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Which is better for filmmaking, PC or Mac?

Internet Filmmakers' FAQ

You're a neophyte filmmaker, you drop this innocent and well-meaning little question into a filmmaking newsgroup... you'd better be wearing your Teflon-coated asbestos suit to survive the flame-war that will erupt around you. Nothing seems to get people's blood running quite as much as the age-old platform debate.

So which route should you go down? Once you remove the emotional argument, the answer is actually pretty simple: you choose the platform you are most familiar with and comfortable using. Those who tell you that Mac is better for creative industries or that they're "industry standard" are simply being manipulated by Apple's clever emotional marketing strategy. Conversely, those who insist that PCs are cheaper, more powerful etc are also missing the bigger picture.

When it comes to hardware and "power", there is virtually no difference between PCs and Macs... when you compare like for like. Macophiles often like to point the figure at stability and speed issues in PCs as one of the core reasons for their supposed inferiority. However, lining up a bright, shiny new Mac against an off-the-shelf box from the local PC superstore is not really a fair comparison. It's like the owner of a Ferrari telling the owner of a Ford that they car is inferior – of course it is, and the price-tag reflects that. Now Ferrari verses Lamborghini... there's an interesting contest.

But back to the point at hand: doing any sort of post-production work on a computer is an extremely hardware-intense activity, so you really need to be shopping towards the upper end of the market regardless of which platform you choose. Just as cutting HD on an iMac will prove to be a bit of a challenge, wondering why Premiere Pro is unstable on your $600 cheap and cheerful PC is also a little stupid. You need to buy the right hardware for the job. For Macs, get a the latest Mac-proper (no iMacs); for PCs, either custom-select your components, or if you're not up to speed in this area, consider buying a "workstation" from manufacturers like Dell (Precision range) or IBM (Intellistation). These machines are hardware-optimised for performance in areas which are key for digital media production.

Of course a secondary consideration will always be the availability of suitable software for your chosen platform, but this also falls under the same argument: you choose the one you are most comfortable with using. In prosumer editing circles, the leading packages have slowly drifted towards aligning themselves with a chosen operating system; Final Cut Pro for Mac and Adobe Premiere Pro for PC (although Premiere Pro CS3 now supports Intel Macs too). Avid (the closest thing there is to an "industry standard") has chosen to remain platform-agnostic. So, the logic continues: if you're most comfortable with Final Cut Pro, you choose a Mac; if you prefer the familiar Adobe interface, you choose PC (and if you want Avid, you pick the platform you prefer).

So now that you have the low-down, when this argument pops up again (as it inevitably will), you can sit back, comfortable in the knowledge that your decision was based on the age-old logic of "right tool for the job", while the emotional flame war rages around you.

Answer by Benjamin Craig  |  Last updated 06-Sep-2007

Comments

Older Comments

Stephen Ross  |  09-Nov-2006
I've seen many more jobs posted recently for Final Cut (Mac). Surprisingly there seems to be far fewer posts for avid editors - at least at the Express level. I'm now kicking myself for thinking I'm safe with a PC for motion graphics when it seems to pay off to have a firm grasp of FCP on a mac. Adobe Premiere (for the PC) is a dead end thing. I actually quite like it but the industry does not. go FCP!
Sigmund  |  27-Nov-2005
I say... both. As a Mac user, you can expect me to say that I perfer the Mac for pretty much everything. Much more stable, much easier to use interface-wise. But also much more expensive. However, as a 3D artist, I must also empasize the dominance the PC platform has over the 3D industry. It goes without saything the Maya is the end-all 3D platform for 3D production in film. Maya's inteface is incredibly un Mac-like, even the Mac version. It was also recently acquired by Autodesk, a company who is not exactly known for its love of the Mac platform. That's not to say that 3D cannot be done on Mac -- the industry just seems to lean towards the PC side. In all honesty, if I were to build a render farm, I would use PC's. Of course, the machine that I actually do most of my work on would have to be a Mac. ...this debate is only personal if you make it!
Paddy  |  28-Jun-2005
Avid Xpress is available for both PC and Mac with the same interface (in fact when you buy Avid Xpress DV, for instance, it comes with PC and Mac versions on-disk), so then it comes down to power for pounds. Personally, I prefer a PC as I know I can upgrade it with cheaply commonly available components whenever I want to, and bang-for-buck it beats Mac's IMVHO. You may also find more free/trialware available for PC than for Mac - for instance Avid Express DV ships with light versions of Sorenson Squeeze, Boris Graffiti and Sonic DVDIt! all for PC (and I use and like them all - useful tools!), no extras for Mac.
Barron Crawford  |  26-May-2005
Having used both Discreet and Premiere on PCs, and Final Cut Pro on a Mac, I would say, software speaking, Final Cut is slightly better than Discreet (and both products are light years beyond Premiere in my opinion) However, when it comes to hardware, I would have to say that the Mac also has the advantage. The Discreet system though powerful, costs quite a bit on the side of hardware, and running on Windows NT (can't comment on XP) had a fair number of crashes. The FCP system ran fine on a high end eMac, which is a consumer model. As well, the powerPC architecture has far more advanced FPU's than x86. In day to dy use, this is not substuantial enough to cause mass panic between the two, but having used both, in my opinion, the Mac is slightly the superior.