Configure a New Mac Studio for Video Editing [u]

Posted on by Larry

[Updated March 20, 2022, with additional thoughts a week after release, including the new Apple Studio Display monitor and additional ways to spend more money effectively.]

This is a tale about want versus need. About lust masquerading as practicality. About the extremes of human desire. This is a story about… the new Mac Studio.

Holy smokes! Of course every video editor wants one – what’s not to like? Well, except for paying for it… or configuring it… or wondering what’s coming in the future.

Let me see if I can help.


Let’s not lose sight of the obvious. The Mac Studio does not enable us to edit video on a computer. That’s a task we’ve accomplished successfully for more than 20 years. The Mac Studio enables us to edit faster. Faster saves time. Faster allows more experimentation. Faster is, generally, better. But the Mac Studio does not unleash new levels of quality, only performance.

Only. But that’s still a lot.


Last week, the M1 Max was the definition of mind-bending performance. This week, it’s dog food. The M1 Ultra is now the steaming, screaming pinnacle of mind-bending performance.

Until the Mac Pro shows up. At which point, we’ll wonder why we ever got excited about the M1 Ultra. Apple is always developing new chips and there will always be something faster in the future. Always.


I still want a Mac Studio.

Image: Apple.


If all you need to edit is HD video, even HD multicam, any computer released in the last five years has the performance you need. Recent computers include hardware acceleration for H.264 which seriously speeds working in this format. They also include more capable GPUs, which is required for faster renders and exports. If this describes you, then you don’t need a Mac Studio to do your work. However, that doesn’t mean you don’t want one.

The Mac Studio is designed for heavy-duty power users. I’m not saying “pros,” because even amateurs and hobbyists can appreciate and use a powerful system. But, this is not for “consumers,” it’s for “creators.”

If you are editing 4K media on a regular basis, editing multicam projects with 10 or more cameras, editing frame sizes larger than 4K, working extensively with RAW or Log media, or have deadlines that begin with the word “Yesterday,” you can benefit from the Mac Studio.

Plus, it’s safe to say that the inherent power of the Mac Studio helps protect against the inevitable growth in frame sizes and complex codecs. While converting media to new codecs will continue migrating to the Cloud and distribution platforms, the need to manipulate video formats in a timely basis will continue.

NOTE: We can all benefit from the Mac Studio. I’m looking at this from the perspective of need and budget. If you have the money – buy one. In fact, buy two and send one to me.

Image: Apple.


I want to congratulate Apple on releasing a pro system that has more than two ports. I LOVE the inclusion of 10G Ethernet on its own port, HDMI on its own port, two USB – A connectors on their own ports. A UHS-II SD card reader on the front. PLUS six USB-C/Thunderbolt ports. And a real honest to goodness power cable, not a brick!!

This is SUCH A WELCOME CHANGE! Yay, Apple!

I’m also grateful that it isn’t the thickness of a sheet of paper. Power has a price – and that price is enclosures large enough to hold the ports, heat sinks and chips we need to get our work done. Thank you, again, Apple.


What Apple is saying with the Mac Studio is that the pro user needs a different type of computer than a consumer. More speed, more ports, more capability. A computer that is part of a larger system of monitors and peripherals. Not because we necessarily need all these features right now, but that any computer we buy today we expect to use productively for 4-8 years. That requires front-loading the hardware to last the distance. These are computers we use as the foundation for earning a living.


We need to consider three types of customers:

Here’s what I recommend.

Image: Apple.


Video editing requires RAM, but not massive amounts of it. The reason is that regardless of how much RAM you have, video files are bigger. For this reason, video editing software grabs media files from storage as needed during playback. It never needs to load an entire media clip into RAM before starting playback. Yes, where possible, files are cached in leftover RAM, but spending money for more RAM than you need would be better spent on high-speed external storage.

Minimum: 32 GB
Maximum: 64 GB


The CPU manages media, importing, editing, timeline playback and Transform effects. Essentially everything that treats a clip as a unit. The GPU changes pixels. So it is involved in rendering, effects, color adjustments, and export. While more GPUs make rendering faster, there’s a point where the increase in speed doesn’t really matter, the difference in actual time is not meaningful. It will take you more time to think about the next shot, or review the trim, or decide whether the effect looks “good,” than the computer does to render.

Minimum: 32 (though, truthfully, 24 is perfectly OK)
Maximum: 48


The key to successful video editing is not the computer but the speed and capacity of your storage. Regardless of how much storage you have on your system, you will always need more. I don’t even edit full time and I have 150 TB of storage in my office! That’s a stupidly large amount of data. Internal storage should be used for the OS, apps, work files and the files you need to live your life. Media should live externally. Especially because this isn’t a portable system like a laptop.

