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Mac setup for large digital collages (1000+ layers) - spec shopping list help?

New Here ,
Sep 25, 2022 Sep 25, 2022

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Hi!

As per the title, I make large-scale digital collages. I've gotten away with a not-great system for what I do the last few years, mainly because my source material was lower quality and my final print size was smaller too. I made it work with strategic smart object grouping and having the time to wait out the slow processing time. (Move the image slightly, wait ten mins, mask around an image, wait for ten for the masking to show. ext.)

 

The good news is my work is becoming in demand.
That said, I no longer can take forever to make it, it also needs to be bigger, and my gear (i.e., the file size of images I work with) is better now, too—so it's time to upgrade to a proper system meant for this kind of artwork.

 

I have a budget of $3000 - $5000 for just the brain part; I have a separate budget for screens ext. That's more in my comfort zone.

 

Current setup -
MacBook Pro (Retina, 15-inch, Mid 2014)
2.2 GHz Quad Core Intel Core i7
16 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB

Only use it for what I use it for; it's held up pretty well, considering!

 

I'm looking at the mac studio options. I am wondering what you would prioritize.

 

My rough plan is the Apple M1 Ultra with a 20-core CPU, 48-core GPU, and 32-core Neural Engine (? whatever that means?)
64GB unified memory
...and upgrading to at least the 4TB SSD storage, if not the 8.

All my image libraries that I pull from are stored externally, so this setup would be exclusively for the making.

 

I would be running lightroom (with the external catalog), photoshop at the same time. Mostly working in photoshop layering a lot of 30mp images together. The last file I made I was around 1800 layers. I have no idea what the actual file size was because I was relying on smart object to keep the file manageable while I worked on it. (Grouped by like things.)

 

I prefer two screens if that matters, but honestly, that's a lux I don't need for my process.

 

Bonus points if I can record my screen for social media. Which is not something I can do currently for more than a few mins.

 

Thoughts? Any feedback is much appreciated. I just want a solid system that won't hold my art back. But I know just enough to know that I don't know enough. I don't want to accidentally buy myself another bottleneck, and I don't want to overbuy just because I could at the moment. Though I guess I would prefer to over buy vs. under. It would be nice to not be in such a scratch disk battle all the time.

 

For context, I'm adding a random screenshot of a recent piece just a few hours into working on it. (Just laying out the collage.) And the final image of what it became after a marathon month of making to hit a deadline.

 

Thank you all again!

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Community Expert ,
Sep 25, 2022 Sep 25, 2022

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Working with large files in Photoshop, the main consideration is I/O bandwidth. That translates mainly to scratch disk. Depending on how much else you plan to put on it, 4GB sounds good. Lots of RAM is nice, but the main heavy lifting is the scratch disk. 64GB will be fine.

 

The second major Photoshop consideration is the GPU. In that department you don't have much choice on Mac.

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New Here ,
Oct 03, 2022 Oct 03, 2022

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Thank you so much! I appreciate it!

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