Aperture, Apple, Journal, Tech

MacBook Pro, Aperture, and 30-inch Displays

I recognize that this blog has become very technical lately. Forgive me, ever since I was a kid in San Diego playing Ultima I through V on the home Apple ][ computer, I’ve always wanted to talk computer stuff!

Today, I tested the performance of the MacBook Pro hooked up to my Apple 30-inch Cinema Display. One reason why I chose the Pro over the regular MacBook or the Air was that it could drive a 30-inch display (2560×1600 resolution). The laptop features a Nvidia GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB of RAM; the newer Penryn-powered MacBook Pros have the same video chipset except with 512MB of video RAM. As you would expect, more video RAM typically equals better performance, especially with applications that make use of Mac OS X’s Core Image.

As I’ve known for two-years and counting, Aperture is one of the most GPU-intensive apps I’ve come across. My Quad G5’s beefy 7800GTX 512MB video card — an after-market upgrade that I purchased following my supreme disappointment with the stock 6600 card — has greatly increased the speed of Aperture’s editing adjustments. There’s only a slight delay when changing white balance, exposure, vibrancy and contrast during full-screen edits. Certain adjustments like levels and especially highlights and shadows are a little jerky, but the speed is acceptable.

Aperture Maximized

With Aperture maximized or in full-screen mode, the MacBook Pro starts to struggle when only a few adjustments (WB and Exposure) have been turned on. Don’t even think about using highlights and shadows at fullscreen! Reducing Aperture to its minimum window size results in excellent performance with every default adjustment turned on (WP, Exposure, Enhance, Levels, Highlights and Shadows, and Color).

Aperture at minumum window size

At fullscreen on a 30-inch display, four megapixel images are being displayed and manipulated in real-time by Core Image! A 24-inch Cinema Display would force the GPU to deal with a 2.25 megapixel image. At its minimum window size, Aperture only has to deal with images that are roughly 825×550, less than half a megapixel.

Having a big view of the image is great; that’s why I bought the 30-inch display in the first place. Performance is also very important, so you can be sure that the window size is getting reduced when I’m editing images on the MacBook Pro.

A great source for Aperture speed tips can be found on Steve Weller’s Bagelturf website. The list was originally compiled for Aperture 1.5, but most of them are still valid with Aperture 2.1.

Aperture, Apple, Journal, Photography

Migrating from Aperture 1.0 to 1.5 to 2.1


I’ve been using Aperture since version 1.0. When the application was released in 2005, all images had to reside within the Aperture Library. This did not prevent me from using the product, but it was deal-breaker in terms of switching to Aperture completely from iView Media Pro. Version 1.5 was released a year later, and it allowed users to store the master images by reference. This was great for me, since I could now import all of my images by reference and keep the annotations synced with iView using Annoture.

When Aperture 2.0 was released a few months ago, I decided to make a permanent switch to using Aperture as my primary photo organization tool. For

Projects can now contain 100,000 images, which is great since I was running into the 10,000 image limit in 1.5.6. Image editing plug-in support in version 2.1 means Noise Ninja from Picture Code is coming soon to Aperture.

My goal is to have my entire image collection — work and personal — contained in a single Aperture Library. I know other people who use multiple libraries, but I wanted a single one so I can easily share photos via iLife and sync to my iPhone.

This post is my odyssey to Aperture’s Promise Land. Does it exist? If so, will I get there? Read on to find out the issues I have to overcome along the way!

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Aperture, Apple, Photography

Aperture Caption and Aperture Caption Palette

Interesting, there’s a free AppleScript-based app from Apple called Aperture Caption Palette. This slick mini-app looks suspiciously like my own Aperture Caption AppleScript that I wrote in the beginning of February.

If only I knew what things are in development at Apple, it would save me a lot of time writing duplicate products!

