BoinxTV on mid-2011 Mac Minis

Hi there,

I’m after any comments on how well BoinxTV runs on the newly-released mid-2011 Mac Minis (specs here: http://www.apple.com/au/macmini/specs.html), especially from the BoinxTV developers.

I’m considering buying a Mac Mini specifically to use with this program, and wonder whether the graphics card on the 2.5Ghz version will produce reasonable results. It’s an AMD Radeon HD 6630M graphics processor with 256MB of GDDR5 memory, but I note on the BoinxTV’s “System requirements” page that a discrete graphics card with at least 512MB VRAM is recommended.

Any specifics, or comments such as “it will do X, but may not do Y” are appreciated, as are any real-world experiences of running this program on the new mac mini itself. Also, will any of the configurable options available for the Mini make BoinxTV run significantly better than the stock 2.5Ghz version (faster processor, SSD, etc)?

And will this hardware support only one camera under BoinxTV, or can it accommodate two? If two, what else will it need to accomplish this?

Many thanks,
Ken.

It has the same graphics card as the current MacBook Air and this performs surprisingly well. That needs to be put in context though. It performs well for such a low power device. Don’t expect wonders of it or the capability of creating HD video but using a good USB webcam and creating 960x540 video with it should work good enough.

Thanks Bastian - much appreciated.

With your comments above and the specs of the Mac Mini in mind, can you think of a scenario where someone would opt for BoinxTV rather than the home version? I’m guessing that as far as the new Mac Mini is concerned, there isn’t much that could be done on the premium version that couldn’t be done on BoinxTV Home.

And if I were to opt for the Mac Mini, would you recommend any of the configurable options (i7 processor, more RAM, solid-state drive)? I wonder if you see them as making a significant difference and / or worth the extra money.

Thanks,
Ken.

Resolution wise the home version is totally fine. If you want a second camera (e.g. 2 USB Webcams) you’ll need the full version.

I can’t really tell you about the configuration as I am unable to do comparisons. I’d go with a configuration of more than 4 gig of RAM if possible so BoinxTV can take up the full 4 gigs it might need. The i7 in the MacBook Air was pretty busy when I used BoinxTV but I don’t know if it makes a big difference compared to the i5. I don’t think an SSD would make a big difference when it comes to BoinxTV.

Thanks again, Bastian. This is good to know.

I’m a bit confused about your comment about the Macbook Air and the high-end version of the new Mac Mini having the same graphics card, as the former has only Intel integrated graphics while the latter comes with an AMD Radeon card. If your comments about performance relate to the how BoinxTV runs on machines with Intel integrated graphics, the app will likely run better on a machine with dedicated graphics - but I wonder by how much?

And on the “Example Configurations” page on BoinxTV’s website, it says:

"The Core i7 processor combined with 8GB of RAM should provide enough power to even stream a BoinxTV show:

■2.66GHz Intel Core i7
■8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
■500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm"

…and while these comments were made in reference to the Macbook Pro 17", all these options (or similar) are now available for the new Mac Mini. So, it seems that the key difference between the example MacBook Pro listed above and the new Mac Mini is that compared to the MBP, the Mini has a less powerful graphics card (only 256MB dedicated graphics).

Based on the above, I wonder if the new Mac Mini, when beefed-up with these optional extras, could do streaming, or handle 2 SD camera inputs?

I’m not looking for an exact answer on any of the above, only your thoughts, as I note what you say above about comparisons.

Thanks again for your time - I appreciate it.
Ken.

Little late to the party, but here goes.

I’m the technical director at a small public TV station where we use BoinxTV in our studio. I have a core i7 mini due in tomorrow, which I hope will replace the terrible old tower that is currently running Boinx. So, if anyone’s still wondering, I should have a really good idea of what one of these can do by Wednesday or Thursday.

You are right Ken, I was referring to the small version of the Mini. The Radeon Version should be way better. I don’t have personal experience, but can’t wait for garath1981’s findings.

Sorry for taking so long, but I finally know enough to say something.

First off, I’ll describe my setup, so you can get an idea of what I’m doing.
For cameras, I’ve got two Sony HVR-HD1000U cameras hooked up via a firewire hub (running in 4:3 NTSC SD mode). Audio is first handled via an Alesis IO|26 and various accessories which are attached to another much older mac mini. The Alesis feeds an M-Audio ProFire 610 via spdif, and one of it’s outputs provides final mixed audio to the mac mini line-in port.

The mac mini I ordered was the 2.7Ghz i7. I upgraded it to 8GB of ram, just to be on the safe side, and slapped a 128GB SSD in it for giggles.

The BoinxTV document consists of the following layers (from bottom to top):
Audio Only (Line in)
Placer for backdrops
Animated Placer holding a custom QC file that mangles a weather map image to suit our purposes.
Animated Placer holding another custom QC file that fetches and prettifies some 5-day forecast data.
The video switcher layer, with a static sign image for #1, Cameras 1 & 2 on #3 & #4. (Cameras are using the chroma-key pro filter)
An overlay layer for any images we might want to display.
A text overlay layer for phone numbers, and the like.
The default BoinxTV sponsored edition video.

Good news is that when layers are up, everything’s fine. 18-40% CPU usage, depending on which backdrop I’m using. Bad news is, it tends to drop frames whenever I activate/deactivate the weather layers (1 to 4 frames). Annoying news is that it’s not consistent at that, sometimes it works perfectly, sometimes it doesn’t.

Basically, though, it’s so close to being perfect, that I’m currently going crazy with some custom layer ideas that I think may fix the problem. I’ll report back once I have success (or failure).

I have the same config as one of the posters above:

■2.66GHz Intel Core i7
■8GB 1066MHz DDR3 SDRAM
■500GB Serial ATA Drive @ 7200 rpm

I also see very low CPU usage, but the load within BoinxTV indicates it’s dropping frames. Does this mean that the GPU is the bottleneck? If I set the resolution to the highest available in the Home edition, will both versions perform the same, or is the Full edition doing extra processing?

I’m afraid I’m going to have to go back to CamTwist or Wirecast which both seem to perform without a hiccup. I wonder if there is anything that can be done about performance, or we just a wait a year or so for the next round of hardware upgrades from Apple.

That very likely means the GPU is the bottleneck here. The Full version will not give you any better performance.

I’ve been playing around a bit, and I believe you are correct about the bottleneck. The CPUs are only running 10-20%, but the GPU is maxed out. I was hoping to get better performance since my Mac Mini has a ATI HD 6630M, better then integrated Intel GPU, as I understand.

Also, 5-10% utilization within Boinx with loads of layers and sources, so no problem there. The moment I add my 1080i, 59.54 fps camera source, the utilization shoots up to 300% or more. Even if the camera is the only item in the stack and not selected as live, it’s still unusable. When I switch the camera to 480p, the utilization drops back down to 15-20%. This is odd, since I have no such issues in CamTwist or Wirecast. These other products are smooth as silk with 1080i, 59.54 fps.

Is there some special transcoding going on with 1080i, 59.54 fps? Is there a reason why these other products handle 1080i, 59.54 fps with grace?

The reason other apps can handle it, is the different architecture and technology behind them. Every app comes with benefits and drawbacks.

Yes, no question for me that Boinx has the best interface and feature set in its category. Bummer that I can’t use it with my 1080i camera on my 2011 i7.

I noticed that Wirecast has some GPU options in the preferences, so maybe something like this would be an interesting feature to help Boinx adjust the processing load across available resources… 20% on CPU and 300% on GPU is what I’m seeing with just a single placeholder with the camera, no other layers/sources.