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TOPIC: FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch!

FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 28 Jun 2017 12:49 #89059

  • AlexMaxim
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Hey there guys,
I hope that this post finds you all having a fabulous summer.

I am experiencing a weird issue with our new FCP X editing computer, a 15” MacBook Pro (mid-2015). For some reason, it is quite uncomfortable to spend any length of time (even a few minutes) in front of it. Specifically, it seems like there is some kind of radio signal/magnetic field being emitted from it, because I get a mild tension headache/earache. It feels a little like taking a short flight.

I have turned off the wi-fi and Bluetooth, which I never use anyway. Doing the former in particular improved things, but the problem has not gone away 100%.

Here's the thing: I extensively tested a display model of the same computer in a number of Apple Stores, and I did not experience this problem at all! So I have no idea what's going on.

So my questions are as follows:

1. Can I change anything else in the settings apart from wi-fi and Bluetooth which might be causing this problem? Is there any other radio signal (Airplay? Airdrop? Screen settings?) which I can turn off?

2. This is a brand-new computer. Is this the kind of problem which will go away with time? The display models that I tested had probably been used for a few weeks at least.

Thank you so much for reading this post! I would be sincerely grateful for any insights or tips that you may have.

P.S. I don't think that it is a problem with the Retina screen, because my previous computer was a 2012 15” MacBook Pro with a Retina screen.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 28 Jun 2017 18:33 #89068

  • joema
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AlexMaxim wrote:
...15” MacBook Pro (mid-2015). For some reason, it is quite uncomfortable to spend any length of time (even a few minutes) in front of it. Specifically, it seems like there is some kind of radio signal/magnetic field being emitted from it, because I get a mild tension headache/earache....I have turned off the wi-fi and Bluetooth, which I never use anyway. Doing the former in particular improved things, but the problem has not gone away 100%....I extensively tested a display model of the same computer in a number of Apple Stores, and I did not experience this problem at all! So I have no idea what's going on....

Here are several things you can do to isolate the cause:

If you have always used your new laptop from the same position, try sitting back with it on your lap. It's a little far fetched, but maybe there is some slight postural factor that's inducing the headache.

Sitting in front of the laptop with your eyes closed, then turn around backwards with your head facing away. This will help determine if it's a visual problem or not.

Likewise you can connect it via HDMI to another monitor then turn the laptop backwards so you don't see the screen, plus turn off the laptop screen with the energy saver settings. Variations in lighting between the store and your work location might conceivably cause some flicker which you might be sensitive to. Or maybe this particular unit has some slight display flicker.

Sometimes screen-related drivers or power supply DC/DC converters can induce acoustic noise in the ultrasonic spectrum that a few people are sensitive too. Try sitting in the normal position with the laptop active, but use earplugs or earmuffs to deaden your hearing. This will determine if it's an audio-related problem.

If the problem still happens when you (a) can't see the screen and (b) can't hear anything, that would leave the RF spectrum. To help verify that, sit with the laptop behind you, wear ear plugs, then put the laptop in a metal box. You can use a small metal trash can with a lid. That forms a Faraday cage that no RF can escape. If only that stops the problem, it could imply RF.

The RF levels emitted by computers are extremely low and normally pose no health problem. However each device must be manufactured and shielded. A small manufacturing defect could allow RF to escape which might conceivably affect some sensitive individuals, especially in the microwave region where WiFi operates.

Depending on whether it's under warranty or you have AppleCare, you might be able to request an exchange. There are also RF leakage detectors but they normally require a proficient technician to interpret: a.co/57gVjyg
Last Edit: 28 Jun 2017 18:35 by joema.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 28 Jun 2017 22:17 #89083

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joema wrote:
AlexMaxim wrote:
...15” MacBook Pro (mid-2015). For some reason, it is quite uncomfortable to spend any length of time (even a few minutes) in front of it. Specifically, it seems like there is some kind of radio signal/magnetic field being emitted from it, because I get a mild tension headache/earache....I have turned off the wi-fi and Bluetooth, which I never use anyway. Doing the former in particular improved things, but the problem has not gone away 100%....I extensively tested a display model of the same computer in a number of Apple Stores, and I did not experience this problem at all! So I have no idea what's going on....

Here are several things you can do to isolate the cause:

If you have always used your new laptop from the same position, try sitting back with it on your lap. It's a little far fetched, but maybe there is some slight postural factor that's inducing the headache.

