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Old 01-01-2020, 09:50 AM
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Default New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

I'm not doing film scoring (I'm a regular old composer), but my needs aren't all that different from you guys doing scoring. I've set up a new Mac Pro (7.1) with 16 cores and 384GB of memory. My virtual instruments now live internally on a Sonnet 16-channel PCI card--4 M.2 cards set up as RAID 0. My old Trashcan was an 8-core with 64GB. Virtual instruments lived in an external T-Bolt enclosure, on SSD drives also set up as RAID 0. There are no HDX cards in this system: I'm fully native.

I took a large piece which I'd previously built on the Trashcan, using the Dolby Atmos renderer (no external RMU). The piece has 198 active tracks, a lot of Spitfire and NI instruments, along with some pre-recorded tracks. There were a pair of Stratus3D reverbs, 4 Symphony3D reverbs and a couple of Excaliburs. There's some pretty aggressive Atmos panning throughout a large and complex piece.

I was not able to do any meaningful work without freezing a lot of instrument tracks. The minimum load time (with most tracks frozen) was on the order of 15-20 minutes. The piece ran and rendered, but it was right on the edge of what the Trashcan could do. I really didn't want to go the VEPro route, with a herd full of computers that I had to keep synchronized. It's obviously a workable solution that lots of people use, but I'm at the stage of life where less stuff is a good thing.

It's a whole different story with the new Mac Pro. I took the same piece and unfroze all of the instruments. Loading time has never taken as long as two minutes, usually somewhere around 1'55". There's lots of RAM left over, so there are a lot of ways I could tweak Kontakt if necessary. For now, I'm simply sticking with defaults. The piece runs perfectly and you can see from the attached screen caps that the machine is cruising. I should point out that I had email, safari, Slack and a couple of other things running that I'd turn off in most cases.

The first screen cap is the Pro Tools activity monitor, during a busy session. According to this monitor, I never hit 40%. Of course, you should take this screen with a grain of salt. Years ago I had a talk with Andy Hall (long since gone from Avid) about this load monitor. It conveys a lot of information, but it's not an accurate reflection of how the cores are loaded. And to the best of my knowledge, it doesn't say anything about the load outside of Pro Tools.

The second screen cap is the MacOS core activity history (which covers a couple of minutes). If you don't know this display, it can be a little confusing. It shows a single physical core as 2 cores. This accounts for hyperthreading. You can see there's a little hyperthreading going on, but not much. This is a much better way to see the load of everything on your computer. I think this shows the Dolby renderer working in the first 8 physical cores, with Pro Tools more evenly spread across all 16. It also shows all the system stuff and background apps I was running. There's a little CPU spike that I don't understand: it didn't happen on a repeat playthrough.

There are some obvious differences between what I'm doing and what you film scorers are doing. I'm running the soft Atmos renderer. You're more likely to be using an external RMU or perhaps no renderer at all. I'm not running any video and that's going to be a requirement on your side. But I think it does show that you can put a very large template into one machine and either defer freezing until later (or perhaps avoid it completely).

Hope this as been worth the read.
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Old 01-01-2020, 11:14 AM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

Wow!
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Old 01-01-2020, 11:42 AM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

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Originally Posted by Exponential Audio View Post
Hope this as been worth the read.
It was Michael, thanks!
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Old 01-01-2020, 11:52 AM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

Interesting ! Thanks for sharing
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Old 01-01-2020, 12:54 PM
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Default New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

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Originally Posted by Exponential Audio View Post
I took a large piece which I'd previously built on the Trashcan......

I was not able to do any meaningful work without freezing a lot of instrument tracks.

It’s been a long road to get here, and the older iterations of the MAC Pro have gotten us here but it may be we have finally arrived.

Amazing machine and an amazing quantity of RAM

How much was your basic 7.1 price, ballpark if you don’t mind me asking?
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Old 01-01-2020, 01:10 PM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

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How much was your basic 7.1 price, ballpark if you don’t mind me asking?
I bought the basic 16-core with the base GPU and base 16GB of RAM. Internal solid state memory of 2TB. That came in a smidgin under $9K. Got the 384GB ram from Crucial for a little over $2K. The Sonnet PCI card was $399 and 8TB of Samsung 970Evo M.2 memory was about $2K. So that came to about $13.5K. I spent another couple hundred for Sonnect PCI cards that would take my old SSDs. It was a cheap way to add another 12TB. So excluding taxes, I still came in a little under $13K. It is certainly not a cheap machine, but it's compact and powerful and should serve me for many years. Should give me a way to do my music and coding projects for a long time. And it's really quiet.

I should note that you are going to chew up some power with this. If you use a battery-backup-UPS, make sure it can provide enough juice.

----------------
OOPS. I gave a wrong price for the 384GB of RAM. It was a bit over $2k, not $1K. I've fixed the text above to reflect that.

Last edited by Exponential Audio; 01-03-2020 at 06:49 AM.
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Old 01-01-2020, 02:20 PM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

Hey thanks a lot for the review
I had been trying to follow the thread over on GS but it has tuned in a gigantic 179 page hydra cluster.
Honestly for me being what some might call a quasi serious home user for mostly audio and some video , I will see how long my Mid 2010 Cheese Grater.. will serve me
But look forward to people reports on the new Machine
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Old 01-02-2020, 02:17 AM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

thanks for sharing Michael! The new Mac Pro is certainly enticing, but while the cpu side of things can't be compensated for in terms of power I've been running my 2010 5,1 with pci based SSD raids etc so load times etc have been super fast for a while in that regard. I thought myself the 16 core could be an enticing upgrade perhaps but also wonder which is fastest in real world between the 24 or 28 core and just how much of a leap one gains going to either of those options from 16 in real world use. I have a sneaky feeling the 16 is the sweet spot. Your thoughts on that with the 16 would be great to hear! Happy scoring and coding :)
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Old 01-02-2020, 06:22 AM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

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I have a sneaky feeling the 16 is the sweet spot. Your thoughts on that with the 16 would be great to hear! Happy scoring and coding :)
I think it is a sweet spot, but I'm also working with a budget. One of my considerations was the performance of programs that only use a core or two vs. programs (like PT) that spread out over all cores available. The base CPU speed begins to decline when you get past 16 cores, so there might not be an advantage for single-core programs. In my life, this computer has to serve lots of roles, so 16 cores seemed like a good place to be. I'm hoping I'll be able to use it as long as you've used your 5,1!
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Old 01-02-2020, 06:47 AM
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Default Re: New Mac Pro for Scoring - real world measurements

Hey Michael-

Nice result here, if I may ask, what buffer size was PT set to? Would you be able to add audio tracks and reliably record into them at the 32 sample buffer into this session?

One thing I really wish we could get in PT is either a separate buffer setting for VI's or an additional x2 and x4 buffer buffer setting for VI's.
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