This page is about jumping platforms, Mac to Windows, a growing trend as Apple drifts further away from creative industries and into the luxury/fashion world. I've been a Mac user for my whole working life, from the floppy-drive sporting MacPlus to the 2013 trash-can, so it's going to be quite a leap, and I thought it would be worth documenting for others in a similar position.
I'm using Cinema4D and AfterEffects, with ZBrush, Modo and various other apps to do Motion Graphics/VFX types of work. Priorities for me were to have a balanced machine, strong with both CPU and GPU, good for at least the next two years and with plenty of space for expansion.
Here's the machine I've landed on, from strongboxtechnology. Processor: i7 6900 | RAM: 64Gb | GFX: Dual Nvidia GTX Titan X Pascal  |  Storage: 1Tb SSD  |  4Tb WD Black HD | WIndows 10 Pro. There were two case options, I went for the larger mainly for extra the GPU space.
Update: Dec 16. After delivery there was a slight hiccup - one of the cables to the motherboard had come loose in transit, which meant that the machine wouldn't turn on, effectively dead. I started to get a soon to be familiar 'oh here we go, this is what I was warned about' kind of feeling. Very quick response from Strongbox, with a detailed explanation of where to look, fixed this problem.
Second hitch was entirely my own problem - after a decade of Macs, using tablets as input, I don't own a mouse. Using the 'Ease of Access Master Settings' I was able to have the keyboard drive the pointer around, awkward as hell but just enough to launch a browser and download Wacom drivers.
Then it was time to come to terms with Windows 10. I went in fully expecting to be frustrated and lost at first, and this is pretty much what happened. Some aspects felt quite familiar; installing software, connecting to a network. Some bits were different enough to be confusing, the task bar, trying to find column view for folders & files, understanding where stuff needs be placed. And some bits were downright repellant - pressing 'start' popped up a load of tiles 'suggesting' games I might want to play, ads for XBox live, Minecraft. Luckily these can be deleted, and the game demos easily uninstalled.
The common rebuttal is that the OS is just surface, and once you launch into an app you could be anywhere – but even in C4D, AE, the environment feels foreign enough to be noticeable, at least in the first few weeks.
The other jarring feature of Windows10 is its schizophrenia - it can't decide if it wants to look cool, minimal and airy, with clean white space and large type, or fiddly and retro with tiny checkboxes and icons. The garbage below should be some indication, there's no attempt at organisation, the scales are all off, the type is grim. All as expected, but it made me wince anyway.
Update: Dec 17. Installing software came next of course. I won't go into too much detail, it was mostly effortless and nigh-on identical to the OSX procedures.
1) Cinema, simple using the eportfolio site. Up and running in no time.
2) Adobe software - similarly simple via Creative Cloud app. You can even deactive a Mac license via the PC app (but you can't choose which one).
3) Substance Painter, Designer - download app, download license file
4) Modo - simple via TheFoundry site
5) Houdini - simple after deactivating the license on the Mac
ZBrush was only slightly fiddly - I had to deactivate all Mac licenses, then start a support ticket to make a platform transfer. But it was free, support was very quick and it's running well.
For Plugins, the jump is similarly simple. For AE I've installed Red Giant, Frischluft, VideoCopilot, and around a dozen from For C4D I've got DEM Earth and various other tools4D plugins, Cycles & XParticles, and TFD, Enhance4D plus a few others.
So far the only one that's proving troublesome is RealFlow for C4D, which has come back with a message saying 'unable to save license data'. The plugin itself is fairly useless so this is no great loss, will follow up if I can ever be bothered to get this working.
As for speed - well it's the fastest machine I've worked on, by a big margin. Scores below, 1775 and 192fps on Cinebench, just what the doctor ordered. Initial stress-test of the graphics cards via TFD also was very encouraging, too early to show anything impressive but a simple smoky sim was very quick to generate, would have defeated my Mac for sure. CB scores below show how far ahead this machine is from the MacPro (OpenGL 85 CPU 1200).
Christmas break (*burp*)
Update: Jan 4. After this it gets more fiddly of course. I work with quite a lot of fonts, and use Linotype FontExplorer on the Mac, not available on Windows. First stab at a replacement I've tried is NexusFont (free). It doesn't handle installation, you have to manually copy/paste the fonts into the big Windows/Fonts folder, which worries me a little, as the folder might become unwieldy - but it seems OK at the moment.
Then the next hitch, I was trying to install some software from Paragon, HFS+, to allow me to read Mac drives. Installation came with some cryptic message about 'editing registry information - proceed? Yes/No?' Who knows? So clicked yes, went ahead with the install which failed for some reason - it didn't work anyway. So I uninstalled (using their installer), restarted, and... waited. Closed down, restarted one or two times, then got a blue screen like this:
Again, got the feeling - ah, so here we go, this is when it all goes wrong. The blue colour didn't help. Luckily restart worked this time, back in business.
- - - - -
I'm sure this sort of problem will become less scary over time, but the overriding feeling is that I'm moving out of my safe, familiar Mac environment where I can work effortlessly and everything behaves predictably. The question that remains is whether leaving my comfort-zone will be a good move – new ways of working, new possibilities, some change in direction – or just a set of unwelcome obstacles.
Time will tell...
Update: Jan 8 Some new 'adjustments' to make. First, the media players in Windows are pretty bad, geared for movie consumption rather than playing content you've generated yourself, so I needed a decent player that could handle most formats, codecs etc and display details like frame-rate, bit rate and frame number rather than timecode. I'm trying VLC as a first replacement for Quicktime Player – it's ok but clunky. (
Then I was trying to set some type in AE and found another glitch. In OSX there's keyboard shortcuts for most characters in a font; em-dashes, en-dashes, bullets etc and I naively thought these would be the same in Windows. The solution is that you have to look up or learn specific codes for each special character - ALT+0151 is em-dash, others are similarly obscure.
But then I finally had a slight moment of appreciation for one of Window's features, so I thought I'd record this too as a bit of light relief after all the whining ;-) Using the sidebar and top file path to drill down into folders, find file previews etc is actually a really efficient way of locating files, nicer even than the OSX column view, as it lets you very quickly jump back up a few levels, move quickly between folders within a single window. Although there's some shortcomings - I'd like to see folder sizes without having to check each one in turn - I do like this setup and the quick navigation options.

