What Apple's New Mac Products and M1 Chip Mean for Hollywood

Apple M1 MacbookPro
Courtesy of Apple

Apple has unwrapped a new MacBook Air, 13-inch MacBook Pro and Mac mini, its first products using the M1, the computer makers' first chip designed specifically for the Mac. With Tuesday's news, some in Hollywood were encouraged by the potential of the new tech for many content creators.

Combined with a new version of its operating system, MacOS Big Sur, which will be released Thursday, Apple asserted that its new Mac products would offer notably faster CPU and integrated graphics performance, among its list of features.

Looking at the big picture, Michael Cioni, senior vp innovation at tech developer Frame.io and a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, points out that after the "cylinder" Mac Pro debuted in 2013, Apple received strong criticism in the media and entertainment community for "abandoning" creative professionals; this was followed by a redesigned Mac Pro in 2019, aimed at professionals. Cioni believes today's announcement signals that the computer maker is "continuing its commitment to meet needs of today's creative professionals." Noting that Apple included this part of its customer base in today's announcement, he adds that "that's a positive narrative for creative professionals we haven't received from Apple in nearly a decade."

Veteran editor Harry B. Miller III says the new Mac minis in particular "could be huge" for the editing community. "Most of the editing industry is either on old cheese-grater or trashcan Macs. It seems to me the Mac mini with this new chip could easily and fairly cheaply replace all those old units," he says. "Fox Studios, for example, had been refurbishing cheese-graters to keep them up to date with CPU’s and memory for more complex workflows. It would now be cheaper to replace them with the new Mini."

Miller says he plans to buy one. "I’ve used a Mini for the past 18 months for Avid [Media Composer] and [Adobe] Premiere Pro work on all my projects," he notes. "Because of the pandemic, I know there have been a lot of equipment investments into iMacs for remote work. I could see the Mini’s replacing them as well."

Elaborating on the new Mac's potential, Miller explains that the two primary "pain points" for editors are rendering effects in a timeline, and then compressing and outputting the video for client review. "They are computer-processing-intensive actions. We have to see if this new M1 chip speeds that up. It should. Dramatically. Then Avid, Adobe and DaVinci (Blackmagic) have to use those hardware and OS advances in their software development."

To that end, THR reached out to several professional software developers Tuesday. Avid didn't immediately respond, and Adobe offered the following statement: "We’re excited to bring Creative Cloud apps to both Apple silicon and Windows ARM-based devices soon. We’ll have news related to Lightroom and Photoshop on ARM soon."

For Cioni, the M1 could also offer a boost for multitasking. "Professionals in M&E now require a dozen apps working at the same time — many of them high-end tools. The ability for M1 to smoothly run simultaneous professional tools concurrently is a response to how today's creatives prefer working; all in one kit, all at the same time. Having Resolve, Final Cut, Frame.io, Adobe and Nuke open at the same time is certainly the way I work and [with the M1, Apple claims it could] dramatically improve that experience."

Apple is taking orders for the new Mac products, which are scheduled to begin their rollout next week. The new MacBook Air starts at $999; new 13-inch MacBook Pro, at $1,299; and the new Mac mini starts at $699.