Building a Hackintosh for Transcoding

At the start of 2017 it was a sad state of affairs for using a Mac on-set for heavy duty processing. The MacPro dated back to 2013 and the recently re-designed MacBook Pro Models didn’t come equipped with Intel’s latest Kaby Lake Processors nor did they exceed 16GB of RAM which has been a limitation for a long time now. The choice was to buy outdated technology, buy new inadequate technology or find another solution.

I had the privilege to use a Codex Vault XL for an Alexa 65 Job in January and got very well acquainted with the technology. When the Vault landed in Australia DOA (Dead On Arrival) the only option was to pull it open to see if I could get it running. Turns out it was just a connection on the power supply that had come loose in transit, but this process of looking inside made me realise that it was just a giant custom built computer. This got my brain ticking and I began to think outside the box. If a custom built computer can handle one of the most data heavy codecs in the world, 6K ARRIRAW, it can copy it, process it, transcode it. If you take away the proprietary technologies you just have a computer, which you can buy and build yourself which lead me to Hackintosh.

Alexa65_01_L

The inside of a Codex Vault XL, you can see a NVidia Graphics Card, Power Supply, PCIe Cards, Fans, etc.

I started researching and compiling information, delving deep into the Hackintosh World. I’d never even built a computer from scratch before but did have some background knowledge such as pulling apart iPhones and MacBook Pros for DIY Home Repairs. I knew there would be speed humps along the way but I had a vision and wanted to bring a new level of game to the world of on-set transcoding.

Below is my finished rig alongside the documentation that I put together to educate clients about the advantages of using this over a standard data management kit.

PREMIUM DATA KIT

Hackintosh_P1_01

SPEED

Over the past year I have seen requests for on-set transcoding steadily increase. It’s always a tricky service to deliver as the MacBook Pro in every Data Kit just can’t keep up with the workload and results in lots of unnecessary overtime. I see transcoding becoming a standard in the future as camera formats evolve and get more complex, it got me thinking, there has to be a better way to do this.

Designed completely from the ground up, the Premium Data Kit is the complete solution for on-set transcoding. Built specifically with quick turn around times in mind it offers transcoding capabilities up to 10x faster then a Standard MacBook Pro Data Kit.

ARRIRAW

Shoot high quality ARRIRAW and transcode at twice the speed of real time. Often avoided due to large file size and processing times, with transcodes this fast there is no reason not to utilize ARRI’s flagship format on your next production.

Phantom

Phantom .cine Files are anything but edit friendly and always require transcoding. 1 Hour of Phantom Flex 4K Footage can be transcoded in 30 Mins with the Premium Data Kit where as a Standard MacBook Pro Data Kit would do the same work in 5 Hours. Amazing!

ProRes

Shooting 4K or 3.2K ProRes 444XQ? It’s not the easiest codec to edit because of the large file sizes and drive speed limitations. Transcoding can convert your footage to a lower tier HD ProRes 422 to deliver your footage Post-Ready.

RED

RED is still RED and remains the most difficult format to work with. Unless you are equipped with a RED Rocket X Card that is not guaranteed to be future proof with new RED Formats, it’s near impossible to get amazing transcode speeds. That being said, the Premium Data Kit combined with the ‘New On-Set Transcode Workflow’ still offers a modest speed improvement and time saving.

WORKFLOW REINVENTION

Anything to do with processing data, be it transferring or transcoding, you are always at the mercy of the weakest link in the chain. 99% of the time the Achilles’ Heel rests in the hard drives provided for each job. This problem will take years to solve, so in the interim I have devised a solution that will boast faster turnaround times. All I had to do was reinvent the workflow.

Utilizing the Super Fast SSD in the Premium Data Kit I can offload cards to this internal drive very quickly, creating a separate backup of the footage solely for transcoding. I then set off the transcode from the internal drive and start the transfer of the data from the camera card to the client drives simultaneously. By running both in unison you save time, often transcodes are complete before the card is finished being backed up. Due to the high specs of the machine there is no risk of errors while multi-tasking so your data will be completely safe and secure.

TranscodeWorkflow

BUILD

Portability is key for equipment on-set and data equipment is no exception. I drew inspiration from the design of Apple’s MacBook Pro when crafting the Premium Data Kit, I essentially wanted to create a jumbo laptop with the speed of a desktop computer. Constructed around the smallest full sized computer case on the market with custom fitted brackets to mount the screen on the enclosure. It has a wireless keyboard and trackpad where you’d expect and the screen folds down for travel. As you’d expect with any piece of film equipment, it comes with a road case. I enlisted Melbourne’s Aerolyte to construct a custom case made specifically for the unique shape of the Premium Data Kit. This provides rugged protection making it suitable for Air and Road Freight within Australia and Internationally.

Hackintosh_P3_01

Example of the custom hinged bracket that allows the screen to fold down similar to a laptop.

Hackintosh_P3_02

A size comparison to a 15” MacBook Pro.

TECH SPECS

The Premium Data Kit is built upon the Hackintosh Architecture which means that is runs a fully operational version of macOS despite not being an official Apple Computer. This is imperative as we rely on Mac Software, ProRes Codecs and OSX Formatted Drives for all of our daily work. I made this choice so that I could employ the use of technologies not yet adopted by Apple, such as the newest Intel Processors and NVMe SSDs which give me Internal SSD speeds of 2000MB/s comparable to the 110MB/s of a Lacie Rugged Drive. When building the machine only the highest quality parts were selected, no expense spared, the best of the best to ensure maximum speed, reliability and less wasted time. The internals are all modular which enables incremental upgrading, which means I can continue to update the machine as new technologies emerge. This keeps the kit at the forefront of the Data Management/Transcode World, a feat that isn’t possible with a traditional Apple Computer.

Please see below for a full list of tech specs:

  • Quad Core Intel i7 Kaby Lake CPU Overclocked to 4.8GHz
  • 64GB of DDR4 RAM @ 3200MHz
  • Nvidia GeForce GTX 980 Ti – 6GB GDDR Graphics Card
  • 1TB NVMe SSD (Read/Write @ 2000MB/s)
  • 2TB RAID 0 SSD (Read/Write @ 850MB/s)
  • 2x Next Gen Thunderbolt 3 Ports
  • 2x Next Gen USB 3.1 Ports (1x USB-C, 1x USB-A)
  • 5x Current Gen USB 3.0 Ports
  • Highspeed 802.11ac WiFi
  • Bluetooth 4.0
  • 8x Low Noise Internal Fans
  • 21.5” Full HD Display
  • Silverstack and Shotput Pro Data Management Software
  • DaVinci Resolve, Codex Production Suite, Redcine-X
  • Various Other Data Management Softwares

Hackintosh_P3_03

That pretty much gives an outline to prospective clients of how the system works, why it differs to a normal setup and the advantages that is has to offer. I’ve been field testing this unit on-set the past 5 Months and can now say that it’s 100% reliable. More often then not transcodes are done before I’ve finished backing up the footage to the client drives, the system doesn’t crash any more or less then a normal Mac Computer and the advantages that it can bring to jobs that have quick turnaround times are paramount. Now, with all that being said, the R&D Period, the assembly and most of all the installation of macOS and all the other quirks of this process wasn’t as straight forward as one might think. I’m going to run through my setup process and all of the things that I learned along the way.

BUILDING A HACKINTOSH

First of all your two biggest resources when diving into the Hackintosh World are tonymac and the hackintosh subreddit. There is a wealth of information on the tonymac forums and all throughout reddit history, read long, read deep and you will be able to solve 95% of problems yourself. When you are absolutely stuck, reach out and the community will help, I had a bunch of trouble in the beginning and people were amazing in the troubleshooting process. But try to abide by my golden rule, don’t ask for help unless you’ve exhausted all options within your power. This basically means don’t go hassling people for assistance when you haven’t read the backlogs of forum posts and tried every last potential solution detailed online.

