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Tourbox NEO review

How often did you think.
“man I would love something that replaces my keyboard for shortcuts”
If that’s you, this might be of interest for you.

As you guys know I’m always 100% honest in my reviews. So let’s start by stating that this product was send to us for review, but that will not for even 1% influence my opinion. So let’s start.

What is it?
Tourbox is a small but very well build (and heavy) external device with buttons and dials that can be “freely” programmed to replace shortcuts. Now there are several solutions out there and some fall in the catagory “total junk” and “genius”. Let me start with stating that the tourbox is very close to the segment “Very usable to genius”. Let me explain.

These kind of devices are a mixed bag for me and a lot of people.
When we have a keyboard in front of us we can learn the shortcuts and for example order a small keyboard that you lay on your lap or next to you while working, or one can just chose to operate everything with a mouse/trackpad, and in all honesty for a lot of software this is still my prefered way of working, for example take lightroom, I’ve never found a product that actually speeds up the trackpad/mouse workflow, for the simple reason that Lightroom has a very clear structure and you can work from top to bottom setting everything up and seeing you also skip certain settings working with the mouse/trackpad is just very very easy also because when you use local adjustments you already need a mouse/trackpad/tablet.

So although it does work flawlessly in Lightroom I would probably never use it myself for this, no matter what others say 🙂
Now let’s look at Photoshop.

The more you work in Photoshop the more you are almost using shortcuts blindely, for the simple reason you use them all the time, and also Photoshop is a totally different program than Lightroom. For me Lightroom is really based on a mouse/trackpad workflow where Photoshop is really aimed at a tablet/pen control surface PLUS shortcuts on a keyboard, you actually hardly to never touch the mouse/trackpad, and in that case…. man this is genius.

We all have our favorite shortcuts.
For me it’s always the following I program.
Brush size, Rotate canvas, switch for/background (X), Curves, Levels, Saturation, zoom in and out, 100%, fill and of course the usual Space, CRTL, SHIFT etc.
And those can all be programmed in the Tourbox, and this makes it very usable for Photoshop and other software that is really based on shortcuts and non mouse/trackpad operation.

So let’s take a look at the software itself so you get an idea about what’s possible (and it’s a lot)

First of all, don’t worry that you have to do a lot of work before using the tourbox, there are several presets available in the software right after the installation. So when you use Photoshop and Lightroom you’re already covered. But what about if you want it differently (what I would do without a doubt). Well that’s very easy.

It’s very easy to create a new preset, and after that the fun really starts.
Of course you can emulate the normal keystrokes, but also combinations with SHIFT, CRTL etc.
But… and that’s actually very cool, you can also combine keys on the tourbox, for example the normal dial changes brushsize, but if you hold the side button you can use th same dial for screenzoom for example. And that makes the tourbox A LOT more usable, you are literally not limited to the keys you see (well actually you are, but you can also combine the keys making it a lot more usable).

Now this sounds awesome, but it also brings in a problem I experience almost everyday, “where the heck did I …..”, and with so many options it can indeed very quickly become very confusing. It also doesn’t really help the device is black including the keys (later more on that).

Now loads of people will program the Tourbox the way that they use it, and the nice thing is that you can download those from the TourBox website. Just search for the program you want to use and download the presets.

 

Luckily you can always call up the hub and see what’s programmed.
And if you don’t know all the shortcuts, don’t panic, the TourBox software helps you out by the build in functions menu. This makes programming literally a breeze.

 

Conclusion
Ok, so how does it work in reality.
Let me start with the positives.

First off all the device is build very nicely, it’s heavy enough to not drift around the table or your lap, but not too heavy you can’t travel with it. Also size wise it’s a very smart size, it’s not too small and certainly not to big, plus a BIG plus…. it uses USB-C, I still don’t understand why manufactores still release gear with other connections than USB-C.

Also there is so much flexibility that it’s almost impossible that there is a situation where you can’t use it.
So overall I’m very positive about the TourBox. But let’s also take a look at the negatives.

First of all one could argue that it should be wireless, and I start with this one because I agree and disagree. You do have to realize the price point of the TourBox, compared to some competitors the TourBox is A LOT cheaper and when you add wireless you will need a battery and of course BT or WiFi board which will drive the price up and also the stability, I’m actually mostly a fan of devices that also have the option to be used with a wired connection because I hate batteries that run out, or connections that are instable (and yes that happens a lot).

