HomeSundaysAudiovisualChoosing the Right Computer to Run ProPresenter

Choosing the Right Computer to Run ProPresenter

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If your church uses ProPresenter, you might wonder which computer system is best. Whether a church plant just getting started, or an established church looking to upgrade your computer systems, this article aims at helping your church be a good steward of its resources by choosing the best computer system to run ProPresenter.

While there are good reasons for each, when it comes down to using ProPresenter in YOUR church, which should you choose?

In church tech groups on Facebook and elsewhere, you’ll often see this question. Most of the answers will be “Mac” or “get a Mac” or “I tried it on Windows, but the Mac version is just so much better.”

So, that seals it, right? Mac is the winner.

Perhaps not.

On those same online forums, you’ll also find people who say things like “We have both, but for us, the Windows version works better.” What could be going on with these outliers?

There are a few things to consider, other than popular opinion when it comes to this particular situation.

Let’s look at these factors which might affect your decision, keeping in mind they aren’t equal in their weight, based on your situation:

  1. Compatible systems
  2. The 32-bit vs. 64-bit issue
  3. Original platform
  4. Module support
  5. Syphon support
  6. Text formatting options
  7. PowerPoint import
  8. Hardware costs
  9. Licensing costs
  10. Operating System familiarity

While the first six listed above are solid reasons to choose Mac and the next two are reasons to choose Windows, the last two could go either way. So, depending on your situation, you might find that it’s six to four in the Mac’s favor, but only three of the Mac features are ones you’re interested in. It really is dependent on your situation.

Let’s look at each and see what features matter most to your church. Here’s an overview video:

ProPresenter Licensing

While ProPresenter costs the same whether you run it on a Mac or PC, there is something to be considered with the ProPresenter license. If your plan is to run it on a Mac in the sanctuary and on a Windows box for the youth in their space, but you only have the single license, it won’t work.

The single license is for “one event at a time” to quote the Renewed Vision website. While you can install ProPresenter on as many machines as you like with the single license, running one at a time, they all have to be the same platform. You can’t install and license them all if they’re different platforms, not with the single license.

For that, you would need the campus license which is $799 vs. the single license at $399.

Advantage: It depends on your situation

Hardware Price

When it comes to the hardware itself, you might think, “Windows machines are cheaper.” A quick look a the computers on Amazon tells the story, right? Some are even less than $200.

In comparison, the cheapest Mac mini sells for $799.

However, price isn’t everything.  Let’s compare specs.

Mac Mini:

  • 8 GB of RAM
  • 8th gen core i3
  • 128 GB SSD
  • Four Thunderbolt 3 ports (along with USB 3, HDMI, Gigabit Ethernet, and 802.11ac wifi).

Windows:

The cheaper Windows boxes tend to have spinning hard drives and older processors. Comparisons start to get murky, too, because while the Apple computers tell what generation the chips are, the Windows computers may not. So an i5 might seem like a better deal than an i3 until you realize that the i5 was from several years ago and the i3 is brand new. The advances do make a difference in performance.

Overall, even comparing identical hardware, the Windows computers tend to be less expensive than Macs, although less so (see below) than it might seem on the surface.

Advantage: Windows

Compatible systems

If you check the system requirements page for ProPresenter, you’ll start to notice something else.

ProPresenter requires one of the last three MacOS versions, but only a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor, 4 GB of RAM, and doesn’t require dedicated graphics.

For a PC, the requirements are stricter. You need either Windows 8 Pro with Windows Media Center or Windows 10, an i5 or equivalent AMD processor, 8 GB of RAM, and a dedicated/discrete graphics card that supports OpenGL 3.2 or higher (like the NVIDIA GeForce or AMD Radeon series with a minimum of 1 GB of dedicated memory). Certain graphics cards are not recommended (like the AMD FirePro or NVIDIA Quatro cards). Some may or may not work (like Intel HD Graphics).

