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Tag: apple

Native or DSP

I always hear that native is the future. And honestly I think it’s true. But then many says we can throw out our DSP solutions because native is already has plenty of power, and it is in fact a better choice than any DSP solution available today. This is where I usually raise my eyebrows.

I know that post production and scoring is a somewhat special part of the industry, requires immense power, usually much more than a regular music or simple production. For example in scoring it’s a daily practice to deal with hundreds of tracks more often than not mixed in surround. Even without too many plugins, the size of the session is a huge burden on any machine. Just quickly add up for example 200 tracks divided into 5 stems, all with its own audio subgroups, own effects. To this you must add the final routing and the stem recorder tracks. This all have to work together without any issue. And imagine if you need to EQ a few things, want to use some dynamics processing, special effects, saturation, spatial effects. Oh, and don’t forget the last steps in the chain, the stem processing, which is essentially a high quality mastering chain in surround, and it’s usually the same on all stems.

So while I definitely think that native is the future, I don’t think that we are already there. Here’s a screen photo of the current score mix I’m working on, and it still lacks some material, so it’s going to be bigger.

This is a trashcan MacPro with Pro Tools HDX2. Imagine if all this would be on the MacPro, which is a very powerful machine by the way.

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The best Mac file manager

Call me biased, but I definitely think that Forklift by Binarynights is the very best file manager on the Mac. Now they’ve released the third iteration of it that offers a slight face lift, but more importantly some really cool goodies.

Features including remote connections, tabbed browsing, syncing, multi-rename tool, quick open, mini forklift to name a few. If you are familiar with the famous Total commander on PC, you’ll love Forklift and actually there’s an option so every already known Total commander shortcut can be used in Forklift too, so no big change here.

Personally one of my favourite features is the syncing ability. Especially useful when you need to backup or copy huge amount of data from many days of recording. It is able to compare, selectively update the contents of the target folder.

Now they are having a welcome sale so grab it till you can for less, though I think it worth every penny, even the family license is a fantastic deal.

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MacPro big test

Today is hopefully the last step in our ongoing test, failures and reinstalls. After I woke up I packed my backpack as usual, but now rushed to “office” to copy a few hundred gigabytes to my external SSD, grabbed my iLok and headed to the one and only official Apple certified service in Hungary. They ran a few tests but they want to see our problems in real life.

I hope it’ll turn out fine and honestly I hope they share some cool tips with me regarding the inner soul of Macs. But even if not, I’d be happy to show them what we’re struggle with. They are probably the only ones who can solve this case.

As I’ve spent considerable time trying to test and solve this case, I hope this is the last time I have go through all the steps again. Wish me luck.

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Mac ProBlems

You may remember that we had some serous issues with one of our Mac Pros. Sudden crashes, weird general behaviour urged us to test it thoroughly. Back then we found a bad RAM. If this would be a Disney film, then I could say everybody lived happily after… but of course life is not like that.

Nasty issues

After we changed the RAM, certain issues still popped up without any serious evidence what causes them. CPU spikes, wide variety of different errors, sudden crashes and even kernel panics. The question was: what the hell again? We found the bad RAM, and thought that was the source of our problems. But now it seems that was only one from the unknown number.

We’ve tried to make this beast sweat to see if we have some hardware related issue. Geek-benches, RAM tests (yet again), other methods to max out CPU usage. The really disconcerting thing is that we couldn’t identify the root of the problem. However, as soon as we try to use it with our sessions in Pro Tools, it is literally unusable.

mac pro inside

Going through the cycle again

I already tried to update and reinstall certain things, now the last step is to boot onto a Sierra install USB stick, format the MacSSD and start over with a brand new system.

If we’ll have issues than we can send this machine to a Apple certified service centre for further and hopefully more serious investigation. I know it sounds strange, but in Hungary these services are still in their infancy, you have to run many circles to prove your point even if we are talking about a Mac Pro, not an iPhone charger of something like that. To some extent I can understand they want us to go through the basic possibilities, but for us it’s time and labour, removing people from important tasks. Anyway, this is the only way we might find the good solution.

mac pro ports

One thing is for sure, I’ve never seen anything like this before. If I could choose, I’d choose a simple but more brutal problem like a blown fuse or something else. Than at least I’d be sure what causes our ongoing issues. But in my opinion this is the most filthy of all as it constantly haunting and pops up in the most unexpected ways rendering the whole workstation unusable.

Hopefully we’ll find the root of the issue soon.

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I want my time back…

It seems that sometimes you have to switch to full Sherlock mode and investigate, find clues and evidence, deduct and hopefully find the solution after the process. This can be exciting, boring and anything in between, but one thing is for sure, it is very time consuming. Few weeks ago one of our rigs started to act weird, and after some investigation we’ve found that one of the RAM modules are almost dead. Great, switched back to the original modules while waiting for the replacement. No problem there, or only minor issues, but we desperately need more RAM now.

Use what we have

I thought, ok, we don’t have 64GB then use only 32GB. That’s definitely more than the basic 16GB, should be enough. As we had more and more Memory low messages in Pro Tools, as soon as I had a little time I grabbed the MacPro out of the rack to change the RAM. Apart from some cabling it is really not a big deal. Open the little padlock sign and lift the outer shell up. Push the RAM holder and it’s immediately comes out from the hidden place so you can grab the modules. I precisely inserted the two modules into slot 1 and 3. Put back the shell, connect the cables and you’re ready to get back to work. Well, in theory at least.

Mac Pro memory slots

After the boot up our rig started to behave like never before. Even launching Pro Tools caused CPU errors, the meter was constantly gliding from 40% to 100% and to red. I couldn’t open even a single, small session. To be honest I’ve never experienced anything like this. At first I tried to open one of our usual (bigger) sessions, but after a few failures to do so I tried to open really small ones without any success.

I knew the RAM modules are fine because they’d been tested. But how come we experienced only minor if any issues with the stock RAM? I have absolutely no idea. But putting the RAM from slot 1 and 3 to slot 2 and 4 solved the problem. No CPU errors, no outrageous 100% values and sessions open without any errors as before the RAM exchange.

Apple hardware test showed that everything is fine, however it is very obvious that it is far from being fine. Now we try to arrange to send back the MacPro to Apple for some thorough testing to confirm if there’s any problem. I hope they have something more deep than the regular hardware test.

If any of you experienced things like this before, don’t hesitate to write me. Any experience or advice is highly appreciated.

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