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187 posts

Master Geek

# 38791 4-Aug-2009 12:57
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"While Weta finished all three Lord of the Rings movies on two G3 Mac towers..."

I find this hard to believe - can someone with more information confirm or deny it?

The article is here:
Mac Planet Blog

It was interesting to meet Andrew, who requested a meeting so he could look at a Mac from the viewpoint of his work as a professional photographer.

I was interested because I have worked as a darkroom technician. I have taught photography at an introductory level and I have had many photos published. My partner teaches art and photography at an Auckland university. So I consider myself a knowledgeable amateur.

In Andrew's preamble, he mentions his objectivity. I did find Andrew to be open minded, although it was also my perception that Andrew seemed surprised that even my 'old' pre Unibody early '08 15-inch MacBook Pro laptop could handle the work he threw at it, like opening lots of images at once in Photoshop, complex batch work, heavy filtering etc.

Andrew wanted to use a Mac more like his workday PC - I agree my Mac was no match to his PC. Gee, I'd like a newer Mac too! I have said before that most Macs will hum along for five years or so, at least for emailing and word processing and surfing. While Weta finished all three Lord of the Rings movies on two G3 Mac towers even though, by then, the Mac platform had moved two platforms on to the G5, I find that for work like Logic and Final Cut, my 18-month-old MacBook Pro is no longer as capable as I'd like, especially after seeing just how quick the new 13-inch MacBook Pro is. But I've always been prone to new model envy as an inevitable result of getting to evaluate new Apple machines periodically.

As Andrew says himself, he already has a workflow he has effectively developed for his photography practise. It's unlikely he would change that for any computer platform, especially when he can get Adobe Lightroom, for example, to work the same way on both.

However, if he stepped outside that practise I believe things would be different. For example, if he found himself having to knock together a movie, complete with stills, and perhaps a royalty-free soundtrack, he'd realise just how useful any Mac is. And I saw just how quick a learner he is. (Or perhaps the Mac's oft-cited ease of use helped? I don't know.)

However, Andrew's take on workflow is interesting in itself. I come from the other angle, if you like. I learnt to use a Mac and then I learnt how to use different software packages. Therefore my own workflow tends to come from knowing how Macs store things, where applications go, how the System works etc. I've often been annoyed at the predilection of software makers to introduce their own filing and cataloguing systems, so you can bypass (in the Mac's case) the Finder's. Even Apple, with iPhoto for example, does this.

As someone who works the other way round, I like to know exactly where my files are on the hard drive. Therefore I actually only use iPhoto for things it's specifically great at, like geotagged albums, face recognition, publishing galleries online in minutes, making books and calendars ... all my other images bypass iPhoto and just get filed in my Pictures folder, thank you very much.

But now it makes sense for those who move between machines. For example, Adobe Lightroom on a PC works the same was as Lightroom on a Mac, so changing platforms in this case would be easy if you're a heavy Lightroom user. Likewise Adobe's Bridge which comes with Creative Suite works (mostly) the same on both machines. (Bridge looks great, though I know few who actually use Bridge in practise.)

Andrew is keen on 64-bit. The next Mac OS (10.6 'Snow Leopard') is 64-bit. (No, you won't need to get a 'special' 64-bit version - Apple makes one OS and it's the same for everyone, and for one price). But software makers will need to rewrite their software to take advantage. I imagine (and hope) Adobe has been doing just that, for example, using developer seeds of Snow Leopard over the last year or so.

On the question of the RAW converting, image-wrangling software Aperture, I prefer it to Lightroom myself, having reviewed both. Lightroom is terrific, actually, and fundamentally similar to Apple's Aperture in what it can do, but Lightroom forces you into a workflow similar to that of old analogue photographic practice so that you have to step through specific analogue-style stages.

Oddly, perhaps, I prefer the computer-user centric interface of Aperture even though I used to work extensively in the analogue photographic world. Aperture just lets you jump in and do things. Meanwhile Andrew has never worked in analogue photography, yet has become used to this analogue workflow in Lightroom. Which shows you how youthful he is ... but I guess his only real choice on the PC is Lightroom, whereas Mac users can also choose Aperture.

Andrew's point that if you strip away OS X, you get the hardware, which may be more consistent on Macs but is essentially the same or very similar to the hardware in good PCs. True. And if he's bypassing the OS anyway, sure - Apple OS X doesn't add much for a user like Andrew, unless you value a low crash rate, protected kernel support and resistance to viruses.

On Apple monitors: Apple uses approved suppliers, sure. But the fact Mac screens are all consistently calibrated is a real bonus.

Finally, on the question of Apple laptops, their hard drives are bigger than ever, but serious Mac-toting photographers tend to have a MacBook in the field. They might tether their Canon to it, for example, which is also possible in the studio. In fact, my partner has DSLR Remote on her iPod touch which even lets her preview images from her Canon DSLR on its screen and change camera settings.

Mac-using photographers usually have another monitor to plug that MacBook into when they're back in the office, or an additional large-screen iMac. If I was a photographer, I would love a small, fast, rugged MacBook Pro 13-inch in my bag, to team with a 24-inch iMac back at the office, or sure, a great big 30-inch Apple Cinema display plugged into a Mac Pro. Yeah!

So I guess it comes down to money. Again. A Mac Pro has multiple drive bays for huge storage and internal backups, and you can wirelessly back up your work to a Time Capsule even, but this will cost you big money.

Your photography practise would have to be lucrative.

- Mark Webster

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BDFL - Memuneh
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Lifetime subscriber

# 242561 4-Aug-2009 18:08
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Call bullshit on this.

Back in 2003:

"Supplier IBM has begun delivering 1174 blade servers, each with dual 2.8 gigahertz Xeon Intel processors and 6 gigabytes of memory.

Weta technical head Scott Houston says about 3200 processors will be running flat out next month on The Return of the King, making Weta Digital the largest Intel-based high-performance computing centre in the world by Intel's estimation. "

"The first film had about 400 special effects shots. The second had 800 and this film will have at least as many as the first two combined," said Houston.

"If you remember the book, in this film there two giant battles, there are armies of the dead, there is the fight with Shelob the spider and of course lots more of Gollum."

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  # 242596 4-Aug-2009 18:50
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when it says "he finished it" that could easily mean that he did whatever the last process happened to be on the mac tower, but everything else on the large grunty computers

e.g. maybe 'finishing it' means all he used his mac tower for was to burn a DVD with the data on which he sent to Peter Jackson for preliminary viewing :P


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  # 242700 4-Aug-2009 22:17
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The Hobbit is going to be edited on an iphone.

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  # 242736 4-Aug-2009 22:54
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weta owns a shirtload (*) of storage from network appliance and used to have hundreds fo SGI machines in a render farm (i know, i own one of the old SGIs)

(*) shirtload - apparently only mods can use words like bullshirt safely :P

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Ultimate Geek

  # 242751 4-Aug-2009 23:25
Send private message - Top 500 list of supercomputers in the world. - WETA Digital's current stable of Blade clusters take out spots 140-144 on that list. That's some serious processing power.

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  # 242766 5-Aug-2009 00:07
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It's probably a reference to the edit suites. They would have been Meridian (maybe?) based Avid suites (that I do know). So yeah, Lord of the Rings was probably edited on G3's.

But all the CGI, compositing, Colour grading, Sound mixing, DVD authoring, promotional posters, etc, etc, required a tonne of bleeding edge computer power. Most of it not from Apple.

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