I’m going to start with my final part list so there is context for what I am referencing here on in. My build is as follows:

  • macOS Sierra 10.12.3
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 5 with BIOS F20
  • CPU: Kaby Lake i7 7700K
  • CPU Cooler: Noctua NH-U9S with Noctua NF-A9 PWM as an Extra Fan
  • RAM: 64GB Corsair Vengeance LED
  • Graphics Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 980 Ti
  • NVMe SSD: Samsung 960EVO 1TB
  • SATA SSD: Crucial MX300 1TB SSD x2
  • Extra: Gigabyte GC-ALPINE RIDGE (2x TB3 Ports via PCIe)
  • Case: SilverStone Grandia GD09
  • Power Supply: Corsair RM650i 650W
  • Inlet Fans: Corsair 120mm Fan x2
  • Exhaust Fans: Deep Cool 80mm Fan x2
  • Keyboard: Apple Magic Keyboard
  • Trackpad: Apple Magic Trackpad 2
  • Wifi and Bluetooth: OSX Wifi Card
  • Monitor: BenQ 21.5″ Full HD
  • Various USB-C and TB3 Adaptors
  • Brateck LCM CM (With Custom Modification)
  • 50cm HDMI Cable
  • Custom Y Power Cable
  • Custom Transit Case

Software for Setting Up a Hackintosh

You require certain software when setting up a Hackintosh, I know there is a lot of debate in the community over if you should use UniBeast/MultiBeast or do a clean custom install with Clover and the effectiveness of some of the other tools. Being that I installed macOS on my rig over ten times trying to troubleshoot various problems I found that having all tools readily at your disposal is useful for quickly trying fixes recommended by others online. This is what I have in my essential toolkit:

  • PlistEdit Pro
  • EFI Mounter
  • MultiBeast
  • Clover Configurator
  • IORegisteryExplorer
  • Kext Utility
  • MaciASL
  • Hide/Show Hidden Files (Paste Text from TextEdit into Terminal)

I built my Install USB with UniBeast and used MultiBeast for setup each time. Though based on my readings, if I were to do it again I would use a Custom Clover Install.

My Setup Process

When I completed this build Kaby Lake wasn’t supported in macOS and NVMe was still tricky so it was always going to be an uphill battle. I came across many bottlenecks in my setup process and it felt like an impossible slog at times. If one thing went wrong it’d have a snowball effect and it was often easier to go for a clean reinstall and start my process again then it was to figure out exactly what was causing the issue. Below I’ll share my installation and setup cheat sheet as well as explaining the speed humps that I had to cross.

NVMe on Install USB

As I was installing macOS to my NVMe SSD, I soon discovered that it wasn’t possible without some custom tweaks. Most of the guides online explain how to install macOS on a standard SSD but when NVMe comes into play, it won’t show up by default in the macOS USB Installer. I found that I needed to mount the EFI Partition of my Install USB using EFI Mounter, navigate to /Volumes/EFI/EFI/CLOVER and open my config.plist in PListEdit Pro. Here I would navigate to Root -> KernalAndKextPatches -> KextsToPatch and paste in the complete set of 17 Values for IONVMeFamily Pike R. Alpha Patches as seen below:

NVMe

I found the easiest way is to download my plist, unzip it and open it in PlistEdit Pro, then you select all 17 ‘KextsToPatch’ and then ‘Paste as Child’ on your plist ‘KextsToPatch’, then save and close. You will also need to paste IONVMeFamily.kext to /Volumes/EFI/EFI/COLVER/kexts/Other. Doing this enabled me to use my UniBeast macOS Install USB to boot from nothing into the macOS Installer and install straight to my NVMe SSD.

There are more guides online of cleaner and better ways to get an NVMe SSD working on your system, I tried them and they didn’t work for me, thus is why I reverted back to this method. That doesn’t mean they won’t work for you though so it’s worth looking into other methods and searching and reading about NVMe on Hackintosh.

My Cheat Sheet

*Please note these instructions work flawlessly for the hardware/software combination listed above, any variations of hardware/software could provide different results*

1. Install macOS via Hackintosh USB

2. Upon full install, run MultiBeast and install as follows:

MultiBeast

3. Use PlistEdit Pro to copy ‘KextsToPatch’ 0-15 from config1.plist to config.plist on your Boot Volume EFI. You can use EFI Mounter to mount your Boot Volume EFI Partition and PlistEdit Pro can have multiple plists open at once. While in your Boot Volume config.plist change RtVariables -> CsrActiveConfig to 0x67 and Change Boot -> Timeout to ‘1’.

4. Navigate to /System/Library/Extentions (referred to as SLE in the Hackintosh Community) and find IONVMeFamily.kext and copy it to EFI/Clover/kexts/Other which again is your Boot Volume’s EFI Partition. If you can’t find SLE you can use the ‘Go To Folder’ Command in Finder (Shift+Apple+G) and paste in ‘/System/Library’  and hit go or you can use the text above for Hide/Show Hidden Files to Show Hidden Files and navigate there manually in Finder.

5. Open config.plist from EFI in Clover Configurator and add FakeCPUID: 0x0506E3. This step is to spoof macOS into thinking you aren’t running a Kaby Lake Processor, with newer versions of Sierra and High Sierra you shouldn’t need to spoof the CPUID.

6. Reboot. You should restart and actually boot macOS off your NVMe SSD or SATA SSD this time rather then relying on your Install USB for booting. If you don’t, there is a problem.

SIDE NOTE:
My Kaby Lake 7700K CPU has an Integrated GPU called the Intel® HD Graphics 630. There are many documents detailing how to get this GPU working, I followed them all and every time it cooked my system in the way of a kernal panic and required me to reinstall macOS before anything would function again. I eventually gave up on the iGPU and disabled it in the BIOS and relied solely on my Discrete GPU.

7. Download the newest version of Clover EFI from the Official Clover Site. Update Clover to the newest version via Installer. Make sure to use the ‘Customise Install Option’ and select ‘NVRAM EMU’ kext and ‘RC Scripts’. Once installed open System Prefs -> Clover -> NVRAM and change ‘Save NVRAM Contents to Disk’ to ‘Always’.

8. Check that NVRAM is working via ’sudo nvram MyVar=TestValue’ and ‘nvram -p’. This process is done in Terminal. The command ’sudo nvram MyVar=TestValue’ will create a variable called ‘MyVar’ in your NVRAM and assign it a value of ‘TestValue’. The command ‘nvram -p’ will display everything currently in your NVRAM. After running the first command you should see the Variable and Value in your NVRAM. If you do then reboot and try ‘nvram -p’ again to verify that NVRAM is holding information through the reboot process.

PLEASE NOTE:
NVRAM is not working in BIOS F21 for Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Gaming 5 Motherboard, revert to BIOS F20 for working NVRAM.

8a. Copy FakeSMC.kext from /Library/Extensions/ (often referred to as LE) to your Boot Volume’s EFI/CLOVER/kexts/Other Folder. Delete FakeSMC from /L/E/ and run Kext Utility to rebuild permissions. Kext Utility will automatically rebuild permissions upon opening. Reboot to test system boots up. MultiBeast installs the FakeSMC.kext to /L/E/ by default which many members of the community argue is the wrong place to put it, this process moves it from /L/E/ to your Boot EFI Partition where it should rightfully belong.

8b. Install HWSensors App, Install the App Only.

8c. Copy Hacked ‘FakeSMC.kext’ with PlugIns to your Boot Volume EFI/CLOVER/kexts/Other Folder, Use the ‘Replace’ Option When Prompted by Finder. Right Click -> Show Package Contents of FakeSMC.kext in your EFI, navigate to PlugIns and delete CPUSensors.kext. Reboot to test system boots up.

FakeSMC

8d. Open HWMonitor to verify stats are shown. Install Intel Power Gadget and test that it works.

PLEASE NOTE:
I found that using a Fake CPUID to trick macOS into thinking your Kaby Lake CPU is something else will glitch out the ‘CPUSensors.kext’ within HWMonitor and cause a kernal panic on boot. Basically all sensors work except those relating to the CPU, I couldn’t find a way to get around this except for adding the Intel Power Gadget to the mix. I currently run my rig with iStat Menus which is great, it taps into information from HWMonitors and it’s kexts, but if I need CPU Stats for load and temperature I open Intel Power Gadget. Not perfect but good enough for me.

 

9. Open your Boot Volume EFI config.plist and navigate to ‘System Parameters’ and add ’NvidiaWeb’, BOOL, YES. This is pretty straight forward, alternatively you do it via Clover Configurator.

10. Install NVidia Web Drivers and Reboot.

11. Open System Prefs -> NVidia Driver Manager -> Select NVidia Web Driver and Reboot. Sometimes you won’t need to use this step as NVidia Web Drivers will be selected by default after you install them. The web drivers will work if your NVRAM is working which is why we sorted that out before. If your NVRAM isn’t functioning you’ll default back to Apple’s Drivers which make your High End GPU a slug. NVRAM needs to work for your Discrete GPU to work.

12. Run the ‘iMac 17,1 Black Screen Fix’, Reboot.

13. Use MultiBeast to Update System Definition to iMac 17,1. Check your Boot Volume EFI config.plist in PlistEdit Pro, it’s under Root -> SMBIOS -> ProductName. It should say ‘iMac17,1’.