Sitting in front of the laptop with your eyes closed, then turn around backwards with your head facing away. This will help determine if it's a visual problem or not.

Likewise you can connect it via HDMI to another monitor then turn the laptop backwards so you don't see the screen, plus turn off the laptop screen with the energy saver settings. Variations in lighting between the store and your work location might conceivably cause some flicker which you might be sensitive to. Or maybe this particular unit has some slight display flicker.

Sometimes screen-related drivers or power supply DC/DC converters can induce acoustic noise in the ultrasonic spectrum that a few people are sensitive too. Try sitting in the normal position with the laptop active, but use earplugs or earmuffs to deaden your hearing. This will determine if it's an audio-related problem.

If the problem still happens when you (a) can't see the screen and (b) can't hear anything, that would leave the RF spectrum. To help verify that, sit with the laptop behind you, wear ear plugs, then put the laptop in a metal box. You can use a small metal trash can with a lid. That forms a Faraday cage that no RF can escape. If only that stops the problem, it could imply RF.

The RF levels emitted by computers are extremely low and normally pose no health problem. However each device must be manufactured and shielded. A small manufacturing defect could allow RF to escape which might conceivably affect some sensitive individuals, especially in the microwave region where WiFi operates.

Depending on whether it's under warranty or you have AppleCare, you might be able to request an exchange. There are also RF leakage detectors but they normally require a proficient technician to interpret: a.co/57gVjyg

Firstly, thank you for this absolutely amazing post, which I sincerely appreciate the time and trouble that you have taken to compose!

This present MacBook is actually one that I got in exchange for another unit of the same model which was absolutely unusable. The first unit turned out to have an ungrounded power supply, so it was literally leaking electricity onto the aluminium body. With this one, the power supply seems okay.

I have an HDMI cable and will use it to test the MacBook with an external display in the way that you suggested. The only problem is that part of the reason I bought a MacBook Pro (and not, say, an iMac) was that I wanted to use a smaller display - it is very difficult to get Retina-compatible displays under 28" in size, which is huge compared to a laptop. I have tried smaller displays, but they really do give me a bad headache because of the low resolution.

The other thing that I was wondering was whether time would make a difference: maybe a brand-new MacBook emits unusually high levels of RF? Today is day 3 of using this laptop. Day 1 was awfully painful; day 2 was still quite bad. Today the effect is still definitely noticeable but it is not as bad as day 1 or 2. If I knew that this would go away in, say, one month, I would just use my old computer in the interim.

The real mystery is that testing this model in department stores - where there are rows of computers, all of which are connected to wi-fi - was not at all problematic. My previous Retina computer - absolutely cool. I can't help feeling that there must be some setting which is really simple to change which could solve this problem, if only I knew how.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 28 Jun 2017 22:49 #89084

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AlexMaxim wrote:
....With this one, the power supply seems okay....

Modern power supply technology uses digital "switching" methods which include chopping the waveform and also DC/DC conversion. If a shielding or component problem exists, these can sometimes result harmonics which might extend into the high audio spectrum and cause problems from a few sensitive individuals. This is vaguely similar to old analog TVs which used a "flyback transformer" at 15 Khz which was sometimes faintly audible as a high-pitched whine. This could cause headaches in a few people.

AlexMaxim wrote:
....The other thing that I was wondering was whether time would make a difference: maybe a brand-new MacBook emits unusually high levels of RF? Today is day 3 of using this laptop. Day 1 was awfully painful; day 2 was still quite bad. Today the effect is still definitely noticeable but it is not as bad as day 1 or 2. If I knew that this would go away in, say, one month, I would just use my old computer in the interim.

This seems improbable. Whatever RF or audio frequency emissions from the MacBook, they are probably not persistently changing much over time. It is more likely physiological adaptation on your part.

AlexMaxim wrote:
...The real mystery is that testing this model in department stores - where there are rows of computers, all of which are connected to wi-fi - was not at all problematic....I can't help feeling that there must be some setting which is really simple to change which could solve this problem, if only I knew how.

Here is a brief video that shows how to create your own "Airplane Mode" for a MacBook. You could try this and see if it makes a difference:
Last Edit: 28 Jun 2017 22:50 by joema.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 29 Jun 2017 05:26 #89092

AlexMaxim wrote:
… can't help feeling that there must be some setting which is really simple to change which could solve this problem, …

Have you checked Monitor settings, esp. framerates?
I don't comment on 'radio-pollution', but I don't have those health issues either …

But 'flimmer' could cause all sort of nausea/headache … guess, your room light is 60HZ? If display is set to 50Hz = could be a cause.

