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An[other] OS X 10.6 to 10.8 Survival Guide for Editors

"It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine." Well, mostly.

By Adam Wilt | August 14, 2012

Test rig: 10.7.4 MacBook Air, 10.6.8 MacBook Air, three different kinds of antacids, dual-boot 10.6.8/10.8 Mac mini (display; mini itself hidden behind MacBook Pro), 10.8 MacBook Pro.

With the release of Mac OS X 10.8 (the word "Mac" has been struck from the name of the OS), an increasing number of apps requiring 10.7 or later, and the presumed end of Apple's support for 10.6, it's getting to the point where Mac users have to decide to make the jump, or remain forever on 10.6. I've spent the last two weeks systematically testing 10.8 in real-world scenarios, and I've got both good news and bad news, or, more precisely: the good, the bad, and the ugly... and the just plain "think different" stuff... and how to fix [most of] what's broken.

[Updates: 2012-17: contact info added; 2012-8-15: MPEG Streamclip works; Canon XF importers won't install, but there's a workaround.]

(You'll notice I don't use the cat names, not if I can help it; version numbers are much more comprehensible and are naturally ordered. Quick now: was Puma before Cheetah, or after? Sheesh.)

What follows is my list of what's good, what's bad, and so on. It's based on my experiences and preferences and working habits, leavened with some of the more significant complaints I've seen from other early adopters. I don't pretend to cover every single thing that people have found fixed/broken/different, I just discuss what caught my eye.

You may find my writeup to be right on, right off, or not even worth writing off, depending on how your experiences, preferences, and working habits differ from mine. No worries: I've got links to other resources at the end of the story, so you can plot your own way through the 10.8 minefield.

Minefield? Every new major OS release is a minefield. Or, as Bruce the Wonder Yak said of the C switch statement, "Mmmmmm! Chock full of nooses!"

If you have comments / questions / additions / corrections, please email 'em to me at "awiltatprovideocoalition at gmail dot com". I'll try to keep this article as up-to-date and as accurate as possible.

I've put 10.8 on three different machines:
  • a 2011 15" MacBook Pro (upgraded from the 10.7 it came with),

  • a 2010 Mac mini (dual-boot 10.6.8/10.8), and

  • a 2009 Mac Pro (dual-boot 10.6.8/10.8).

In addition I used two MacBook Airs, one running 10.6.8, the other running 10.7.4, so that I could cross-check behaviors across versions.

I've tested with the following software, hardware, and media:
  • Final Cut Studio 3: Final Cut Pro 7.0.3 and Color 1.5.3, with RED, Sony, and Canon add-ons/plugins.

  • Final Cut Pro X 10.0.5.

  • Adobe CS6: Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and SpeedGrade.

  • REDCINE-X PRO version 14.

  • Shake 4.1.

  • AJA Io HD FireWire 800 ProRes I/O interface.

  • Blackmagic Designs Intensity Pro PCIe analog/HDMI I/O card.

  • Sony HVR-M10 DV/HDV deck, and some six-to-ten-year-old tapes.

  • Sony PMW-EX1 (source of HD-SDI video).

  • On-disk copies of CF cards from Canon 5D Mk II and C300 cameras, and SDHC cards with AVCHD media from Sony NEX-FS700 and Panasonic DMC-GH2 cameras; SDHC cards of AVCHD media connected through their cameras as well as loaded using USB card readers; folders of RED ONE media, XDCAM-EX media, DPX files, and Quicktime clips using various codecs.

  • Wired and wireless networking with other Macs running 10.6.8 through 10.8; a Windows 7 machine; and multiple NetGear ReadyNAS boxes running version 4.2.19 firmware.

The software was for the most part already installed on a disk when I upgraded, or moved across with Migration Assistant; so I didn't test whether I could, say, do a fresh install of Shake on 10.8.

The Good

OS X 10.8 has many things to recommend it:

Video stuff [mostly] just works. I didn't find anything dead in 10.8 that worked in 10.6: FCPX, Premiere Pro CS6, even roundtripping from FCP 7 to Color—it all ran fine. Firewire decks and the Io HD worked; AJA TV and AJA VTR Exchange had no problems; RED's stuff installed and functioned normally. All media types I had available imported into the three NLEs just as easily as in 10.6; FireWire VTR control and I/O were unchanged; exports rendered with no surprises.

