Mac Pro, Metal & moving forward

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Hello everyone.

To get straight to the point: I will need a new workstation in the next 6 months and I would like to move back to a Mac (pro).

I mainly use Cinema 4D and Houdini with Redshift.

C4D and Houdini both run on a Mac.
Redshift is being ported to Metal.

When Apple presented the Mac Pro they showed slides with software vendors fully supporting the mac Pro and SideFX was one of them.

But what does that mean long term?
Houdini already runs on macs.

So for me the questions on the Houdini side of things are:
  • will the performance of openCL accelerated stuff be up to date?
  • will Metal be supported at some point in the future?
  • will the upcoming Karma GPU renderer support Metal?

to sum it all up “is the mac pro worth the investment?”

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I believe so, but what do I know?

Here's what I've been able to gather from various sources:

1. Maxon is heavily committed to the OSX platform which means they're pressuring Redshift to get on the Metal conversion ASAP. In Redshift terms that might mean Spring 2020 at the earliest, but I have no doubt that those guys are putting some real resources into it.

2. SideFX seems equally committed to the OSX platform. Houdini was heavily featured in a series of Apple videos a while back and I believe their relationship is strong.

3. Apple seems heavily invested in those 3rd party companies and is apparently providing them with resources and help in porting their software to Metal.

4. Metal is actually pretty good. I mean it's not just Apple being jerks, the underlying technology is actually very powerful.

Having said all that, time will tell and tech trends are always unpredictable. Back in 1995 people were saying that Apple was dead, and look at them now.

So in 2019 people are once again saying that Apple is dead (in the CG/graphics world), but who knows? They could surprise us all.
>>Kays
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Feel free to place bets on the future. IMO Foundry's statement on Mari and Mac should apply here too:

Will Mari 4.x be Mac compatible?
Mari has been updated to use the Qt5 UI libraries as part of our support for the 2017 VFX Reference Platform. Due to the nature of the Qt libraries, which are not created by Apple, the macOS version of Mari 4.x requires more development time to ensure a quality user experience. During Beta, we've seen a high variability of customer experiences based on the range of macOS versions. As such we need more time to investigate and decide on which bugs and macOS versions are key to support. Therefore, we are advancing Mari 4.x for Windows and Linux customers, as we keep working on the macOS version to make sure everyone's experience with Mari 4.x is great from the first version onward. Both Foundry and Apple feel that a quality user experience is important and worth the extra time involved. Thank you for your patience.

OpenCL is all good on MacOS.
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just watched the H18 presentation which is an amazing release
was hoping they would mention something about the whole going forward on the Mac thing.
guess it's still wait and see.. thing is I only have a couple of months left until I need to decide which way to go
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It wasn't mentioned because there are no platform announcements for H18. H18 will continue run on MacOS, and Metal will continue to be unsupported. GPU rendering hasn't been finalized yet for Karma, so no word on the requirements there.
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Christoph F
thing is I only have a couple of months left until I need to decide which way to go

Go with the OS you like the most, simple. Only caveat is if you need to run apps which only run on a specific OS, but Houdini shouldn't be the deciding factor since it runs well on both.
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The only real way metal is going to be used in our industry is through running OpenGL on metal. The business is too entrenched in OpenGL and besides they need a common code base to work on… You know open professional standards and all.



https://moltengl.com/ [moltengl.com]
soho vfx
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OpenGL ES is for embedded systems, so moltengl does not make any difference.
Running OpenGL on Metal makes no sense.
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…The point is that a lot of people are looking at a hardware neutral version of OpenGL so the CAD/CGI industry doesn't have to dump their code to deploy to all platforms. I could see eventually things moving to Vulkan which then runs on top of Metal or DX.
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…things moving to Vulkan which then runs on top of Metal or DX.

This is one of my concerns exactly… because wouldn't this mean being slower on a mac,Vulkan has to run on top of metal, or is it the same on windows? Has this to run on top of DX as well? I thought windows supported Vulkan directly?
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Windows does support Vulkan directly. On Windows Vulkan is a native API, as are OpenGL and DirectX, it allows developers to write programs that run on the GPU.

On Mac the situation is different as Apple does not support Vulkan, they want everyone to use Metal. MoltenVK is a runtime library that maps Vulkan to Apple Metal.

The Mac Pro has not been released yet, so you have to decide if you want to be an early adopter.