The normal advantage that Windows has a variety of hardware, is a disadvantage here. While RAM and processors are something that people often look at, unless the machine is bought by a PC gamer, you might not think to compare graphics cards. What’s more, while it’s normally safe to assume that “better than the minimum” is fine, if you missed the “AMD FirePro cards are not recommended” part of the requirements, you might think an AMD FirePro W7000 with 4GB of video memory is better than a Radeon with 1GB. In most cases, you’d be right, but not in the case of ProPresenter 6 for Windows.

Finding a Mac that works with ProPresenter is easy. Finding a Windows machine that does is tougher.

Advantage: Mac

32-bit vs. 64-bit

Windows and MacOS are both 64-bit OSs. So, you might not even give that a second thought. You should though.

ProPresenter6 for Windows is a 32-bit application. When it launched, this meant the maximum amount of RAM the Windows version could address was 2 GB. Not knowing this, some churches decided to try and speed ProPresenter up with additional RAM. It didn’t help.

That’s recently changed, though. Now ProPresenter 6 for Windows is “LARGE ADDRESS AWARE”. That means that it can access 4 GB of RAM, leaving the rest to run the OS.

By contrast, ProPresenter6 on Mac is a 64-bit application. This means it can access as much RAM as you have AND virtual RAM on top of that. As a result, it will just “feel” faster. Practically, that translates to also being able to open ProPresenter a bit quicker and being able to actually do what you want to do without the dreaded “beachball of death”, more often than not.

Advantage: Mac

Original Platform

All of this comes down to one advantage that the Mac version of ProPresenter has over the Windows version. Renewed Vision has been writing a Mac version since Brad Weston came up with the idea for it. They know how to code software for Mac and how to do it well.

This doesn’t mean that the Windows version is just a port that they spend a few minutes tweaking. No, the two systems are different enough for something as intensive as ProPresenter that, rumor has it, it was rewritten.

Unlike the early days, they have teams of coders working on the software, including some who code exclusively for Windows.

It’s still the case that Renewed Vision started on Mac and created ProPresenter for Mac initially, so while the features are getting closer and closer, they’re not perfectly aligned yet. Part of that is because they’re different platforms and part of it is that the Windows version is busy playing catch-up while the Mac version is growing.

The feature sets are similar enough that maybe the next major version will see feature parity, but only Renewed Vision knows that for sure.

Advantage: Mac

Module Support

With the release of ProPresenter 6, the Windows version supported nearly every module that the Mac version does.

Communications module is Mac only
Both the Communications Module and the subset of it, the Midi Module are Mac only currently.
  • If you want to output multiple screens, the multiscreen module works on both.
  • If you want to edge blend, the edge-blending module works on both.
  • If you want to output alpha for a video switcher, the alpha keyer module works on both and supports more hardware on Windows.
  • Need to send NDI or SDI? The SDI/NDI module works on both.
  • Need one computer to control one or more others? The Master Control Module works on both.

The only exception is the Communications Module and its subset, the Midi Module. They only work on Mac. If you want to control a lighting console, switcher, a device over midi, or have ProPresenter be controlled by them, such as with Ableton Live, Mac is your only choice right now.

Advantage: Mac

Syphon Support

 

Send or receive the screen from software with syphon
Use the “Enable Syphon” checkbox to send ProPresenter’s output to other software or receive it as a live video feed from other software, like Resolume.

In ProPresenter preferences, in the display tab, there’s a checkbox at the bottom that says “Enable Syphon”. Unless you know what that is, checking it, doesn’t seem to do anything.

Here’s what it does and why you should care. Syphon is a utility that captures the screen of one app and sends it to another. This means you could use it to send ProPresenter to OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) for live-streaming or use other software (like Resolume) to send its output into ProPresenter.

In Windows, there’s a similar utility called Spout. Unfortunately, it’s not a part of the Windows version of ProPresenter. If you want to send the output of Pro6 for Windows to other software, you have to find another way to do it, like the NDI module or Newtek’s NDI Tools, which also work on the Mac version.

Advantage: Mac

Text Formatting Options

ProPresenter is NOT as powerful as Photoshop when it comes to text formatting. So, if you’re hoping to do everything you can do there, you’re out of luck.

Text formatting in ProPresenter 6 for Mac
Text formatting in the Mac version has more options.

