Can the M1 MacBook Pro Handle 12K Raw?

Apple launching the M1 chip was a huge moment. It also led to tons of questions about the real-world performance of the new MacBooks and Mac mini and whether or not the new chip was actually powerful enough for power-hungry tasks such as video editing.

Pro colorist Waqas Qazi got his hands on a maxed-out MacBook Pro with M1 chip and try out whether it can handle 12K raw video in DaVinci Resolve. That’s a serious test for any computer, let alone a laptop. 

Taking a look at the build, Qazi went to Apple to max it out. On the Apple site, it’s only the 13” version of the MacBook Pro and there are only two customizable settings – the SSD storage and RAM.

He chose the 2TB SSD and 16GB RAM. The SSD should affect performance too much, however doubling the memory could be an important boost for this type of test.

The M1 chip has a new architecture that requires software to be coded to work natively. Regular software can work through a built-in translation system from Apple, but you might actually see a decrease in performance this way.

Blackmagic Design was actually quite quick to the part and released a version of DaVinci Resolve 17 with native support for M1. To find it you’ll have to head to Blackmagic’s site and take a good look. M1 support is in version 17.1, not the standard 17.0.

Finding the 12K footage was a bit easier. Just located Blackmagic’s URSA Mini Pro 12K page and they have three original files that are available for download.

The camera records natively in Blackmagic RAW so that is what we are looking at here. Interesting, immediately after the download, it plays back just fine. That’s a good start.

With a new Resolve project and timeline Qazi drops in the clip. He double confirms that this is officially a 12K file, however, the timeline isn’t in 12K, it’s in Full HD. Just with this test Resolve has no issues whatsoever and is playing back smoothly at 24 fps.

Moving up to a UHD 4K timeline the first couple seconds stuttered, but then it handled the rest smoothly. Now, an 8K timeline. This is where it starts struggling for real, averaging 4-8 fps. Qazi thinks 12K in a 4K timeline is the sweet spot.

Qazi wants to try some grades next. Popping on some nodes he starts experimenting. Turning off any default settings he starts from scratch, adding contrast to start.

It is showing the changes in real-time. Making an HDR node, he selects the highlights and makes them pop. For the shadows, he does a similar thing to add more contrast. Add some saturation and it is looking great.

For some effects, he goes to the Open FX menu and chooses glow. Adding this to the file adds a bit more atmosphere and it’s time to remind everyone that all of this is being done on a 13” MacBook Pro.

The playback test with all the nodes on shows it is overtaxing the machine. The MacBook only hit around 10 fps in playback. Turning off just the glow effect helps a lot, getting it close to real-time

Testing with a film grain effect along with the glow drops it again by about half, from 10 to 5-6 fps. It seems like the effects are putting a big damper on the MacBook’s performance.

If you do decide to do this there are some things in Resolve that will help speed things up. First, just drop the timeline resolution to Full HD. Immediately you’ll see a performance bump.

Second, you’ll usually want to keep features like noise reduction and grain off until the export anyway. With those two things, you can get close to real-time with all the other nodes and effects.

So is it possible to edit 12K raw on an M1 MacBook Pro? Yes, actually, when you tune some settings. That’s incredible. I personally can’t wait for the next-gen of Apple Silicon.

[source: Waqas Qazi]

Order Links:

  • Blackmagic Design DaVinci Resolve Studio (B&H, Amazon)
  • Blackmagic Design URSA Mini Pro 12K Cinema Camera (B&H, Amazon)
  • Apple MacBook Pro w/ M1 Chip (B&H, Amazon)

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