SLR Lounge Interview: Adventure Photographer Lucas Gilman and the New Mac Pro
When it comes to bleeding edge performance for video and still image post-processing, the new Apple Mac Pro has few equals. From the 3.7 GHz quad-core XEON CPU and the dual workstation-grade AMD FirePro D300 GPU to the PCIe-based flash storage, the Mac Pro can handle just about anything that us photographers and videographers can throw at it.
Along with the innovation there is also the build quality and design. To have all this technology in such a small package is a marvel in itself, and we do mean small. The design is unlike anything we’ve ever seen before in the computer world.
Due to the compact size, there are very few options for internal upgrades. Instead, the Mac Pro offers six Thunderbolt 2 ports that can run 4K displays, hard drives, and next-generation peripherals.
It goes without saying that we at SLR Lounge can’t wait to get our hands on the new Mac Pro, and I’m sure that many photographers share our feelings. One photographer did get a chance to “test drive” the new Mac Pro recently. In fact, adventure photographer Lucas Gilman is only one of three photographers in the world that had advanced access to the Mac Pro.
Thanks to the good folks at G Technology, we were able to have a short interview with Lucas to talk about his experience with the Mac Pro, as well as how it fits with his photographic workflow.
Short Background on Lucas Gilman
Lucas Gilman is one of the top working adventure photographers and filmmakers in the industry. He has covered sports events such as the Tour de France, Kentucky Derby, and NFL Playoffs, and has a client list that includes ESPN, Sports Illustrated, Men’s Journal, Manfrotto, Nikon, SanDisk, Land Rover, and Red Bull. Lucas is also a brand ambassador for Nikon and G-Technology. You can see his work on his website Lucasgilman.com.
He is also known for travelling deep into the wilderness for his shoots, including this photo story documenting the first successful descent of the massive Abiqua Falls in central Oregon.
On Location Gear and Workflow
- Nikon D4
- Two Nikon D800
- Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8G
- Nikon 24mm f/1.4G
- Nikon 80-400mm f/4.5-5.6G
- Apple MacBook Pro Retina
- Two 1TB G-Drive Ev hard drives
First of all, we want to welcome you to this phone call and thank you for giving us the time to speak to you.
You’re welcome Joe. Hope you’re doing well.
Yes, hope you are doing well, too. So to start off, can you describe your workflow on location?
Typically, I will be shooting still images with the Nikon D4 because of its lighting quick 10 fps burst mode. The two D800s are used either to shoot RAW stills or uncompressed 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 ProRes video. As a result, my average work day creates around 1TB worth of data.
At the end of each shooting day, the images and movies are copied twice via my MacBook Pro Retina into two 1TB G-DRIVE Ev hard drives. To ensure that the data is safe, I keep each drive geographically separated from each other by giving my assistant or the athlete that I’m shooting one set of the G-DRIVE Ev. In the event that something happens to my copy of the files, ie. lost luggage in transit, etc., I can have the second G-DRIVE Ev Fed-Exed to me.
The images are the most important thing to me because more often than not, it is extremely difficult to nearly impossible to redo a shoot. For example, there was this one waterfall in Veracruz that we went to 4 years in a row. It took 4 years to finally get the best waterfall shot. You really are at the mercy of Mother Nature.
Post-Production and the Mac Pro
Apple Mac Pro Specifications
- Price: $3,999
- Processor: 3.5 Ghz 6-Core Intel Xeon E5 with 12MB L3 cache and Turbo Boost up to 3.9GHz
- Memory: 16GB (four 4GB) of 1866MHz DDR3 ECC memory
- Graphics: Dual AMD FirePro D500 graphics processors with 3GB of GDDR5 VRAM each
- Display Support: Up to three 4K displays/six Thunderbolt displays
- Storage: 1TB PCIe-based flash storage (upgraded from the 256GB storage)
So after you come back from a shoot, what happens? What was your set up like before the new Mac Pro?
Once I get back to my office, I transfer the files from the G-DRIVE Ev into a G-DRIVE PRO with Thunderbolt, which acts as my working drive, and two USB 3.0 4-bay G-SPEED Q for backup. The original G-DRIVE mini goes to storage off-site.
Prior to working with the Mac Pro, I was already using the top-of-the-line 27″ Apple iMac with iFusion drive and 36GB RAM for my post-processing and video production work. Most of my post-production work is in Aperture, with a little bit of Photoshop when needed. For movie-editing, I use Final Cut Pro X.
How did you get involved with Apple?
Well, I started my relationship with Apple back in 2008 when I won the American Photo Emerging Photographer Award. Apple was one of the sponsors for that Award. I continued to build my portfolio since then and one day, Apple asked me if I wanted to test out Mac Pro along with a Sharp IGZO 4K Monitor.
So what’s it like to use the Mac Pro?
First of all, it is really a piece of art. It’s like an art sculpture. I can’t believe how small it is, too.
Performance-wise, there is zero lag in Aperture. Full screen images from the D800 can be processed and zoomed in and out instantly. And we’re dealing with 75MB RAW files here.
With Aperture, I build the Library within the Mac Pro’s internal SSD drive and reference the actual images stored in the working Thunderbolt G-DRIVE Pro.
I like to work fast and efficient. I “3-star” the images that make the first cut. Then I “4-star” the images in the next round of cut. Finally, I “5-star” the images that become the final selects. They get worked on, stored in the archive, and delivered to the client.
The Mac Pro is also great to use it for Final Cut Pro X when editing video as well. My iMac has dual graphics card, but this Mac Pro has dual AMD FirePro with 3GB VRAM.
Another big advantage with the Mac Pro for me is the 4K display support. I was using the Sharp 4K monitor and there was just tons of display space.
The Mac Pro and OS X Mavericks is a great marriage of hardware and software that have been tuned for each other. They help me focus on getting the job done much quicker and get back out on the field or spend more time with my family. I travel over 200 days per year, so the less time I can spend in the office, the better. The Mac Pro really enhances my workflow instead of getting in the way.
A big question we have about the Mac Pro centers around its lack of upgradeability and future-proofing. What are your thoughts on those two topics?
Honestly, even without internal expendability, the Thunderbolt 2 allows photographer to tailor their Mac Pro to suit their needs, whether it’s for a RED setup, Thunderbolt RAID, or a high-speed Network Storage. The Thunderbolt drives really keep up with filmmakers who are working in HD and 4K video.
Would you use the Mac Pro outside on location?
I can see how other photographers may use it on location, but because I often travelled deep into areas without any power source, the MacBook Pro is still better for my shoots.
What else would you like to see with the Mac Pro?
I actually would love to see Apple make a 4K monitor in the iMac form factor to match the look and build quality of the Mac Pro.
Finally, so what type of photographers and cinematographers do you think needs the Mac Pro?
Using the Mac Pro is really about faster workflow. We take care so much about the shooting workflow, but we should also take care of the computer workflow because it really is the backbone to our business.
Both the Mac Pro and the G-Drives, which also have the build quality and enterprise-class performance, are not disposable products. Instead, they are products that can grow in your environment and business.
So I would recommend the Mac Pro to professionals who want to increase the speed of their workflow and get their images and video to the clients faster.
Well that’s all the questions that I have. I want to thank you on behalf of SLR Lounge.
Thanks a lot Joe.