Sorry Apple, but I've jumped ship to Windows!

I love Apple computers. I wanted to get that out of the way first. I still love them, still use them, and still think they're great for many things. I will still be using Apple computers on a daily basis whilst lecturing for things like email, web browsing and will continue to teach students how to create content using Apple machines.  Apple computers will be part of my future for some time yet, however........

History

I started content creation back in 2008, however in as Apple started making waves in the industry with the iMac and release of Final Cut Pro, I knew I wanted this shiny new kit in my workflow. This was the beginning of Apple's push to appeal to professional content creators and artists, and it was working.  I bought my first Apple computer in 2011. It was a 24" iMac with an i5 processor, 8GB of RAM and a 1TB hard drive.  7 years ago it was a beast and I still vividly remember unboxing. Over the years I've upgraded the RAM to a max of 16GB, replaced the internal hard drive with an SSD and I've removed all my content from the internal drive and moved it onto an external RAID array, keeping things running as fast as possible. #runninglikeadream

But alas, all good things must come to an end... so here we are.

Why I Switched

To date, my iMac had been quick to boot, never missed a beat and up until the purchase of a DJI Mavic Pro, handled video content brilliantly.  Since the arrival of 4K footage in my content, I learned to live with sloooooooow renders and exports, often planning my workflow around the limitations of my machine. I thought I could live with it, however a few months ago I started getting errors, constant shut downs and loud SOS type beeping noises following shut down.  I reinstalled the OS, I formatted drives and she came back to life, briefly, before dying all over again. This was no good for me or my clients, I needed a new computer!

It's definitely no secret that Apple has begun to lose the same demographic it tried to attract back in 2000: professional content creators and artists. Apple computers are still excellent for many creative things, but when you need a lot of CPU and/or graphics power to crunch large video files or 3D renders, Apple has continued to fall behind in that area.

So, I started to weigh my options...

I could get an iMac Pro, which needed a minimum investment of £4,999, and actually more like £7,999+ once I got the specs I needed.  I couldn't justify that amount of money for a machine that had limited upgrade options and from experience using iMacs at work, the graphics (and even CPU) performance still wasn't enough for the things I needed to do. It was definitely a step up from my current machine, but it didn't offer enough performance boost to make up for the huge cost.

Sadly, Windows PCs were finally beginning to look like the best option. For a few months, I weighed up the pros and cons, sacrificing work with no machine to edit on.  The more I missed editing the more it pushed me to sort a new machine and eventually I crossed over from "just looking" to "ready to jump". So I jumped.

The Build

Early on in my research, I discovered building a custom PC was going to be the best and most economical decision for me. There are some good pre-built options out there, but they're either designed for gaming (and look like Lamborghini threw up its concept cars all over a computer store) or designed for video production and priced at a premium.

If I was going to make the switch, I wanted that computer to be worth it and I wanted the most bang for my money. Who wouldn't? So, I set out to build my own PC that was 1) cheaper than most or all of Apple's current options, and 2) faster at video editing and encoding than most or all of Apple's current options.

Here are the specs/requirements I had:

  • CPU faster than the top end 27" iMac Pro
  • GPU (graphics performance) better/faster than the top end iMac Pro
  • Ability to edit multiple streams of 4K/UHD video in real-time without using proxies
  • Ability to encode un-rendered Premiere Pro sequences to H.264 quickly

Given those requirements, and after a few months of research and planning, the list below is the build that I ended up buying.

  • CPU: AMD Threadripper 1950x
    • The new Threadripper was the top choice for my build for a few reasons, but mainly because it offered a huge 16 cores, 32 threads of simultaneous multi-processing power. 
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte X399 - Aorus 7
    • I wanted a motherboard that had room to grow and offered features like overclocking and on board sound. Gigabyte motherboards tend to get excellent reviews for performance, features, price, and durability. 
  • GPU: MSI GeForce GTX 1080 X 8GB
    • This GPU was a no-brainer with its brute force performance. 
  • RAM: Corsair Vengence DDR4 3000MHz (32GB currently, although the motherboard will support up to 128GB)
  • CPU Cooler: Arctic Liquid Freezer 360
  • Case: Cooler Master H500P
    • I wanted a case that wasn't too flashy, had plenty of room for upgrades and airflow, and was quiet. This case fit all of those requirements and even has some subtle RGB lighting if I so wish.
  • System Hard Drive: Samsung EVO PCI Express 3.0 (250GB)
    • All my media is housed on other hard drives, so I just needed a system drive that was fast to hold Windows and apps. 
  • Hard Drives: 2x Seagate 4TB Barracuda 3.5" 5400RPM internal drives. (These are setup in a RAID configuration to provide data redundancy).
  • Fans: 2x 200mm fans built into the case with a 120mm fan at the rear for exhaust.
    • Proper air flow in your case is critical, especially when pushing the CPU constantly. 
  • Power Supply: Cooler Master V750 PSU 80 Plus Gold.
    • One thing I knew I didn't want to go cheap on was power. When you're pushing a video editing system, you want everything to run smoothly and reliably. Clean and consistent power is essential for that. So, I chose this Gold Certified power supply as a recommendation from several review sites. 
  • Monitor: ASUS 28" 4K UHD FreeSync Monitor.

