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Final Cut Pro Dropped Frames and Anti-Virus Software on Mac OS X

An MPG Pro Workstation customer upgraded his Final Cut Pro video processing system to a “killer” configuration per my recommendations (48GB memory, 8 cores at 3.32 GHz, SSD, 3-drive RAID-0 enterprise-grade HDD stripe).

His business is producing video presentations for corporate clients. . One client drove down for a preview, then left in frustration because the system could not playback without halting with a dropped-frame alert. Another two clients were getting impatient. My customer was in a panic— his livelihood was at stake.

After sorting out all the hardware issues, and finding everything to be superbly suited to the task, I concluded that it had to be software related. As I never run anti-virus and don’t recommend it, I didn’t immediately ask that question, and first excluded various other potential issues.

Anti-virus software on Mac OS X — avoid it like the plague

Anti-Virus software causes Final Cut Pro to drop frames
Anti-Virus software causes Final Cut Pro to drop frames

The problem? Anti-virus software. This client had installed three (3) different anti-virus programs. Which is not to say that even one program would be acceptable for a video or sound editing Mac workstation.

There is no rational reason to run anti-virus software on Mac OS X today— there are no in-the-wild self-propagating viruses to combat. And if you download “free” commercial software (with an embedded trojan horse), well, there’s no excuse for the Low State of stealing, or assuming.

Macs will eventually suffer like Windows PCs, but that is not the case yet. And until it is, running anti-virus software is a recipe for system degradation. You suffer every day, for dubious benefits, if any. Phishing and the like are far more real dangers.

These anti-virus companies prey on Mac users based on the principle of fear, uncertainty and about (FUD). In the Windows PC world, anti-virus is mandatory (which makes the choice of a Windows PC as foolish as it was in 2006, barring some specific requirement). So anyone coming from a PC will naturally get suckered into anti-virus on Mac.

I have never recommended anti-virus software for Macs, and I still don’t. This client’s nightmare should make it clear that a video editing or sound editing workstation sensitive to real-time processing should be configured with the bare essentials to get the job done.

Apple’s misleading “help”

My client had called Apple, and had been told it was bad memory or a bad drive, the first and best refuge of incompetents unable to perform any real diagnosis (“not Apple parts? Must be bad memory or drives”). Works great from the FUD principle.

Apple didn’t bother to note that it was ECC memory, and that ECC memory can be viewed as to its error status right from the Apple System Profiler.

The Final Cut Pro dialog claims that the disk is too slow when the data rates required were at most about 17MB/second, which is about 1/8 of what one decent hard drive can supply. The FCP dialog ought to include the advice on anti-virus, which I’m sure the FCP development team is well aware of. Giving erroneous advice just leads users down the wrong path, a very costly exercise, and the days of slow hard drives are long gone. Then again, it should be an embarrassment to Apple that FCP is still a 32-bit application.


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