I developed a healthy relationship tinkering with PC’s in my middle school and junior high days, before switching to laptops during my time in the Navy which carried into college. The obvious choice became Apple because of the superior build quality, ease of use, and ecosystem integration. But as I’ve gotten deeper into film production, I’ve returned to my appreciation of the purpose-built PC. MacBook is the best computer for most people on the planet IMO. There is, however, a market for purpose-built computers, and a niche within that for high end video and graphic work.
I adore my Mac Pro trash can for it’s power and portability. It handles 4K workflows with ease, and makes it possible to do real workstation work out of a hotel room. But the unfortunate reality is that it CANNOT drive an Oculus Rift. This is because Rift doesn’t support FirePro. I stuck a GTX 970 (min required spec) in a Thunderbolt chassis eGPU style, which I had working in OSX. However, in Windows there’s no way to my knowledge of disabling one or both FirePro D700s, so the PCIe lanes are all eaten up and Windows doesn’t recognize the GTX 970. While I feel the MacBook Pro with Touch Bar is the most forward looking computer, Apple made a clear statement about its role in the future of computing: Decentralized computing is here, all you need is a really badass laptop, plugin your purpose-built boxes to accomplish all that other fancy stuff, like an eGPU for VR or high end graphics.
While I’m inclined to agree, if anything, Touch Bar makes me want Touch Screen even more. Despite the frustrating omission of a touch screen, which feels unforgivable at this point, I still want one. But this machine – while great for downloading and Live Grading on set – doesn’t meet the needs of myself and many other professional DITs, colorists, 3D artists, and anyone moving into VR, which, if you aren’t, I highly recommend.
As mentioned, one could pick up a MacBook pro with TB3 (Thunderbolt 3) and use an eGPU for driving a headset, and that will likely be a smart option for gamers, but there are several Windows laptops that feature GTX 1060 chips and higher (as well as touch screens) for less than the price of admission with Apple. With Adobe adding better VR support in Premiere CC 2017, Mettle Skybox Studio 2 hitting with deeper VR support in AE, working in VR, or monitoring in VR in real time is now a possibility. So you’re going to want to start doing your editorial, color, and finishing on a high end system that can drive an Oculus. This led me to build DitKit. DIT = Digital Imaging Technician
The dream of DitKit is meeting all the needs of the DI professional through an informed, purpose-built design. As a working cinematographer, colorist, and DIT, I need a machine that can easily keep up with 4K in Resolve (2 GPUs with 6GB+). I also needed Thunderbolt so I wouldn’t be forced away from the existing devices I already had, and TB drives are common within the film industry. I wanted X99 so I could run Xeon chips, and a speedy M.2 socket. I give you the Gigabyte X99P-SLI, the only X99 Thunderbolt 3 board you can by as of this writing. Its only shortcoming is non support of ECC memory.
Having deemed my 6-core D700 Mac Pro worthy of doing high end work, I made that the GeekBench spec to try to hit. I’m not there yet. Step one was to get my Oculus Rift actually working. This might seem like a very low goal, but in perspective I’m coming from having been in the Apple Mac camp for the last decade and needed to research all the options available right now (thanks YouTube and Toms Hardware), deem none of them to be what I specifically want out of a machine, then design my own, order the parts, and actually get them working together (there are some…neat…quirks to this board) has taken more time than I’d be proud to share. But I finally have a stable machine that is a starting point. From here I will continue to build and refine, in pursuit of the best damn DI machine I can build.