The Parts

I currently run DaVinci Resolve (and FCPX) on a CustoMac/Hackintosh. While Grant Perry from Blackmagic has stated that the new Mac Pro is an awesome machine to run DaVinci Resolve 10 on, it is still a little way off. This article explains why I built a Hackintosh and outlines my set-up for those that might want to do the same.

I am first and formost a Director and DoP. The post production process however has always interested me and over the years I’ve taught myself the process of editing and grading. Some projects I work on have budgets that allow the edited and grading to be outsourced to post production facilities but on personal projects and smaller low budget jobs I’m happily to shoot, edit and grade. Many of these projects have been finished on a full spec late 17″ MacBook Pro. Running DaVinci Resolve on such a machine is slow but you can manage if it’s a simple HD project that only needs a simple grade.

So last year I started looking at my options for a more suitable machine to run DaVinci Resolve. The iMac looked ok and a fully specced 27″ machine looked like a good option. I was looking at spending around £2500… Then my Blackmagic Cinema Camera arrived. And my needs changed.

To get the most out of the BMCC (which shoots 2.5K RAW) I would need a lot of power… mostly GPU power. Looking at the iMac spec it was clear that while it would be ok it would be pushed to it’s limit from the start. So I then started looking at the Mac Pro. A machine that on the surface looked to be much more expandable. The more I looked into it the more I found that the hardware was so out of date that it was really silly spending money on a system that was long overdue for an update. I was not the only one. Most of the Mac Pro users have been waiting for a proper update for a few years. Apple had been promising an update was in the wings but there was still no sign of it when I started this process (Today, 10 June 2013, Apple announced the New Mac Pro).

I had a list of things I wanted from a machine but 2 were essential:
Thunderbolt – I have a Promise Pegasus R6 RAID that I use for my projects and have invested in Thunderbolt devices.
GPU power – I wanted to run at least 2 GeForce GTX570/580/670/680 cards with 2GB RAM or more for DaVinci Resolve.

The iMac has Thunderbolt but I was limited to a single GeForce GTX680MX 2GB GPU. The Mac Pro has no way of supporting Thunderbolt and I’d need an external expansion chassis to run the GPUs I wanted. So it seemed I was out of luck and would have to wait for the mythical future Mac Pro.

I then started researching Windows machines. Seemed I could build a serious machine that would be more than powerful enough to run Resolve but would need to move to Windows. Not ideal. I’ve been a Mac user for over 18yrs. All my past and current project files are Mac based. Sure I could convert them to Premier Pro projects and port them over but thats a lot of work. I also rely on working with other editors that are Mac based and Windows also does not fully support ProRes workflows.

This brought me to the Hackintosh. Could this be a temporary solution? I was not keen on the idea of running a hack but I thought to myself “this would be a temporary thing and if it was not stable I could always intall Windows…”

So I set myself a budget of £2000 and began my research on what parts would work. My aim was not to built the most powerful machine but rather to build a stable machine that included Thunderbolt and would run Resolve comfortably. My evenings and weekends were spent looking at component specs and then researching how stable other had found them in a Hackintosh system. I eventually put together a shopping list. The bottom line was just short of £2350. £350 over budget but I have upped the spec on a few items.

Before we jump into the build and the performance of the machine lets look at that shopping list and why I chose each item:

Asus P8Z77-V Premium Motherboard
I wanted Thunderbolt which limited my to very few rather expensive Z77 motherboards. If I did not want Thunderbolt I could have gone for a much cheaper Z77 motherboard or the X79 motherboards which would have given me more performance options. This ASUS motherboard also offer better PCIe configurations than most which meant in theory I would get more benefit from the GPUs.

Intel Core i7-3770K CPU
This is the fastest processor available for the Z77 motherboard and matched the highest spec available in the iMac. If I had gone with the X97 motherboard (and no Thunderbolt) I could have run a much more powerful CPU.

2 x EVGA NVIDIA GTX 670 FTW 4GB DDR5 PCI-E Graphics Card
I wanted enough power to run DaVinci Resolve smoothy. I also wanted enough GPU RAM for 2K and higher resolutions (BMCC shoots in 2.5K RAW). The 670 was a lot cheaper than the 680 with only a small hit on performance.

SanDisk Extreme 240GB SATA SSD
A fast SSD for the system to run on. Did not need a huge system drive as all my footage is stored on my Thunderbolt RAID.

2 x Corsair 16GB 1600MHz DDR3 Vengeance Memory Kit
32GB of RAM, the maximum that can be installed on a Z77 motherboard.

TP-LINK TL-WDN4800 N900 Wireless PCI Express Adapter
The ASUS motherboard includes WIFI and Bluetooth on the motherboard but they are not seen by Mac OSX.

Corsair HX750 Professional PSU
A reliable power supply with enough overhead to drive the 2 GPUs.

Corsair Hydro Series H100i Liquid Cooler for CPU
Quiet liquid cooling for the CPU. There are much cheaper options out there but this is the one I ended up selecting.

Corsair Obsidian 650D Mid Tower Case 
A simple clean case to build the system into. I nice little feature of this case is that it has a SATA slot onto to connect SSD’s or drives. Perfect for dumping footage from the SSDs used in the BMCC or backing up projects to naked SATA drives.

Asus PB278Q 27″ Widescreen
A nice 27″ matte screen for my GUI.

OS X Mountain Lion

OS X 10.8.3 works well and has been stable. You’ll need to buy a copy from the App Store for your build.

To help with the your own build all the above parts are listed on my Amazon UK Store and this Amazon US Store

SanDisk 16GB USB Flash Drive
A USB flash drive for the installation process.

To help with the your own build all the above parts are listed on my Amazon UK Store and this Amazon US Store

I already own a USB Apple Extended Keyboard and A Wacom Intuos 5 so there was no need for me to buy a keyboard and mouse.

Follow onto Part 2, The Build…

Ethical Statement