good mic for speech (you know, for voiceovers and animated character voice acting).

So, what's the best audio setup for about $1K, including an audio interface and microphone(s)? Realistically, would it be better to have a separate mic for each role (speech, singing, and instruments), or is that impractical for my budget?

There are SO MANY choices out there that I'm kind of overwhelmed. I'm a total noob when it comes to equipment, but I plan on making decent music once I get the whole setup! :)

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slowtiger
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Re: Mac Workflow

Post by slowtiger » Thu Jul 04, 2013 10:50 am

Get a good interface with phantom power, and a decent condensor mike. It's more important how to place the mike and dampen the room than the quality of the mike itself.
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