After Effects Showdown: Mac vs. PC
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Mac vs PC After Effects testsSource Shapes
Here's another pure graphic of Illustrator files. This time the shapes are moved around in a 3D environment using a camera in After Effects. The graphic was originally designed in 2D, and when it was imported into After Effects, it retained its 2D composition while being moved around in 3D space. It started as a single multi-layered Illustrator file, and its individual layers were manipulated in After Effects to achieve this fly-around effect. Again, the Mac is left far, far behind -- 50% slower in this example.

Click graphic for QuickTime movie
Click graphic for QuickTime movie

Mac vs PC After Effects testsVirtual Set
Here's the most render-intensive graphic in our test. Using still photographs, an entire 3D environment is created within After Effects. The project involves constructing a room with walls and a ceiling, and then placing various graphics of pipes and gauges into the 3D space. Then, a camera is moved through the space, giving a 3D point of view. Again the PC left the Mac in the dust, taking only 7:39 to render the segment, with the Mac trailing at nearly 12 minutes to finish rendering the exact same sequence.

Click graphic for QuickTime movie
Click graphic for QuickTime movie

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This group of six tests represents a variety of situations in which an After Effects user might find him or herself. From simulating 3D environments, to chromakeying, to creating text animations, these are the kind of real world projects that show the true speed of the processors. Since there are no benchmarks like Ziffnet's Content Creation Winstone 2002 on which both Macs and PCs can be tested side-by-side, the best way to objectively determine how fast each can render real-world sequences is to load identical projects and render them into identical sizes using the exact same parameters. If you would like to replicate these tests for yourself, pick up the book After Effects 5.5 Magic that includes these AE project files (and many more) along with a CD containing all the media you'll need to exactly reproduce our results.

After seeing the results of these tests, we can only conclude that Apple's fastest G4 workstations are certainly not faster than dual 1.533GHz Athlon MP-equipped systems, at least as far as After Effects is concerned. Not one of the objective tests we conducted using After Effects showed Apple's flagship machine to be superior. In fact, in most of the tests, the Mac was left lagging far behind. And, this was when we were using a PC whose chips are now three steps below the fastest Athlons available (now the fastest Athlon XP is the 2100+ running at 1.73GHz), and far slower than benchmarks have shown the latest Intel Xeon chips to be, now shipping at 2.4 GHz. Of course, there are many valid reasons for using a Mac that go beyond raw speed. But if Mac users are under the impression that their machines can render After Effects composites faster than any Windows-based workstation, our tests do not support that conclusion.

Charlie White, your humble storytellerCharlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past eight years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor and shot-calling PBS TV director with 27 years broadcast experience. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at [email protected].

Editor's Note: For more Mac vs. PC testing and commentary, see the following articles:
Benchmark Duel: Mac vs. PC, Round II
Mac vs. PC III: Mac Slaughtered Again

Click here for best price on Adobe After Effects 5.5.

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