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Friday, June 14, 2013, 06:16 am PT (09:16 am ET)

Developer secretly tested new Mac Pro for weeks inside Apple's 'Evil Lab'

Prior to its unveiling at this week's Worldwide Developers Conference, the new Mac Pro was put through its paces in a top-secret lab at Apple's headquarters by a prominent third-party developer.

Mac Pro


The Foundry this week announced that MARI, its industry-standard 3D painting package 3D digital painting tool used in films "Avatar" and "The Avengers," is coming to the Mac. The developer, along with Oscar-winning animation studio Pixar, showed off MARI for OS X at WWDC this week, just 8 weeks after it began porting the software to the Mac.

MARI was shown running on the new cylindrical Mac Pro, demonstrating the work Pixar is doing with the software to complete its upcoming feature film "Monsters University.""All we could see was the monitor, and the Mac Pro was encased in a giant metal filing cabinet on wheels." - Jack Greasley of The Foundry

The Foundry shared with AppleInsider the story of how its team worked with the new Mac Pro in a room at Apple HQ known as the "Evil Lab" ahead of the desktop's unveiling. During the tests, the Mac Pro was entirely concealed in a giant steel cabinet, keeping its new design a mystery to The Foundry and Pixar.

"We were essentially doing a blind tasting of the machine," said Jack Greasley, MARI product manager at The Foundry. "All we could see was the monitor, and the Mac Pro was encased in a giant metal filing cabinet on wheels. Experiencing the machine in this way was actually really cool, because I can tell you that the speed and power of this machine really stands up. Mari running on this machine out of the box is the fastest I have ever seen it run."

Greasley spent a few weeks with the Mac Pro inside Apple's "Evil Lab" joined by Jonathan Hoffman, a texturing and shading artist from Pixar.

Mac Pro

The Foundry and Pixar gave an hourlong presentation with MARI running on the new Mac Pro at WWDC this week.


The path to their private session with the Mac Pro was set in motion two months ago, when Greasley visited Apple to talk about porting MARI to the Mac. After speaking with Apple's Developer Relations team, Greasley put together a pitch to feature MARI in Apple's WWDC keynote presentation.

Apple marketing chief Phil Schiller himself was wowed by Greasley's presentation, and decided the only way to do MARI on the Mac justice was to give it a special hourlong session for developers at WWDC. Schiller also name-dropped The Foundry and Pixar during the Mac Pro portion of the WWDC keynote on Monday."MARI’s high-resolution textures and 3D painting capabilities take full advantage of the incredible power and stability of the Mac." - Ron Okamoto of Apple Developer Relations

As The Foundry began porting MARI to the Mac, the developer had weekly updates with Apple to keep the company up-to-date on their progress. The Foundry was able to get a workable version of MARI working on OS X within just one week.

"The Foundry has done an incredible job bringing MARI to the Mac," said Ron Okamoto, Apple’s vice president of Worldwide Developer Relations. "MARI’s high-resolution textures and 3D painting capabilities take full advantage of the incredible power and stability of the Mac."

From his time testing the new Mac Pro, Greasley came away impressed. In particular, he praised the fast PCI Express flash storage, dual graphics processors, and potential for expandability with six Thunderbolt 2 ports. He also said that Open GL and Open CL are well-integrated into the new Mac Pro, which provides a big boost for MARI.

What Greasley didn't see until this week was the cylindrical design of the new Mac Pro. After its unveiling, he was pleased, declaring the unique Mac a "beautiful machine."

"I can see some real innovation and thought has gone into what users want and need," he said, "and I don't think pro users should be concerned."

Developers interested in testing MARI can currently sign up for the MARI on Mac beta at The Foundry's official website.