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Performance Tips #1
Robert Sfeir's picture
by Robert Sfeir
March 10, 2011 - 8:44am

Hi Joseph,

As I look through the various posts, I thought that it might be really helpful to get a tip on Performance enhancements in Aperture; the kinds of things you can do to make Aperture work faster.

For example: I have 4 internal drives and 8 gigs of RAM on a MacPro (1,1) with an ATI 5770 card that's supposed to provide direct GPU draw to Aperture, yet I often find that things lag behind on a screen draw, or redraw when using a 3rd party plug, and it makes me wonder if Aperture and the 3rd party plug are even using the available horsepower to the max.

What are some of the tricks that one might use to make sure that we're all using our machines as effectively as possible? Are there tricks to making the aperture library roll faster? Are there tricks to making an import draw the images of the imported files from the importing card faster? Is there a way to take advantage of the multiple drives on a MacPro by distributing the load across drives? Are there perhaps better ways of configuring a set of drives in a MacPro to give better speed advantage to work Aperture wants to do?

I guess I can go on with questions like that, and perhaps they're non trivial and you can't really cover them in a tip (or series of tips) but I thought I'd ask and suggest :)


PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
March 10, 2011 - 1:05pm


Right, no easy answers :) The problem is that without seeing your system, I don’t know if your concept of slow is actually slow, or normal, or fast.

What is the speed of your MacPro? A (1,1) doesn’t tell me much… I don’t know the inner model numbers. Without looking up the ATI card I have no idea how new or old that is… how long have you had this system?

As far as utilizing your four drives, you can RAID them and get dramatically better drive performance, but your chance of failure increases by a factor with each drive (2x failure rate with two drives, 3x with three, etc).

If your library and/or your masters are on fast drives, that will help things tremendously.

I’ll assume everything is completely up-to-date (OS, Aperture, etc.)

You can always do things like reinstall the OS, trash the aperture cache, rebuild the Aperture library, and so-on to speed things up. Search these forums, those have all been discussed before. And I promise, one day soon I’ll finally get that FAQ up with all this info in one easy place :)

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

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Robert Sfeir's picture
by Robert Sfeir
March 11, 2011 - 10:31am

Ok, here are some specs to get started. I use a quad core MacPro with 4 3ghz cores, 8 gigs of ram, and 4 internal 7200 rpm sata drives. The Mac Pro is from 2007, hence the 1,1 designation. The video card is one I bought about 2 weeks ago along with the 27” led cinema display. The card is an ATI 5770 with 1gig of ram, and a very powerful processor which supports all the latest native GPU calls etc…

What I find slow:

Take a pic with your canon 5d in raw and throw it in aperture. First the ‘loading’ message takes as much as 5-10 seconds. Seems like it should be quicker with that kind of card. Then send the image to silver Efex pro 2 and try some structure adjustments without letting go of the slider, takes quite a few seconds before you see the results, whereas adjusting contrast is instantaneous. Then save the image and once back in aperture wait about 10-15 seconds to have aperture be done loading the image or what ever it’s doing.

I know we’re talking seconds here, but in a workflow with a lot of images and this kind of hardware I was expecting a bit more oomph out of the processing speed.

The other thing I notice is that my CPUs get slammed while using aperture, and I thought aperture made use of the GPUs for its work. I wouldn’t expect a quad core to suffer the consequences of loading an image preview.

My images sit on a separate drive than the start up disk to distribute disk I/O, and the media disk is actually a striped disk (yes I back up to an external mirrored drive once an hour) so I would expect performance to be better than your standard drive, but it doesn’t seem that way. Perhaps that’s because the raid stripe is software controlled and not hardware.

Just trying to get more juice out of Aperture so I can work faster and not cut the flow of thinking.


PhotoJoseph's picture
by PhotoJoseph
March 12, 2011 - 2:35am


Running some tests here to compare on my own system, which is a 27” iMac 2.8Ghz Intel Core i7 w/ 8GB RAM. My Library is on the internal drive and the masters are on G-Tech G-DRIVEs (single disk; not RAID, FW800).

Selecting a 5D Mk II image takes 2-3 seconds to finish “loading”. This is after import, but there’s so much happening on import it’s hard to measure. Depends on if you have Faces and/or Preview and/or Use embedded JPG turned on. So ignoring initial capture, compare that time to just selecting an image.

Opening a new file in to Silver Efex Pro 2 took about 5-7 seconds; I did it a few times and got varying results. This includes Aperture generating the 8-bit TIF file. If you have yours set to 16-bit TIF it may take longer; I didn’t try.

Brightness, Contrast and Structure all drag in total real time. Zero lag.

Actually that’s when zoomed to fill the screen (default view). Once I zoomed into 100% and panned around, it got a little slower, but once I dragged through the sliders once, it got back to real time. It must be doing some sort of caching in there.

Hitting Save in SEP2 and going back to Aperture took less than four seconds.

SO… this tells us you have some serious software issues going on. Your new graphics card is sick fast. That’s the one in the current shipping Mac Pros. I’d ask if you are sure you have the right drivers, but they are probably built into the OS, right? Or, have you tried getting drives from the ATI site?

Here’s a breakdown of what hardware is used for what in Aperture. This is per my understanding, and may not be 100% accurate.

• Decoding an image from RAW and applying adjustments are on the graphics card.
• How many images you can have on the screen at once at 100% view is on the graphics card.
• As you move from one photo to the next, I think the speed of hand-off is largely RAM related. I believe there’s some swapping from VRAM (graphics card) to RAM happening, but I could be wrong there.
• exporting and applying of filters to a TIF/PSD file is processing speed
• everything gets faster when you have fast hard drives, because everything starts and ends on the disk.

There’s more to do with RAM that I’m not thinking of now, sorry…

Even though your processors are 3Ghz, as you probably know that doesn’t mean much anymore. The i5 and i7 processors, then Nahalem and now these Westmere cores are all more efficient and often lower clock speed than their predecessors, yet deliver far better performance. You are working on four year old CPU technology, which may not seem like much but probably is.

I’d start by digging up performance specs on your model and then running some tests on your own Mac to see how they compare. You’ll want to find the same software used for the original benchmark tests to use today. See if you have a problem you’re not aware of.

Also check performance on your hard drives. I had really bad performance on my Drobo for ages even though it was reporting no errors. I was in a hate/hate relationship with the device for over a year, and finally Drobo looked at my logs and identified bad drives that the software hadn’t spotted. Once I swapped out three failing (!!!) of four drives, performance went way back up. My point is… you could be surprised. Check out XBench for that.

You could always do things like reinstall the operating system, if you haven’t already. Pretty easy to do. Also it may be worth taking it to a Genius Bar and having them run some tests on it. Maybe they’ll find a hardware problem.

There’s not much else I can do for you. That’s a ton of info you can go on, and at least you have some real-world results to compare to. Lucky that I have the same camera and plug-ins.

Good luck, and please do let us know what you find.

-Joseph @ApertureExpert

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