In your first post you say that you would like to move back to a Mac, are you currently using a Windows or Linux workstation?
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penboack
In your first post you say that you would like to move back to a Mac, are you currently using a Windows or Linux workstation?

Yes, moved to a used windows 10 HP Z620 Workstation when it became clear they wouldn't do anything with the trashcan and the iMac wasn't powerful enough (at that time). I wanted lots of cores for rendering and enough room for a beefy Nvidia GPU.
I considered a used Mac Pro 5,1 but the situation with nvidia made me decide against it.
Now this all seems to change with Metal but I guess I will need to hold out a while. Won't be an early adopter. Will build myself a decend ryzen machine and probably revisit the back to the mac idea in about a year or so when the direction and capabilities are more clear…
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I'm still a bit confused by your hesitation, unless it's strictly tied to Redshift in which case I kinda see the point to hold off.

FWIW, my plan is that when H18 comes out, depending on the performance I am thinking of switching out to Catalina/Radeon 5700 XT and see how well Karma behaves. If it's as workable renderer as the presentation made it sound, I might end up sticking with it until Redshift catches up with Metal.
>>Kays
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Makes sense - Windows and Linux have:

  • Superior OpenGL performance vs Mac stuck with a 2010 version…zzzzz
  • Less QT bugs, the most non-productive ones are the tab menu and the stuck viewport bug - last posts @ https://www.sidefx.com/forum/topic/68970/?page=2#post-297259 [www.sidefx.com]
  • More CPU/GPU options. Mac only has 3 GPUs that are officially supported. Understandably, but frustratingly, SideFX now actively reject bugs on unsupported GPU systems.

    So, there is no moving forward with Mac OS :/ An investment in a system that doesn't work today, is not an investment. Hello 3900x arriving today!

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Hi,

I tested more 3d application in Mac, Windows, early Linux. Linux has better support on 3d but today dont support VR. I tested now only Windows and Mac. Mac is not appropriate on 3d graphics, because 3d application make a lot of mistakes. Best platform on 3d is Windows, all application work no problem. I tested my application from my pipeline, Houdini, Substance Designer, Painter, Alchemist, 3d coat, marvelous. And i need working on projects a i cant solving problems with mac or wait on solve problem with mac.

These are my experiences, maybe somebody else.
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I bought a special machine for Houdini and other CGI stuff when I realized how painfully expensive is my iMac 5K retina. This turned out to be very expensive and not usable monitor. The processor is already old and the graphic card is impossible to replace. To sum it up for the OP, Mac Pro is not worth investment. Not even in the big pipeline studios, I can't see how the 4K price just for the machine and expect to invest in the pro monitor another 4K (with the ergonomic stand it will be 5K). Realistically, you can get beautiful result for investing 5K with custom made machine which includes a 4K monitor. Mac asks you 9K for the arguably less impressive result. I am not sure who is the target for these new machines. Maybe some huge studios who need one or few machines with expensive monitors specialized for color grading and mastering. Other than that, I have no idea who should buy these overpriced machines. Word of advice - save your money. Sooner you get off the MacOS addiction, better for you, your projects, and your wallet. And this is coming from the current Mac user, I am still on Apple in all other aspects, my laptop, working machine for 2D stuff. But for CGI I think Pavel is absolutely right, so far Windows is the best bet, unfortunately.
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Sigh. Once again we deteriorate into the typical Mac = crap, Windows or Linux is the way to go. The reality is that for some of us, we (gasp) actually enjoy working in OSX, and I get everything done that I need to get done. I spend over 10 hours/day in front of my computer, I have a dual-boot Hackintosh and every time I have to go into Windows it's painful. To this day I still haven't been able to properly configure my Logitech wireless mouse in Windows (it works one moment, then it stops, then it works) so in order to get a reliable workflow I typically will use my USB mouse instead. The software works, but using Houdini in Windows, I don't find it any more or less reliable than in OSX, or any faster for that matter. Don't even get me started on trying to access my online passwords/iPhone in Windows, or trying to keep Windows from updating itself (I can delay the updates, but never completely stop them indefinitely like I can in OSX).

Ultimately it's a workflow preference, and I don't think there is anything wrong with asking for that to be considered a valid factor.

Lastly, competition is good. Without OSX, most of the features of Windows simply wouldn't be there. I think having choices, and letting developers know that some users prefer one system over another is a healthy thing. We should be supporting a diverse OS ecosystem, not try to homogenize everyone to the same OS.

