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  1. Member
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    So I am looking to buy a Mac for video editing and I am new to all of this. I am really hoping to avoid the classic "buy a computer without knowing exactly what you want - use it for a little while and realize its shortcomings - pine away for the computer you wish you had bought" situation, so I am hoping to get some advice here. Please forgive me if this has been covered to death here .
    I would like to be able to edit many large files and be able to look through them quickly, as I am no pro with a camera, and will be looking to remove all evidence of this in editing and I anticipate having a high ratio of unusable to usable footage. I hate having my work session interrupted by long waits for stuff to be processed and am willing to pay a little more to avoid this. I am not sure what software I will be using, and would appreciate suggestions about this as well. Currently, I am thinking to start with Final Cut Express, but if there is a better idea, please let me know.
    I am thinking of either an iMac 24-inch 3.06 GHz with 8 GB RAM and a 1 TB hard drive for $3000 or a 2.93 GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro with the same for $3900 (prices with education discount). Obviously, the Mac Pro has a lot more potential for expansion later, but it is more expensive and also takes up more space. Will the Quad-Core processor make a lot of difference, and if so, how and when, like what processes would cause me to notice a difference?
    Thanks for any help anyone can give me!
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  2. Member
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    My brother is a recently retired independent video director/producer. He is thrilled with his current set up of the previous-model 24" iMac that he just bought new from the Apple Store's clearance page for $1,399 along with a 24" HP monitor, some 1 TB LaCie Firewire 800 drives and FCE. He needed the previous-model iMac because his professional HD camcorder has a Firewire 400 link.
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  3. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    I would like to be able to edit many large files and be able to look through them quickly, as I am no pro with a camera, and will be looking to remove all evidence of this in editing and I anticipate having a high ratio of unusable to usable footage.
    Camcorder format? This is very important to timeline performance.
    Export format? What is the destination for this edit session?

    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    I hate having my work session interrupted by long waits for stuff to be processed and am willing to pay a little more to avoid this. I am not sure what software I will be using, and would appreciate suggestions about this as well. Currently, I am thinking to start with Final Cut Express, but if there is a better idea, please let me know.
    Describe your "editing" intentions. Are you just cutting out material or are you doing filtering, translations or effects processing?

    At a minimum you will need a second SATA or Firewire 800 drive separate from the OSX drive.

    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    I am thinking of either an iMac 24-inch 3.06 GHz with 8 GB RAM and a 1 TB hard drive for $3000 or a 2.93 GHz Quad-Core Mac Pro with the same for $3900 (prices with education discount). Obviously, the Mac Pro has a lot more potential for expansion later, but it is more expensive and also takes up more space. Will the Quad-Core processor make a lot of difference, and if so, how and when, like what processes would cause me to notice a difference?
    Depends on the above and how serious you are about formats and full use of Final Cut Experss. Most would go for the Mac Pro.
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  4. Member
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    Currently I am using a Canon HF-10, AVCHD format . . .
    I don't really have answers to those other questions yet. I need to buy the computer to get started, and it sounds like I need to get started before I can figure out which computer to buy. A classic Catch-22, I guess.

    That second drive can be an external drive, right? What are the disadvantages of that?

    I would like to learn how to use all of those editing techniques, but I doubt if I will use them a lot. I prefer a simpler, less obtrusive style usually, so maybe I will not need a program with tons of extra features.
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  5. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    Currently I am using a Canon HF-10, AVCHD format . . .
    I don't really have answers to those other questions yet. I need to buy the computer to get started, and it sounds like I need to get started before I can figure out which computer to buy. A classic Catch-22, I guess.

    That second drive can be an external drive, right? What are the disadvantages of that?

    I would like to learn how to use all of those editing techniques, but I doubt if I will use them a lot. I prefer a simpler, less obtrusive style usually, so maybe I will not need a program with tons of extra features.
    Your choice of AVCHD format over HDV ups the computer demand considerably both for playback and processing. You have an out and that is conversion to the Apple Intermediate Codec or Apple ProRes 4:2:2. The "digital intermediates" expand the size of the file to render individual frames. This increases the need for disk size but reduces CPU load. Start with AIC then try ProRes if you are integrating higher res source.