If anything, 10.8 worked better: FCPX on my 10.6 mini is wonky, usually not displaying the Viewer and hanging for somewhere in the range of 1 to 100 minutes (yes, I measured it) when I press Play. Yet the same mini in 10.8, with the same account data and same apps migrated to 10.8, runs FCPX without any hiccups at all. Similarly, I have clips that crash AJA TV every time if I turn on 23.98-to-29.97 conversion in 10.6; in 10.8, these same clips crash AJA TV only about half the time.

Now, I haven't tried Avid's apps on 10.8; I haven't tested older versions of Adobe's apps; and I haven't played much with Motion, After Effects, Illustrator, Encore, Audition, or DVD Studio Pro. Even so, I'm happily surprised with how easily and how well my core editing tools Just Work on 10.8.

I have MPEG Streamclip Version 1.9.3b3 already installed on the Mac Pro, and it still appears to be working properly.
Michael Sanders writes from the UK: "Canon's XF utility and FCP X import plugin installers don't work under 10.8. If you have them installed they will still work but the updaters/installers don't work. And Canon don't reckon support will happen till Oct!" I tested this out on the previously Canon-free Mac Pro; I was able to get the Canon XF Utility for 10.7 to install and run, but the import plugin installers complained about "wrong OS", and neither will install.
There is a workaround to trick the installer, by changing the version number OS X reports. I tried it for the FCP X plugin installer, and it worked on my Mac Pro; its copy of FCP X now reads Canon XF files. This procedure may also work for other installers that get upset about version numbers. Proceed at your own risk.

AVCHD handling. Camera-original AVCHD content is usually contained in a folder structure like:

The BMDV folder also contains INDEX.BDM and MOVIEOBJ.BMD metadata files, and the actual essence consists of numbered MTS (Multiplexed Transport Stream) files in the STREAM folder. This multi-layered organization is derived from that of Blu-ray Discs and is an unending source of frustration for many people.

In 10.8, AVCHD folder structures (usually) show up in the Finder as "AVCHD content", and are treated like packages: standalone objects, not folders with viewable contents. This means that if you want to dive deeper into the folder structure, you have to right-click or control-click and choose "Show Package Contents".

AVCHD folders show up as packages with a QuickTime icon.

This change annoys some, but it does prevent inadvertent deletion of any part of the folder structure. Both FCP 7 and FCPX depend on that folder structure to be able to import the contents thereof, so this is a handy safety measure—and it removes the uncertainty about how deep to dive in a folder in either program's import / transfer windows: just look for the QuickTime document icon, and open it.

Premiere normally lets you import an entire folder of AVCHD media, or dive all the way down into the STREAM subfolder for a single clip. You can still do this in 10.8: Premiere's browser shows AVCHD folders with QuickTime logos, but they're treated as ordinary folders, so you can dive deeper if you desire.

Even better: QuickTime itself can open an "AVCHD Content" package, and display all the clips inside; you can now browse and play AVCHD clips directly from the Finder with no third-party add-ons or the need to open an NLE.

QuickTime now understands AVCHD as a native type.

Note that 10.8 doesn't change the folder into a package, it simply treats it like one. SDHC cards exposed to 10.8 aren't modified in any noticeable way; the AVCHD folders still show up as regular folders in 10.7 and earlier, and neither of the cameras I had handy (Panasonic GH2, Sony DSC-TX20) treated their cards any differently after they were explored with 10.8.

On my Sony cards, it's the AVCHD subfolder that gets shown as AVCHD Content; on my GH2 media, the enclosing PRIVATE folder is also treated that way. Sony's enclosing folder is "private", in lowercase; if I rename it to PRIVATE, then it too appears as an AVCHD Content package.

When I copy camera cards to my ReadyNAS server (a NAS with AFP connectivity, but using an ext3 filesystem natively), the GH2 footage still shows up with PRIVATE as a package, but the Sony media doesn't retain its special status regardless of the capitalization of the "private" folder. I can browse the folder structure all the way down, and can't open the folder in QuickTime with a double-click... but the INDEX.BDM and MOVIEOBJ.BMD files still appear as QuickTime objects, and opening either one brings up QuickTime's AVCHD browser for all the contents of the package—so that's all right, then.

