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October 26, 2021

If Apple’s Track Record is Anything to Go By, The Age of 8K is Nigh

Apple announced new laptops based on the M1 Pro and M1 Max chips, which leapfrog the previous top-of-the-range Mac Pro at a fraction of the price. Prominently mentioned is support for 8K editing and production. Could this be a critical turning point for the legitimization of 8K production?

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Apple certainly has a track record of creating inflection points that drive broad industry adoption. For example, back in 1997, the 802.11 IEEE standard was published. In 1999, Apple pulled that wireless technology out of obscurity to launch its range of iBooks, and Wi-Fi was born. In 2007 Apple launched a touch-screen mobile phone, ushering in the age of the smartphone. In both cases – and many more – others had tried before, but only Apple got the timing right.

In 2020, Apple endorsed immersive audio with the support of Dolby Atmos, and now, Apple has embraced 8K content creation as the newest video format that its new devices and software will support.

According to filmmaker Yossy Mendelovich, reporting in YMCinema, “Apple has just unleashed a beast for 8K editing, and the new MacBook Pro is More Powerful for 8K Video Editing Than the Mac Pro.” He explains how this is possible thanks to the new M1 Pro and Max chips.

M1 is Apple’s processor that includes both a CPU (Central Processing Unit) and a GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) for those that missed the news last year. Apple’s silicon is a radical change from the traditional desktop approaches, where Intel and AMD usually supply processing. Apple’s M1 is an evolution of their mobile chipsets, which traditionally use more straightforward instruction sets and less power. That is why the M1-based MacBook has a long battery life, even when editing video.

The new M1 Pro delivers 70% more CPU performance than the M1 and 100% more GPU power. All-important for 8K processing, the M1 Pros also offer a 200% improvement on memory bandwidth, with speeds up to 200GB/s.

Using HEVC, you’ll see a 2x improvement in processing times without changing anything. When working with Apple’s own ProRes format, that improvement will be a 10x. It is also important to note that the newest iPhones also support capture and export of content in a ProRes format, and there are rumors that next year’s model will support 8k capture.

As usual, Apple segmented the new offering just enough to keep us on our toes. Indeed, the top-of-the-range devices use an M1 with a different brand: the M1 Max. This chip is the same as the M1 Pro for CPU performance but with twice the processing power for the graphics part. So 8K editors will need to go for this one.

Apple’s new chips have hardware acceleration to make video processing significantly faster while extending battery life. According to Mendelovich, “The new 16-inch MacBook Pro is capable of rendering up to 2.9x faster 8K streams in Apple’s Final Cut Pro editing software, up to 4.4x faster scene edit detection in 1080p ProRes 422 video in Adobe Premiere Pro, and up to 4.9x faster object tracking performance in Final Cut Pro, compared to M1 models.” He goes on to say, “Moreover, for the first time on any Mac, video editors can grade color in HDR on 8K ProRes 4444 video on battery.” MacRumors offered even more detail explaining that “using the latest Final Cut Pro 10.6 update and the ‌M1‌ Pro and ‌M1‌ Max, video editors can now play up to seven streams of 8K ProRes or color grade 8K HDR video at full resolution.”

Editors will also appreciate that the card reader is back, offering more options for transferring voluminous footage. Also, the MagSafe power returns, making it less likely to trip on a power cable and bring your machine crashing to the floor (yes, I’ve done that with the USB-C power cable).

Note that the desktop Mac Pro is expected to again leapfrog even these new M1 Pro and Max laptops with versions carrying multiple M1 Max chips. Apple doesn’t yet seem in a hurry to remove reasons to buy a new Mac.

In terms of limitations, ars Technica points out that the official specs of the new Macbooks imply a surprising use of HDMI 2.0 rather than 2.1 on the dedicated port. To connect to an 8K display above 30 fps, users will probably need to use one of the Thunderbolt ports (three of which are available).

As soon as we’ve had a chance to do some 8K editing on the M1 Max, we’ll report back.

What’s important

  • Apple have launched their latest laptops built on their own silicon that are so good at video processing that 8K can now be edited on a protable computer weighing just a few pounds.
  • Apple’s software has been optimied for 8K workflow, further signalling that the industry giant believe 8K is a format for the furture.
  • read the apple release on their latest laptops here, and on their latest video edting software here.

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