Ok so what can they improve
Now do realize that some of these options will add some costs or are not possible in this product.

First off all I think the TourBox is genius for Photoshop but also when recording and editing video and music, and especially for music it’s awesome to be able to start recording/punch ins with just a quick tap on a button instead of reaching out to the keyboard or using the mouse/keyboard, and while editing zooming is just plain awesome…. “Hey Frank this is positive, not negative buddy…” yeah I know, now when I record music or edit photos/videos I’m a bit of “batman” I’m editing in a dark area and in most cases there is just not enough light to see the pure black TourBox, this is also the reason I’m using keyboards with backlit keys. I would love for them to add a light behind the keys, just to see where the keys are and not having to trust my fingers in the dark. Now not everyone will be editing in a “batcave” but if you do this is really a negative thing about the TourBox, I love black gear, but man it’s hard to see in the dark.

Now adding backlights would be pretty easy I guess, just place a ledstrip in the housing and it will show through the side of the keys, it doesn’t have to be disco ball but just outlining the keys would help a lot. The next step would be a small display that shows what you programmed under the keys, I don’t see a lot of products that use this but in all honestly it would make it worth double the price for me personally, because especially when you use the TourBox in 4-5 apps it can be VERY confusing where what is. In all fairness on my XP-Pen tablets after hours and hours of use I know most of the buttons, but still…. I’m using console tape next to the keys with the functions because the most used keys I know where they are but keys you don’t use a lot can still be confusing, and these kind of devices are build for speed and easy workflow, the fact that most keys are shaped differently does help a lot, I’ve tested several solutions that use the same buttons (just a lot of them) and I never really used them for the simple reason I just lost track and eventually interest. By using different shapes it makes it 10x easier to remember.

The thing that I would LOVE to see, and I really think it should be added is support for iOS.
Now bare with me for this one.
I know most of you still edit on desktops or laptops, but you can’t deny that the iPads are making huge waves at the moment and for me the iPad pro 12.9″ M1 actually fully replaced my laptop and for 90% my desktop, and indeed that means I use the iPad for everything from photography to video editing and media consumption.

Now on a desktop and laptop you already have a keyboard an a mouse/trackpad connected but not on an iPad, the only reason I have a keyboard connected when editing is for certain shortcuts which I find easier than using the touch interface, and for that I would not connect a keyboard but would literally LOVE a solution like the TourBox, in fact I would use it almost daily seeing more and more app makers are adding loads of shortcuts, and editing with a keyboard next to me is possible but I would love the TourBox (or another solution) connected to the iPad.

When talking to manufactorers I often hear they don’t look at the iPad pro as a serious device and I strongly feel they were right 2-3 years ago, however when we now look at what Adobe is doing with Lightroom and Photoshop, but also apps like LumaFusion, Cubasis, Beatmaker3, affinity photo etc. I really feel they are very wrong to not take the iPad pro serious, and luckily soon Capture One will be released on the iPad pro M1 which I think will break open the way for more software makers. And let’s be honest with the new M1 it should be pretty simple for TourBox to port their software to the iPad.

So should you run out and buy a TourBox?
Well if you compare it to the price of a normal keyboard… no absolutely not.
BUT…. that’s not fair, it’s a totally different product and well worth it’s price especially when compared to other solutions.

So when you find yourself looking for shortcuts in software and would wish there was a way to have this all easy accessable the TourBox might be the perfect solution for you. I’ll keep using it behind the desktop we record music on and do the editing when I’m home, and this has nothing to do with the quality but the simple fact in the studio we use XP-Pen tablets that already have more than enough shortcut keys. But if you are using a tablet that doesn’t have enough hardkeys (most don’t have enough) combining your tablet with the TourBox I can HIGHLY recommend and I mean HIGHLY, it will make your life a lot easier. But do make sure you have a little but of light in your workarea. Or wait for TourBox to release a special Doorhof white version with backlighting (just kidding).

If you also want a TourBox, get them (or anything else :D) via this link and also support our work.
https://amzn.to/3wTPihQ

Calibration. Don’t forget it

A quick reminder for you guys to regularly calibrate your monitor.

I’m using a BenQ monitor which also supports hardware calibration. Which for our work (photography and video) is a huge plus.