Even on the NAS, you can see "AVCHD Content" objects openable in QuickTime.

Copying folder structures back from the NAS to the local disk restores their special treatment, and browsing another Mac's shared storage via AFP treats the folders the same as if they were on your local disk.

Auto Save with versioning: This new data-saving paradigm, introduced in 10.7, lets you edit without fear of losing work due to power loss or crashes, and gives you undo capability across multiple editing sessions. It's very cool, and it's the wave of the future. It's also "chock full of nooses", as you'll see below.

Notifications. Notification Center pops up floating notifications in the upper right corner of your screen, and you can swipe in a complete notification listing, like swiping notifications down on iOS. If you don't want to be distracted for a while, Option-click the Notifications icon in the top right corner of the menu bar, and they'll stay offscreen until (a) tomorrow or (b) you re-enable 'em. If you just plain old don't like notifications, you can turn 'em off (or customize their appearance, noisiness, and order of listing) in System Preferences. You can even include Growl in Notification Center using Hiss.

Messages. Interoperates with iOS Messages; it's a one-stop-shop for iChat, SMS, and Messages conversations, complete with file transfer and FaceTime launching.

iCloud integration. Apple's iCloud lets you sync calendar events, contacts, Safari tabs, notes, photos, and documents across Macs and iDevices; it also includes Find My Mac / Find My iDevice remote-tracking and remote-wiping, as David Pogue used to recover his stolen iPhone and Wired's Matt Honan found to his distress.

Not-so-secret secret: iCloud's document sharing isn't intended as a Dropbox replacement, because docs are stored in the cloud by individual apps. But that doesn't stop you from dragging all manner of docs into a single app's Open dialog:

Using TextEdit as a carry-all iCloud container.

I've used this method to move files between home and work Macs without having to carry physical media, dial into the work VPN, or email 'em. True, you can't open "non-native" docs in the cloud using "Open With..." as you don't get that option on cloud docs, but you can drag 'em out of the cloudy dialog into local folders to work on 'em.

Resize windows from any edge: this started in 10.7 and carries over into 10.8. Move your pointer to the edge of a window—any edge—and it'll change into a left-right arrow, an up-down arrow, or an on-the-diagonal arrow,showing you how you can resize the window from that position. Click and drag. A small thing perhaps, but it's the thing I miss most on 10.6 now that I've used it for a while. (Yeah, been-there-done-that-since-Windows-3.0 guys, stop snickering!)

It's the current OS. Like it or not, 10.8 is where all the kewl kids are playing: it's what the current XCode libraries are configured for and what the documentation describes; it's what Apple is actively supporting. Traditionally, Apple drops support for OS X two versions back, which means (if tradition holds) that 10.6.8 and earlier are dead as far as updates, security fixes, and any sort of support are concerned. So, if you want to keep current and run new apps, you pretty much have to stay current with the OS.

Sounds pretty good, huh? Now how much would you pay? But wait: there's more...

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Rob: | August, 15, 2012

Wow Adam! That was comprehensive.

I have to admit, I’m still back on 10.5. I only use my Mac for video and photo editing. I have FDP 7 and Premiere Pro CS5.5. Before I move to CS6 I want to upgrade OS-X. In addition I’d like to do a clean install on a new 3TB drive.

Do you have any advice for upgrading from 10.5 to 10.8? Can I migrate most of my apps from my previous boot drive? (Is FCP 7 going to work on 10.8?)

Do I have to upgrade progressively through every major version?

Perhaps you can point me in the right direction.


Reply from Adam Wilt (as PVC won’t let me comment on my own article, I have to use the editing interface to reply!):

First, make sure your Mac can handle 10.8: http:,//

You’ll need 10.6 installed to upgrade to 10.8, so your first step is to upgrade to 10.6.8. Get ahold of a 10.6 installer DVD (actually doing so, if you don’t already have one, is left as an exercise for the reader!), then use the 10.6.8 combo updater at

FCP 7, as I said in the article, seems to work with no problems on 10.8.


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