14. While the config.plist is still open, navigate to ‘System Parameters’ and add ’NoCaches’, String, Yes. Save config.plist and Reboot.

15. Run Kext Utility and Rebuild Caches.

16. Upon completion delete the recently created ‘NoCaches’ Parameter from your Boot Volume EFI config.plist. Reboot.

17. Edit EFI config.plist. Boot -> XMPDetection = YES and SMBIOS -> Trust = YES.

18. Boot into BIOS and Enable XMP Profile. Reboot. Check System Information to ensure RAM is now reading and running at 3200MHz. Shut Down.

19. Remove NVMe SSD or macOS SSD physically from the computer. Install Windows 10 on a Different SSD.

PLEASE NOTE:
Installing Windows is a lot more straight forward then installing macOS on a Hackintosh Setup. It’s vital that you remove your SSD with the macOS Install on it before you install Windows, the two operating systems clash both at install time and afterwards. I initially didn’t know this and had a lot of trouble installing Windows. Once installed, the Windows EFI was present on my macOS SSD rather then the Windows SSD which was messy. Best to remove all other hard drives and just have your Install USB and your intended destination hard drive connected. I’ve done it this way twice now and it’s been flawless.

20. On Windows, install the Gigabyte Thunderbolt Driver. Then install the Gigabyte Thunderbolt FW Update Tool. Navigate to C:\Program Files (x86)\GIGABYTE\flashTBT and run the file “flashTBT_100.exe”. Shutdown your system and then completely pull power for 30 Seconds.

PLEASE NOTE:
I found that I needed to disable the option in my BIOS for ‘TBT USB3.1 Force Power’ in order for both Thunderbolt 3 Ports to work.

22. Test Everything

23. After installation of REDCINE-X  open you Boot Volume EFI config.plist in Clover Configurator and enable the ‘Shutdown Fix’ for proper shutdown. I’m not sure why REDCINE-X messes around with my shutting down procedure, but it did.

Now, I’m sure there are better ways to do what I did above, some of my steps could be redundant, there could be cleaner methods of achieving the same result. But in January 2017 I spent a solid two weeks messing about with my rig trying to get it working. It was stressful and a major pain in the ass. I’ve followed the above steps four times now when doing a clean install on my Hackintosh and haven’t had any issues, so I stick by it for me. For you, I suggest you follow one of the many other guides online but use this as supplemental information in combination with reading lots of forum posts to gather a good array of knowledge to solve any issue that you may come across.

ORIGINAL MOTHERBOARD

My original setup was built using a Gigabyte GA-Z170X-Designare Motherboard based on recommendations from the community. It seemed like the natural successor to the Gigabyte GA-Z170X-UD5 TH Motherboard and had a lot of good features. The main feature for me being at least two Thunderbolt 3 Ports.

I had a lot of issues with this board and ended up canning it, please check out this thread in relation to my woes: GA-Z170X-Designare USB-C Issues

Basically I went through two boards, the first one got RMA’d with faulty TB3/USB-C Ports as detailed above, the second board had similar issues but not quite the same. All of the ports would work as USB-C from both directions, but only one TB3 port would work. I purchased my GC Alpine Ridge Card and tried connecting it to the Motherboard with the TB Header to get 3x TB3 Ports but it didn’t work as that GC Alpine Ridge Card isn’t officially compatible with the GA-Z170X-Designare Motherboard. I ended up returning that Designare MB and got my current Gaming 5 MB which was listed as compatible with the GC Alpine Ridge Card.

There are actually two different TB Headers on the seperate motherboards in this instance, the GC Alpine Ridge Card has both connections but it didn’t work with the Designare TB Header despite everything plugging up correctly. Weird but that’s the way it is. It all works a-okay now with my Gaming 5 MB, it’s great having 2x TB3 Ports.

TESTING

CPU Overclock Tests

I’d never overclocked a CPU before but after doing a fair bit of reading I learned that it isn’t all that hard. So I dived in and ran a bunch of tests to see what I could get out of my CPU with a bit of OC. This is my raw data:

OC.xlsx

In macOS I was using iStat Menus / HWSensors in combo with Intel Power Gadget to monitor my CPU Temperatures. Intel Power Gadget would display the actual CPU Temp and I would verify that with my CPU Heatsink Data in iStat Menus. I was using the Yes CPU Test (Unzip, Open Text File, Copy to Terminal and Press Enter) to run my CPU Stress Tests in macOS. As my CPU was 4 Core with 8 Threads, I need to run the yes command 8 times, one per thread.

In Windows I was running CoreTemp and Real Temp simultaneously to monitor my CPU Temperatures and they were delivering very similar results. I used AIDA64 for my CPU Stress Tests based on various recommendations.

What I discovered is that my CPU seemed to run hotter in macOS then it did in Windows 10, strange. It could be that HWSensors and Intel Power Gadget aren’t providing the most accurate 100% readings of my CPU compared to the various CPU Sensors that I had running on Windows. What intrigued me further is that I would get a solid overclock running in Windows but then I would boot into macOS and it’d crash on boot, the only way I could get macOS to boot would be to increase the Vcore Voltage. So seemingly macOS needs a bit more power to boot up then Windows. So could this justify the hotter temps in macOS over Windows or was it still potentially faulty sensor information? I never got to the bottom of that question, for me, I’d be running macOS 95% of the time, I got a stable overclock at 4.8GHz running at a Vcore Voltage of 1.315V and my CPU Temp usually sits around 83°C – 87°C. A lot of sources online said that you shouldn’t really run your CPU hotter then 80°C as it can degrade its life over time, but the life of a CPU is meant to be around 10 Years, if I’m still using my 4 Core Kaby Lake i7 4.8GHz CPU in 5 Years I’d be very surprised. The shelf life exceeded the use life that was required of the CPU so I was happy to lock in this slightly hot OC on my CPU.

TRANSCODE TESTS

The two systems that I would be comparing here are my new Hackintosh Rig and my 2012 MacBook Pro. Being that a MacBook Pro similar to mine is the golden standard for Data Management here in Australia I opted to use this for transcode tests as it’s pretty representative of what everyone else is using.

The MacBook Pro Specs are as follows:

  • MacBook Pro 10,1 with macOS Sierra 10.12.3
  • CPU: Intel Core i7-3720QM 2.6GHz
  • RAM: 16GB @ 1600MHz
  • Graphics Card: Intel HD Graphics 4000 / NVidia GeForce GT 650M
  • SSD: 256GB SATA

When running the tests I took the exact same source footage direct from a camera card and put it on the fastest internal SSD both the MacBook Pro and the Hackintosh. I’d then open DaVinci Resolve which was operating on the same version between both systems, I’d setup identical projects and setup identical transcodes. I’d run them both, record the data and compare. Here were my findings:

ARRI Alexa Formats

ARRIRAW Open Gate -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 5.5fps, 6:55 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 50fps, 46 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 50%, GPU Processor Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ARRIRAW 16:9 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 8.5-9fps, 1:31 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 68fps, 12 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 500% out of 800%, GPU Processor Close to Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ARRIRAW 4:3 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 6-7fps, 2:54 Mins, No LUT
Hackintosh: 58fps, 20 Secs, With LUT
Notes: Hackintosh CPU at 50%, GPU Processor Maxed Out, GPU Memory at 10%

ProRes 3.2K 444XQ -> ProRes422 Proxy 1920×1080 w/LUT
MacBook Pro: 18fps, 1:25 Mins
Hackintosh: 58-59fps, 26 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Close to Capping Out, GPU at 50-60%

2.8K ProRes444 -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 16fps – 36 Secs
Hackintosh: 50fps – 13 Secs

3.2K ProRes 444 from Amira -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080 w/ LUT
MacBook Pro: 18fps, 3:01 Mins
Hackintosh: 58fps, 56 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Close to Capping Out, GPU at 50-60%

Phantom Formats

4K Phantom -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 5-5.5fps – 2:13 Mins
Hackintosh: 55fps – 13 Secs
Notes: Hackintosh GPU Capped Out, CPU at 50-60%

RED Formats

RED 8K 5:1 -> ProRes422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 2.5fps, 5:51 Mins
Hackintosh: 5fps, 3:31 Mins

R3D 5K 5:1 -> ProRes 422HQ 1920×1080
MacBook Pro: 6-10fps – 10:01 Mins
Hackintosh: 8-12fps – 6:11 Mins
Notes: Hackintosh CPU Capped Out (Not Overclocked, Running at 4.2GHz), Graphics at 10%

Since I ran these tests I have used the rig extensively on-set with constant monitoring of frame rate and transcode times to identify what exactly is causing the bottleneck. Based on these initial findings and my further investigation there is no deadset weak link in the chain.