Standard settings that will almost always work for you are
D65, 120-130cdm, profile 2 (not 4), gamma 2.2
Just keep those and you’ll be pretty ok.

Now remember to calibrate at least every 3-4 weeks. But preferably before every important retouch session. Do make sure you let the monitor warm up for at least half an hour.

Calibration is fast and simple. Don’t skip it. It really makes a huge difference. And can get you out of a lot of trouble 😉

Mobile workflow iPad (pro) photos and lightroom and small review section

As you all know we are working on figuring out if the iPad pro can be a full replacement for a laptop. Well let me rephrase that, it will never fully replace a laptop, but let’s say I want to see if for travel we will be able to leave our laptops at home and do everything on an iPad pro.

So what do we do?
Well first off it’s the simple things like Email, browsing, media consumption, reading comics/magazines, playing games while flying etc. and I can say… well as expected no problem at all.

But I also do a lot of video editing, and this was a bit of a challenge on the Android tablet, although there is a good file system (please hurry up with iPad OS Apple) there are no real killer apps for video, of course we have Powerdirector which is pretty awesome but also pretty limited, I could do my videos on it but only if I’m willing to cut corners, which in all honesty is ok for once but certainly not for every video. Project Rush is awesome but only on Samsung phones, so this actually pushed us towards the iPad pro, now I have to add that although I love project Rush, when travelling I need a bit more (seeing I can’t finish projects in Premiere when I don’t bring a laptop) but luckily there is LumaFusion, and oh my… if there ever was a reason to run out and buy an iPad pro it’s LumaFushion, I can’t really express in words how awesome this app is, think about everything you want from a good video editor and LumaFusion has it, and editing with touch…. it’s just awesome.

Ok but today it’s about something else.
And it’s actually about something that will be easier soon, but still I wanted to give you this tip.

The Lightroom CC problem
Lightroom CC is a game changer, let me make that a bit more clear it’s a GAME CHANGER… sorry for shouting, but it really is. The moment Adobe released Lightroom Mobile I was intrigued to see where this would lead, and in all honesty it never went anywhere, it was a total disaster, this might sound harsh but I’m totally honest it was just unusable due to the fact you were very limited to what it would hold picture wise. Lightroom CC changed everything, now you can really work on your files both in the cloud and locally and it’s just a very well thought out application. I still miss some things but I’m pretty sure Adobe will add this to the future releases.

But it’s not all perfectly.
Let me just walk you through the frustration and how I solved it (well pretty much). I’ll give you 3 solutions that will hopefully fit everyone.
Do remember that when iPad OS is released, it will be a LOT easier.

Normal situation
We shoot outside and come home with 300 images.
Downloading the images on the iPad pro is no problem, I use a 512GB version so for small trips this is more than enough to hold all the images, but… when shooting in cities like New York for a week it hardly is enough (I really shoot a lot of images on the streets)


The DJI Copilot is at the moment a must have when you want some serious work done on an iPad (pro)

So my idea was the following
Use the DJI CoPilot to empty the card to let’s say folder “Day 1”
Now import all the photos into Lightroom CC and….. oh wait this is Apple.
First import all the photos into photos, and than import all the photos into Lightroom CC.
Now star/flag the ones I want and delete everything else.
Now edit the files and just leave them on the device in the album “Day 1”

Day 2 comes and we do the same.
Empty the card on the DJI CoPilot.
Import, flag, delete, edit… done.

Well yeah, sounds great right?
When I’m home I just copy all the days with all images from the DJI CoPilot to my desktop.
Now sync up Lightroom CC and choose “Save original + settings” and just copy these OVER the files that are already on the desktop.
Now when you sync everything up in Lightroom Classic it will import all the images and will show you the flagged images including the retouches so you can save them as TIFFs, or just leave them there, whatever fits your workflow.

Sounds great right?
Well yeah it is, it saves you a lot of space on the iPad pro, all your files are save on the external drive and the retouched images are in the cloud, or on the iPad pro when there is no internet to upload, easy peasy awesome….. well not quite.

The Apple issue
When you delete all the images in Lightroom CC that you did not select, it doesn’t delete those images from Photos (film roll). So you have a few options to work around this.

