last updated 16 Mar 2008

Which Mac for FCP?

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What kind of system is needed to run Final Cut Pro,
or, will my Mac work ?


This page is about the computer - the Apple Mac system - that you need to be able to edit with Final Cut Pro or FCP. FCP doesn't run on PCs - on computers that run with Windows XP or Windows 2000. It probably never will.

I've also described some older Macs that are no longer available. This is just in case you have a Mac available and would like to try out Final Cut Pro before investing on a new system.

You also need to bear in mind that the latest version of FCP always runs best on the latest Mac. If you have an older Mac - like a G5 Dual 2 GHz or even a G4, then it is best you don't waste your time with FCP 6. Try out FCP 5 or even earlier like FCP 4.

And on the new intel Mac machines - MacBook Pro, iMac and MacMini, you can't even run FCP 5. You have to run FCP 6 or higher.

Actually, FCP is not available as a single editing software, but a suite called Final Cut Studio 2.0. Consisting of Final Cut Pro 6, CinemaTools 4, Motion 3, DVD Studio Pro 4, Compressor 3, LiveType 2, SoundTrack Pro 2, Color 1.

This page is only about the basic Mac that runs FCP. For other equipment like decks, camcorders, analog cards (to work with Beta/DigiBeta) you can check out my
What other gear - for FCP ? page.

So read on, and get started with FCP. And have fun!




One thing needs to be mentioned here about the products that I've written about on this and other pages in this site.
I do not work for any of these equipment makers, nor do they pay me directly or indirectly for writing any of this.
The contents of this pages and others on this site are accounts from experiences mine, and others. And, of course, my opinion.

Many of the links on this page open in new browser windows. So you can visit those links and close that window without losing this page.

FCP on a brand new Mac

Ideally, you should get a new eight-core Intel MacPro to run FCS. So if you haven't yet got a computer to run FCP on, just get a brand MacPro.

In some parts of the world you can even buy a MacPro online at Apple's online store. If you are in India and don't know where to get it, you can find a dealer near you at Apple's India dealer page



I'm going to refer to it as FCS, not FCP as its the whole suite now.


As of Mar 2008, Apple Mac desktop machines are...

8-core: Two 2.8GHz, 3.0GHz, or 3.2GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5400 series processors
Quad-core: One 2.8GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon 5400 series processor
Enhanced Intel Core microarchitecture
12MB of L2 cache per processor (each pair of cores shares 6MB)
128-bit SSE4 SIMD engine
64-bit data paths and registers
Energy efficiency optimization
1600MHz, 64-bit dual independent frontside buses

You can get a stock config, or you can mix and match RAM, graphics cards, hard disks, etc and build up one of hundreds or thousands permutations and combinations to make your dream machine.

Mind that a self-configured system, or CTO (configured to order) as Apple calls it, may take longer to deliver, in India.

The graphics cards support dual-DVI so all three systems support the Apple 30" Cinema display. Even two 30" displays if you want.

These systems don't have a modem and you need to get that separately.

The new MacPros have 4 SATA drive trays very easy to remove. So with 1 Tb drives you can actually add 3Tb of storage apart from the boot disk. Apple also sells a RAID card that fits in a PCI slot and can RAID the drives installed so you can even do HD with just internal drives.



For the absolute latest, up-to-the-minute info on Apple Mac desktop machines head to the Apple web site ... here, or to the store here.
There is even an Indian version of the store complete with Indian prices here. But it is not always current and for specs it is best to consult the International store.

Both these links will open in new pages.


FCP on a MacBook Pro

MacBook Pro is the model name for Apple's professional laptop. Earlier called PowerBook. This is now available as Dual Core Core2Duo processors.

The Intel MacBook Pro can run FCP even the rest of the FCS. The graphics card is adequate, the internal drive is very fast, and you even have Firewire800 to add an external drive or RAID.
You can also get a ExpressCard SATA card and add SATA drives or RAIDs.

To capture video into a MacBook Pro you'll need to work with Firewire devices like DV and HDV camcorders or decks.

Sony makes one DigiBeta VTR the J-30 that allows you to capture DigiBeta or Beta over Firewire.

And you can also capture Varicam footage from a Panasonic DVCProHD VTR whih sends HD over Firewire.

If you plan on capturing over Firewire you may run into trouble capturing to a Firewire hard disk. You could then consider capturing to the MacBook Pro's internal drive, or using a USB drive, or getting a ExpressCard SATA adapter and using an external SATA drive.