ARRIRAW and Phantom Formats are heavily GPU reliant, both formats cap out my GPU which would indicate that the GPU is the weak link but transcoding these formats at over 50fps is double realtime and 10x faster then the equivalent on a MacBook Pro which I would hardly consider slow.

The ProRes Codec is CPU heavy for decoding and encoding which is causing the bottleneck here. The GPU is still being utilised but not capping out. ProRes Transcodes run at 3-4x speed compared to the MacBook Pro and can be benefitted further by the ‘New Transcoding Workflow’ that I detailed above.

RED is RED and still to this day sucks unless you have a RED Rocket-X Card or a 28 Core CPU. My CPU is capped out obviously and the GPU is barely utilised. CPU is the weak link in the chain here.

So basically, you get some pretty solid advantages unless you are working with RED. Most jobs these days I find are shooting on ARRI Alexas in either ARRIRAW or 3.2K/2.8K ProRes 444, the Alexa Mini is super common as well as the Alexa XT and SXT. So the lack of speed working with RED isn’t a deal breaker as it doesn’t get utilised all that often. I’ve had 6K Open Gate ARRIRAW from an Alexa 65 on my Hackintosh Rig and it plays back at full res in real time from Resolve no problems. Other transcodes that I’ve thrown at it from 2.8K ProRes to H265 to Phantom .cine Files, it’s performed admirably and facilitated fast workflows that just wouldn’t have been possible before.

ISSUES

Once I got past the initial setup of my Hackintosh there haven’t really been any issues, except one. If you have done your research you’ll know that when using Thunderbolt on a Hackintosh you can not hot swap Thunderbolt devices. On Windows, no worries, on a native Mac, no worries, but 3rd Party Motherboards in combination with macOS won’t allow you to hot swap / hot boot TB devices. This basically means that if you turn your Hackintosh on, boot in macOS and then plug in a TB Hard Drive it won’t show up. It’s not until you reboot the system that the drive will mount and appear on the desktop as normal. One other thing you’ll need to do once the hard drive mounts to the Hackintosh is to Right Click and ‘Get Info’, down the bottom of the window you’ll have permissions, unlock the lock if required and make all permissions ‘Read/Write’, you’ll only need to do this once per drive for the duration of it’s lifetime. For most people this isn’t an issue but it is a pain when using this rig in high pressure environments on-set. Keyword there being pain, it’s annoying but not a deal breaker. You can work around it, most of the time it’s only your hard drives that are connected via Thunderbolt, most card readers are USB3. You only need to connect your hard drives once per day if you’re in one location, that’s one reboot, if you have multiple location moves thats a few reboots but I build in the rebooting procedure into my setup time and it isn’t much of a worry.

Earlier on in the year I had an Alexa 65 Job, I was running the Codex Vault off my Hackintosh Data Rig and all was going well. The Vault interfaces with Hackintosh through a glorified 10G Ethernet to Thunderbolt Convertor in the form of a Myricom PCIe Card in a Sonnet PCIe to Thunderbolt 2 Chassis. This works fine, hook it all up, reboot as normal and I could interface with the Codex Vault. But then I needed to use 2x 10TB Lacie 5big Drives each setup as RAID 0 and this is where the trouble started. I’d hook up both drives daisy chained together through one Thunderbolt Port and the Codex Vault 10Gig Ethernet Network was through the other Thunderbolt Port, I’d then reboot the system and get this:

KernalCrash_01KernalCrash_02

This is what a kernal panic looks like. The system would start to boot into macOS, kernal panic as above and then restart itself. It’d stay stuck in this boot loop and just keep cycling through until you held the power button down and forced it to turn off. Funny thing though, if I leave the Kernal Panic Boot Loop going for say 5 Mins or so, eventually the system will boot as normal with both drives mounted and working perfectly.

Reaching out for help we identified that the kext causing the issue was called ‘com.lacie.driver.mvumi’ which comes from the Lacie RAID Manager software. I never got around to troubleshooting this actual kext as the job was moving too fast and I just dealt with an unpredictable 5-8 minute boot time each time I set the rig up. The problem would be that the RAID Drives won’t mount or be useable without the Lacie Software, though it was the Lacie Software that was causing the problem. The next time that I used the same hard drives with my rig I installed a new version of Lacie RAID Manager after uninstalling the old version and had zero issues, the drives worked flawlessly, hopefully Lacie had issues a fix. I’m yet to test it again in combination with the Codex Vault, we’ll just have to wait and see. If the issue did occur again I’d remove this kext temporarily and see if the system booted up, if it did and the drives were appearing it’d be sweet as, but if not a more serious problem would be at hand and I see no option but to stick with the current prolonged boot method.

THE FUTURE OF THE PREMIUM DATA KIT

One of the biggest bummers about anything to do with computers is the speed in which they get updated. I equipped my rig with a 980 Ti GPU which at the time was the 2nd best GPU that would work with macOS then 3 Months Later NVidia finally released Web Drivers for the 1000 Series GPUs and released the 1080 Ti GPU which would have been a much better candidate for my Data Rig. I’ve looked at upgrading to the 1080 Ti but have decided against it for the time being, the GPU is only capping out ARRIRAW and Phantom Transcodes which still run incredibly fast so until I upgrade my CPU the GPU is going to stay as is.

With recent updates to the iMac and MacBook Pro Line which introduce macOS to Kaby Lake CPUs things will get a lot easier in terms of setup. With new versions of Sierra and High Sierra there will be no need for FakeCPUID or disabling the iGPU which will be nice little bonuses. Which may even allow CPUSensors to work natively and bypassing the Intel Power Gadget Workaround.

The beauty about my Data Rig is that it’s able to be upgraded over time. My current plan is to hold out till the end of the year and see what happens in the Hackintosh Scene when the new iMac Pro comes out. It’s touted as having an 18 Core CPU which if replicated in the Hackintosh World would significantly speed up ProRes Transcodes as well as giving a solid speed boost to dealing with RED. Combo this with a new Graphics Card and it’ll be refreshed and ready to go. Other hot topics include Intel’s Cannonlake Platform which brings 6 Core CPUs to the mainstream. The problem is going to be finding motherboards that can run these new CPUs while having TB3 bundled in, as if you work in the film industry, Thunderbolt is commonplace be it hard drives or card readers. If you don’t have a system equipped with Thunderbolt it really isn’t going to cut it.

All in all, I’ve learnt a heck of a lot from this experience. I learnt how to build a computer from scratch, I learnt about setting up a Hackintosh and all the finesse that is required to iron out issues and lock down a fully working system, I learnt how to overclock, how to test overclocking and all about CPU Temperatures and CPU Cooling, I’ve expanded my transcoding knowledge along with a plethora of other skills.

If you are diving hard and fast into the world of Hackintosh then I hope this information serves you well and best of luck!

LASIK: A Patient’s Perspective

I’d been thinking about getting Laser Eye Surgery for a while. Looked up a bunch of testimonials online, people’s thoughts, facts and experiences. Most of them were positive and glowing with the statement ‘I only wish I got it done earlier’, others were saying they suffered dry eye for years afterwards and that there were a few surprises and complications. Heck, I didn’t even really know what dry eye is, the risks seemed risky even though they actually aren’t but in my head they were very real. So I put it down as a plausible option, but not for me right now, maybe in the future, but not now.

Then strolls in February 2017, the talk of Laser Surgery came up again one day with some friends, it re-sparked my interest and I thought fuck it, let’s take this seriously. I got back from a work trip on a Sunday Night, Monday I did some research and decided to book in a no-obligation assessment appointment for laser eye surgery. Come Tuesday I was sitting in the waiting room about to begin my examination. That same week on the Friday I was booked in the undergo a LASIK Procedure, Saturday I had my follow up and like a butterfly I spread my wings into a glasses free life. It all happened very quickly and I learnt a bunch along the way. I would like to pass my experiences onto you, others who are on the fence in regards to Laser Eye Surgery.

WHERE DO I START

I started where anyone living in 2017 would start, a Google Search. I found various clinics in Melbourne, Australia that offer Laser Eye Surgery and thankfully they have put in a solid amount of work in educating potential customers. Their websites host a wealth of information that you should all check out, you’ll learn the differences between LASIK and PRK, the recovery times of each procedure, what to expect, how much does it cost, etc. Check out any of these clinics to get a solid foundation of information:

After taking a good look at all the options I needed to pick a place to start. Being that it’s my eyes I wanted to go with someone respectable with a good reputation, that’s pretty hard to find in the world of Laser Eye Surgery. Some companies offer up their own client testimonials but I always take that with a grain of salt, they could be altered, or made up, you never know. After a solid session of internet research all that I could find was that some people had trouble with Medownick, that they had a reputation for being cheap and a few Reddit Posts that claim Dr. Noel Alpins of New Vision Clinics was a total professional. The four other clinics weren’t mentioned, Medownick was slammed and New Vision was praised. My choice was made.