There are a lot of text formatting options you can still use inside ProPresenter. Of course, you can change the size of the font, change the color, make it bold, italicized, or underlined. You can also outline it (what Photoshop calls a stroke) and change the justification and centering. On top of all that you can also change paragraph spacing and space between letters or even make them all caps with just a single checkbox.

At least you can do all those things on the Mac, but not in the PC version. This stems from the fact that typography has always been something that was very important to Apple. Adding in various text formatting options is pretty simple in MacOS. It’s harder on Windows. Sure, the basics are still covered, but not the things like the all caps checkbox and modifying the space between letters. Those are Mac only.

Advantage: Mac

PowerPoint Import

Almost any worship software can import PowerPoint as still images or switch to PowerPoint in the background, so it feels like you’re not using it.

Both versions of ProPresenter take it a step further. With either, you can import the text and images from the slides so you can edit them in ProPresenter, too.

The Windows version goes a step further. It allows you to import transitions and animations. From an artistic perspective, this might not be good news to you, but if your pastor is insistent that each bulleted list item looks like Bill Gates is delivering a keynote, then you have an advantage with the Windows version.

Advantage: Windows

OS Familiarity

Finally, there’s a piece of the puzzle that no one can decide but you. Maybe none of the advantages of one or the other sway you, so it doesn’t really matter which you use.

How do you decide if the two are basically equal, in your situation?

Simple. Look at your team.

Do you have more hard-core PC users or Mac users? If it’s one-sided, then the decision becomes easy…all other things being equal.

Depending on the people you have, it could be an uphill battle to get a Windows person to use Mac or vice versa.

There is some value in having operators who are comfortable with the systems they’re working on. So, choose appropriately.

Advantage: Either

Conclusion

Which should you choose? From all the Mac advantages, you might think it’s obvious. Mac, right?

Not necessarily.

Look at the features you need or are likely to need. Are price and OS familiarity most important to your Windows-favoring team? Then maybe the Windows version is the one to get.

Windows Recommendation

If you want to go with Windows, take a look at this HP Pavilion Power 580-023w Gaming Tower. The NVIDIA GTX 1060 video card in this computer comes with 3GB of video RAM and supports OpenGL 4.5, so it should be fine with ProPresenter 6. One thing to keep in mind is that it ships with a spinning drive, so you’d probably want to upgrade to a solid state drive (SSD) for better performance. The base model, before adding the SSD, sells for $689.90, currently. For that upgrade, a 240 GB SSD runs about $30-40, so if you have someone techie who will install it for free, the whole thing, including the upgrade should come in at just over $700.

Does your church need the Midi module to do automation with lights or automation of ProPresenter from Ableton Live? Then the Mac version is the one you should choose.

Mac Recommendation

If you’re going for a Mac, take a look at the new Mini which starts at $799. If you want more than the base amount of storage, it will cost you ($200 for the upgrade to 256 GB), but unlike the RAM, which is upgradeable, the SSD is soldered on the board, so you’ll need to decide that at time of purchase. Unlike previous models, this one does support three external displays, so you can have one to control ProPresenter, one for the congregation, and an optional stage display.

One final point, don’t pick one over the other based solely one data point unless that’s the most important by far. As we’ve seen, there are churches that run ProPresenter on Windows and others that run it on Mac. You might find that your church is one of the ones that runs it better in Windows. For most churches, though, the features of the Mac version push the decision in that direction.

Paul Clifford
Paul Cliffordhttp://trinitydigitalmedia.com
Paul Alan Clifford, M.Div. is the creator of ChurchTechU and LearnProPresenterFast.com where you and your team can learn church tech through self-paced tutorials on your time-table. He is also the author of Podcasting ChurchThe Serving ChurchChurch Video School, and other church tech books. He releases free tech training regularly on TrinityDigitalMedia.com.

20 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve followed the link for the HP PC, but they are currently unavailable. Is there another PC that you would recommend for running Propresentor 6?

  2. Just a quick note (correction) for clarity, and forgive me if it has already been mentioned:

    “But unlike the RAM, which is upgradeable, the SSD is soldered on the board, so you’ll need to decide that at time of purchase.”