When you don’t shoot a lot of images
Don’t
If you only travel for a weekend or don’t shoot a lot, no problem at all 512GB is a lot of space so you will not have any issues at all.
Just backup everything from the iPad when you’re home and you’re done, and with Lightroom CC you don’t even have to connect anything it just syncs everything.

When you shoot a lot
Creative Cloud storage is not free, and it isn’t much in most cases, for me it’s 100GB sounds like a lot, but if I can fill a 512GB iPad… well do the math (it’s not that hard). So we have to find a way around.

Solution 1 (not perfect)
Import ALL photos into Photos (filmroll)
Now just browse and select everything you like with a hart, this will put it into the favorites folder
Now it’s easier to select all the other images and delete them so only the favorites stay, import only the favorites into Lightroom CC and you’re done.
This is already a very fast workflow and works pretty well. But we want more speed of course.

Solution 2 (pretty cool)
Import ALL photos into Photos (filmroll)
Now download the free app called “Slidebox”
This is a really cool app.
When you open the app you can “tinder through your images”
Swipe left and right to go to the next or back
Swipe UP and you thrash an image, selecting the keepers this way is incredibly fast, and Slidebox saves your trashcan so after your selection process just look in the trashcan before you say “delete all” and you’re all done.
Now import the left over images into Lightroom CC and… voila.

Solution 3 almost perfect, well at least it’s very close
On the road just empty the cards on the DJI Copilot
Now via the browser app from DJI create the folder structure and copy everything where you want it, do remember that renaming is not possible in batch (yet)
Now instead of creating the selection in photos, just import everything into Lightroom CC, but put your tablet/phone on airplane mode (unless you have a steady and fast internet connection).
Make your selections and only keep the images you like (the 5 stars)
Now Lightroom CC only has the selects
Take your device out of airplane mode and let Lightroom CC sync to the cloud
It will now upload all the files that are still in Lightroom CC
When this is done.
You can now safely remove all images from your photos app (remember the full res originals are now in the cloud)
When you’re home copy everything to your Lightroom Classic locations, don’t rename yet
Now sync Lightroom Classic with the cloud
Drag the images to the same locations as the RAW files
And now you can rename everything but keep the edits

This workflow is the fastest and saves you a lot of space on your tablet. The only disadvantage is that first you have to trust the cloud (remember the originals are still on your drive so the worst that can happen is losing the edits) and when you’re without wifi or connection you can edit in Lightroom CC but not in an external program for the simple reason the original files are not on your device, only smart previews, unless of course you set it up that Lightroom CC saves the original files, but that will cost you space.

 

Conclusion Photography workflow
The main problem with all Apple products like iPhone, iPad etc. is that you don’t have a proper file system, when I look at what my Android devices do it’s so much easier to work with larger file amounts, you can just open with an app from every directory where on the iPad I often have to move files from one folder to the other via via (it’s not user friendly and the chance that you make a mistake is huge), however with the announcement of iPadOS this will all change (September), after that update you can just use external drives and work from those and you will have a proper file system, I just hope the apps will also support this…. but I guess productivity apps like LumaFusion and Lightroom will do this without a doubt.

Now when you read the solutions you might think it’s a lot of work… but trust me it isn’t.
IF there is a good file system it will be faster but in all honesty solution 2 is a very fast way to work around this and solution 3 is using all the sync options from the cloud which makes that one actually my favorite, the only thing you have to keep in mind is that you don’t rename your images before the synced images and the ones from the drive are all together in one location.


A keyboard case is a must if you want the iPad to replace a laptop. I’m using the Logitech slim because of the back lit keys.

Conclusion on the iPad pro so far
I get a lot of questions about what I think about the iPad pro so far.
Let me state by saying I’ve always been an Apple fanboy, and although I didn’t own any Apple products anymore I still followed the news and keynotes and it actually really hurts me seeing Apple has lost it’s way to be attractive to creators like me (people that are willing to spend some money but don’t have a money tree in the garden) however with the arrival of iPadOS this might totally change for the iPad line up, especially the Pro line up, let me quickly explain.