… just check System Preferences…
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 29 Jun 2017 10:45 #89097

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I've had a couple of students and a son develop headaches similarly working on screens, a trip to the opthamologist and glasses cleared it up.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 29 Jun 2017 21:06 #89105

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joema wrote:
AlexMaxim wrote:
....With this one, the power supply seems okay....

Modern power supply technology uses digital "switching" methods which include chopping the waveform and also DC/DC conversion. If a shielding or component problem exists, these can sometimes result harmonics which might extend into the high audio spectrum and cause problems from a few sensitive individuals. This is vaguely similar to old analog TVs which used a "flyback transformer" at 15 Khz which was sometimes faintly audible as a high-pitched whine. This could cause headaches in a few people.

AlexMaxim wrote:
....The other thing that I was wondering was whether time would make a difference: maybe a brand-new MacBook emits unusually high levels of RF? Today is day 3 of using this laptop. Day 1 was awfully painful; day 2 was still quite bad. Today the effect is still definitely noticeable but it is not as bad as day 1 or 2. If I knew that this would go away in, say, one month, I would just use my old computer in the interim.

This seems improbable. Whatever RF or audio frequency emissions from the MacBook, they are probably not persistently changing much over time. It is more likely physiological adaptation on your part.

AlexMaxim wrote:
...The real mystery is that testing this model in department stores - where there are rows of computers, all of which are connected to wi-fi - was not at all problematic....I can't help feeling that there must be some setting which is really simple to change which could solve this problem, if only I knew how.

Here is a brief video that shows how to create your own "Airplane Mode" for a MacBook. You could try this and see if it makes a difference:

Thank you so much once again for yet another really helpful post! The idea of creating an 'Airplane Mode' for MacBook Pro is a great one, and long overdue imho.

I have seen the video that you kindly linked to. Is there any difference between turning wi-fi off and deleting it from the network settings?
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 29 Jun 2017 21:08 #89106

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Karsten Schlüter wrote:
AlexMaxim wrote:
… can't help feeling that there must be some setting which is really simple to change which could solve this problem, …

Have you checked Monitor settings, esp. framerates?
I don't comment on 'radio-pollution', but I don't have those health issues either …

But 'flimmer' could cause all sort of nausea/headache … guess, your room light is 60HZ? If display is set to 50Hz = could be a cause.

… just check System Preferences…

Thank you for your kind comment! I am using the laptop display rather than an external monitor.. Aside from using an application like f.lux, I'm not sure what else I can do with the in-built display.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 29 Jun 2017 21:12 #89107

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FCPX.guru wrote:
I've had a couple of students and a son develop headaches similarly working on screens, a trip to the opthamologist and glasses cleared it up.

Thank you very much indeed for your kind comment!

The problem is that it is only this mid-2015 MacBook Pro 15" Retina model - and even then, only the ones I have purchased, not the display models in the shops - which is giving me (literally) a headache.

No other computer has done this to me, not even my previous MacBook Pro 15" Retina from 2012. I don't normally need glasses. That's the mystery.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 30 Jun 2017 20:23 #89135

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An easy check to see if it's you or the computer is to take another similar sized laptop and use it at the same desk for a day or two. If you don't have problems, it's the laptop. If you have same problems using other laptop, it's something related to you. I would guess it's the laptop as you describe the symptoms occurring immediately after beginning to use the new laptop.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 30 Jun 2017 20:43 #89139

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Let it sit running on your desk while you leave the room. Stand hidden somewhere and listen closely. Do you heave the whisper of "destroy all humans" or not?

I'd do what fcpmattw says.
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FCP X MacBook Pro Editing Headache - Ouch! 01 Jul 2017 00:30 #89144

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fcpmattw wrote:
An easy check to see if it's you or the computer is to take another similar sized laptop and use it at the same desk for a day or two...

She somewhat already answered that. She previously had a 2012 MBP 15" Retina and had no problems with that. Only after upgrading to the 2015 model did the problems start. I assume both were used in the same workspace.

The main steps (already mentioned) are to isolate whether it's an audio, visual or RF problem. She doesn't wear glasses but maybe some characteristic of the screen combined with eyesight could might cause it. Besides the steps already listed, it wouldn't hurt to get some low-power (+1.00) "drugstore" reading glasses and try those. For private testing only -- no implications about age :)
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