    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2704
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ProRes_422
    http://provideocoalition.com/index.php/apple/story/prores_a_closer_look/

    Native AVCHD editing requires a high end processor and still will be sluggish on the timeline. So better to do the intermediate conversion up front then enjoy faster shuttle/scan/scrub.

    This could be done on the iMac but the more you grow, the more limited the iMac will seem. Again it depends how much processing you intend and the amount of material you need to access.
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  6. Member
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    I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.
    So even though this is already a little too technical for me to know exactly what you are talking about, I have a couple more questions. If Apple Intermediate Codec and Apple ProRes 4:2:2 expand the size of the file while reducing CPU load, does that mean AVCHD is a compressed format? Is anything lost by expanding them this way, or is all the information still there, just stored differently?
    When you say that native AVHD requires a high end processor but still will be sluggish, what counts as a high end processor these days, and does that mean there is nothing that will keep it from being sluggish?
    What amounts of material do you think the iMac as specified above could handle before it started to seem really limited?
    Also, is there a book or website you would recommend that gives a good up-to-date intro to getting started?
    Thanks again.
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  7. Go with the Mac Pro. If you can afford it, bigger is better, hands down.

    And, seriously it has dual quad core processors. Plenty of power assuming the software takes advantage of it. It seems some areas of Final Cut Pro is multi thread and others are not.

    http://forums.macrumors.com/showthread.php?t=255050

    Cheers.
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  8. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    I really appreciate you taking the time to answer my questions.
    So even though this is already a little too technical for me to know exactly what you are talking about, I have a couple more questions. If Apple Intermediate Codec and Apple ProRes 4:2:2 expand the size of the file while reducing CPU load, does that mean AVCHD is a compressed format? Is anything lost by expanding them this way, or is all the information still there, just stored differently?
    When you say that native AVHD requires a high end processor but still will be sluggish, what counts as a high end processor these days, and does that mean there is nothing that will keep it from being sluggish?
    What amounts of material do you think the iMac as specified above could handle before it started to seem really limited?
    Also, is there a book or website you would recommend that gives a good up-to-date intro to getting started?
    Thanks again.
    AVCHD is heavy compressed h.264 intended as a final release format not a production format. It can be cut but suffers loss when recoded. There is minor loss converting to a digital intermediate but less than processing AVCHD natively.

    AVCHD is intended for consumers that don't intend heavy editing.
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  9. Member
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    The one with dual quad-core processors is an extra $800 for 2.26 GHz (+ $1400 more for 2.66 or $2600 more for 2.93). The one I was considering has only one, a 2.93 GHz quad-core.

    What is considered 'heavy editing'?
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  10. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    The one with dual quad-core processors is an extra $800 for 2.26 GHz (+ $1400 more for 2.66 or $2600 more for 2.93). The one I was considering has only one, a 2.93 GHz quad-core.

    What is considered 'heavy editing'?
    You seem sensitive to delays. HD processing is slow and slower yet with a native AVCHD project. You can buy an iMac and trade it later if you need more. The digital intermediate transfer will solve timeline decode delays but still if you filter, translate or add effects, HD speed depends on your processor speed.
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  11. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    More like AVC processing is slllooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
    Have 10 systems running right now -- crunching away -- my offices are hot as hell with every device up and humming.
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  12. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by lordsmurf
    More like AVC processing is slllooooooooooooooooooooowwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwwww
    Have 10 systems running right now -- crunching away -- my offices are hot as hell with every device up and humming.
    In winter you can heat your digs with full 100% CPU but in summer the heat doubles+ your electric bill due to A/C ... or you swelter.

