Apple has some GREAT news for creative professionals.

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Praise be! The cool kid in school hasn’t forgotten about us.Apple's new iMac Pro is targeted right at creative professionals in the media & entertainment industry. The product’s introductory release statement reads that this product is for “everyone”: “From video editors to 3d animators to musicians to software developers to scientists” everyone can find something that relates to their industry or passion in the iMac Pro.

Let’s take some time to examine the specs: The iMac Pro offers a XEON CPU with up to 18 cores that clock up to 4.5GHz. Apple is utilizing AMD's Radeon VEGA Pro GPUs. Once software manufacturers adapt their applications to these GPUs, you will have a graphics card capable of 22-25 Teraflops of computing speed (really fast) compared to the wonderful GTX 1080TI which tops out at 11 Teraflops. Radeon has an architecture that's way ahead of where Nvidia is right now. We predict a GPU war is brewing as we speak. This also supports our contention that GPU rendering is truly the future in visual effects and digital media production.

The Mac is also no longer a sealed box. Apple dropped the Metal 2 SDK to allow developers take advantage of external AMD GPUs using the latest Thunderbolt 3 interface. That is 40Gb speeds you'll be getting! Apple's change will affect the current Mac lineup as they will be able to use upgraded GPUs now, with Nvidia’s new drivers, Macs will allow users to add external GTX cards like the 1080 and when the new AMD GPU ships, there will be drivers to support them too.

Expect that the new AMD graphics cards will also benefit the PC world as soon as drivers become available for Windows.

How long have creative professionals shook our heads in unison and thought to ourselves that Apple no longer cares about us? They still do, and VFX Technologies has the new iMac Pro workstations available for rental and purchase now.

Jim Reitman & Adinah Bolden

Staying Healthy and Sane in this Crazy Business

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Artists that work in post-production and visual effects work insanely hard, dealing with complex software, demanding Producers, and impossible deadlines. Where I work, we have four wall edit bays and the building is accessible 24/7 and I have been in the office late and over the weekend and so often, people are here, working away on their projects. There is also the arduousness of the work combined with having to wait for frame after frame to render so they can see what they've done.

I've noticed that many of our clients tend to stay on and near their computers, watching videos, browsing the web, and reading email and social media. Do you do this? You're not treating yourself very well. I'm making two recommendations, one technical and the other is physical.

The technical side of this is, use the best technology you can afford, and if you can't afford to buy the best, you can rent it. There is no reason why you should try to work on an underpowered computer, The computer that works perfectly for you 250 days out of the year does not have to be the one you work on when there's a massive amount of data processing to be done. You can get an $8,000 to $20,000 workstation, Mac or PC, to work on for a few hundred dollars a week and blow through your project significantly faster.

Computers process your data through the processor (CPU) and the Graphics card (GPU). Different software uses these two components in different ways based on how they wrote the program. Find out if the software you prefer works best with a particular CPU or GPU. You can easily find this out by Googling "(Application name) system requirements". Or you can contact my company, and we will be happy to make a recommendation.

To keep yourself in the best state of mind and body while working, the best advice I can share is the simplest. Breathe and Move! The best way to relieve stress is to breathe deep. Breathe out with a moan or a grunt; it makes a difference. Get up from your desk often, like every 15 minutes and just walk around the room. Set a timer on your phone if you must. Every 30 minutes, put your head down and close your eyes. Invest in good glasses if you need them and talk to your optometrist. Tell him or her you work many hours in front of a monitor so the doctor can make the right suggestion for you. Drink water. Even if you drink other beverages, drink water too. Keep yourself hydrated and having to pee several times a day will be good for you as well. By the way, don't hold it in!

A good idea is an adjustable desk that goes from sitting to standing. These stands are surprisingly affordable and can make your work time so much better. Buy the best chair you can. Creating on a computer is your vocation, and you'll be using these tools for a long time.

Exercise your arms and hands throughout the day. Keep your fingers nimble. Here's a tip. Hold your arms out straight in front of you. Lift up your hands at 90 degrees, and spread your fingers. Hold for five seconds, lower, and relax. Then clench your fists, and lower your wrists at 90 degrees. Hold for five seconds, straighten, and relax. Do this several times a day. Again I suggest, set a timer on your phone.

Assess the lighting in your workspace. Try not to work under fluorescent bulbs as they imperceptibly yet continuously flicker. Put a halogen or LED lamp in the room whose intensity can be adjusted and make it a little brighter than the light coming off your monitor.

If you insist on having another screen to watch while you're not doing the physical work, don't glance at it off to the side. Turn and view it in a comfortable position, and so it is at the right angle to minimize eyestrain. The conventional wisdom about positioning a monitor is, the top of your computer screen should be level with your eyes, so you’re only looking down about 10 degrees to view the screen.

There are plenty of articles on the Internet about best practices for those who look at displays for hours on end. Lots of advice, some good, some ridiculous. What I emphasize is to remain comfortable and relaxed. Take care of yourself because this business can be brutal at times. Let me ask, what are your recommendations for keeping yourself feeling good at work?

- Jim Reisman

When you shoot one big frame at a time

The high-performance computers we rent and sell are excellent for still photographers who work with large RAW files. We recently helped a VA based professional photographer who was working on a print 35 feet high by 100 feet wide. It was shot using a Nikon D850 45.7 MP  DSLR and a Gigapan. Using a current, top-of-the-line iMac, he could not work on the photo without every move of the mouse taking a frustratingly long time.

 photo courtesy of Gigapan

photo courtesy of Gigapan

We shipped off an HP Z840 fully loaded with Dual Intel Xeon CPUs, 256GB of RAM, all flash NVME system drives. This custom solution was determined by us knowing the needs of our client and how he wanted to work. A one-week rental was all he needed to get through the project. He did not need to spend tens of thousands to get one particular assignment done although after experiencing the power of the HP Z workstation, we're now in discussions to help him acquire the new HP Z8 workstation with a similar configuration.

Visual media keeps increasing in resolution and therefore file sizes, and this is one of the primary reason we continue to expand our inventory of powerful computers and high capacity storage solutions. Most creatives have demands being put on them by their clients to work in high-definition using 4K and higher with HDR video, complex visual effects in almost every project, creating VR & AR experiences, and large megapixel still images. Computers are coming to market now with a lot of processing power using both CPUs and GPUs to do various tasks based on the design of the software being used. 

It is helpful to our customers that we stay up to date on how creative applications utilize the hardware in a computer. If you're using Adobe Photoshop, for instance, we'll put you into a computer with dual multi-core CPUs and a lot of RAM where, if you're using PTGui, we’ll make sure you get a fast machine along with a powerful GPU for speedier stitching and rendering. 

Your better choice for obtaining technology may be our "Hardware as a Service" model where we provide the machinery to you when you need it rather than you going out of pocket for it. VFX Technologies can get you the gear you need quickly, and we support the equipment so if something goes wrong, you call us and we will resolve the problem through support and replacement when necessary. 

Whether you shoot an image one frame at a time or 24 frames per second and if your subject is real or imagined, you want your work looking its best when you let it go. The right gear will get you there.

Jim Reisman