If I had about $10k to part with this year, there is no doubt I would be putting in my pre-order on a 12-core Mac Pro.
>>Kays
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I hate this aspect of my work. Solo shop here, so I'm the tech support as well as everything else. And I'm currently having to support 3 OSs.

Mac OS: I just haven't found any editing s/w as fast as FCP X. It's an incredibly frustrating package to use at times, but the rendering, and the way background rendering is tied into things, makes it incredibly fast for throwing comps on a timeline and playing with timing and scratch grades. I can drop several 4Kx4K layers with transparency on top of each other on the timeline, and it plays back pretty much immediately. It's a maxed out 4,1, NVMe drives and all that jazz. But the GPU situation means I now have to run…

Windows: After Effects just runs faster on this machine than the Mac. Multiple GPUs not a problem. But it's a horrible operating system to use - I get that this is a matter of opinion - but the whole “I'm gonna install updates regardless of whether you're mid-render” thing, and the constant update=reboot thing is a pain. But it runs Tomb Raider really well (gotta research the latest in real-time gfx, eh? On-line / off-line rendering convergence… it's *research* sweetie)

Linux: Houdini just seems to *feel* better on Linux. Once I'd learnt how to uhh… linux, it's worked out really well for Houdini and Redshift on my tiny farm. Everything feels solid; it feels like I'm closer to the metal than the other OSs. So I've ended up with Centos or Mint on more machines on my network than any other OSs.

But it's frustrating that I can't find one OS that does it all. I love Mac OS as a user experience; managing all the start-of-the-pipeline “officey” stuff, bouncing scripts around etc, and I trust it when it comes to colour management and the end-of-the-pipeline stuff. But Linux feels like an extension of Houdini somehow, and it just works. Windows… eating glue in the corner of the classroom, but it's the only way I can comp stuff at any speed (at least until I drop several grand and lots of learning time on Nuke)

My couple of cheese-grater Mac Pros are over 10 years old, and I'm typing this on my main workhorse one. It's got new CPUs, has had a new GPU every year or so; it's been spectacular. Best investments I've made in the IT world, really.

So I'd love to think a shiny new Mac Pro would give me another 10 years - but I'm still sore about nVidia. Yep - looks like you can upgrade the RAM / CPU, but I look at those inviting industry-standard-looking PCI slots with distrust. What does it matter if the slots are industry standard if Apple prevent half the industry from writing drivers for their cards?

* * *

I can afford to chuck out the Win/Linux Threadrippers and buy new ones every few years, if necessary, but for summat as costly as the new cheesegrater, I need confidence in its longevity.

Apple are both my reliable companion (iPhone/MacBook/macOS), and the petulant, unpredictable child in my life, constantly threatening my workflow with their whims.

/rant
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In the end, with the OS now Metalised, we will probably see Apple backtrack on OpenGL and ship it with an up to date version. They have done it with PCIe expansion slots, airflow form factor, ESC key, so it's just a matter of time.

Metal viewports; Modo's Advanced Metal viewport was announced in 2015, and it never shipped. Mari was demoed on Trashcan, 2013, as the ‘fastest Pixar artists have used to date’, and the software now lags a version behind due QT, and very likely GL, issues.

Circa 2013
Pixar's Speech at the Apple WWDC Demonstrating Mari on the new Mac Pro
https://www.pixarpost.com/2013/06/pixars-speech-at-apple-wwdc.html [www.pixarpost.com]

Circa 2015, Modo @ 11min
What's New in Metal, Part 1
https://developer.apple.com/videos/play/wwdc2015/603/ [developer.apple.com]

Apple has a history of announcements that need critical analysis in the pro field, and, although it's a great marketing opportunity for DCC companies, that's all it is.

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It's all basically speculating on, not only what Apple might or might not do, but also what 3rd party companies like Redshift, SideFX, Adobe, etc. might do.

I remain convinced that Metal support is coming from all those companies, and I think there might be some very Metal-specific advantages that we might not be aware of, but which might actually give Apple an edge over other platforms. How weird would it be if it turns out for instance that Redshift is faster on AMD GPU's that cost less than half of an RTX GPU.

Today's release of the Mac Book Pro 16 is further indication that Apple is committed to power users.


Here's an interesting opinion piece which is an interesting read regardless of what your interests are in operating systems:

https://appleinsider.com/articles/19/10/18/editorial-mac-pro-puts-the-pedal-to-metal-in-apples-race-with-nvidia [appleinsider.com]
>>Kays
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