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Using a Nvidia GTX 980 (or Titan or Quadro) in a Mac Pro

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As many of you know, we’ve come out with a real time version of Beauty Box Video. In order for that to work, it requires a really fast GPU and we LOVE the GTX 980. (Amazing price/performance) Nvidia cards are generally fastest  for video apps (Premiere, After Effects, Final Cut Pro, Resolve, etc) but we are seeing real time performance on the higher end new Mac Pros (or trash cans, dilithium crystals, Job’s Urn or whatever you want to call them).

BUT what if you have an older Mac Pro?

With the newer versions of Mac OS (10.10), in theory, you can put any Nvidia card in them and it should work. Since we have lots of video cards lying around that we’re testing, we wondered if our GTX 980, Titan and Quadro 5200 would work in our Early 2009 Mac Pro. The answer is…

Nvidia GTX GPU in Mac Pro

YES!!!

So, how does it work? For one you need to be running Yosemite (Mac OS X 10.10)

A GTX 980 is the easier of the two GeFroce cards, mainly because of the power needed to drive it. It only needs two six-pin connectors, so you can use the power supply built into the Mac. Usually you’ll need to buy an extra six-pin cable, as the Mac only comes standard with one, but that’s easy enough. The Quadro 5200 has only a single 6-pin connector and works well. However, for a single offline workstation, it’s tough to justify the higher price for the extra reliability the Quadros give you. (and it’s not as fast as the 980)

The tricky bit about the 980 is that you need to install Nvidia’s web driver. The 980 did not boot up with the default Mac OS driver, even in Yosemite. At least, that’s what happened for us. We have heard of reports of it working with the Default Driver, but I’m not sure how common that is. So you need to install the Nvidia Driver Manager System Pref and, while still using a different video card, set the System Pref to the Web Driver. As so:

Set this to Web Driver to use the GTX 980
Set this to Web Driver to use the GTX 980

You can download the Mac Nvidia Web Drivers here:

For 10.10.2

For 10.10.3

For 10.10.4

Install those, set it to Web Driver, install the 980, and you should be good to go.

What about the Titan or other more powerful cards?

There is one small problem… the Mac Pro’s power supply isn’t powerful enough to handle the card and doesn’t have the connectors. The Mac can have two six pin power connectors, but the Titan and other top of the line cards require a 6 pin and an 8 pin or even two 8-pin connectors. REMINDER: The GTX 980 and Quadro do NOT need extra power. This is only for cards with an 8-pin connector.

The solution is to buy a bigger power supply and let it sit outside the Mac with the power cables running through the expansion opening in the back.

As long as the power supply is plugged into a grounded outlet, there’s no problem with it being external. I used a EVGA 850W Power Supply, but I think the 600w would do. The nice thing about these is they come with long cables (about 2 feet or so) which will reach inside the case to the Nvidia card’s power connectors.

Mac Pro external power supply

One thing you’ll need to do is plug the ‘test’ connector (comes with it) into the external power supply’s motherboard connector. The power supply won’t power on unless you do this.

Otherwise, it should work great! Very powerful cards and definitely adds a punch to the Mac Pros. With this setup we had Beauty Box running at about 25fps (in Premiere Pro, AE and Final Cut are a bit slower). Not bad for a five year old computer, but not real time in this case. On newer machines with the GTX 980 you should  be getting real time play back. It really is a great card for the price.

4K Showdown! New MacPro vs One Nvidia GTX 980

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For NAB this year we finally bought into the 4K hype and decided to have one of our demo screens be a 4K model, showing off Beauty Box Video and Flicker Free in glorious 4K.

NAB Booth Beauty Box Video and Flicker Free in 4k
The Digital Anarchy NAB Booth

So we bought a 55” 4K Sony TV to do the honors. We quickly realized if we wanted to use it for doing live demos we would need a 4K monitor as well. (We could have just shown the demo reel on it) For live demos you need to mirror the computer monitor onto the TV. An HD monitor upscaled on the 4K TV looked awful, so a 4K monitor it was (we got a Samsung 28″, gorgeous monitor).

Our plan was to use our Mac Pro for this demo station. We wanted to show off the plugins in Adobe’s AE/Premiere apps and Apple’s Final Cut Pro. Certainly our $4000 middle of the line Mac Pro with two AMD D500s could drive two 4K screens. Right?

We were a bit dismayed to discover that it would drive the screens at the cost of slowing the machine down to unusable. Not good.

For running Beauty Box in GPU accelerated mode, our new favorite video card for GPU performance is Nvidia’s GTX 980. The price/performance ratio is just amazing. So we figured we’d plug the two 4K screens into our generic $900 Costco PC that had the GTX 980 in it and see what kind of performance we’d get out of it.

Not only did the 980 drive the monitors, it still ran Beauty Box Video in real time within Premiere Pro. F’ing amazing for a $550 video card.

The GTX 980 single handedly knocked out the Mac Pro and two AMD D500s. Apple should be embarrassed.

I will note, that for rendering and using the apps, the Mac Pro is about on par with the $900 PC + 980. I still would expect more performance from Apple’s $4000 machine but at least it’s not an embarrassment.

Beauty Box Video or Photo Crashing Problems – How to Fix It

Beauty Box makes extensive use of your video card’s GPU (graphic processing unit) to speed the plugin up. Usually this works great and results in the plugin working quickly.

However, it can cause problems. The GPU has a lot less memory than your computer does, so it’s prone to run out of memory. This is especially true when other applications are trying to use it. After Effects, Premiere, Final Cut, and most of the other apps we plug into also use the GPU. So do many other plug-ins. All this software trying to make use of a limited resource can be problematic.

Older video cards are also a problem. Beauty Box is doing some heavy duty processing and the older video cards may not be up to the task. Particularly if you’re using very high resolution video or photos.

So what to do about it? Here’s some fixes:

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