FCP on an Intel iMac or Intel MacMini

FCP runs fine on an Intel iMac, but the same applies as it does to the MacBookPro.

The iMac Intel laso has a fast Core2Duo porcessor, good graphiucs and a large, desktop size 3.5 in. SATA hard disk. Here to capturing over Firewire to Firewire hard disks may pose problems since Firewire bandwidth is shared.

For either MacBook pro, or iMac, to be able to view video externally, you'll need a camcorder or deck in pass-through mode, or a dedicated converter ike the Canopus.

FCP on a MacBook

MacBook is Apple's student and home laptop. It is not qualified for FCP or FCS as it doesn't have dedicated graphics RAM, but shares system RAM for graphics.

But people have managed to get by with small projects. A larger project or a lot of layering might slow down the MacBook.

FCP on an MacMini

Mac minis also are a bit underpowered to run FCP. But here too, people have gotten by with small and less complex projects.



As of Aug 2005 the desktop Mac machines you could get were ...

Apple Power Mac G5 - 1.8 GHz single CPU

G5 - 1.8 Ghz CPU with
600 MHz FSB per processor
512 k L2 cache
256 Mb DDR400 (400MHz) SDRAM upgradeable to 4 Gb
8x AGP with nVidia GeForce 5200 Ultra with 64 Mb DDR SDRAM and single link DVI+ADC ports
80 Gb serial ATA hard disk
8x SuperDrive double-layer (can read and write CDs and DVDs)
3 PCI slots (64-bit 33 MHz)
Gigabit Ethernet
56k Modem

Apple Power Mac G5 - 2 GHz Dual CPU

G5 - Dual 2 Ghz CPU with
1 GHz FSB per processor
512 k L2 cache
512 Mb DDR400 (400MHz) SDRAM upgradeable to 4 Gb
8x AGP with ATI Radeon 9600 with 128 Mb DDR SDRAM and two single-link DVI ports
160 Gb serial ATA hard disk
16x SuperDrive double-layer (can read and write CDs and DVDs)
3 PCI slots (64-bit 33 MHz)
Gigabit Ethernet
56k Modem

Apple Power Mac G5 - 2.3 GHz dual CPU

This is the intermediate model. It consists of ...

G5 - Dual 2.3 Ghz CPU with
1.15 GHz FSB per processor
512 k L2 cache
512 Mb DDR400 (400MHz) SDRAM upgradeable to 8 Gb
8x AGP with ATI Radeon 9600 with 128 Mb DDR SDRAM and two single-link DVI ports
250 Gb serial ATA hard disk
16x SuperDrive double-layer (can read and write CDs and DVDs)
3 64-bit PCI-X slots (one 133 MHz and two 100 MHz)
Gigabit Ethernet
56k Modem

Apple Mac G5 - 2.7 GHz dual CPU

This is the ultimate model. It consists of ...

G5 - Dual 2.7 Ghz CPU with
1.35 GHz FSB per processor
512 k L2 cache
512 Mb DDR400 (400MHz) SDRAM upgradeable to 8 Gb
8x AGP with ATI Radeon 9650 with 256 Mb DDR SDRAM
250 Gb serial ATA hard disk
16x SuperDrive double-layer (can read and write CDs and DVDs)
3 64-bit PCI-X slots (one 133 MHz and two 100 MHz)
Gigabit Ethernet
56k Modem

All these Macs have built-in Firewire - one Firweire 800 and two Firewire 400 - and 3 USB 2.0 ports. So you can connect to any DV camcorder or deck and you're set for making movies. And they also have a built-in DVD-writer drive so you can make your own DVDs that play on any DVD player.
The hard disks in these Macs are not the normal IDE hard disks that were used thus far. (which were called parallel ATA or PATA) These new G5 Macs use serial ATA or SATA hard disks. Eventually all computers even PCs will use this standard. It offers much higher bandwidth than PATA.

The supplied 160 Gb hard disk is good for storing about 10 hrs of DV assuming that you can spare 120 Gb. Or in the case of a 250 Gb, you can store 17 hrs of DV if you can spare 210 Gb.

These Macs have spare slots for 1 more hard disk. So if you add a 400 Gb hard disk and exchange the existing 80 or 160 Gb for a another 400 Gb, you have 800 Gb which amounts to about 60 hrs of DV quality footage (through Firewire) or about or about 5 hrs of uncompressed video via a capture card.

