Mac mini for Video Editing


Mac mini with 30 inch Cinema Display

As a practical digital pro-on-the-go, I have been using a MacBook Pro with an external display, then moved to a MacBook Air, but was desiring more memory and performance (when I am actively working on a big project). When thinking about moving up to a new Mac laptop with Retina Display, it is easy to get sticker shock from the high prices. You can easily spend $2,000-$3,000 for a high-end Apple laptop. At home working on my Mac, I tend to want to use it with the biggest display available, so the laptop was mostly working as a desktop computer. A Retina Display is wasted for this kind of use.  For economic reasons, also, I decided I wanted to spend less than $1,000 on my new workstation, and this compact Mac desktop does the trick.

I decided to keep my MacBook Air 1.8GHz i7 as my travel computer and for meetings with clients. For video production now, I turn to my Mac mini with 2.3GHz Intel Core i7 quad-processor, 1TB hard drive, four USB 3.0 ports, FireWire 2012-macmini-overview-input800, Thunderbolt, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, WiFi, SD memory card, audio input and output. I could have paid $100 more for a speed bump to 2.6GHz, but since I couldn’t walk away with it (special-order only), I took the standard 2.3GHz i7 model. There is also a Mac mini Intel i5 dual-processor model that is $200 cheaper, with a 500GB drive. This could be fine for some production tasks, but for multimedia conversion tasks the quad-processor is a better performer.

I had a previous generation of the Mac mini that came with 2GB of memory and an 80GB hard disk (Intel models with white case). I decided to upgrade it and use it for video editing. After I had increased the memory size to 4GB, replaced the internal CD reader with a DVD read-and-write drive, and a Seagate 7200rpm hybrid flash drive. When installing Final Cut Pro, I discover that the graphics card does not have enough video memory. It also could not be upgraded to Mountain Lion, so I decided to sell my old Mac mini on Craigslist, and buy the current generation. What an improvement! The new Mac mini Intel graphics card works fine with Final Cut Pro 7 or Final Cut Pro X (Intel HD Graphics 4000 768 MB). I am able to drive two large displays from the Thunderbolt port and the HDMI ports (mirroring displays or separate desktop areas).features_hdmi

2012-macmini-overview-chipThis is an affordable, yet fast video editing computer workstation! This is the fastest and best value computer that I have ever owned, with the most memory (16GB), fastest thoughput with USB 3.0 and with the largest 1TB startup hard disk. I picked this Mac mini up on sale at Best Buy for $788 (a whopping $11 discount from Apple’s retail price). I added 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 memory online from Crucial for $110. I added a LightScribe DVD drive (laser print disc face), and I use an Epson Artisan 810 for inkjet disc printing. I use multiple USB 3.0 1TB and 1.5TB hard disks for project data, and a FireWire 1.5TB Video RAID. I use a Sony DVCAM FireWire deck. I enjoy the built-in SD memory card slot in my new DSLR project workflow (shoot and edit from SD memory cards up to 64GB). I use an Apple Bluetooth keyboard, APPLETVBluetooth Trackpad (held together by a Clique plastic frame), and an Apple Bluetooth mouse. I use a Kanex Dual-DVI USB connector ($89) to drive the Apple 30 inch Cinema Display at 2560 x 1600 pixels. (Apple has a similar Dual-DVI USB cable connector for $99.) There is also an HDMI port to drive another external monitor (1920 x 1080 pixels). I use a Toshiba 24 inch LED monitor, which also has the advantage of being able to switch the display to any of my video editing decks or DVD deck. I also use the Toshiba monitor with the AppleTV. The Mac mini desktop can also project the desktop to the AppleTV wirelessly, using AirPlay for display on a remote monitor, to watch a movie or do a presentation. I also added a Logitech webcam, Sony USB speaker and a few other accessories. (It helps if you just happen to have all of these compatible accessories laying around.)

Mac mini back panel

The only other accessory I am planning for my expansion is to add a 256GB or 512GB internal SSD as the startup drive for faster performance. That adds another $200 to $400 to the price of the workstation, but keeping the price under $1,500 (not including other accessories like displays).

A video editor friend of mine had been using a Mac G5 tower. After pricing the Mac Pro tower, he asked me about the best thing to purchase, because he was finding prices of $1,800 to $4,000 from Apple. I suggested the virtues of the Mac mini, and he has converted to the “smaller is better” computer, for a much better price, and just as much happiness.

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