There's a studio here does a lot of films and they show VFX breakdowns for a few of them (click on the movie and the breakdown button):
Another studio Atomic Fiction uses iMacs and MBPs to do effects work and then pushes it to different cloud rendering farms:
When the Mac Pro was being shown off at WWDC, some people had concerns about the 64GB of memory:
"Honestly Jack, "just" 12-cores (we got E5 processors with 8 now, so it could have 16), and 4 memory dimms, even if we get 16 dimms, it´s still just a 64 ram machine, working nuke with 4k, that memory will be gone in 30 frames and 5 nodes, using agressive caching. "
Jack Greasley who was on stage at WWDC showing off MARI replied there:
"I've been working on one for the last three weeks. It is the best off the shelf performance I have ever seen.
Don't assume anything."
and there's a VFX guy here:
"I just got a new linux box with hex core, 64GB ram and SSD.
Best machine I ever had for Nuke. With the SSD I can run 4k dpxfiles in real time in Nuke (caching can't even keep up with the playback in 2k). As for RAM, you can never have enough in Nuke"
That's the thing with SSD now is that it's getting close to old RAM speeds. The memory bandwidth of the old G5 towers could go down to 2-3GB/s. With PCIe SSDs being ~1GB/s, a 1TB SSD is almost like having 1TB of RAM. It's pretty slow RAM but fast enough to stream large amounts of data from.
Another VFX guy who uses 128GB-256GB in 24-core machines is this guy - they do fluid sims and other effects work for 4K, 5K, 6K:
Here you can see him working on a Macbook Pro:
He was jumping between 5K, 2K, 1080p, 3D files all on the MBP, which can only take 16GB RAM and screen recording at the same time, which slowed things down.
The motivation for more memory seems to be for more of a data cache but ideally, real-time processing shouldn't even need a cache. For the instances it is needed, RAM is faster than storage but if the storage is fast enough, it's fine too. A MBP with 1TB SSD can cache frames to the drive.
A company that can produce a quality 16bit per channel, 4K Panel for Home Theaters for $1500 at 50" diagonal would own the industry.
It certainly seems like the manufacturers are just experimenting to see what margins they can get away with. I can't imagine the unit volumes would be too high at the prices they sell at just now.
OLED looks great for this:
Lightweight, deep black levels, accurate enough colors, fast refresh rate. It's just the price. It would be good if Apple could make 4K OLED displays suitable for the iMacs, Thunderbolt displays and possibly TVs with laminated anti-glare glass and metal backing. The guy in the video mentioned that they wouldn't bring out the monitors until they could sell them cheaper than a car but if it's just down to the supplier then it's not necessarily build costs.