Update: Jan 9 A media player I'd not heard of before seems to be a better choice than VLC. It's called DJV link here: Open source and seems to support every format/codec I'd need, including ProRes. The interface is almost comically spartan but it's very customisable, great jog controls and some nice colour sampling features too. It's missing one or two features from QuickTime player – I can't find a way of displaying the codec used – but overall it's a very useful addition.
Final thoughts
Update March 9: I thought I'd finish off this post with a few final thoughts, now I've had a chance to get a bit more used to the change; just a few scattered points relating to using the machine as a productive workstation.
1) After a week or three I became pretty much comfortable using Windows. There's still some stuff from OSX that I miss of course - 'Seer' is OK but it's no QuickLook. That said, there's plenty on the plus side; the task bar is more functional than the dock in OSX, and I really like the ability to hop into the middle of a file path and jump into a new folder when you're digging through a project. The detailed storage breakdown is also very handy, seeing who's hogging all the space on my HD (it's always Adobe, of course).
Another plus is the ability to spread windows across multiple screens. I was shocked when 4k footage played back stretched the full width of two HD screens, no frames skipped. Anyone working in live events will know the value of being able to see footage at this scale. (With Macs the video playback is restricted to a single screen.)
2) Working with type, doing 2D design on Windows is a pain. Indesign (2017) is a horror on Windows, jerky and unresponsive, it seems utterly un-tested. Indesign 2015, and Illustrator 2017 are better but I still found the process far less fluid; I keep on deleting/duplicating/selecting things by accident, positioning seems less precise, whole app felt less refined. This could just be down to me needing more time to get familiar with the finer differences between Macs/PCs - type selection, cursor speed etc.

3) On the other hand, every 3D software I've tried seems happier in Windows. Stability, speed, UI response and fluidity is better. Tested so far are C4D, Houdini (15 & 16), ZBrush, Substance Painter, but the biggest improvement was Modo, which felt like a whole new app, sharp and snappy compared to the sluggish, flickery mess that it has become on Macs. Unfortunately the instability is common to both platforms, Modo 10.1 is the first and so far only app to get the PC to crash hard enough to crash like this:
Modo 10.2 seems happier, so perhaps this crash was a one-off - and stability was never Modo's strong point anyway.

To conclude - after this short time I'm happy to say there's no regrets. I doubt I'll ever love Windows, but I don't hate it either, and any worries about stability, or that I'd be unable to adapt quickly enough were quickly forgotten.

In fact, the last two projects I've taken on were pretty much dependant on this hardware - one was a heavy TFD fire-fest with hundreds of gigs of high-res cache files; the other involved lots of Mocha Pro tracking of unforgiving 5k shots, where the GPU speed was key in getting the footage tracked in time. So in that respect, in the two months since getting it, the machine has already paid for itself.
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