    Need a CPU heat pipe into deep ground to avoid A/C loading.
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  13. Member
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    I guess I'm going to go with the iMac, mostly because it takes up less space so I can put it in a more convenient spot. By the time I need something better, the prices may be lower anyway.
    Can someone tell me more about 'digital intermediate transfer' and 'timeline decode delays'? I followed the links given, but I think I am lacking the base knowledge to understand much about what happens in the conversion process.
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  14. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Remember when you said this?

    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    I would like to be able to edit many large files and be able to look through them quickly, as I am no pro with a camera, and will be looking to remove all evidence of this in editing and I anticipate having a high ratio of unusable to usable footage. I hate having my work session interrupted by long waits for stuff to be processed and am willing to pay a little more to avoid this.
    The AVCHD format is highly compressed to h.264 MPeg format. h.264 records one real frame out of 15 (called an I frame) and records only change data for the other 14 frames. Playback requires a fast CPU+display card to reconstruct the missing frames and do this fast enough to reach 1x speed playback. Editing requires faster than 1x decoding to scan through the video to find an edit point. When the computer isn't fast enough, you have to wait for processing.

    There are two ways to speed up processing of HD AVCHD files. iMovie allows you to convert 1920x1080i at 60 field/sec AVCHD to 960x540p at 29.97 frames per second (quarter resolution and half motion update) for use on slower computers. Most users will just convert that to 720x480 DVD and be happy with standard definition at half motion update.

    The other way is to convert AVCHD to Apple Intermediate Codec or ProRes (links above) for Final Cut Express which converts to all full frames at 1920x1080i and at 60 fields per second. These files will expand to about 15 or more times larger depending on settings. After conversion, you can play these files at faster than real time and search/scan/scrub more easily on the timeline without delays for playback processing. These files will also process quicker for effects or filters.

    I will stop here for comprehension? Are you following to this point?

    More links
    http://support.apple.com/kb/HT2948
    http://support.apple.com/kb/TA24840
    http://support.apple.com/kb/index?page=search&q=AVCHD%20iMovie
    http://support.apple.com/kb/index?page=search&src=support_site.kbase.search&locale=en_US&q=AVCHD
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  15. Member
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    I'm kind of following, but am stuck on a few points. I do want my finished product to be HD. Is there a better format I should be using? And what advantages are there to AVCHD? It doesn't sound like there would be any reason to use it if you are just going to convert it right off the bat. Is there something I'm missing here?
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  16. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    I'm kind of following, but am stuck on a few points. I do want my finished product to be HD. Is there a better format I should be using? And what advantages are there to AVCHD? It doesn't sound like there would be any reason to use it if you are just going to convert it right off the bat. Is there something I'm missing here?
    AVCHD is what your camcorder uses. You would need to change camcorders for HDV or XDCAM or other.

    See FCE4 description.



    Does that help?
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  17. Member
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    I know that that is what my camcorder uses, but I could potentially use a different one is what I meant. So should I? I don't understand why this format would exist, if it needs to be converted to something else to work with it. There must be some reason it was developed, right? Are there any advantages at all over other formats, and what do you think is the best format to edit efficiently without loss of resolution, etc.?
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  18. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    I know that that is what my camcorder uses, but I could potentially use a different one is what I meant. So should I? I don't understand why this format would exist, if it needs to be converted to something else to work with it. There must be some reason it was developed, right? Are there any advantages at all over other formats, and what do you think is the best format to edit efficiently without loss of resolution, etc.?
    AVCHD was developed for consumers with the idea of compressing h.264 video to the point it will fit on level 2-4 SD flash cards with reasonable record time. They didn't expect consumers to use heavy editing programs because few do. Expectation was that they would copy the file to a DVDR or BD/BE disc and play back directly in a computer, Blu-Ray player or PS3. More advanced consumers would use MPeg4 cut programs for simple cut editing. Most AVCHD camcorders come with simple cutting software.