INITIAL CONSULTATION

This first visit is important as it marks your first proactive action in getting rid of glasses once and for all. Though that was my goal, I did keep an open mind and wanted to keep a certain level of skepticism to ensure I didn’t get caught up in the allure of it all. On the phone I was told to bring a Medicare Card and Sunglasses, easy. I’d taken it upon myself to prepare a helpful medical history that would assist the optometrist and lay a foundation for good decision making during the appointment. I contacted Specsavers whom I had obtained my last 3 Sets of Prescription Glasses from to obtain records of my prescriptions over time, it was easy to do and could done over the phone, this is how they sat:

06/01/11 – Left and Right Eye: -1.25
30/01/14 – Left and Right Eye: -1.50
31/10/15 – Left and Right Eye: -1.75

So I went for my appointment at New Vision Clinics in Cheltenham in the morning. You get greeted by their reception staff, get asked to fill out a form and then take a seat. Shortly after you are taken into an examination room and you get evaluated by an optometrist. If you’ve ever got prescription glasses before you’ll know the drill, you look at a chart on the wall, various different lenses are trialled in front of your eyes and you’re asked to identify which option is sharper, 1 or 2, it’s a pretty easy task which I find quite enjoyable. They also take a close up look at your eyes under magnification with a light shining to evaluate the surface and general health of your eyes. My current prescription was sitting as follows:

21/02/17 – Left and Right Eye: -1.75 leaning towards a -2.00

Based upon this new measurement in combination with my previous prescriptions we could see that my eyes had only gotten slightly worse over time, jumping up one prescription level of -0.25 roughly every 1.5 Years and that it had pretty much stabilised over the past year and a half. The optometrist said that there is a very small chance that my eyes could naturally degrade over time even after laser surgery but being that I’m in my Mid 20s that it’s not very likely to happen. Being that my prescription is so low it’d be a relatively straight forward procedure with minimal likelihood of complications. She said if I was willing to accept the small chance of my eyes natural degrading over time then we’d proceed to the next step.

I went back to the waiting room and took a seat, shortly after the lady who was working at reception, who I assumed is a combo of Optometrist Nurse and Receptionist, took me to a different room where I undertook some extra tests. These are pretty straight forward and they walk you through what to do. One machine takes photographs of your eyes and the other does a 3D Scan of your eyes which details the thickness of your cornea and medical information about the eye’s underlying components.

Next up they put some special eyedrops in your eyes, these basically cause the muscles in your eye to relax causing them to dilate, aka open up and let more light in, which was the reason for needing to bring sunglasses, so you’re not bamboozled by the glare when you leave. They take about 20 Minutes to come in full effect so you watch a video with headphones on in the waiting room. It’s hosted by a well known Melbourne News Reporter and runs for around 10 Minutes. It basically covers everything that you should have read online in your initial research process, but I guess there are some people who aren’t as thorough as me and just booked in for an appointment blindly. Either way, it serves as decent revision and shows you a brief glimpse of what it will be like in the operating theatre when having the procedure done. That being said, this video felt like it was made 10-15 Years ago and didn’t really feel all that current and applicable. Once you’re finished watching you take a seat in reception and I noticed the weirdest thing, my eyes couldn’t focus properly. I was half freaking out but more intrigued by how my eyes we functioning. My glasses were off at this point, if I looked at my phone the screen was blurry and the closer I brought it to my face the more out of focus it became, but if I held it the right distance away it was okay, looking in the distance everything was blurry as usual due to my short sightedness. Upon putting my glasses on everything in the distance was sharp as a tack and felt a little bit bloomy, almost hyper real. When I looked down at my phone it was even more blurry then without glasses on, so weird. I was in this state of amusement with my eye fluctuations for around 8 Minutes until the optometrist came back to see me. I mentioned the sensation to her and she said it was totally normal, I would have loved to know about this beforehand, all I got warned about was my sensitivity to light would increase. Anyway, I was assured that it’d wear off after 3 Hours.

Back in the examination room we re-did our eye chart tests. This is because when our eyes are dilated or opened up to a greater degree our focus becomes more crucial or in photography terms, our depth of field becomes shallower. This is why at night our vision is often worse then during the day as our eyes have opened up to see better in the low light. These eye drops simulated extreme night time or darkness and lay the foundation for the perfect cross check of my eyes performance. I was told that it matched the -1.75/-2.00 Prescription that I had been given before and that I was a perfect candidate for LASIK Laser Eye Surgery. The cost was roughly $2500 per eye which was in line with my expectations based on what I had read online, there was availability for surgery this coming Friday, if I couldn’t do it then based on my schedule and Dr Noel Alpins Schedule I wouldn’t be able to get it done for like 5 Weeks. I felt pretty good about it and decided to pull the trigger and go ahead with the LASIK.

Next up was a one on one session with Dr Noel Alpins, the eye surgeon himself. He takes a look at your test results from the morning, your patient history and all other information the optometrists had gathered. He then personally evaluates your eyes under magnification and light and gives the yes or no if he’ll go ahead with the procedure. I got the thumbs up and was provided an opportunity to ask any questions. My biggest concern was my inability to focus my eyes right now but he assured me it’d be fine and that my LASIK Procedure would be a complete success. I did have some concerns about some of the side effects that were listed on the document that they get you to sign but he ensured me that they are mainly old side effects that haven’t been an issue for 15+ Years, they are mainly there just for legal reasons.

I headed off on my drive home and gosh it was a bizarre experience. I needed to wear my prescription sunglasses as it was bright due to my dilated pupils but the glasses were also required to focus in the distance to see the road. Their was a new vision factor in the mix though, I was unable to clearly see the speedo as my eyes couldn’t focus on it. I got home safely but it ended up taking like 8 Hours for my eyes to return to normal, a lot different then the 3 Hours I was told back at the clinic.

THE LASIK PROCEDURE

One of the many things that you are asked when you arrive on the day of your surgery is if you’d like a DVD Copy of your LASIK Procedure to take home at the end. It seemed like such a weird thing to ask but I embraced and said ‘yeah, why not’ and thus paved the way for this blog post. There is no better way to give a patients perspective of LASIK then to show you, so I’ve put together this little video to educate and entertain anyone considering LASIK in the future:

IMMEDIATE POST-OP

When you are walked out of the operating room the nurses have fitted clear protective covers over your eyes to keep them safe from touching. I took this photo of myself as record of how you look as soon as you exit:

DirectlyAfterLASIK_LowRes

The optometrist examines your eyes under the magnifying scope after 10 Mins of rest to see if the flaps are placed well and bonding, if all is good you are sent home with some instructions and a little bag full of medical goodies. They also equip you with some temporary sunnies as your eyes are sensitive to light after the procedure, I opted to keep these on for the afternoon as it felt better glare wise. You are advised to get driven home by a friend or family member and to take the afternoon pretty easy. I wound up just cruising out in bed listening to music and podcasts all day. The results are pretty instantaneous, it is tricky to see through the clear plastic protectors as they add a haze to your vision but I found if you peek through the small slit between you’re face and nose you get a clear view beyond and even 2-3 Hours after the operation I could see everything in focus in the distance. Amazing! This feeling of clear vision is something I hadn’t experienced in 6 Years and it was just a taste of what is to come.

EYE DROPS

If there is one thing that you are going to need to learn and get comfortable doing, it’s applying eye drops to yourself. I was always scared of it, I hated looking up and faltering in anticipation as I gently squeezed drops into my eyes. Now as part of my recovery I needed to use three different types of eye drops in my eyes, three times a day. It’s a lot of eye drops so you need to adapt quickly and learn to trust the drop. Know that it doesn’t hurt, get your aiming right, don’t blink and just let it fall. For me it took a few days to get comfortable with the constant application of eye drops, I even made mistakes one week on where I’d go for an eye drop and get my nose instead of my eye. Rest assured, you soon get the hang of it and embrace the feeling of a fresh drop in your eye. For a breakdown of the eyes drops please see below:

EyeDrops_LowRes

CILOXAN
This is an antibiotic eye drop used to prevent infection. It’s used three times daily and is applied 10 Mins before the Flarex.

