Apple’s 4K Mac Pro, Final Cut and its plans for video

WWDC 2013: Apple has made a big bid to regain its faithful in the pro markets, previewing the next model of its Mac Pro and promising a future version of Final Cut Pro X will include the capacity to work with 4K video content when it ships later this year.

Apple’s Mac Pro

Apple goes UltraHD

We’ve looked at Apple’s potential move into incredibly high-res video authoring before, underpinned as we expect it to be by support for a high-res standard, HEVC. Apple seems to be in line with these expectations. The Mac Pro the company told us about this week is capable of handling 4K content.

 “The first Mac ever that comes standard with dual workstation GPUs… this is 2.5X the graphic performance of the last generation 4096 stream processors, 384-bit memory buses, 528 GBps total bandwidth,” said Marketing chief, Phil Schiller.

“This supports 4K displays, multiple streams of 4k displays. You can have up to three 4K displays on the built in dual workstation graphics,” he added.

It’s a no-brainer to assume this means Apple will move to introduce a 4K-capable display to accompany the Mac. The currently available Apple Thunderbolt Display runs at 2,560-x-1440, that’s  not only far less res than 4K but also below the Retina resolution of some existing MacBook Pros with Retina display. The company may even intend moving to 4K displays across its desktop Mac range.

Be prepared for a Final Cut upgrade at some point subsequent to the Mac Pro’s introduction:

 “The Final Cut Pro team is hard at work on a version of Final Cut Pro X that will support all the performance and graphic capabilities of this machine” Apple’s Schiller said.

What’s in the box? 

A quick tour of some of the promised features of the new Mac Pro:

  • Intel Xeon E5 processors
  • Dual workstation-class GPUs,
  • Thunderbolt 2,
  • PCIe-based flash storage
  • Ultra-fast ECC memory
  • Just 9.9-inches tall

With two AMD FirePro workstation-class GPUs, the Mac Pro is up to 2.5 times faster than the current Mac Pro and delivers up to seven teraflops of computing power.

There’s a downside: the lack of internal expansion slots. To make up for this Apple has included numerous I/O ports, including six 20Gbps Thunderbolt 2 ports, each capable of handling six peripherals.

The key point to Apple’s move to make available computers and software with which to create 4K assets is that this will put the company at the forefront of the looming industry move to high-resolution formats.  That’s good because right now there isn’t a whole host of 4K content available — even though UHD TVs are beginning to hit the market at increasingly affordable prices. And, of course, you can’t fit a 4K movie on a Blu-ray disc.

Apple and HEVC 

Apple’s move to create a content creation ecosystem for such content will, we think, in future be matched by the delivery of a content distribution ecosystem, most likely built using the H.265 codec/HEVC.

 “With h.265, 4K movies will fit onto Blu-ray disks, and 4K video content of all types, including live events and movies, will be able to be delivered via digital cable and digital satellite broadcast.  Live streaming over the Internet will even be feasible for those with high-speed Internet connections, say over 20 Mbits/sec,” notes Fool.com.

We’re anticipating Apple will introduce H.265 support within iTunes along with a high-def content distribution service at some point in the coming months. Once there’s enough content in the high-def format made available, it also seems likely the company will pull an Apple television out of its hat.

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