Is It Time to Upgrade to High Sierra?

Posted on by Larry

I’ve gotten this question a lot over the last couple of weeks.

When High Sierra was first released, there were enough bugs in it for professional editors to hold off upgrading. Now, we are on version 10.13.2 and the question of whether to upgrade is increasingly relevant.

The short answer is: Yes, probably.

The longer answer is more complicated.

BACKGROUND

Years ago, before the advent of macOS X, Apple released new operating systems every two years or so; principally because distribution was on DVD. It took time to write the new OS, but also a long time to get it burned to a DVD, shipped to distribution centers and delivered to end users. Fixing bugs was cumbersome, so Apple tended to wait until they could be aggregated into a larger release/bug fix.

Those days are gone.

Now, with near instant online distribution, Apple has moved to yearly updates of its operating system. This provides a variety of competitive benefits, as well as allowing us to take advantage of new technology sooner; not to mention the ability to plug security issues much faster than ever before.

But, this constant updating plays hob with the complex programs and plug-ins that we rely on to run our day-to-day business of video production, editing and distribution. It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep up. There are days where we spend more time wearing an IT hat – “Should I upgrade or should I wait?” – than doing productive work that generates revenue.

This problem will neither go away nor get easier, because Apple updates everything at least once a year.

A QUESTION OF PRIORITIES

No software is perfect. All software has problems. But, that doesn’t mean that those problems will affect you. Since there is no one answer that will fit everyone, here are my suggestions, based on how you define your priorities:

  1. You want to know what’s coming. Devote a system that is not needed for regular production work and participate in the public beta program. It is much better to find and fix bugs before an OS is released than after.
  2. You enjoy being first. Upgrade as soon as a new version is announced, write up your results, and help discover any problems with it. College kids are especially good at this.
  3. You have a machine to spare for testing. Upgrade about a month after a new OS release, to give most developers a chance to update their software, load a full complement of editing software and plug-ins and test.
  4. You have limited computers and you need to pay the rent. Hold off upgrading until there’s at least a .2 upgrade for the OS and a .1 upgrade for your editing software.

Remember you don’t lose anything in your current software or OS by waiting to upgrade.

WHERE ARE WE NOW?

As I write this, High Sierra is at version 10.13.2. For video editing in Premiere or Final Cut Pro X, I no longer see any significant problems caused by the OS; though there are still issues with some of the apps.

From a video editing point of view, there are three advantages to upgrading to High Sierra:

It is this improved security that has made life difficult for so many third-party developers. The improved sand-boxing in High Sierra has made many updates difficult.

So, should you upgrade?

I have four computers here in my office: three iMacs and one MacBook Pro. I’ve upgraded two to High Sierra and have two running Sierra. My main production system is running High Sierra.

SUMMARY

Remember, Apple releases new versions of the OS because they have a wide range of users to excite and keep happy. Our goals are different: we need to keep our systems running and productive so we can pay the rent.

Deciding when to upgrade to a new OS is always a hard choice. I always prefer to wait – because, tempting as all the new features are, having my main production system go down due to software problems is not an acceptable option.

Still, by the time three months or so have elapsed after the initial release and at least one and preferably two dot upgrades have occurred, I generally find that it is safe to upgrade.

For most of us, that time is probably now.

EXTRA CREDIT

Is it time to upgrade to FCP X 10.4? The current version is reasonably stable and I’m using it on one system. But, I’ve found significant bugs in Compressor and minor bugs in FCP X. If you want to be cautious, I would suggest waiting until Apple releases a .1 update.


31 Responses to Is It Time to Upgrade to High Sierra?

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  1. John Yasunaga says:

    What about for those of us who are using fusion drives? Has Apple addressed the compatibility issue with its new APFS file system and fusion drives? Thanks again Larry.

  2. I just got delivery on a 10 core iMac Pro with the latest High Sierra. I have found the “security” to be annoying at the least. There is a bug that keeps changing Preferences that I haven’t found a way to correct. So far FCPX runs fine but I haven’t pushed it. I start editing a 4K documentary today so we’ll see! It took a bit of time to get my MOTU software installed (You do not have permission warnings) but Apple had an update that fixed that part. I think this has been an unusually buggy update.

    • Larry says:

      Darryl:

      Thanks for your comments. I’m not sure if it is “bugs” or the serious changes in sandboxing and security that have caused so much problems.

      Larry

  3. Philip Snyder says:

    As a protection for FCP 7 or DVD Studio Pro, I have created a partition on my main HD for El Capitan which stlll runs those apps flawlessly. BTW, Sierra will not permit capturing in FCP 7 from miniDV tape decks. I suggest this as a viable workaround for those who upgrade to High Sierra.

  4. Ettiene says:

    How do I create a paftitioning on my main HD for FCP7?

  5. Martin says:

    macOS 10.13.2 breaks decoding of RED R3D files with apps like Resolve and YoYottaID. macOS 10.13.1 worked OK. So I would suggest staying on Sierra for a little longer.

    Martin

  6. I am using El Capitan on all three of our machines, two of them running FCPX 10.3.4 and Compressor 4.3.2. All work flawlessly and no bugs.

    I will upgrade to Sierra some time this year (we have a major project underway; should be finished by April), but am in no hurry. There are no features of either of the Sierras that I need, and because all of our work revolves around multi-cam and uploading to a Vimeo on Demand pay download platform in 1080p/30 only, there are no features that we need in FCPX 10.4, either (we shoot in a lit studio and mix four cameras and separate audio via BlackMagic Design mixer, direct to disk, to keep the ‘live’ feel).

    Reliability and stability of the systems we use is far and away the most important work consideration for this two-person company.

  7. Daniel Hill says:

    Thanks Larry, I always enjoy reading your thoughts.

    I would see some wisdom in recognizing the benefit of Time Machine’s ability to roll back to previous backups. I believe this includes the operating system.

    One approach could be to update and then test all the apps you have to use for bugs, and if there’s any problem use Time Machine to restore to the previous OS. If essential media files are kept off the internal drive then I could see it being somewhat painless.

    • Larry says:

      Daniel:

      I’m not sure Time Machine can roll back across operating systems – especially if HFS+ has been switched out for APFS. I would double-verify that.

      Even if it does, it would be very difficult to fully test any new OS quickly – it really is in running through all the steps of a normal edit that you discover problems.

      Still, if this procedure works, it is worth considering.

      Larry

  8. Shameer M. says:

    I know it’s off-topic, but I wonder if it’s prudent for Apple to release major versions of macOS every two years like it used to, as opposed to every year? Your thoughts?

    • Larry says:

      Shameer:

      I think this is a very relevant question – that has no answer. Faster upgrades means access to the latest technology sooner. Slower updates means more time for testing but slower response when problems arise.

      I think that any answer Apple picks will be right for some and wrong for others. I’ve been musing about this for the last few days and, if I were to set policy for Apple, I’m not sure what I’d recommend.

      However, the current method behind the release of High Sierra had significant flaws for both pros and consumers. So, I’m hoping that Apple is rethinking how it goes about working with developers to identify and fix bugs, as well as better testing of the software before release.

      Larry

  9. Carleton Cole says:

    I’m having importing issues with an Apple approved camera with Final Cut when I changed to High Sierra. I wondering if others are experiencing the same.

  10. Raymond K Naylor says:

    I had upgraded about 3 weeks ago. I was having all kinds of trouble with Final Cut Pro and the beach ball after I did. I was on the line a couple of times with Apple. Then I looked at my Activity Monitor and saw something hogging my CPU. That something was related to my Avira virus program. Once I uninstalled that, everything is fine with Final Cut Pro now. Duh on me.

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