Initial Thoughts on the Computer and Process

PC building has come a long way in the last 20 years. Everything is pretty much plug and play. I have built a few computers in my life, but nothing as powerful as this system. Despite this, I had a fully functional system ordered and built within 48 hours. The process is very straightforward and there are great tutorial videos online should you need them.

PCPartPicker is your friend. It has a great and easy to use interface that will walk you through the parts needed for a build. There are also parts lists from others so you can get an idea of cost and performance for certain parts. It will also tell you if there are any glaring compatibility issues with the parts you choose, which can save you a ton of time and stress.

Windows 10 has been extremely solid, and dare I say, as solid as Mac OS. It installed in less than 10 minutes, which Mac OS has never come close to. Drivers were updated automatically in about an hour and I didn't have to do anything extra or manually install any drivers.  There's a lot of things I still love about Mac OS, but using Windows after being Mac OS only for quite a few years has actually been a positive experience.

Premiere Pro, After Effects, and Photoshop have been extremely solid as well. Premiere Pro feels quite different on Windows as opposed to the multiple Macs I've edited on, however it's still the Adobe creative suite that we've all come to love, just on a different operating system.

The Threadripper 1950X is pretty amazing, but the GTX 1080 is an absolute BEAST.

Real World Results

After a week of heavy 4K/UHD video editing on the PC, I'm very happy with it and blown away by how much more efficient I am in my editing and workflow. I have successfully cut 4K/UHD streams of video using Premiere Pro without having to transcode to proxy files. The only bottleneck I have now is hard drive speed. I can still play 3 streams of 4K/UHD in real-time, but there is a small hit in frame rate. However, it's not bad and doesn't prevent me from making cuts at the right spots while doing a real-time edits. I will be adding a couple of SSD scratch drives soon, so that should help.

Windows startup is snappy, around 10 seconds, and there is no noticeable lag on any task I try to do.

Why Not Hackintosh?

When planning my build, I considered a Hackintosh for a few minutes, but that's all. I wanted something that was reliable and stable, and there are too many risks involved with Hackintosh builds. Plus, there's limited compatibility with parts and I believe I got way more bang for my buck by sticking with Windows.

Conclusion

Bottom line, my PC build is cheaper AND faster for video editing (sometimes by quite a bit) than any Apple laptop or desktop with similar specs available today. I know there are upsides and downsides to both Mac and Windows platforms, but so far the upsides of speed and flexibility are in Windows' favor. I know I'm still in the honeymoon phase, and Windows will have its issues probably, but so far I have no regrets in the switch and everything has met or exceeded my expectations. Time will tell, but it's looking good so far.

 Daniel

Throwback To #Untitled

It's officially Thursday so surely I can be forgiven for posting a throwback blog so early in the morning. This evening I was sat in my dining room enjoying a family meal, the view from our front window overlooking a peaceful and calm landscape, however I wasn't looking out of the window; instead I was staring at the dining room wall and the huge 2A0 print hanging upon it. 

I've never been one to shout my achievements from the rooftops, but you know what, #Untitled was a project which took so much of my soul to create that I can't help but be proud of what it helped me to achieve. Finishing my degree with a 1st in Media, Moving Image and Photography wasn't an easy task, however hard work and perseverance paid off. 

 Liverpool One. 1/8 of #Untitled. 

Liverpool One. 1/8 of #Untitled. 

2017 has so far been without doubt a spectacular year for me personally. It has provided an opportunity to grow and strengthened desires for change. I have further developed my photographic practice and found a love in a genre which I had not previously explored. However, I have faced some fairly significant challenges over the past twelve months, completing my degree whilst exploring a position of photography lecturer was a huge strain on both myself and my close network of support and I thank everyone who pushed me to achieve what they knew I was capable of.  I would encourage anyone who wants to make a change, to do so. It's never too late to make any sort of life changes and if you're like me and make the best of those changes, you certainly won't regret it. 

I intend to continue 2017 with a firm focus and systematic and organised approach to ensure I continue to develop.  My journey isn't over yet, in fact I'd go as far as to say, it's only just begun. 

Daniel  

Website Update

My photography website has long been neglected and it was the cause of much internal anxiety. Through the years my site has morphed and changed a number of times. I started with a simple template site and moved on to a very expensive custom site then went back to a template gallery with a Wordpress blog. You’re going to get sick of hearing about me trying to simplify my life but it’s the damn truth. I need as much simplicity as I can get right now and my website is no exception.

Over the years I have run sites and blogs on WordPress and that was fine but something always came up that was a pain in the ass for me to fix. I can’t even spell CSS let alone program it. If a plugin or update broke, I was at the mercy of the developers and their helpful nature, or lack thereof.

