What is Apple Metal?

Nodal’s look at macOS 10.14 Mojave discussed that the newest version of Apple’s flagship OS requires Apple Metal graphics API support. What does this mean, and how will Metal affect the creative production pipeline?

Apple Metal is an application programming interface (API) much like OpenGL and OpenCL. Metal combines similar capabilities of both and boosts the performance of graphics tasks (like render commands) by facilitating communication between your applications, processor, and graphics card. Metal was designed to be efficient and low-overhead, meaning it maximizes processing time dedicated to running your favorite creative programs.

Metal 2, the current version, debuted with macOS 10.13 High Sierra and brings even more features with an eye toward machine learning and GPU rendering tasks - a boon in today’s creative industry that sees heavier reliance GPU rendering solutions. Metal allows for the GPU to construct rendering commands with little, if any, CPU involvement. This frees up the system processor to handle other tasks, while dedicating the GPU to rendering.

Is Metal Compatible With Your Mac?

While more recent Mac systems running macOS 10.13 or newer should all be Metal-capable, some older systems may require an upgraded graphics card.

For 2012 Mac Pro towers, Apple has released a list of supported GPUs that are Metal-capable:

  • MSI Gaming Radeon RX 560 128-bit 4GB GDRR5


  • SAPPHIRE Radeon HD 7950 Mac Edition

  • NVIDIA Quadro K5000 for Mac

  • NVIDIA GeForce GTX 680 Mac Edition

Apple has also put out a list of AMD Radeon cards that “might” be compatible, and should be taken with a grain of salt:

  • AMD Radeon RX 560

  • AMD Radeon RX 570

  • AMD Radeon RX 580

  • AMD Radeon Pro WX 7100

  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 56

  • AMD Radeon RX Vega 64

  • AMD Radeon Pro WX 9100

  • AMD Radeon Frontier Edition

Metal and Adobe Creative Cloud

Adobe applications are supported on the three most recent Apple OS versions, but MacOS 10.13 High Sierra, or above, is recommended to run applications with Metal acceleration. Adobe programs can run on macOS 10.12, but they will utilize the older OpenCL acceleration instead at a 15-20% performance hit compared to Metal.

The recommended use of High Sierra applies to the 2019 versions of the following video applications, all of which released on October 15, 2018:

  • Premiere Pro 13.0

  • After Effects 16.0

  • Premiere Rush 1.0

  • Media Encoder 13.0

  • Character Animator 2.0

If you have any questions about Metal compatibility and how it might affect your video workflow, reach out to Nodal! For more information on Metal and its comparison with OpenCL acceleration, check out ToolFarm’s article on the topic. For a more complete features list for the Metal API, check out Apple’s product page here. You can also find Adobe’s announcements regarding Metal and its supported applications here.