FLAREX
This is a mild cortisone or steroid eye drop used to enhance healing of the eye after surgery. As with Ciloxan it’s applied three times daily and it makes sense to partner it up with Ciloxan so that you can knock them off simultaneously. It’s advised to apply Ciloxan first, then 10 Mins later apply Flarex so that each drop absorbs effectively into your eyes.

SYSTANE ULTRA
This is a lubricating eye drop designed to keep the eye moist. After surgery your eyes won’t produce the natural lubricating film as readily as you are used to and you will be left feeling irritated with dry eye. You can use these drops as much as you like, the goal is to keep your eyes comfortable. You will most likely run out of this eye drop especially if you use it a lot, fear not, it’s a non prescription eye drop which you can pick up at the chemist for around $7.

To make it simple I called them ‘Antibiotic Drops’ instead of Ciloxan which I labelled yellow and ‘Steroid Drops’ instead of Flarex which I labelled red. I found the best way to use these eye drops in combination is Antibiotic and Steroid around meal time, so breakfast, lunch and dinner. Apply the Antibiotic Drops first, then roughly 10 Mins later which usually timed well with finishing a meal , you apply the Steroid Drops. This pattern continues for 1 Week after surgery. The Systane Ultra which I dubbed ‘Lubricating Drops’ were used in between meals. How often you’d use them depends on your environment, if I was at home I found I didn’t need to use them that much but aimed to use them at least 2-3 Times a day. Sometimes when I was at work in an air conditioned environment I’d need to use them 2-3 Times between meals to keep my eyes comfortable. I also made a practice of using the Lubricating Drops before bed so my eyes were well primed for a solid night of healing.

If you’ve never used eye drops extensively before you’ll be interested to know that the eyes and tear ducts are connected to the nasal passage and thus the throat. This whole sinus system is joined so don’t be surprised when you can taste a funny taste in the back of your throat shortly after using the Antibiotic or Steroid Drops. It’s just the flavour of the eye drops and will soon disappear.

POST-OP CARE

One day after the procedure you head back into the clinic where both an optometrist and the eye surgeon look over your eye. You’re eyes are one of the fastest healing organs in your body which means that the LASIK Flap that was cut the day before should be well and truly healed even just 24 Hours after the surgery. Of course it isn’t fully healed to 100% strength for a few weeks but it’s immediate wounds are bonded and looking good. They remove your Eye Shields for the first time since your surgery and it’s great to be able to bask in clear vision without glasses. The optometrist runs an eye test as per your initial consultation and my eyes were actually better then 20/20 Vision which is what they call a ‘bonus zone’. The goal is 20/20 Vision but if you can read lines under the 20/20 Line on the Eye Chart then you’re in the realm of bonus vision. Both the surgeon and the optometrist were extremely happy with how my procedure turned out and looking under the magnifying scope they said ‘you could barely tell I had LASIK yesterday’.

You now have a few sets of rules to follow but it’s nothing too crazy:

  • Use Medicated Eye Drops as directed
  • Wear Eye Shields while sleeping for 2-3 Nights after surgery
  • Do not rub your eyes
  • Wear sunglasses when exposed to UV Light
  • Do not wear Eye Make-Up or Eye Masks for 7 Days following the procedure
  • Avoid Soap and Water in your eye for 2 Weeks
  • No swimming or water activities for 2 Weeks
  • Avoid dusty or smoky environments for 2 Weeks
  • No contact sport for 1 Month

I chose to wear the Eye Shields at night for 7 Days following the surgery as I was paranoid about rubbing my eyes in my sleep. There are a few variations that you need to make to how you sleep so that you can lay comfortable with the Eye Shields on, mainly head position and weight distribution but I found it pretty easy to adapt.

As a general rule I decided that the only thing that should touch my eyes are medicated eye drops and my eye lids. You’ll need to be particularly conscious about soap and water while showering and cleaning yourself. In the shower I made sure my eyes were closed when doing anything near my face and always washed my hair with my head backwards and water flowing towards my back, away from my face. At night when I washed my face before bed I used a warm flannel rather then running water and splashing it on my face, this gave me control and allowed me to keep water out of my eyes.

As you’ll be using so many eye drops it’s not uncommon for gunk or goo to build up in the corner of your eyes, especially after you have been sleeping. The best way to clear this out is to soak a flannel in warm water, wring it out and then precisely wipe your eye. It works best in front of a mirror as you can see what you are doing, only go as close to your eye as you need to in order to wipe the gunk out. This only needed to be done once or twice a day.

The rest are pretty easy to follow. No swimming or water sports for 2 Weeks and no contact sport for a month isn’t a huge ask. Wearing sunglasses while outside and not rubbing your eyes are just general eye health habits that should be followed. This is a perfect way to instil the habit in your system so you can continue them long after the surgery recovery period.

One additional suggestion that I would make would be sure to utilise your diet to leverage your recovery potential. If you take a look at research online it’s well stated that Omega-3s have proven to have a direct correlation to eye health. Many people supplement with Fish Oil to ensure they are getting adequate levels of EPA and DHA while recovering from LASIK, I was no different. Pick a good brand of Fish Oil and start a daily routine of having it with your breakfast, even better, load up on Sardines, Salmon or any other fish that is high in Omega-3s. I have no comparison as to how effective this method is to healing my eyes after LASIK but seeing as 4 Months on my eyes are as good as new, I see no reason not to introduce a higher intake of Omega-3s into your diet especially with all of the other health benefits that they offer.

PROBLEMS

There were a few things that I noticed about my eyes in the days and weeks following my laser eye surgery. Thankfully these are common side effects and nothing to be overly worried about but I thought I’d run them by you anyway.

FLOATERS
Apparently everyone’s eyes have floaters but we never notice them. Floaters are little floating substances that you can see in the corner of your eye, but when you go to look at them they disappear. If I were you I would take notice of identifying them before your surgery so that you can compare it to after the surgery. I had what appeared as an increased presence of floaters in my eyes, I could see them in my peripheral vision and they were particularly noticeable when they were backlit while watching TV. They would seem very out of focus and again with a photography background, it seemed like bokeh floating around the corners of my eyes. Even my eyebrows and eyelashes would seem more prominent as out of focus elements in front of my vision. Now, almost four months later I don’t even notice them anymore and they have gone away.

GLOW/FLARING
I noticed a very intense glow or flare effect whenever looking at something that is backlit, be it a TV or traffic lights when driving at night or early morning. It would flare out quite a bit and I was confused if it was in focus or not as the glow creates the illusion of softness in focus. I was like ‘are my eyes not focusing properly, has the laser correction not worked or is it just flaring out’. I concluded that it was just flaring out as when I used my hand to cut the backlight I could see perfectly fine and everything in the distance was sharp. Again, almost four months on and this has settled down and is no longer an issue.

BLOODSHOT EYES
I never got bloodshot eyes during the day but every morning after the surgery I would wake up and my eyes would be red as. Not like exaggerated in one area type of red but general redness all over the white part of my eye. I found that if I put in my eye drops, be it Antibiotic, Steroid or Lubricating and then ate breakfast, by the time I finished eating my eyes were back to normal. This stopped being an issue around 4 Weeks after the procedure.

CLOSE FOCUS
Sometimes when looking at my phone I would find it difficult for my eyes to find close focus. Where I used to hold my iPhone or iPad to read it now no longer worked and I needed to hold it further away from me to see it in focus. I also found that it was easier to relax the muscles in my eyes and consciously drift them into a state of blurriness. This cleared up after a few weeks and now isn’t a problem.

VISION QUALITY FLUCTUATIONS
It is completely normal to have some fluctuations in your vision while your eyes a fully healing. I found that some days my eyes would be better then others, sometimes my right eye wouldn’t focus very well but the left would be fine. It went up and down over the weeks, I’d have back to back days of perfect vision, then a day of slightly out of focus vision but nowhere near as bad as when I needed to wear glasses. Some days I’d have great vision in the morning but find by the afternoon what would normally be in focus was a little soft. You’re eyes take time to heal and to adapt, it wasn’t until roughly the 2-3 Month Period that this had fully settled and I was getting consistent performance from my eyes. From time to time I’ll notice that only one eye isn’t performing as well as it should, so I’ll pop in a Lubricating Eye Drop and take a few blinks and my vision will generally back to peak condition.

RESULTS

I must say, I am so glad that I went forward with the LASIK Procedure. It’s now almost been four months and I have vision that is better then 20/20. I can see in the distance perfectly, often better then my friends. I no longer have to deal with the woes of wearing glasses such as cleaning them, swapping from normal to sunnies when going from inside to out, looking down when it’s raining to stop raindrops getting on them, steaming up whenever you open the oven, the list goes on. I now wake up in the morning and everything is super clear with no issues, from time to time I will need to use some Lubricating Eyedrops for comfort and clarity but my need for them is becoming less and less.