All three models also have these common features
one FireWire 800 port,
two FireWire 400 ports (one on front);
three USB 2.0 ports (one on front)
two USB 1.1 ports (on keyboard);
Built-in 10/100/1000 BASE-T Ethernet and
56K V.92 modem
AirPort Extreme ready - meaning you need to add an optional card and you have wireless connectivity as well.
Bluetooth ready - meaning you need to add an optional card and you can connect to devices via Bluetooth - like mobiles, keyboards, etc.
Optical digital audio in,
optical digital audio out,
analog audio in,
analog audio out,
front headphone minijack and
Apple USB keyboard
Apple USB optical mouse.


All four systems above have a display card that has two ports. In the case of the nVidia on the single 1.8, it is one ADC port, the other DVI. This ADC port is special to Mac and you can use it to connect older ADC displays. You don't get these anymore.

The ATI graphics cards supplied (with the Dual 2, 2.3 and 2.7) have two DVI ports. Meaning you can connect any flat LCD display. not necessarily Apple's.And if you plan on using your existing VGA displays, you can use the supplied converters - DVI to VGA.

If you can afford it, get 2 Apple 20 " flat LCD displays. Or, if you can afford, get two 23" diaplays. And of course, the ultimate get one 30" display. Mind that this 30" diaplay works only with the card in the Dual 2.7 GHz.

In case you budget does not allow it, you can get 2 "normal" Samsung or LG or whatever monitors. But they have to be 17" or above.










In these G5 machines you cannot put normal IDE drives. You have to put SATA drives. And you can only put in two. Even in you add an IDE card or a SATA card, or a SCSI card, only two 3.5 in. drives will fit in a new G5. There are adapters and accessories from third parties that let you add 2, 3, 5 or even 8 more drives inside a G5.

You can also get an external Firewire 400 or Firewire 800 hard disks.



FCP. Buy, borrow or pirate ?

Buy FCP. Yes buy it. It costs about less than Rs 50,000.00 from Mac dealers in India. So don't borrow it. The printed manual that comes with an official FCP copy alone justifies the cost. 

FCP now comes as a suite - Final Cut Studio. Consisting of Final Cut Pro, Motion, LiveType, SoundTrackPro, CinemaTools, DVD Studio Pro.

And just think. If you're using FCP to edit films, the last thing you want is an anti-piracy raid happening on the eve of a deadline for an important job. Or an inexplicable system crash that erases hours of editing work.

FCP 5 comes on 5 DVDs. It also comes with separate applications for titling (LiveType), sound editing and music composing (SoundTrack) and compression (Compressor). And even CinemaTools is free with FCP now, so you're ready to edit feature films All this for less than Rs 50,000.

What else to add ?

Add more RAM.

All new G5 Macs come with 512 Mb RAM. Totally insufficient for FCP. Get at least 2 Gb and definitely consider 4 or even 8 Gb if you plan on running Motion.

More RAM also helps you run many apps together. Like FCP and LiveType or FCP and Motion. And other apps like PhotoShop while running FCP to work on graphic files.
And RAM in these G5 Macs is standard DDR-SDRAM the same that go into P4 or Athlon systems. So it's no longer very costly. But you can't just pull DDR-SDRAM out of any old Pentium system and stick it into your Mac. Only some types work and some dealers in India have figured that out.

Hard disks

Add a hard disk. As I've mentioned above in the G5 description. 
The reason for this is that if FCP, and the video you work on, both come from the same physical drive then FCP has trouble keeping up and you have slow performance and dropped frames. So, It's advisable to use different physical hard drives for editing. Physical hard disks means physically separate hard disks. Not partitioned. Partitioning isn't physical. It's sort of psychological. So partitioning won't give you an "separate" drive.

If after buying the Mac you're broke, then an economy solution to get started would be to get get a new Seagate 80 Gb drive that costs just Rs. 4000/- or so. Fix it as the Mac internal drive to hold all your software and projects. And use the 160 Gb or 250 Gb that came with the Mac as your video drive. Remember 1 Gb drive space can store 5 min. of DV footage. So your 160 Gb drive lets you work on 12 hrs. worth of DV footage while the 250 Gb gets you 17 hrs. worth. Seems like a lot but wait till you get started.

The hard disk for storing video on an FCP system has to be a "7200 rpm" IDE drive. Cheaper 5400 rpm drives aren't good enough. They may work for one or two clips but a 10-20 min edit will choke them.






















