Apple Archive

Setting Up a Titanium PowerBook for Video Editing

- 2006.09.01

The people I work for recently replaced their 15" 867 MHz Titanium PowerBook G4 with a new 17" MacBook Pro. The G4 wasn't unreliable - far from it - but instead, their needs outgrew what the machine could provide.

This new MacBook Pro could take up an article in itself, but the more important aspect in terms of Low End Mac is what they're doing with the old machine.

Their son is making a movie, and, naturally, all movies have budgets. On the top of the list was the camera, which, once purchased, left little room to spare in said budget for a computer to do the film editing on. While their son already had a reasonably modern Windows laptop, he felt that he really needed a Mac to run Final Cut Pro on. This made sense to me, and the idea was to acquire such a machine for about $400.

Since purchasing a complete new system was out of the question, the old 867 MHz TiBook came into the picture. This particular machine was equipped with 512 MB of RAM, a 40 GB hard drive, and an AirPort card. Not a bad machine, but underpowered for what his mother (a photographer) was trying to use it for. The hard drive was completely full (under 500 MB free) with photographs, and those needed to be transferred to her new machine.

In order to set up this machine for her son, we decided that he needed a much larger (200 GB+) hard drive, as well as more RAM. The hard drive was a fairly straightforward operation: we purchased an external USB Iomega 250 GB drive that was essentially plug-and-play. There were, however, some limitations.

The drive is a USB 2.0 drive, and we bought it figuring the machine had USB 2.0. It doesn't (Apple didn't adopt USB 2.0 until 2004), and copying all 25 GB of photographs off the G4 took almost 10 hours. Yes, that's right. 10 hours. If that's how long it took for 25 GB of photos, how long will it take for 50 GB of film footage?

One solution would be to return the drive and replace it with a FireWire 400 hard drive. A FireWire drive, while more expensive, would definitely be faster, but having the camera connected at the same time would involve more of a mess of cables and adapters - something that I know isn't particularly favorable (or reasonably priced).

Given that an internal drive will certainly be too small, this may be the best option.

That wasn't the only disappointment. Unfortunately, the RAM limit of this machine is just 1 GB - considering this woman's main machine has four times that - and the 512 MB in the machine was achieved with two 256 MB chips. This meant that both had to be replaced at a cost of nearly $100 a module to reach 1 GB. Not an inexpensive endeavor, so we decided to stick with 512 MB for now and see how Final Cut Express would run (I assume not very well, but we haven't gotten that far).

The next adventure is to look into the purchase of a DVD±RW drive for the machine so that the final footage can be burned to DVD. Most of the external units are only for Windows machines, and ones that list Mac compatibility are generally more expensive. That being said, the other option is to look into an internal drive that replaces the laptop's Combo drive. Other World Computing sells an internal SuperDrive for $120, which may be a much more convenient way to go, and perhaps the most compatible, too.

As it stands now, the $350 computer has turned into something slightly more expensive, particularly if we decide that we need to add RAM to it. While it won't be fast, it will be useful and reliable - isn't that what's important anyway?

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