For the first time the other week I went to a theme park in Japan and was able to ride a rollercoaster and enjoy clear, focused vision of the thrillride that befell me. Amazing!

I also visited an outdoor onsen while in Japan and totally appreciated the fact that I could walk outside at night in the cold, make my way to the hot springs of the onsen and bathe there with my face inches from the water and not have to deal with any fogging or bluriness. Amazing!

Another nice moment is when you take a look at yourself in the mirror from a distance, I realised that I hadn’t been able to see myself clearly from a distance without glasses on for years. Amazing!

In day to day life the benefits are paramount, clear vision really is a blessing and it’s so great to see clearly again without glasses!

Hopefully this post has helped you and educated you in some way, shape or form. If you have any other questions about my experience with LASIK please hit me up in the comments below.

Thanks!

The End of Faulty Brake Lights

Have you ever been driving and almost rammed into the back of the car in front of you? Forcing you to slam on your brakes last minute and sending your shopping flying off the seats and crashing to the floor. Then moments after realising that it isn’t your fault at all, blame falling to the driver ahead for not having working brake lights. How can you possibly know they are slowing down without a keen focus on depth perception? After all, it’s a skill to manage the numerous other attention sucking tasks that all drivers must juggle. The brake light makes it easy, blatantly obvious, that we are reducing speed, but when one of them are out, or even worse, both, it’s a recipe for disaster.

This issue plagued my mind many years ago when I started out driving on my P Plates. During my daily commute back and forth from the suburbs to the city I would see people with faulty brake lights, left one out here, right one out there, sometimes both of them wouldn’t be working and I’d find frustration taking over. I’d swap lanes as soon as I could so I didn’t have to deal with the extra concentration required on judging distance between my vehicle and the one in front, leaving that burden to someone else on the road to deal with. It got me thinking, surely these drivers weren’t purposefully driving without working brake lights. Nobody would want to intentionally put themselves, their vehicle and other drivers at risk. No, it had to be that they didn’t know that their brake lights weren’t working. They don’t do checks on their vehicle often enough or they haven’t had a mechanics service lately that would cover all of these routine checks. Which brought me to me next question, how do we tell them so they can make sure the problem gets resolved?

Obviously this is a communication breakdown, it lives by my rule that 95% of problems can be solved or prevented with communication. Simple, but how do you tell a driver going down the road at 80km/h that their brake light is out, you can’t shout it out the window at speed, they’d never hear you and it’d be down right dangerous. You could try to tell them at the next set of traffic lights but the chances of traffic working in your favour so that you can pull up to their side is quite slim. If traffic was on your side then you’d need to wind down your window, get their visual attention, they’d have to wind down their window and then you’d have a very brief conversation before the lights turned green again. This is all very circumstantial and not very likely to happen, being further compounded by the communication barrier. Not everyone has the confidence to strike up a conversation roadside with another fellow commuter, most people would just take the easy way out and do nothing.

THE SOLUTION

So are we forever doomed to living with faulty brake lights on our roads? Thankfully not, as I have devised a solution that you can easily put together at home to solve this problem once and for all. The two things that you will need is an A4 Printer and an A4 Laminator.

Click the text below to download these two files:

DOWNLOAD -> Left Brake Light
LeftBrakeLight

DOWNLOAD -> Right Brake Light
RightBrakeLight

Now all you need to do is print these PDF Files. There is a little trick to it though, if you have a duplex printer, meaning print on both sides of a sheet of paper then it should be easy. If you have a regular printer like me then I find it’s best to draw an ‘X’ or a ‘line’ on the top of the next piece of printing paper, print something out and compare where your ‘X’ or ‘line’ started to where it is when finished so that you can understand where your printer prints ink and how the paper moves through the printer mechanism. Armed with this knowledge, print off the above ‘Left and Right Brake Light PDFs’. Run the ‘Left Brake Light PDF’ through first, then put the same printed piece of paper back into the printer as per our above experiment and print the ‘Right Brake Light PDF’. You should end up with something like this:

BrakeLightGIF

Final step is to laminate this badboy so that it’s protected from weather and can remain in good condition throughout all of it’s uses over time. Laminators you can pick up pretty cheap from your local office supplies store, alternatively places like Officeworks or Staples should be able to do A4 Lamination for less then $1.

You are now done, keep this laminated print out in your car and on standby, ready to use should you encounter a fellow driver with a faulty brake light.

HOW TO USE

You may have noticed that the Left and Right Brake Light Printouts are backwards, while this may seem a bit silly at first, I can guarantee you that it’s not. As discussed before, communication to the other driver is key, for it to be effective it needs to be as easy as possible.

If you are driving behind another motorist and notice that one of their brake lights is out, just stay driving behind them. Next time you pull up to a traffic light, grab your Brake Light Printout and hold up the corresponding Left/Right Side. It’s best to hold it next to your head so the other driver will see something move and then use eye contact and a wave to acknowledge that they see you. Because the text is backwards it reads the correct way when viewed in a mirror. So rather then the driver having to turn their head to read your message, all they need to do is give a quick glance to their rear view mirror and they’ll be well informed of their faulty brake light.

RearViewMirror

If both of their brake lights are out, they will get your message that one of them is not working and surely check both lights when they begin work to mend the issue.

This is a great way to communicate to your fellow motorists that their brake light is broken. It’s easy, requires little effort on your part and might even strike up a laugh or a good story for both you and your fellow motorist to tell a friend. ‘Hey, you’ll never guess what happened today. I was driving, got a red and stopped at a lights, caught sight of this woman in my rear view. She was holding up a sign telling me my brake light was out. A little bizarre but hey, she was right.’ Then when they stop to really think about it they’ll realise your pure genius, ‘how did I manage to read that text in my mirror?’. For all you shy people out there, take comfort in hiding behind the sign, no need to break free of your comfort zone if you don’t feel like it. Hold up the words and let them do the talking!

Hopefully you find this helpful and I truly hope that with all of our combined efforts we can finally get rid of all those faulty brake lights on our roads!

Apple AirPods

AirPods. Apple’s first real foray in wireless headphones, I have been lucky enough to pick up a pair on launch day, delivered right to my door thanks to an early pre-order. Being in Australia we have the advantage of the time difference meaning that even though the TNT Delivery Man didn’t show up until 1pm in the afternoon, I’m still one of the first people in the world to give them a try. I wanted to share my initial impressions with you all.

First of all, they arrive in the classic Apple packaging. Minimalist design, neat, clean, it’s all about the product.

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Upon removing the plastic wrap and delving within, you are presented with a very straight forward instruction manual and the factory sealed product.

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Having removed the Charge Case from the box it immediately presents itself as a well rounded, rectangular shaped box. There is a Lightning Port at the base which is used to juice up the ‘Charge Case’ which in turn charges the AirPods when they are docked. There is also subtle button on the back which Apple claims is used to sync to different devices.

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Upon opening the hinge you will notice a little light indicator, this indicates white when it is in connecting mode, orange when the AirPods are charging and green when they are fully charged. ‘Hello, I am AirPod L and I am AirPod R’. Similar to the standard Apple Wired Headphone, the AirPods have a little text print indicating which ear they belong to just encase it isn’t obvious.

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Almost immediately I got into playing with the AirPods and they were extremely easy to figure out. To sync them to your iPhone, all you need to do is turn Bluetooth On, mine was already on as I use it for my Apple Watch and also to sync to my car audio system with a Belkin CarAudio Connect FM. Once Bluetooth is on you simply open the AirPod Case and you’ll get a connect pop-up on your iPhone, click ‘Connect’ and then you are good to go. You can immediately start playing songs, podcasts or videos and you’ll be able to wirelessly hear them through the AirPods. Here is a little video I put together showing you how easy they are to setup:

I found that they can easily sync up to my iPad as well as my iPhone. Apple states in the instruction manual that the subtle button on the back of the ‘Charge Case’ is used to initiate sync mode but I found that this wasn’t necessary. I simply turned Bluetooth on for my iPad and then looked at Bluetooth Devices in Settings and was able to select AirPods and Connect.

