Switching From Mac to PC, Part II – Or, Media as Martial Art

Media as Martial ArtI’ve decided to broaden the scope of this blog a bit to include some “best practice” suggestions and some software recommendations to make a transition in Switching From Mac to PC as smooth as possible. The number one item on this list is patience. It will take some time to learn a new way. Be patient and stick with it!

As soon as you get your new PC:

  1.  Install all OS and driver updates before installing anything else. Then and only then install ONLY the core software that you intend to use.

This could include Adobe Creative Cloud, Avid Media Composer, Resolve, Cinema 4D … any and all of the above. Basically anything that your work requires you to have, but nothing goofy.

  1.  Grab an extra hard drive and clone your system drive to that extra drive.

Not all drive cloning software properly creates a bootable clone, but Macrium Reflect does. Put this drive on a shelf as an insurance policy. If you ever do something to your main machine that would either take to long to fix or somehow corrupts the system you’ll have a working system back in no time by popping in this drive. This is a good practice whether you are on a Mac or a PC. It has been my experience that as a “newbie” to the Windows world, you’re more likely to need a backup drive like this early in the learning process because you’re more likely to do things you shouldn’t do to your system. I’ve generally found that the more familiar and comfortable you get with Windows the less likely you are to do something that requires the cloned drive.  This is just good planning when switching from OSX to Windows.

  1.  Do scheduled system back-ups.

Macrium Reflect (mentioned above) will do this. I’ve also found Todo Backup from EaseUS to be reliable and easy to use. Neither of these look as “slick” as Apple’s Time Machine, but they both have more features than Time Machine. And as long as you’re backing up your system, you might as well back up your most important files to the cloud (also good whether you’re on a Mac or PC). I use Crashplan Pro and have been very happy with the service. They were foolish enough to offer me an “unlimited” plan. I’ve got around 6 Terabytes stored with them currently.

  1.  Get Paragon HFS+ for Mac

This is another little utility that you’ll need to make your PC fit into a Mac infrastructure. It allows Windows to seamlessly read and write to Mac HFS+ drives. It is an “install and forget” type of utility. You’ll literally forget you have it. It should be one of the things you install before making your disaster recovery clone drive. There’s even a free version.

There are a variety of cross-platform, shared storage options. At Outpost Pictures, our SAN is based on a Studio Network Solutions EVO system. This system is scalable, extremely flexible and works with Mac, Windows and Linux systems. It combines NAS shares as well as volume level SAN shares and works with Fibre, 1Gb and 10Gb ethernet. There are others out there but I know this one works and I recommend it. Plus, SNS has great support.

  1.  Select a ProRes Encoding Solution

One of the biggest issues of switching from Mac to PC in a Mac based facility is the reliance on Apple’s ProRes codec. On Windows reading ProRes files is no problem, but there are few Apple-sanctioned ProRes encoding options. I know of only SCRATCH, SCRATCH lab, DVS Clipster, and some of Telestream’s server level transcoders having “official” Apple ProRes encoding. There are other reverse-engineered options however, including Cinemartin, Acrovid FootageStudio, and FFMpeg. There was a great codec pack from Miraizon that provided ProRes encoding but they’ve unfortunately been bought out and have halted sales. You could also go with a cheap Mac-mini as your ProRes encoding option. Think of it as a $500 ProRes dongle.

While ProRes encoding has been one of the larger pains in the ass, there is a rather simple solution. Avid’s DNxHD codec has been around longer than ProRes, is cross platform, a free download, and is as good or better quality than ProRes. Premiere on Mac and Windows works with it just fine, as does Avid, Resolve, and pretty much everything else. Extreme Reach and other digital spot delivery services accept DNxHD encodes as well as ProRes. It really comes down to breaking some habits and just getting used to working with DNxHD rather than ProRes. If you MUST have ProRes, see some the options above.

Integrating a Windows machine into your Mac file sharing network is fairly straightforward. I won’t outline it here, but the step-by-step procedure is available online in many places. Instructions for setting up your Mac to share with Windows can be found here, and how to share files on your Windows machine with your Mac can be found here.

One other thing I’ve found in Switching From Mac to PC is that there is a ton of Windows information only a Google search away. If you’re having a problem with something in Windows, someone else probably has too and it is generally easier to find the answer than when having a Mac related problem. Granted, understanding the answer may be harder, but it won’t hurt to learn something new. Gambate!

Chris Tomberlin


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