The prospect of another ProTools upgrade has made me stop & think, and while it is very easy to complain about the inevitable evolution & associated redundancy of technology, I figured I might just put in writing a vague plan I have been thinking about for my next Mac. The ‘next’ aspect of it might well be six months or a year away as I have no immediate need to upgrade, but when the time comes I’d like a highly evolved solution to already be underway.
So first up do I actually need ProTools 11?
Not immediately & no time soon, sorry Avid. There is nothing compelling from what I’ve seen, the only motivator may well be a time constraint they will likely insist on to upgrade PT10+CPT to PT11HD. As it stands I own a PT10 HD2 rig that has done (& still does) sterling work, plus two PT10+CPT rigs – one on a Mac mini and one on my old laptop. The PT HD2 rig paid for itself long ago – I bought it just before we started 30 Days of Night, which means it has completed 14 feature films over a five year period, and a few of those were big, demanding films. So it doesn’t owe me anything but that sure as hell doesn’t mean I am going to junk it – it still works well, is loaded with a great set of plugins and reliably handles large track counts (192 tracks x 2 hour films in one super session) So it effectively is going to be sandboxed – no need for further upgrades…
But what has made me consider options is the comparison of behaviour between the rigs, the Mac Mini Server I bought last year is faster & snappier to use than the Mac Pro my HD2 rig is running on, and while that isn’t really a surprise given a few generations of CPU evolution have occurred, it has made me think hard about the merits of ever buying another Mac Pro Tower. I no longer need the PCI card slots because I won’t ever be buying Avid card based hardware, eventually/maybe I’ll get a thunderbolt based i/o but theres no rush for it either.
But more importantly what I need in my creative future has developed & diversified a LOT since I bought that HD2 rig. So what I need from a centralised Mac power house has started to take vague shape in my head, and it looks a lot less like a Tower and a lot more like this modular approach:
Imagine dedicating RAM, CPU & drives between specific tasks, which for me:
MacMini 1: ProTools HD + SoundMiner
MacMini 2: Ableton LIVE and/or ProTools HD w VSTIs/sample libraries,
MacMini 3: Video playback/editing/Photoshop/LightRoom/After Effects
MacMini 4: Database/admin/online machine
The advantage of a MacMini over a laptop for such things is that when the time comes to upgrade CPUs you don’t have to rebuy the screen every time. One of the parts of my old HD2 rig that will be carried into the future is the 30″ screen I use with it, which is one of the best investments I made, conceptually & in terms of productivity. So hanging off the quad mac Minis would likely be a pair of 30″ LCD screens, with the video playback Mac Mini feeding either a projector or a large viewing TV…..
The only potential problems with all this is the integration and achieving seamless switching between Mac Minis, as I would just want the two screens and one keyboard as the user interface. Screen switching could be handled by the monitors themselves, my 30″ screen has half a dozen inputs… plus a bit of VNC and virtual screen sharing… And sharing one keyboard between multiple Macs just involves USB switching, which is fairly straight forward….
I’ll keep researching this concept, but I think this is my future upgrade path, four Mac Minis will likely cost a lot less than a single Mac Pro Tower with the same amount of RAM & CPU, and the motherhship could be built up in steps as/when necessary…. Maybe I’ll reach the second MacMini and realise that is actually all I will ever need for syncronous/simultaneous work…
What I like most about this approach: there are no BIG purchases! Buying that HD2 rig back in the day was a mighty leap of faith & while it paid off, I sincerely doubt there is ever a reason to repeat the exercise ever again. And perhaps that concept is what is really hurting Avids share holders? I did all my the sound editing on my first feature film on a native ProTools system and got a great result. A dozen or more years later I will have gone full circle, and sooner or later will be back to an entirely native system!
Thoughts? Experiences working across multiple Macs? Obviously every dub stage is locking multiple Macs together but their purpose (& budget) are a little different to mine…