When I bought my MacPro I went to the Apple store, I figured they knew something. I should have realized they didn’t because the guy I was talking to didn’t know anything about Final Cut Pro.
I asked the Mac “Genius” about the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 512MB RAM. He said it would work fine with FCP, so I bought it. As time went by while using Final Cut Pro Studio 3 I became frustrated with video lagging problems. I couldn’t understand it. I wasn’t doing “gaming” which I understood to be video intensive, but I guess FCP was proving to be a problem.
My first meeting with CincyFCPUG I asked guys about video problems etc. and no one mentioned that my graphics card could be the problem. They suggested a RAID, trashing preferences, etc., but nothing about graphics card.
I became suspicious because I figured a top end Mac Pro should run FCP with no problems, so I called the Apple pro support and talked to a FCP expert. He told me about the problem with my card and suggested the switch to the 1 Gig ATI Radeon. He also said that $1900 card they were offering at the time wouldn’t be that much better than the $450 card. (He also at the time said the Apple wasn’t abandoning FCP but would be coming out with X but he didn’t have the time frame.)
I bought the ATI Radeon HD 5870, and it made all the difference with 7, and I also now with X. For FCPX you need an OpenCL compatible graphics card from this list endorsed by Apple. Here is the card I bought:
One caveat I am running 2 monitors, Dell 30″ and Apple 30″ which both have Dual-Link DVI connectors. The 5870 has 1 DVI connector and 2 mini connectors, so I had to buy this:
http://store.apple.com/us/product/MB571Z/A?fnode=MTY1NDA5OQ (that is what the Apple tech support guy said)
Now that might not be necessary if your 2nd monitor is smaller than 30″, you might get away with this
Larry Jordan’s recent newsletter mentions these issues, and it is worth a read. You should also check out the official Apple FCPX Troubleshooting Basics. Some cards are flat out incompatible with FCPX because they are not OpenCL compatible. In addition to better graphics Macs spool off other operations to the ATI Radeon cards and the net result is a faster computer.
Broadcast veteran Phil Boyer was experiencing the same kind of problems with his Mac Pro and Final Cut Pro X, so he decided to upgrade. He produced a before and after video that illustrates some of the difference. While not a scientific test it does illustrate the difference. I think Phil’s experience in this report from him is even more indicative:
FINAL CUT itself as a program opens 2 1/2 times faster. Changing PROJECTS below the STORYLINE took 5″ on the video pre-new card, and now takes 2 seconds. Repositioning pictures in MOTION was a snap with the one I had to do today.
All I can say about it was that Final Cut Pro was unusable before I got the ATI Radeon 5870.