    This is incorrect. The RAM on Mac Minis 2014 and newer is soldered and is not upgradable. The SSD is upgradable depending on how much effort you want to put into it, it’s a pain depending on whether it is a 2.5″ SSD or an NMVe SSD.

    • No…BUT here’s how to get it to work. You need to download a piece of software onto your mac called NDIsyphon. It will take syphon from propresenter 6 (or use an NDI output in Pro7) and turn it into NDI which, unlike syphon, can go between computers AND can be seen by OBS (on both). For OBS to see it though, there’s an NDI plug-in you’ll need to download and install. Do that and you should be golden.

  3. I both Love and Dislike your article, it is much appreciated the work that went into it and your understanding. (I am a Windows user through and through but willing to take a look at Mac only for this) However, I have a couple of questions in lieu of the changes that PP7 has brought to the table.

    1. In a Mac what must be done to get 4 1080p outputs with such little vRAM over a Windows system? I am unable to find a Mac with 8GB of dedicated vRAM.
    2. How does NDI support now compare to Syphon within the process?

    Additionally, please correct me if I am wrong. But from your list of factors above It appears to me that 2 maybe 3 of the items that produced a Mac advantage have been moved to the ‘Go either way’ list. Leaving only the Text Formatting (primarily the kerning) as a slider between the two options.

    1. Both platforms are 64-bit now.
    2. Module support has been eliminated by including everything.
    3. (Maybe) Syphon has been replaced by NDI support

    I look forward to responses. I am just getting started with ProPresenter and looks like I might be coming in a momentous point in time for the product.

    • I wrote this article SPECIFICALLY for Pro6. Notice the date predates the release of Pro7 by almost a year (about a week or two shy of a year). So, you’re right that NOW, with Pro7, it’s MOSTLY a “whichever you prefer” choice.

      To answer your first question, I’m about to buy a mac book pro tomorrow with 8gb of VRAM, but don’t forget that they are two totally different OSes. Windows may not correlate 1:1 with MacOS on all the specs to get identical performance. For example, my current Macbook pro with integrated graphics works fine with four 1080p outputs…IF I’m not doing other things. The moment I do something else, it does have issues, but it’s a 2017 which I bought for Pro6. For additional outputs, you can use a j5 create USB-C to 4x HDMI adapter OR a TBT-3 enclosure with a BMD decklink duo2 card.

      NDI is more resource hungry than syphon. So, on the same machine, with my mac, I’d still use syphon.

      With that said, Renewed Vision has addressed all of my major concerns with the Windows version with the launch of Pro7. So those don’t apply any more, but if you’re using Pro6 and don’t plan on upgrading any time soon, my opinion still stands.

  4. We have been using ProPresenter for some time on a PC that I built specifically to run it (SSD, video card, processor, etc). I have noticed that the software is sluggish to launch and do many tasks. This is from the beginning without any software running in the background that would hog resource. In fact, the processor, HD, and video are bored during launch. It appears that that much of the software may be written in scripting languages which would account for this. Videos also, causes frequent crashes when many other software packages process and display them just fine. The fact that images and video resolutions that have to be down-rendered causes problems is just bad video playback software. I can play the same video, full screen in every display at different resolution using numerous video players without any problem is clear indication of this. I write software for a living and I am seeing much of the software just “shoehorned” into Windows because there is no Apple equivalent. It is funny that other companies (Adobe comes to mind) don’t seem to have the same problems. I only wish I could find other software that has enough of the features we need to make the change.

  5. We recently bought a Mac Mini for our streaming setup. It’s slaved to the sanctuary system for worship. We use the alpha module to funnel lower thirds to the BM switch, and use a BM ultrastudio hd mini to bring the output of the switcher back into the Mac Mini into OBS to stream. The setup is configured for 720p from camera source and switch. We have video stutter on the feed coming into OBS, and the Mac Mini case runs incredibly hot. OBS reports dropped render frames. Not like a huge amount, but for as beefy as this high-priced Mac Mini is supposed to be (we went with the max version) it seems like way more dropped render frames than it should be. We didn’t have this stutter prior to the Mac Mini, but we brought in the ultrastudio at the same time, we’re not sure where the source of the problem is. Images on the PGM view of the switch look normal. I assume it’s an issue with the ultrastudio or the Mac Mini.