Video editing
The limitation is without a doubt that you work with apps instead of full programs, on the other hand…. isn’t an app also a full program?
When I look at for example LumaFusion (coupled with a good filesystem (and this is really key)) I can only say that although it’s an app on a tablet I can do the same things I can do with premiere or Final Cut, ok this is not true… let me say it like this, I can do everything I need. And believe it or not, but editing on the iPad pro is actually faster than on my Dell XPS 9570 i9 with 32GB, yep I hear some people going like “Really Frank, come on be serious”, oh I’m very serious (almost to a point it hurts). I’ve edited a vlog the other day including some H265 drone video material, my normal 4K material I can edit on the Dell without using Proxy (as long as I don’t grade), but H265 drone material…. well it doesn’t every play on the time line on 1/4 resolution, if I don’t use proxy it’s unworkable, and rendering afterwards takes a long time.

On the iPad pro believe it or not, drop it on the time line, grade as much as you want and it’s buttery smooth, I actually didn’t notice a difference between the normal 4K H264 and the Drone 4K H265 material, and that boys and girls, ladies and gentlemen is SERIOUSLY sick and impressive. Rendering same story, 10 minute 4K vlog in the highest quality renders in almost real time, 10 minutes and 5 seconds….. wow. On the Dell this is app the same but again that’s one of the fastest laptops on the market as far as I know.

Photography
When I look at Lightroom CC it’s perfect for mobile workflows, same with Project Rush although at the moment I prefer LumaFusion because it has more options that I need (like speed ramps). Also with Lightroom CC I can’t really say I’m feeling I’m working with a crippled app, and let’s be honest when the whole iPad “pro” started that was what you got, shameless promoted very limited apps that in all honesty couldn’t be take seriously. If you can’t export files in anything else than HD JPGs I really can’t take an app seriously, unless you’re an Instagramer maybe.

I can’t wait for Photoshop to arrive on the iPad Pro, for the time being I’m using Affinity Photo and in all honesty I was blown away by what it could do, but…. also a bit dissapointed about the speed, I tried to create a 21 file panorama from my Mavic Pro 2 (Hasselblad version) and this took a staggering 20+ minutes…. yeah serious, my laptop does it in under a minute in Lightroom Classic. Seeing how fast the iPad pro edits video there must be some bugs in Affinity because this is really slow. On the other hand I’m not a programmer and it could very well be that the limitation here is actually the 4GB internal memory of the iPad pro. Overall Affinity is relatively smooth on the iPad pro even with 60MP files it all goes very well, inpainting (a sort of content aware fill) is sluggish on larger areas and far from what Adobe does with Content Aware Fill but…. for an app on a tablet I take my hat off to Affinity and take a deep bow, this is a pretty good and solid photo editor that actually gives you everything you need to retouch.

Doodling or serious drawing
What can I say.
The new iPad pro (my previous one was a 2015 model) has a much better Apple Pencil experience, mostly because you have a different screen and now there is hardly any space between where you touch the glass and where you draw, now in all honesty I draw ok but not good enough to even notice that, but I can imagine that real artists see this as a huge improvement. Same for the insane 9ms lag….. I already thought the 20ms was insanely fast.

For drawing I highly recommend Adobe of course but also check out Procreate or MediBang Paint, especially when you’re into Manga you will love the last one, but Procreate is for me the allround winner, start drawing with it and I can guarantee you you will be hooked. The Apple pencil and the iPad pro are a dream for people that love to draw (I guess).

What’s missing?
A few things.
Somehow I couldn’t get my Powerpoint presentations to run, I stored them all as odb files (Open Document files) mainly because I want them to work in all situations also when I have to change laptops with someone, but this was apparently a mistake. Everything about 300MB wouldn’t open in both Keynote and Powerpoint. Solution was to open it on the desktop, save as PPTX and import that into Keynote and save and voila… now it all works. I just need to find a good remote to control Keynote.

Filesystem we talked about and that is coming, and I hope that solves my other problem.

With tethering I can use the Sony app, which works like a charm, it’s fast, it’s stable and it does exactly what I need, showing images on the screen when I shot them within a second. And I can also switch to Live View mode so students can see what I see and how I frame a shot. BUT…. there is a huge problem with wireless tethering. Although it works at home, in the studio or out in the open field, don’t ever try it on a tradeshow floor and expect it to go flawless, yes it can work, but most of the time it will be flaky or you have to stand really close to the tablet. With iPadOs and the opening up of that USB-C port I really hope we will soon find a solution to shoot tethered into lightroom CC via USB, that would really be the ultimate solution.