    All of the above preserves the quality of the original AVCHD file. When AVCHD h.264 is decoded and recoded to AVCHD there is considerable picture quality loss. h.264 was developed as a final distribution codec, not as an editing codec. By converting to a digital intermediate, you will be decreasing quality somewhat but there is no need to recode back to h.264 when you finish editing. The digital intermediate format optimizes for editing by constructing missing frames and in some cases* increases bit depth for less artifacting in computation. All of this softens the picture somewhat as a trade off.

    HDV and XDCAM formats are lower compressed MPeg2 intended for pro editing. Higher end formats like DVCProHD and HDCAM record every frame individually without the motion interframe compression found in MPeg formats.


    * Apple Pro/Res Codec inreases bit depth but is not optimized for AVCHD. You would use it for combining AVCHD with higher level pro formats.
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  19. Member
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    Okay, so if I am going to do a lot of editing, I should consider switching to a camera that records in HDV, XDCAM, DVCProHD, or HDCAM, but the files will be a lot bigger?
    Or I should use this format only with the cutting software that came with it, to avoid loss of resolution. Except I don't think I can, because it seems to require a machine running Windows XP or Vista. The program is ImageMixer 3 SE.
    Is doing anything beyond simple cutting considered "heavy editing" for these purposes?
    And if I am willing to tolerate sluggishness, is it possible to use a program like Final Cut Express with this format without converting it, or does Final Cut just not work with this format?
    Sorry for so many questions, your answers are much appreciated!
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  20. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    Okay, so if I am going to do a lot of editing, I should consider switching to a camera that records in HDV, XDCAM, DVCProHD, or HDCAM, but the files will be a lot bigger?
    Or I should use this format only with the cutting software that came with it, to avoid loss of resolution. Except I don't think I can, because it seems to require a machine running Windows XP or Vista. The program is ImageMixer 3 SE.
    Is doing anything beyond simple cutting considered "heavy editing" for these purposes?
    And if I am willing to tolerate sluggishness, is it possible to use a program like Final Cut Express with this format without converting it, or does Final Cut just not work with this format?
    Sorry for so many questions, your answers are much appreciated!
    How much are you willing to spend?

    Your main alternative is the HDV format (e.g. Canon HV30 or XH-A1). The post edit picture will be marginally superior for HDV and higher quality cameras are available like the XH-A1 or Sony V1. HDV can be natively edited with FCE or the digital intermediate codecs can be used. XDCAM-EX format allows recording to disk or flash ram and allows higher 35-50Mb/s bit rates but prices exceed $6000. Likewise DVCProHD starts above $6000. These formats create much larger files so media costs will increase significantly vs. AVCHD SD cards or HDV tapes.

    If you don't want to spend that kind of money first decide if cuts are enough or if you want the editing features of Final Cut Express. If the latter, use the Apple Intermediate Codec and then encode+author to Blu-Ray at higher bit rates than AVCHD format to minimize re-encoding loss. You can export encode to MPeg2 or h.264 or VC-1 for Blu-Ray.

    Apple doesn't suggest or support native AVCHD editing in Final Cut Express but you can buy Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 for the Intel Mac or PC. PP CS4 will support sluggish native AVCHD editing but they will recommend a different digital intermediate format called Cineform for editing efficiency. Again it depends what kind of editing you intend to do.
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  21. Member
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    Nice thread. I mentioned my brother earlier. He shoots HDV with a professional Canon camera. I never would suggest AVCHD for someone who is serious about video editing and production. It's for the hobbyists like me.
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  22. Member
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    No, I definitely can't spend that much, so for now I will work with the camera I have.
    I talked to Canon and they say that AVCHD is not a compressed format and that it is supported by Final Cut Express 4 or higher or Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 or higher with no loss of resolution. They were pretty irritable and unwilling to go into detail, but insistent. Highly possible they did not know what they were talking about.
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  23. Member edDV's Avatar
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    Originally Posted by rhmanatee
    No, I definitely can't spend that much, so for now I will work with the camera I have.
    I talked to Canon and they say that AVCHD is not a compressed format and that it is supported by Final Cut Express 4 or higher or Final Cut Pro 6.0.1 or higher with no loss of resolution. They were pretty irritable and unwilling to go into detail, but insistent. Highly possible they did not know what they were talking about.
    Wrong. Uncompressed 1920x1080i* video is 1485Mb/s (SMPTE-292M**) and AVCHD is spec'd 9 to 24Mb/s. That is greater than 650GB for one hour of uncompressed HD video.