How much storage you need depends upon your budget. While you can buy more, you don’t need more, you just want more.

Minimum: 1 TB
Recommendation: 2 TB


In thinking about this further since I first wrote this, I should clarify something. There is nothing wrong with storing a project and media on your internal drive – especially if it is on the smaller side – and editing it. The speed of the internal drive is blindingly fast. Your software will hum, editing will go fine and you will be happy.

But using the internal drive for longer term storage is wasting a precious resource. Media files are SO large, and we often need to store them for such a long time, that spending extra money to buy a larger SSD, instead of investing in less expensive external storage, is spending money in the wrong place.

If you still need editing speed, an external, ThunderBolt 3 or 4 RAID filled with SSDs will be a performance monster and, in all likelihood, cost less than adding internal storage to the Mac.


The M1 Max is not one bit slower this week than last week, when we were all salivating over it. If money is limited, the M1 Max will do you proud.

The M1 Ultra converts two USB-C to Thunderbolt ports, adds a bit more of everything and includes bragging rights. (Never ignore bragging rights.)


Tight budget – Performance that doesn’t break the bank

M1 Max – 32 core GPU
1 TB storage

Price: $2,399.00

NOTE: If you want to spend a bit more, without stepping up to the higher-priced M1 Ultra, consider adding more RAM ($400) first, then a 2 TB SSD ($400). Getting both brings the price to $3,199.

Performance-focused but still on a budget

M1 Ultra – 48-core GPU
2 TB Storage

Price: $4,399.00

Performance, without being stupid about money

M1 Ultra – 48 core GPU
4 TB storage

Price: $4,999

NOTE: You can add more GPUs, ($1,000), more RAM ($800), or an 8 TB SSD ($2,200), but you won’t see any video editing speed improvements worth the money.

With all these systems, you can spend more, but I don’t think you’ll see an increase in performance. Keep in mind that you still need to purchase a monitor, keyboard, and mouse (or other pointing device).

NOTE: Currently the Apple Studio Display is getting generally poor reviews. I would hold off buying one until Apple fixes some pretty signifiant bugs.


This last week, rumors abounded about the future of the 27″ iMac. Yes, Apple removed it from the Mac Store. But, aside from that, Apple has said nothing official. Keep in mind that rumors are not shipping product. And even if the rumors are true, Apple can change its mind. When making any buying decision, make it on the basis of your needs and what’s available. Never make a decision based on a rumor. In spite of all the post-event spin, no one knew the Mac Studio,  M1 Ultra, or the Studio Display – was coming ahead of time. Rumors all thought these were something else.


If I were buying a computer now – and I’m not for reasons I’ll explain in the next paragraph – I’d buy the middle system. My next computer is one that I need to use for the next 8-10 years. This meets that bill. I don’t need more GPUs or more RAM because the limit to editing speed is no longer my computer, but how fast I can think, type, and preview. All that extra computing power won’t help me make a better decision. It just allows me to execute that decision faster.

However, extremely tempting as the Mac Studio is today – and I really do like what I read about it – I’m waiting. WWDC, in June, is where Apple pitches its professional products alongside its annual OS update. During their event this week, Apple teased that they have one more system to go – the Mac Pro. The perfect time to launch it is WWDC. It may not ship then, but after the keynote we’ll have a better sense of where the Mac Studio fits into Apple’s future. As well, we’ll have a better idea of its real-world performance, availability, discounts… and delivery times will have improved.

So, I’m reading, and watching and budgeting. But not buying until after Apple finishes their announcements at WWDC. Then, I look forward to spending my money.

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41 Responses to Configure a New Mac Studio for Video Editing [u]

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  1. Clayton Moore says:

    A good, sound, complete, post. My favorite take-a-ways:

    “Faster saves time. Faster allows more experimentation”

    “I’m also grateful that it isn’t the thickness of a sheet of paper” …………. related is how important ports are, and it appears Apple is finally hearing what
    Users want here. WWDC will tell us more about the roadmap.

    Sidebar: An M1 Ultra Mac Studio could be good for much more than just content creation (GPU’s not withstanding). AI development, running simulations for medical treatment, virtually (pun intended) research for just about anything you can imagine. Accounting for thermals and cooling, power use as compared to other technologies could make a rack of these pretty attractive.

  2. Keith Woolford says:

    Ah, but – if Apple’s behemoth isn’t quite your bag and you have an undying love with the 27″ iMac, which does me fine thank you very much, I can droll from the sidelines. Fingers crossed that dropping it from the Apple Store isn’t another dropping the floppy/disk drive major event. I’ll be patient.

    Yep, I’ve hijacked a fantastic new Apple product to express my anxiety!