    • Just to make sure I’m understanding: ProPresenter on the Mac Mini to BMD Ultrastudio Mini to BMD switcher to BMD Ultrastudio Mini (the same one) to Mac Mini (same one) to OBS.

      That’s a couple of odd loops that I wouldn’t recommend. Instead, I’d do: Mini to Ultrastudio Mini to BMD switcher to Some ofther capture card to the Mini to OBS, although I don’t generally like running Pro6 and OBS on the same machine. It means that if either has problems, it might affect the whole shebang.

      If you’re not going ProPresenter to the BMD UltraStudio Mini and out two SDI cables to the BMD switcher, you’re probably not taking advantage of the alpha keyer module, like you think you are.

      Let me know and we’ll work on it more.

        • Mac Mini to ATEM 1 M/E Production Studio 4K for alpha channel mod (2 lines) (few cameras into the switch) – 720@59.94
          Switch to main sanctuary projector (showing sanctuary PP6 instance)
          Switch to UltraStudio HD Mini
          Switch to HyperDeck Studio Mini
          UltraStudio HD Mini to Mac Mini via TB3
          All the devices are using SDI except the projector using HDMI. Well, camera using sdi converter before the switch.

          Mac Mini running PP6 and OBS
          An older Mac Pro running Chrome to host the FB Live feed

          And I get video stutter on OBS. Audio stays in sync the whole time though.

          • Either I’m not understanding what is where correctly, or it shouldn’t work like that. ProPresenter can’t generate alpha that a switcher can see with two BNC cables from a Mac Mini to a switcher without something in between. with the new Mac Pro that releases in a few month, it could be a card, but not the mini. Something is wired wrong, I think.

            I’d expect ProPresenter mini to Ultrastudio 4k or Ultrastudio HD Mini via a thunderbolt cable and then out of THAT via two BNC cables into the Switcher. That’s what’s confusing to me.

  6. Same here…we have been using Propresenter 6 on a Windows based gaming tower and we have had nothing but issues. Terrible lag when editing, even lag during presenting, ( not a good thing for the worship leader). We have decide to go with iMacs and are going to install them this week, I hope this solves the lag issue.

    • Make sure the resolution of your media matches the output resolution of ProPresenter. Scaling up isn’t that big a deal (although you do lose clarity), but scaling down really causes sluggish performance.

  7. We have been using a PC for our ProPresenter 6 since we converted from MediaShout this last year. We have found out that, according to ProPresenter, Windows has been causing issues with the 32-bit version of ProPresenter. It is very sluggish when building playlists and moving from the library to the playlist with periodic freezes. ProPresenter said they were building a 64-bit version for Windows but that there is no timeline for completion.
    We have decided to replace our PC with a Mac this spring.

    • I get it. And I’m about to install Windows on my MacBook Pro with Bootcamp so I can experience it myself. I just don’t know why some churches love the Windows version unless there are some use-cases that don’t have issues. I know I freelanced with a company where one of the techs used the Windows version and he said he never had any issues. Maybe it’s a subtle difference that makes it work…who knows.

      I just always recommend that people try it before they buy it to know for sure. 😉

      • Please let us know how it comes out. As I write software for a living, I have a firm opinion that if hardware = hardware, then software = software unless software is written badly.

        • Here’s the problem I see. It’s at the OS level. MacOS has certain things built in that Windows doesn’t (and vice versa, I’m sure), so sure a text editor should be a text editor, but when you get into real-time rendering of text over video with leading, kerning, etc. that has to work every time, the processes are different AND what I hear from former employees is that there are things that are dependent on 32-bit 3rd party software (like DVD support, for example) that limits Pro6 Windows to 32-bit…unless they leave out certain features OR rewrite it from the ground up. Glad it’s not my problem. I just learn and share.

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