Afterburner Accelerator Card: Is It Really “Game‐Changing”?

What is Mac Pro Afterburner Accelerator Card

In June 2019, Apple introduced a ‘Game-Changing Accelerator Card.’ And now that the Afterburner Accelerator Card is here, it is surrounded by several questions: What is it? Why and when would someone need it? Is it truly worth the price? Could it change the Game?

Well, we might have the answer to this and some other queries related to Apple Afterburner. On paper, it is a hardware accelerator card that can ‘transform the workflow for film and video professionals.’ Now, let’s see what it can do off the paper.

What is Mac Pro Afterburner Accelerator Card and Why You Need it?

Built with a programmable ASIC and over a million logic cells, Afterburner can process up to 6.3 billion pixels per second. This allows an exemption to proxy workflows, so you can directly start work on the 8K or 4K files extracted from the camera.

It is a specially designed accelerator card that can encode videos using Apple’s ProRes and ProRes RAW codecs. When installed, your Mac Pro can handle up to 6 streams of 8K ProRes RAW or 23 streams of 4K ProRes RAW.

Does it really mean what we think it means? Yes, the card seamlessly takes care of this aspect, freeing up your cores (up to 28 cores) to apply and process for other more creative effects and processing. To simplify, a significant part of the process involved in video editing and rendering is taken up by Afterburner Accelerator Card.

This relieves your GPU from the extreme pressure it may otherwise face, making for an overall smoother, faster, and efficient workflow. However, that is not just it. Afterburner is also a better way of editing videos than proxy files.

Ditch Proxy Workflows With Mac Pro Afterburner

If you are not familiar with the concept, let us elaborate. Videos that are made using the high-quality camera are heavier, making direct editing difficult and slow. Traditionally, the native file formats are converted into lightweight proxy files to make things smoother.

Upon editing, the proxy files are relinked to the original native files for the final render. While this surely makes things easier, there are undoubtedly some significant troubles in this method. First and foremost, you are not actually editing the real 4k or 8k video; you are basically rendering a copy with lower resolution.

Apart from the precious time spent in transcoding, there are a million things that can go wrong in final rendering from codec to storage overheads. Afterburner is thus such a breakthrough for video editors. You can ‘blaze through 8K video’ and perform real-time color correction, effects, and much more.

As per Blackmagic Design’s CEO, Grant Petty, “The new Mac Pro is easily the fastest way to edit, grade, and finish movies and TV shows.”

The Cost vs The Effect: Should You Buy One?

The $2000 price tag is enough to raise some eyebrows and questions about cost-effectiveness. Also, note that Afterburner is only compatible with Mac Pro as of now. So, it’s not just $2000; you will have to shell much more to be privy to this masterpiece.

In all honesty, it is worth a pick if you are a professional video editor who deals with ProRes or ProRes RAW. You may earn the investment back soon, with all the time and effort saved, and the great work done. However, for anyone else, this accelerator card is virtually useless, even if you are a content creator using an iPhone or DSLR videos.

Well, it is what it as of right now. As of right now?? Is there something more to Afterburner than what meets our eyes? There will always be a world full of possibilities; let’s check some of them out.

What Does The Future Entail?

As mentioned, Mac Pro Afterburner is built with a programmable ASIC, i.e., FPGA (Field-programmable gate array). What this means is that the card has reconfigurable digital circuits. To put it simply, an FPGA can be programmed for a specific task, for instance, a GPU for video editing purposes.

Now that the flood gates are open, we can hope that over the years, there can be more use cases of this smart, programmable accelerator card. Who knows, one day we can all own custom Afterburner, that can help in making music, mining cryptocurrency or running complex algorithms. I can only dream of better possibilities.

Is Mac Pro Afterburner a match for you? 

The Mac Pro claims to possess the ‘Power to change everything.’ And with the Afterburner Accelerator Card addition, it can surely do so for video editing professionals. If you are one of them, Afterburner, albeit expensive, is a great match. What are your thoughts on the matter? Do share with us in the Comments section below.

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