Hard disks in G4 Macs are "normal" PC hard disks. Just pick up one from an authorized Seagate or IBM dealer, pop it in, format it and you're ready to go.

Don't let anyone con you into paying more because it is a Mac drive. 


So after adding internals to your heart's content what else ?

Get a UPS, if your place has frequent power cuts. Nothing is more vexing than losing hours of unsaved work because of a power problem. A 1 kVA UPS is sufficient and costs about Rs 8000.00.

And most UPS makers have no idea about Macs. Any UPS will work with any Mac. But if your UPS has "software control" as a priced option, dump it and save money. Because that software won't run on your Mac anyway.

And finally, a good table to place the G4 on, and a nice back-rested chair is a must. Editing is very absorbing. Comfortable seating makes it painless. 

Here too don't save money on the chair. Back treatment is expensive.



What other software do I need to be in place, the MacOS, QuickTime etc. What works, what doesn't ? 

FCP 5 needs MacOSX 10.4 Tiger or later. If you have an earlier versions, you'll need to upgrade. Although FCP 5 could run on MacOSX 10.3.9 panther, it isn't advisable. You'll also need QuickTime 7.0. This comes with Tiger.

FCP 4.5 HD needed MacOSX 10.3.4 Panther or later and Quicktime 6.5.

FCP 4.1.1 needed MacOSX 10.2.6 or later and Quicktime 5 or later.

FCP 3.0, 3.0.2, and 3.0.4 had versions that work under Mac OS 9.2.2 or OSX and even on Jaguar. When you bought FCP you got both versions.

FCP 3 was also the first FCP that needed the original CD to install. A copy of the CD won't do.

The OS 9.2.2 version of FCP 3 needed QuickTime 5.0.2 which is on the upgrade CD. Even an OS 9.2 update is on the CD.

FCP 3.0 for Mac OS X needs OS X ver. 10.1.1 or above.

FCP 3.0.2 is a downloadable update if you own FCP 3.0





If you're new to Macintosh and Apple computers then these numbers G5 G4, G3 etc. must be fuzzy.

Here's a quick history lesson...

In the beginning there was an Apple Macintosh. A single box that was computer and monitor. No hard disk. 
But a mouse, and icons, and menus, and dialog boxes. 
On the PC there was DOS 3.3, and no mouse, no icons, no menus.
Only c:\>

Things moved up. Hard disks got added, there was colour, and the Mac became a Quadra.
PhotoShop, PageMaker were applications that ran only on a Mac.
DOS reached version 7. Windows came on a PC.

Then came Macs called PowerPC that used PC parts and were very powerful in their day. I had one till very recently.
Windows got better and the PC could do all that a Mac could. Suddenly everyone knew what "crash" meant.

Then the Mac G3. Still beige. But a little more affordable. Unless you lived in India.

Then the revolutionary looking G3. This had almost all PC parts. And Firewire. Which made video editing affordable to anyone. 
Now the Mac was affordable. Even if you lived in India.

Then there was the iMac and the iBook that set the trend for computers to look different from furniture.

And then the G4. Initially available as 400 MHz, 450 MHz and then 500 MHz. And Dual processor 500, then dual 533, 667, 733, dual 800, dual 867, 933, dual 1 GHz, dual 1.25 GHz,and finally dual 1.42 GHz.

Pentiums got faster than Macs in processor speed, but Apple claims that numbers don't tell the whole story.

And then came the G5 that closed the gap in GHz, but there was still a gap. The G5 started at dual 1.8 GHz and was available as dual 2 GHz, and now dual 2.5 GHz.

So what do all the numbers really mean?

The G5/dual 2.5 GHz PowerMac. It's the fastest you can get as of now. Don't get fooled by the Dual 2.5 GHz. According to Apple, Apple computers outrun PCs of even faster speeds. 

But let's not get into another MHz and speeds debate. The only reason, I brought this up is that you don't need to feel bad with a dual 2 GHz G5 when someone you know gets a 3 GHz Pentium 4 or 5. 
For FCP, and graphics, your G5 will do just fine. 
Just don't get into an argument with a PC owner about this.



This page on the Mac for FCP, will be updated as and when something new comes along or if specs for running FCP change. So do come back.
If there's something that you didn't quite understand, or if you'd like to see something on this page, or if you want to be informed when this page changes, or even if you want to just say thanks to me, do mail me.
And please write you address. I don't answer anonymous mails.
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