Aperture, Apple, Photography

Aperture 2.1 Updated

A month after they released Aperture 2.0, Apple’s got a major updated out with Aperture 2.1. The most exciting thing is the new plug-in architecture. I can’t wait until PictureCode gets a Noise Ninja plug-in out! Update EXIF from Master is a great tool for those who manage their photos by reference too and occasionally update their images with additional information (i.e. GPS data).

Update: It looks like the image edit plug-in architecture creates full-resolution TIFF/PSD versions and files, which is a fast way to bloat up your image library. I hope that Apple has a way to add plug-in non-destructive adjustments filters. This would be essential for something like Noise Ninja, which I would want to batch across every image in a project without having to create mega-sized TIFFs for each file.

More in-depth discussion about the plug-in architecture can be found on Rob Galbraith’s site.

Aperture, Apple, House, Photography, Tech

Electricity Usage Around the House

Electricity Usage 2008-03

During the three weeks we were in China, the computers in our home office were turned off. Our electricity bill for the month was $24 cheaper than the previous one. In fact, our electricity usage has been steadily going down after we switched to compact fluorescent lights (CFL) and became smarter about turning off unused appliances.

I suspect much of the power savings came from the fact that my PowerMac Quad G5 was getting a well-needed rest. I’ve been using this machine, along with an Apple 30-inch Cinema Display, for over two years. The MacBook Pro isn’t as fast as the Quad G5, so it’s not about to replace the PowerMac when I have photos to process or our film to edit. For mundane tasks like email and web browsing, however, it’s perfect and much more portable. In addition, the MBP has distinct advantage over the Quad G5 in the energy usage department.

I used a Kill-A-Watt power meter to measure the power usage of the Quad (with the 30-inch display) and MacBook Pro performing various tasks.

Note that my PowerMac Quad G5 has 6GB of RAM, two 750GB internal SATA drives, an Nvidia 7800GTX video card with 512MB of RAM, and a TeraCard PCI-E SATA card. An iSight camera is also connected to the PowerMac via FireWire. The MacBook Pro has 4GB of RAM and a stock 160GB hard drive.

Task Quad G5 / Cinema Display / Total MacBook Pro / No Battery
Boot (Peak) 387 / 80 / 467 Watts 40 / 40 Watts
Idle 276 / 80 / 356 Watts 23 / 23 Watts
Aperture Straighten / Highlight Tool 425 / 80 / 505 Watts 55 / 35 Watts
Aperture Export 425 /80 / 505 Watts 58 / 35 Watts

The Quad G5 is certainly powerful and power hungry! It certainly doesn’t help that I have even more peripherals attached to the Quad than I was measuring in my tests. In addition to the 30-inch Cinema Display, I have a FireWire iSight camera, a 17-inch Studio Display as a secondary monitor, and a WiebeTech RTX-400 4-bay external SATA box (it’s usually off unless I’m processing photos or editing video). Fortunately, everything is hooked up to a solid APC UPS, so I’m good (for a few minutes) in the event of a power outage.

Even if I plugged the 30-inch display into the MacBook Pro, the laptop would still be more energy efficient than the Quad alone. I read that the new Mac Pros are pretty good compared to the Quad G5, which appears to be the most energy inefficient Macintoshes ever produced.

We’ll never get to the electricity usage levels of Felix in Colorado. Our goal is to get our utilities costs under $100. Having a pool makes it difficult, as it uses tons of water and electricity. With a switch in the way we use our computers, however, I think we can achieve the goal!

Aperture, Apple, Tech

Aperture Benchmarks between Quad G5 and MacBook Pro

The MacBook Pro (MBP) is my first Intel Macintosh. For the past couple of years, I’ve been using a Quad G5 as my primary machine and a first-generation PowerBook G4 12-inch for travel. Before I purchased the Quad G5 in 2005, my desktop was a Quicksilver PowerMac G4, purchased in 2001. Though the PowerMac G4 ran at the same speed (867MHz) as the PowerBook (purchased in 2003), it was faster overall due to a better graphics card, more RAM, and a faster hard disk.