What’s so cool?
Well let’s keep it short ok?
When editing video and photos on my laptop the battery runs down fast and I mean FAST.
On the iPad pro of course the battery runs down faster than when surfing the web but in all honesty I’m stunned by how long the battery actually lasts during heavy loads, if I remember correctly editing the vlog took me about 45 minutes, rendering took me another 10 and I believe I lost about 15-20% of my battery life, that’s insane. This makes it 100% possible to edit on the plane and don’t worry about losing your media consumption tablet when you’re done.


add the amazing Omnicharge to the package and you will “never” run out of juice on location.
See my review here : YouTube review for the Omnicharge

But there is more to that.
When you run on the battery on a laptop you are almost forced to use the on board GPU which is VERY slow compared to the dedicated GPU which you can use when on power. And when you’re running a tablet like the Surface book 2 (without the base) you don’t even have the option to force the dedicated GPU plus the battery will die incredibly fast. Now in a hotel that’s not a big problem, just charge, but on a plane you can often charge a tablet via USB (in almost every seat) but power for a laptop…. well not so easy unless of course you fly business.

And finally…..
Oh my……
As you all know I love playing guitar, and recording yourself is of course possible on Android and on iOS, but writing your own music is a different story. Garageband from Apple is one of those genius programs, you can’t really understand what I mean unless you’re a musician or ever tried Garageband, I can literally find NOTHING on Android that comes even close, and yeah I really tried a lot of apps, nothing compares to Garageband, the autoplay instruments, awesome loops, style drummers…. pffff I get so excited by writing this I want to play and record something, it’s so addictive, and the end result is fully usable.


Garage band alone (coupled with an iRig HD2) would be a reason to invest in an iPad

Of course there will be people that say “just bring a laptop, I can’t understand why you would spend money on a tablet”.
Well I have a very good answer for that (I think).
My laptop that I need for video editing has to be specked out, so it retails for app 2800.00 Euro.
The iPad pro I now use is the 11″ 512GB version and retails for under 1500.00 Euro, including a keyboard case and the Apple Pencil.
Plus when travelling I don’t need to bring : the Dell, the powersupply, my Wacom Tablet, Mouse. Which in all honesty saves me not only a lot of weight but also stuff to carry around and take care off. Add to this that I never worked on my laptop when flying or on a bus, but the iPad you just grab from your bag and you can work on it. It’s a totally different experience.

I will post some more updates when you guys are interested, and feel free to ask me questions about problems I encounter or solutions. I’m having a boat load of fun to be honest figuring everything out, and it’s painfully clear that the iPad pro was NEVER a pro device, but with the filesystem in iPadOs it will be.

 

the future of computing a few more thoughts

Recently I already posted some thoughts about the future of computing on my blog and the more I think about it the more I’m starting to see that for me this might be the perfect solution, and in my head I already made the following setup which I want to post here for your input, tips, comments etc.

Having 2 computers is a norm for many working professionals, one powerhouse in the studio and one mobile device for the stuff you can’t do on your iPhone or iPad, traveling often means you have to make sure your laptop and desktop are in sync, which of course now a days are not really a problem, and although some programs can be very tricky there is always a solution, which sometimes means paying an extra license (like for example with screen flow). When returning home copying from the mobile device to the studio machine is not really problematic, it’s a simple manner of connecting the thunderbolt cable between the two and there you go. For years this was my workflow and I never thought it would change.

However as an Apple user there are a few things that have struck me as odd, and even got me worried.
Apple always was the pro supporter, the one where the creatives went, it might not have always had the fastest hardware but thanks to a killer OS and great software my mac always felt much faster than any PC I worked on, but over the years things have changed… Apple seems to be losing track and although they still have a killer OS and great software like Final Cut Pro X (which is getting better over time) and of course plugins like Macphun which are Apple only it is getting harder to see a future where pros keep using Macs. Where windows users get more and more cool devices with touch, tablets, digitizers built in and INSANE speeds….. mac users get….. well a touch strip……. *play the pacman dies music…..