    That means AVCHD is compressed ~60 to 165 times in the camera into h.264 compared to less than 10x for HDCAM DCT compressed broadcast format (144Mb/s).


    * SMPTE-292M allows 10 bit, 1920x1080i 29.97fps.

    ** SMPTE-292M does include 8 stereo PCM audio tracks and some metadata so video portion is a bit less than to 1400Mb/s.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/SMPTE_292M
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/AVCHD
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  24. Member edDV's Avatar
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    rhmanatee,

    This Macworld article describes in some depth how AVCHD is handled in Final Cut Express 4 including clip logging and capture processing into the Apple Intermediate Codec.

    http://www.macworld.com/article/131409/2008/01/finalcutexpress4.html
    page down to "AVCHD"
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    Yeah, they didn't seem to be willing to put much thought into it. I may call them today and try to talk to someone more knowledgeable/less hostile about the issue of their included software program being Windows-only. I see it online available for Mac, but I would rather not have to buy it.
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  26. Member
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    You might check into Powermax.com. They sell new and used and have a department specifically for video professionals. Another great vendor for professionals is bhphotovideo.com. The fabulous resource for Final Cut (and express) users is kenstone.net.
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  27. Member edDV's Avatar
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    rhmanatee just needs to decide if he is going to use any of the Mac editing features. If he does then AVCHD will be converted to AIC or another digital intermendiate. If all he wants to do is cut h.264 that is easier done on a PC. Why buy a Mac at all if you don't intend to use iMovie or Final Cut?
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    I will check out those links, thanks Frobozz . . .
    There's no way I am buying a PC, because I am still recovering from the series of traumas a lifetime of PC ownership has inflicted on me. It is only because I have finally succeeded in freeing myself that I can even consider making the bold move of purchasing a piece of software, installing it on my machine, and actually expecting it to work, a practice I abandoned years ago when I only used PCs.
    I don't even want to have to check my email on a PC. Even if I didn't use iMovie or Final Cut, I would still want the most important Mac feature -- that the idea of things actually working as intended is not just a delusional fantasy that will never happen on its own. The regedit is a nasty place and I've seen quite enough of it.
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  29. Video Restorer lordsmurf's Avatar
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    PC = personal computer
    Mac = a personal computer.

    Guess what? A Mac is a PC.

    Hmmmm .... If I use the computer for business, does that make it a BC ? :P

    If you find simple computer operation traumatic, then give up on video before even starting.
    As the saying goes, "You ain't seen nothing yet!"
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    Yes, lordsmurf, I do understand what "PC" stands for . . . I was using the term in the idiomatic sense, commonly used to differentiate between computer systems for home use made by Apple and those made by other companies. But I think you knew that.
    Your little equality system is faulty anyway. Sure, all Macs are personal computers, but all personal computers are not Macs, therefore they are not, as you indicate, equal.
    I do not find "simple computer operation" traumatic, it's the fact that so far I have experienced a lot more than my share of Windows-based computer problems. Many have been due to faulty hardware, incorrectly installed components, and incompatible components (thanks Gateway and Dell!). Apple appears to actually test their stuff and the problems I have had have been effectively dealt with. At least 80% of their people seem to actually not be incompetent tools, and that's pretty good these days. The software I buy runs immediately after a normal install process, without me having to troubleshoot a bunch of crap. I like that.
    I don't expect everything to go smoothly all of the time, and I don't mind having to figure out a few puzzles along the way, so I shall continue with video. Thanks for your concern.
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