It’s been two years, and here I am with a new MacBook Pro. Unfortunately, it’s not the new Penryn-powered MBP; I was on a plane to Hong Kong just days before the new ones were released. Once there, there was no way to take advantage of Apple’s 14-day return policy.

With a little time on my hand, I wanted to see if the MacBook Pro’s performance was up to par with the last of the great PowerPC Macintoshes. In addition, I’ve been curious for some time about about Aperture’s performance on Intel and Motorola PowerPC chips.

I conducted three tests using Aperture 2.0.1 and a sample library containing twenty RAW photos from an 8 megapixel Canon EOS 1D Mark II. Ten of the images had no adjustments, keywords, or metadata applied to them. The other ten images had keywords and metadata, in addition to white balance, exposure, enhance, and edge sharpening adjustments.

My Quad G5 features 6GB RAM, an Nvdia GeForce 7800GTX with 512MB of RAM, and a 750GB Seagate internal SATA hard drive. The MacBook Pro has 4GB RAM, an Nvdia GeForce 8600M GT with 256MB of RAM and a 160GB Hitachi internal SATA hard drive.

All tests were performed four times, and the results are averaged in the tables below:

Test 1: Export Ten Non-Adjusted Images to 16-bit TIFF

For the first test, I selected the ten images that had no adjustments and exported them to 16-bit TIFF files. Normally, this isn’t something I would do, but I wanted to see how fast Aperture could export without doing much processing.

Computer Total Time (seconds) Time Per Photo
Quad G5 25.30 2.53
MacBook Pro 28.80 2.88

Not bad. The MacBook Pro more than held up against the mighty Quad-core PowerMac in this test with the Quad coming in at 12% faster over the MBP. Since I don’t often export the files without performing any adjustments, I am more interested in the results from the next test.

Test 2: Export Ten Adjusted Images to 16-bit TIFF

Each image had its white balance, exposure, enhance, and edge sharpening adjusted. This is a better test, because the computer’s CPU has to perform additional calculations before exporting the image. If I had another video card for the Quad G5, I could see whether or not the GPU made a difference. In my Quad, I am using a reflashed Nvidia 7800GTX with 512MB of RAM. The original stock 6600GT card was such a dog that it’s no longer in my possession.

Computer Total Time (seconds) Time Per Photo
Quad G5 91.38 9.14
MacBook Pro 117.10 11.71

The Quad G5 is 22% faster than the MacBook Pro. When exporting hundreds or even thousands of photos, every percentage point counts. For a typical wedding shoot, I might be exporting 1000 images. The Quad G5 would take two and a half hours, whereas the MBP would take an additional forty five minutes.

Test 3: Export 1024 x 1024 JPEG

Exporting a web-sized or preview sized JPEG is a common task for me. Here I exported the ten adjusted images to fit within a 1024 x 1024 pixel box.

Computer Total Time (seconds) Time Per Photo
Quad G5 87.95 8.80
MacBook Pro 122.28 12.23

I was a little surprised by this score. While the Quad was faster at exporting an 8-bit JPEG over a 16-bit TIFF file, the MacBook Pro was slower. Exporting 1000 images, the Quad would take 2:26:00 while the MBP would take nearly an hour longer at 3:24:00. I wonder if the Quad was created the JPEG from its pre-generated preview image.

So, after two and a half years, the Quad G5 can still hold its own against a MacBook Pro. The gap might be a tiny bit closer, however, with the new Penryn-powered MacBook Pros. I’m curious to see how much faster the Dual 3.2GHz Quad-Core “Harpertown” MacPro is compared to the Quad. The MacPro would have to be twice as fast as the Quad before I would even consider upgrading. When I went from the Quicksilver to the Quad G5, I saw a 600% speed increase in RAW processing performance. Yes, the Quicksilver took about a minute to process one RAW file!

Another test I’ve been conducting is power per watt. With a Kill-A-Watt power meter, the MacBook Pro is well ahead of the Quad G5, which is one power-hungry computing beast!