 

So do we abandon Apple?
Well no not yet.
The MacPro hasn’t been updated for a LONG time, I bought it the moment it was released and I’m glad I bought it with 2xD700 videocards because in all honesty working with the MacPro is still like a dream, the machine is blazingly fast… but with 4K it’s showing it’s age, I can still edit 4K without any problem even multicam, but rendering it and adding effects really shows the age of the machine, so at this moment in time I would be looking for an upgrade within 1 year. Seeing how Apple is performing at the moment I’m afraid that we can expect NO upgrade for the MacPro OR an upgrade that’s so expensive that if I would do that I would have to get another job next to my current job, which pays the bills but doesn’t make me able to shelve out 5000.00 in a heartbeat for some speed gain.
So let’s say the MacPro is out, this is my last MacPro, what now…
Well for mobile use I’m switching to Windows, I’ve tried it a few times which made me go back to MacOs within 6 months for the simple reason I couldn’t get the workflow right, the screens were too small, battery life sucked with no option for external power like the hyper juice, and the digitizers were VERY poor. But things change.

 

This could/should be your setup
Ok I know this is bold statement but I think when you read this you’ll agree or might at least think… “he has a thing going”.
As working photographers and educators we all need a mobile device that’s fast, handles all the files we shoot, can edit photos and videos and most of all is portable. For years this was the MacBookPro, but using a dedicated laptop means we also have to carry with us a Wacom tablet, and this means… editing in the field for a quick demo is out of the question, same as editing on a plane, in the passenger seat of the RV etc. And with Surface book pro’s coming out and similar devices it really really started to annoy me, long story short, when Apple didn’t incorporate the apple pencil in some form in the new MBP I knew I was going to skip that one (but I’m not quite… read on). My new mobile device will be the Wacom Mobile Studio Pro 16, not the 13 but the 16, I don’t just want to look cool in a coffeeshop checking my mail (that’s my iPhone or iPad pro) but I want real estate, and I need hardkeys for editing and retouching (a bit miss on the Surface pros, two buttons just doesn’t do it, and software solutions are cool for consumers but I need that room and tactile feel for speed), so that’s my new laptop.

v16mu

Now that we have mobile complete let’s look at home/studio
I’m now running a 4500.00 euro MacPro which still works, but has to be replaced within let’s say 1 year.
I could build a PC with killer specs, but that would mean loosing the system I’m used to, so that’s a “no go”, “thought about it for a second and woke up” scenario. Also I love using MacOs and Final Cut Pro X and MacPhun so MacOs it is. But what options do we have left as pro users…. And that’s were it actually get’s interesting.

Let’s say we buy a 15″ MBP with 16GB and a 512GB SSD. This is a very powerful machine, it has dedicated video that’s pretty fast and can do almost anything you throw at it, unless it’s the real power hungry stuff. I hear you saying… “Hey Frank you just told us you’re gonna switch to the Wacom for mobile use….?” yes indeed you’re right… I’m not going to use the MacBookPro for mobile use like the Wacom.

The MacBookPro will be placed in a dock (closed lid) and connected to 1-2 hubs, this would give me enough USB ports to connect all the gear I’m used to having and give me 2 TB2 ports for my external drive bays which I’m not willing to replace because they work great and in my opinion is a waste of money to upgrade. Also we connect a keyboard and the magic touchpad (which I absolutely love) with the new MacBookPro we can connect the 3 displays I’m using at the moment so also that is solved, this could be enough but it won’t beat my 2013 MacPro (R2D2) so how can we achieve this?

 

And this is where it get’s interesting
We need that extra speed for intense stuff like rendering, video effects, filters etc. now all/most of these work not on the CPU but on the GPU, meaning the videocards. The last few days I’ve been looking into the options for external GPU units and found that although there isn’t a lot of information about it online, there actually is some information which looks very promising. In the past most of these solutions were not easy to install and mostly just worked under Windows, which would make no sense, however things change and there are now solutions that actually are almost plug and play and also work under MacOs. And that’s where I started to think…… These boxes can make your mac up to 10x faster in heavy rendering solutions and filters, which is a HUGE boost compared to the MacPro I’m now using, even twice the speed would be awesome. BUT cost…..