 Wordpress Blog

Wordpress Blog

My last site was on the Smugmug platform and it was a decent enough site but it did not have an integrated blog so I had to develop a Wordpress theme that had a vague resemblance to my main site. I’m a big believer in consistency and wanted my blog and my site to be seamless.  It never happened.  Many portfolio platforms suffer from this so it really narrowed my choices. If I changed the template in Smugmug for my site then I would have to re design and change the blog.

 Smugmug Design

Smugmug Design

At the end of the day I need a site that showcases my photography. Not my design aesthetic.

The companies that ended up on my shortlist were PhotoshelterA Photo Folio500pxSquarespace, and Tumblr (Yes. Tumblr), and finally, The Grid (I’m not even giving them the benefit of a link. Don’t bother with them at all.) At the end of the day it came down to Squarespace for having the best blog integration, most options for layout and design, and simplicity of use.

From updating galleries, to writing a blog post, to tracking traffic and stats, adding e-commerce, and building custom pages within the backend, Squarespace was the clear winner. There are always issues when going with a template service though. The two issues I have right now with Squarespace is I really like the galleries from one template but the blog design of another template. I know there’s a lot that you can do under the hood if you know a bit of CSS and the like and that was one reason I went with them. At some point if I do want something tweaked beyond the options I’m given with drop down menus and sliders I can hire someone to make those changes for me.

Since I have been shooting new personal work I have wanted two things on my site. One is a simple way to sell prints and the other is to have space to advertise myself as a working photographer.  Squarespace makes both of those things a breeze to set up.  The next thing I wanted to setup was a blog, and wow how easy was that!  It's is not quite where I want it to be yet but it’s working and is easier to use, IMHO, than WordPress. I still have some tweaks to do and might pull someone in with a bit more knowledge than I have to get it where I want it to be. For now though it feels SO GOOD to have an updated site with updated work and I’m putting new content on a new blog. It felt freeing and liberating to absolutely nuke my old site into oblivion and start fresh. I may have taken a hit on SEO by doing so but I’m not really that concerned about it because I’ve never been that concerned with SEO.

Again. It feels awesome to have a fresh site. I still have tweaks to make. I still have some editing to do for the galleries. I might try a different font here or there. The blog layout needs some work but it’ll get there. If I kept waiting for the perfect site then I’d never ever ever ever ever launch one. Ever. Don’t wait for perfection because you’ll never find it. Please go take a look and let me know what you think! Which company or service do you think I should have put on my short list? Want to buy a print? Check them out here!

Is It Time You Updated Your Headshots?

This handy list will help you check to see if it's time to get a new set of headshots!

beth-gabbitas-36.jpg

1. You have a job

Many professionals these days can benefit from having a good quality corporate headshot. I’m not talking about the obvious ones like real estate agents, actors and models, who all must have a headshot in order to succeed. I’m thinking more of people like doctors, lawyers, architects and executives. Basically, anyone who is entrusted with high levels of responsibility should have a professional quality headshot to represent them. Making do with a cropped scan from a family Christmas party photo just doesn’t project the kind of professionalism you aim to exhibit every day in the workplace.

2. You don’t have a job

Looking for a job? As shallow as it might seem, people make snap judgments about each other based on appearance. It doesn’t mean that you need to look like a supermodel to get a job, but making yourself presentable online is a must in the modern competitive job market. Just as you wouldn’t show up to an important job interview in ripped jeans and with dirt all over your face, why would you show potential employers a photo of you at anything less than your best? A professional-looking headshot might not land you a job, but it might give you the edge you need to get your foot in the door, or get some actual face-time so you can really show them what you’ve got.

3. You’re single

Hey there’s nothing wrong with that. Being single can be fun. But if you’re single and you don’t want to be, your online emissary to the world of potential partners is your dating site profile picture. It works 24/7 for you, advertising your gorgeous mug to the world. A lot of people will say that you only need snapshots on your dating profile. Obviously, I have a different opinion. A professional profile photo can round out your gallery of more casual photos by adding an element of contrast and quality. A great-looking profile photo lures the viewer in for a closer look. Come hither!

4. You use social media

Do you want to elevate your social media presence? A professional portrait or headshot can really have that effect. No matter what network you’re on, you can tailor your profile picture to really show what you’re all about. Your profile pictures for various social networks like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter might have different goals and purposes. Do you want to highlight your professional side? Your fun-loving side? Your goofy side? Your all-encompassing sexiness? A good professional photographer can help you share your best traits on social media....... besides, a new professional photo will harvest you a ton of likes!

5. You are getting older

Let’s face it, we’re all getting older. That’s not necessarily bad, it’s just the truth. Your headshots need to reflect this. There isn’t anything sadder than seeing someone clinging desperately to a photo that was obviously taken in 1998 and pretending that’s what they look like now. A great way to respect your age and the wisdom that comes with it is to get a spanking-new headshot that beautifully captures your increasingly mature and elegant look!

6. You have a face

If none of the above apply to you, then congratulations. You belong to an extraordinarily tiny minority of people. However, you’re not out of the woods yet, because you probably have a face, and belonging to such a select group while still owning a face is really a major accomplishment. You should celebrate by getting your headshots done!