  3. Marc DeBrisay says:

    Larry, you’re a genius. I’m so glad I met you ten years ago. This is the best review I’ve seen and, believe me, I’ve perused almost everything there is on You Tube. You cruelly pointed out my vanity and made me ashamed of it. I feel so ugly now. Please, don’t ask for my selfie!

    • Larry says:


      Big smile… It’s not vanity to want something this cool, as long as you realize the true reason behind the wanting.

      Besides, I’m standing right next to you in line.


  4. Steve Sweitzer says:

    Well said. I don’t HAVE to upgrade my 10 year old iMac so I can wait until June, or maybe even the fall and see if a 27″ iMac is on the back burner. I almost pulled the trigger on a 24″ M1 iMac, SURE GLAD I WAITED!

    • Larry says:


      My guess – and Apple tells me nothing – is that the 27″ iMac is not happening this year. The unresolved question is the Mac Pro. However, from a video editing perspective, virtually none of us are editing 18 angle, 8K multicam streams. So, I suspect, for most editors needing a Power system, the Mac Studio will be the right match.


  5. Steve says:

    In December, I ordered a MacBook Pro M1 Max because I needed to update the trashcan. It was scheduled to land February 22. After 3 days “out for delivery”, I declared it lost on Feb 25, and Apple started work on a replacement … due mid-April.

    Then this little beauty was announced. Goodbye, MacBook Pro! Hello, Mac Studio!

    Thanks for the review, Larry. It confirms that I made the right decision. I don’t have the budget for a Mac Pro, so this is about right. I’m doing AE and C4D, so I bumped up the RAM and GPU over your specs for comfort.

  6. Christian says:

    As I type on my struggling 27″ iMac 2013, I feel like I can wait no longer and will probably dive into the Mac Studio, with the middle of the road specs that Larry and I both came to the same conclusion on. Its not the biggest, but I’m betting it will last my humble editing projects and home needs for another 8 years. Larry, thanks for confirming what I already felt was the right path for me!

    • Larry says:


      Smile… Not to worry. The new Mac Studio will be AMAZING!! compared to your 2013 iMac. And the middle of the road specs still far exceed anything else that’s out there. You made a good choice.


  7. Larry Vaughn says:

    What is the resolution of movies projected via digital projectors at the movie theater?

  8. Mark Levinson says:

    As usual a great analysis from the perspective of a prudent pro. Was tempted to put in order last week but sat on my hands to wait to hear your thoughts. One thing I was still curious about is your thoughts about the neural engine and recommendation for that configuration? Thanks again, Larry!

    • Larry says:


      For right now, it doesn’t make a difference. No NLE uses it. My understanding, which is limited, is that the neural engine is used for training software, not implementing it. So this is of more interest to developers than editors.


  9. Jim says:

    I’m a professional freelance designer. Last year I bought a 27 inch iMac that came out to $2,799 from Apple, then upgraded the RAM to 64GB (i7, 16GB Radeon config). This thing is FAST. Now, I love progress. I love the Mac Studio. It’s just funny to me seeing people on forums like MacRumores pi$$ all over the M1 and Intel machines since this came out. They contradict themselves and accuse others of doing exactly what they are doing to the M1 and Intel machines. Could I theoretically benefit from purchasing a Studio? Sure. Is it smart? No. Is it practical? No. Would I be downright stupid to spend another $3,000+ on another machines because people on forums say Intel is dead and slooooow? Yep. I’m making nice cash money with my “sloooow” Intel machine. Some people are spec chasers, plain and simple. I’ve never run into another legit Pro who was disheartened by their Mac purchase because a new shiny came out. A professional user understands that newer and “better” is ALWAYS right around the corner. We buy what we need when we need it and go make money.

    • Larry says:


      Smile… Some people aren’t happy unless they are complaining. I agree completely with your assessment. If you have a modern (i.e. less than 3-year-old) 27″ iMac you have a lovely system. (By the way, you were very smart to get the i7 chip!) I hear regularly from many editors still working profitably with 2010 – 2011 Mac Pros; another lovely system.

      However, not everyone is working with recent gear and, equally, not everyone’s system is working perfectly. For those folks, I publish these articles to help them make a good decision on how they spend their money. But, at the end of the day, the reason we spend all this money on hardware is that we expect to make it all back – and more – over time.



  10. Scott Pinzon says:

    Thanks for detailing which part of the system affects which part of the editing process. I always thought “more RAM is always better” and hadn’t considered, no, the video clip is coming equally out of storage as it is RAM. Great helpful review!

    • Larry says:


      To a point, more RAM is better. That point is around 32 GB. After that you are improving cacheing, allowing more apps to run at the same time and supporting larger frame sizes. Not bad things, but not required, either.


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