This is super useful as I’m a Spotify Free User, meaning I still have ads/pop-ups in the Spotify App and that I can only Shuffle Play on my iPhone. I don’t really use Spotify on my phone mainly for data reasons when I’m out and about, I tend to use it mostly on my iMac or my iPad. Spotify treats an iPad as a Computer meaning you can play albums and playlists as they were intended without having to Shuffle Play. So now I can use my iPad when I am cooking dinner to play Spotify through headphones, I won’t need to be tethered as it’s a wireless setup, the AirPods are small and lightweight meaning my movement around the kitchen won’t be hindered and I’ll still have access to pretty much full Spotify except with a few ads here and there. This for me has unlocked ultra portable Spotify, which isn’t super essential but definitely nice to have.

While listening to music through my iPad I found I was easily able to hijack the Bluetooth Connection between my iPad and the AirPods. I did this by going Settings -> Bluetooth -> AirPods on my iPhone, this took a short moment and the AirPods switched connection from my iPad to my iPhone.

One of the coolest features that I noticed pretty quickly is that whatever you are listening to something and you remove a single AirPod the content will automatically pause. The moment you pop that AirPod back into your ear play will continue where you left off. This is quite remarkable as it takes a common action (taking earphones out of your ear when someone talks to you) and introduces an automatic behaviour (content pause and play). This essentially means you could walk around with AirPods in all of the time and easily flow in and out of conversations in the real world with very little effort or disruption from your music/podcast.

I had a play with how the charging works and it feels very similar to the way the Apple Watch Charger functions, wireless charging with a magnetic latch. You place the AirPods into the Charge Case and once they are close enough a magnet locks them into place, securing them and initiating charge from the case to the AirPods themselves. Interestingly enough you also have the option to charge a single AirPod at a time, if you just put one AirPod into the Charge Case you will be able to see on your iPhone or other connected device the battery percentage of each individual AirPod. When both AirPods are in the charge case they display in unison. Here is a little video I put together demonstrating the magnetic click in and the battery displays on iPhone:

For seamless access to your AirPods Battery Information you can swipe left from your iOS Home Screen you get access to your widgets. Enable the ‘Batteries’ Widget if it isn’t already enabled and depending on the state of the AirPods (In-Use, Individually in Charge Case or Both in Charge Case) you will see the corresponding battery percentages.

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One of my favourite features of the standard Apple Headphones was the hard buttons near the microphone. While listening to music I like being able to easily adjust volume up and down as well as play/pause. The middle button was also great for answering and hanging up phone calls. As discussed earlier play/pause is sorted but it’ll be interesting to see how I adapt to the new Siri Features of the AirPods for volume control and other miscellaneous tasks.

My initial impression in regards to audio quality has been a winner. I listened to some music and it sounded as good if not better then the standard Apple Headphones. I also made a test phone call and the audio quality was as expected, the people on the other end of the line could hear me loud and clear and I had no issues hearing what they had to say. I did a very basic Bluetooth Range Test and like many other Bluetooth Headphones it is indeed limited by proximity. I was listening to Spotify on my iPad through the AirPods and found I was able to walk approximately 10m around the house away from the iPad before I started getting a few audio drop outs. Though audio did drop out I didn’t notice any degradation in audio quality of the bits and pieces that were coming through.

I’ve had a great first impression of the AirPods, the seamless setup process and the quality of the product is exactly what I would expect of high end tech in 2016. Over the next few days and weeks I’ll keep using them and see if I notice any major disadvantages or hiccups that need ironing out. If you’re interested in hearing more please let me know in the comments section below.

 

FFXV: Ultimate Cactuar EXP

Hello Everyone,

My name is Brad and I’m addicted to levelling up. Since I first played Final Fantasy 7 the lesson of train hard, win easy was seeded deep down, I’ve recently been playing my way through Final Fantasy XV on Playstation 4 and this is no different.

When you first set off with Noctis and his companions you will be in the town of Hammerhead, not too far from here lies a Cactuar that will net you 6000 EXP per kill which is pretty insane for this early in the game.

Many players around the globe have posted various videos detailing it’s location and various tips and tricks for making the little bugger spawn. But for me, that was precisely the problem, it wouldn’t spawn and any map of the Cactuar’s location was in a YouTube Video that was annoying to pause and too small on my iPhone Screen. So I thought I’d share a Full HD Map of the Cactuar’s Location here:

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The Cactuar spawns around my location marker on the map, the best way to find him is to listen for little squeaks and keep an eye out for his green darting movements. To get there quickly you can park your car where mine is parked on the map, then it’s a short run over, alternatively you can head up directly from Hammerhead.

The wider community seems to believe that the Cactuar spawns between 04:00 – 07:59, I haven’t found this to be the case as I’ve had them spawn in the afternoon around 14:00. My strategy was to hunt in that general area between 05:00 – 18:00, when it got late, drive to a different town and do a hunt or collect some resources and make your way back in the morning to avoid any daemons that may show up.

I tried saving and loading a few times to assist with the spawn rate but that didn’t really seem to help. I’ve found that roughly 300ft – 500ft is a good distance to run away from the spawn spot and then head back, if you can slay a different pack of enemies before you head back that feels like it helps in making the Cactuar actually show up. When you return to the ‘Cactuar Spawn Point’, if different enemies appear, kill them and then run away again, there is no way a Cactuar will spawn right after another monster. If you get bored it’s worth a run to the nearby campsite to extract some magic elements for your spells.

At the start of the game the Cactuar sits at Level 15 and isn’t too tough to beat. The one move to watch out for is 1000 Needles as it’s guaranteed 1000 Damage and will definitely take you down to ‘danger’. I found Warp Strikes with Daggers to be the best best, strike hard and fast to stun the Cactuar and then get a few hits in, retreat to safety for a little bit and repeat.

Ultimate EXP
At the end of Chapter 1 you find yourself far south doing an errand for Dino in exchange for a boat trip, once all is said and done he will suggest you rest overnight before disembarking the next morning. This overnight hotel visit scores you 2x EXP Bonus, don’t be afraid that you’ll miss it as it’s very obvious, the game says something along the lines of ‘would you like to proceed, if you continue you won’t be able to return here for a long time’. What I would suggest is not sleeping for a few in-game days and slay as many Cactuars as you can be bothered to, then proceed with this and your EXP will instantly be doubled.

I followed this trick with 26,000 EXP which doubled to 52,000 EXP and my entire party levelled up from Level 15 to Level 28, highly recommended!

Anyway, I hope this helps out a few Final Fantasy Fans out there looking to get a decent leg up at the start of the game. And if not, well, it’s a good reference for me to look up shall I want to hunt the Cactuar again anytime soon.

 

Welcome to Grow This…

Hello and Welcome!

Grow This is setting off on it’s maiden voyage and I just wanted to get the ball rolling on writing so that I don’t fall into the trap of ‘I’ll do it later’ and then never getting around to actually doing anything.

The last few weeks have been an adventure for me. I travelled to New Zealand for work for 6 Days and then tacked on a week long holiday at the end of the job, getting to explore Milford Sound, Mt Cook, Lake Pukaki, Lake Tekapo, Queenstown, Wanaka and anywhere in between. I came back home to Melbourne, Australia and went straight onto a job in Regional Victoria and New South Wales. Upon wrapping that job I fasted for 60 Hours and began trialling a Ketogenic Diet, more so a Modified Atkins Diet but in the macro realm of 70% Fats, 25% Protein and 5% Carbs. I’ve been facing the challenge of eating Keto Meals while working on a film set, which has been tricky but totally achievable. The long awaited launch of Final Fantasy XV also came along in this period, as a long time fan of the series naturally I picked it up on launch day and dived right in. My passion for reading books has been reignited as well, I always struggled with being in my head too much while reading, not being about to imagine what is happening in a book and focusing too much on details. It used to take me like 5 Mins Per Page but through a few simple tips I have boosted my reading speeds, my concentration and have started reading at a pace I could have only dreamed of.

There is a great deal of exciting things coming up too. I have been booked on a big TVC (Television Commercial) in January shooting on the ARRI Alexa 65 which is a camera system that has never even been in Melbourne before. At the moment I am devising Post Production Pathways to effectively deliver the 2TB per 40 Mins of footage, so far so good. This morning I just placed one of the first pre-orders for the Apple EarPods which should arrive in the next few days. Being in Australia we are lucky enough to have the Time Zone Advantage where between us and New Zealand we’ll be the first in the world to get a new product assuming it’s a simultaneous worldwide launch.

That is just a taste of what I have been up to lately. I look forward to deconstructing the processes that I have developed for each specific activity above and bringing them to you in an informative and easy to understand format. So next time you want to eat ketogenically in social situations you’ll be okay, or if you get thrown in the deep end wrangling 5TB of ARRIRAW Open Gate per day you’ll be okay. I’m going to bring you the right tools and the right tips to get you going and to see you through to total competence.

Thanks for taking the time to stop by!