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And now for the finale…. which is more interesting
If you read this far trust me you will be rewarded.
Let’s look at what we have now.
A Mac Pro which retails for 4500.00
A MacBook Pro which retails for 3500.00 (complete)
A Wacom cintiq which retails for 2500.00 (27″)
Total costs : 10.500 EURO

 

Now let’s look at the alternative solution
MBP 15″ 2016 : 3500.00
External GPU : 800.00 (they start at 599.00 actually)
Wacom Mobile studio Pro 16 totally specked out : 3100.00
Add some accessories like a dock, stand etc. : 500.00 
And we now have a total cost of : 7900.00

 

Ok so we save : 2600.00 which is already a lot of money, but we get a lot more.
As you see I left out my Wacom Cintiq 27″.
Now in all honesty I’m in love with the 27″ and don’t see myself replacing that one very quickly but for most photographers a 16″ 4K cintiq will be more than enough, and most of those people don’t even own a cintiq yet because they don’t have the budget for it. HOWEVER most of you will very quickly reach that 6000-7000 euro range when you add your laptop and Mac Pro together (if you use those of course).

The cool thing about this second solution is that for 2900.00 less you still have the cintiq….

 

Combining the best of both worlds
With the Mobile studio pro 16 from wacom you get something a lot of Macusers have been wanting, a bigger screen than the 15″ and touch/digitzer (this means you can draw on the screen), and it’s still a mobile device with loads of power, if you format your drives in exfat PCs and Macs pretty much understand each other and when you mostly run Creative Cloud and Capture One (like most of us do) you won’t really notice any difference in your workflow. But the Wacom can also be connected to a PC or Mac via a special link that makes it behave as a full blown 16″ 4K cintiq, which makes it possible to mirror your main screen for critical color editing and still have all the benefits of working on a cintiq.

The MacBookPro will be mostly used in it’s dock where it has a very powerful external GPU, a 16″ cintiq and 3 screens.
HOWEVER, when needed you can take it out and continue your work somewhere else.
So in essence you have a MacPro replacement, a mobile device, a Cintiq AND a tablet with digitizer all in 2 devices.

 

Situations where it saves you even more
Now if 2600.00 doesn’t really do it for you… let’s take a look at my situation.
If we want to do what we want to do….. which means also be able to broadcast during live events, workshops on locations etc. we need the following.

 

MacPro in the studio
1 laptop running wirecast (and that has to be a specked out one, the 13″ MBP 2015 actually didn’t really work)
1 laptop for shooting tethered and retouching
And an extra license for Wirecast and screen flow if we also want to use both machines, so add another 4000.00 euro to the 10.500.

 

By using the solution with the MBP and the external GPU we can do the following.
Run wirecast on the MBP in the dock and connected to the GPU during live broadcasts in the studio and shoot to the Wacom and retouch on the Wacom. Now when we visit a trade show or workshop on location we disconnect the MBP from the dock and take it with is while I still shoot on the Wacom.

 

Not all roses and fun
Of course I’m not living in a dream world and I for 100% know that this setup will have it’s drawbacks and problems.
For example when using the Wacom I still have to copy the files to my Mac setup, but that’s in my situation, if you can handle everything with a MBP you don’t than it’s just a matter of connecting it to the dock of course. And don’t even start about using Windows 10 pro on a daily basis, it’s probably a great Windows version but I’m 100% aware that it’s a far cry from what I’m used to on MacOs in user friendliness and stability, and yeah I also run a Windows 10 notebook so I know what I’m talking about. In reality I never have real problems with windows but I know that IF it goes wrong… well it REALLY goes wrong and with Mac the worst thing that can happen is just reinstall your OS (happend twice to me in 10 years) and all apps/programs just keep on working.

Also finding ways to connect everything together will be easy at first and then small things will start to happen that you didn’t think about. For example how about a shared agenda when using iCloud… well there are solutions but we actually switched to Google agenda a few years ago when I did my first windows experiment and we never switched back. Contacts however is slightly different, for webmail no problem but we also have some .com domains I have to use…. well we will see how that turns out, in all honestly most of my mails I actually answer via my iPhone and iPad so I don’t really see why I should change that.

 

I was deeply worried about the future (sounds much darker than it is), I don’t have gear that REALLY needs replacing, but I do feel that my MacPro is still worth money and is fast enough for what I do but that if I want to keep value I do have to upgrade within 1-2 years max. And where there is no new MacPro what do you do…. with the external GPU and the new Wacom Mobile studio Pro 16 I think a lot of fellow photographers and video editors can have the best of both worlds if combined with the MBP and an external GPU.

 

Would love to hear your thoughts, opinions, tips, tricks etc.
As soon as the Wacom is in we will start a video series on the transition of workflow so you guys can help out and see what we do.

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