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Old July 1st, 2009, 04:59 PM   #1
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A Windows Rig for Editing AVCHD

I don't know anyone using this new file format, so I've no experience.

A friend has asked me to choose some components to build a rig to edit AVCHD from a Sony HDR-XR520Ve.

I thought the priorities from the top are:
Processing power and, er, Processing power. So I'll opt for a Q9550 or an i7 920 chip.

So, do I really need a raid, or just a two big sata 2 drives? I'll get 4gb of ram.
My mate is not a film-maker, but will need to do basic editing probably with Premiere Elements.

Any experience appreciated.
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Old July 1st, 2009, 05:05 PM   #2
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I had the same quandry, and asked the same question a few months ago on a forum. The answer was that although Adobe mention raid, there really is no need, as modern discs seem up to the job. In fact, I have standardised on external storage on WD drives, via USB2 and they are also ok. I tend to use the internal second drive, then archive to the external drives that live on a shelf - although I have often by mistake run direct to them with no issues. If not gone to the i7, and I'm quite happy with the way the system runs. I'm running Vista 64 which has a definate speed improvement on CS4 - although I cannot run some audio software on it (Thanks Steinberg).
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Old July 1st, 2009, 06:11 PM   #3
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Thanks.
So I could get away without the raid, and just use two sata drives?

The need to consider a mainboard chipset has pulled me towards the Intel G45 or Q45 chipsets. I hope either are fine for this. I like Asus boards so I'm looking at the Asus P5Q-EM. They both have onboard graphics - again, no idea if onboard graphics will even run with AVCHD. I've got a GT9600 card on a shelf somewhere though.

Never used 64 bit Windows before after hearing horror stories of incompatibility issues and lack of drivers etc. Maybe I'll do it now if the system will run faster.
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Old July 1st, 2009, 06:15 PM   #4
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To edit AVCHD natively (no conversion to intermediate codecs) you'll need a FAST quad-core, preferably Core i7. If you're going to run a 64-bit OS, you may as well load up on the RAM as well; remember that 32-bit OSes can't address more than 4GB, including the video card. You don't need RAID, but it helps. The main thing concerning hard drives is to keep all of the video files on a different drive than the one where the OS and programs are. I certainly wouldn't recommend USB drives for anything other than backup archives, but if Paul is getting along then more power to him.

On the other hand, you can buy Cineform's NeoScene for $129 and convert the AVCHD to a lossless intermediate codec that just about any PC or laptop less than 3 years old can handle.

So, it really comes down these factors: how much is your friend willing to spend, how serious is he about video editing, and what is the end result going to be (YouTube, Blu-Ray, broadcast, etc)? If you can answer these, I'll be happy to make some suggestions on hardware.

Also, this article by DVInfo's own Harm Millaard is well worth reading:
Adobe Forums: A PC buying guide for NLE (mainly Intel)
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Old July 1st, 2009, 10:16 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by William Ellwood View Post
Thanks.
So I could get away without the raid, and just use two sata drives?

The need to consider a mainboard chipset has pulled me towards the Intel G45 or Q45 chipsets. I hope either are fine for this. I like Asus boards so I'm looking at the Asus P5Q-EM. They both have onboard graphics - again, no idea if onboard graphics will even run with AVCHD. I've got a GT9600 card on a shelf somewhere though.

Never used 64 bit Windows before after hearing horror stories of incompatibility issues and lack of drivers etc. Maybe I'll do it now if the system will run faster.
Hi William, I bought a video card for my system only because the Pinnacle program I was trying out needed it, in the end I went to Corel ProX2, with that program it makes no difference, as it didn't with Premiere or Vegas, so from my experience you might as well stick with on board graphics for editing AVCHD, I'm using 1920x1080i and have no problems playing them with or without the card.
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Old July 2nd, 2009, 08:52 AM   #6
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Until CPUs get a bit more powerful, using an intermediate (like Cineform or Canopus HQ) makes the most sense to me, for editing footage shot as AVCHD, if you want buttery smooth performance.

Aside from that, the new Phenom II CPUs offer a very reasonable alternative to Core 2 quads (like the Q9550), especially when you look at price/performance. Performance wise, a Phenom II 940 is roughly on par with a Q9550 in most regards, and costs significantly less. An i7, of course, can smoke either a Phenom II 940 or a Q9550 at tasks like video encoding (but not at everything you do with a computer).

A lot of NLEs don't make use of the GPU, so decent onboard graphics can generally be quite adequate for editing purposes. That's where AMD solutions can shine nicely, particularly on a tight budget. Motherboards built around chips like the AMD 780G or NVIDIA 8200, can be quite inexpensive, while offering ample acceleration for playback of the common HD codecs (including AVC).
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Old July 2nd, 2009, 09:00 AM   #7
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Newegg has been offering some nice combo deals that bundle a Phenom II and motherboard, like this one:

Newegg.com - Phenom II and motherboard combo

That's a Phenom II 940 (3GHz) and motheboard (built around the AMD 790GX - ATI Radeon HD 3300 graphics) for under $200 (after rebate) - CPU and motherboard (w/graphics) for less than the cost of a Q9550 by itself. It's awfully tough to beat that kind of cost/performance effectiveness.
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Old July 9th, 2009, 04:51 PM   #9
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The choices from people's advice led me to order the more expensive alternative:

An MSI x58 Pro mainboard
i7 920 CPU
3 x 1gb DDR3 memory sticks (three more sticks can be added)
Nvidia GT9600 graphics
2 x 1tb sata II hard drives
a Samsung 22" TV/monitor digital+HDMI+other inputs
Coolermaster case with fans
Bluray re-write drive.

So we'll see if I can get it to rock. Thanks everybody.
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Old July 17th, 2009, 07:52 AM   #10
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Our sponsor VideoGuys tested an i7 system and this is what they recommend:

Videoguys Blog - Videoguys' DIY7: Intel Core i7 with Vista 64
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Old August 9th, 2009, 04:54 PM   #11
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Cineform

So, is the quality not affected once u convert avchd using Cineform? If it's not then is the only downside to using it the file size that results from the conversion?
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Old August 9th, 2009, 06:41 PM   #12
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I've wondered that to, does Cineform act as a proxy file that is then re-link to the original AVCHD for the final render or is it re-rendered out to some other format like mpeg2 or Blue-ray h264 which to my way of thinking is probably going to lower the final quality.
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Old August 9th, 2009, 07:52 PM   #13
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Cineform isn't normally used for proxy files.

Conversion of footage to Cineform-codec is done for two main reasons: 1) smoother editing performance on modest hardware; 2) stands up better to multigenerational editing.

Regarding the second point see this: HDV Quality Analysis (This is an older post that refers to mpeg2 but same arguments will apply to avchd)

Cineform is not a delivery format so yes you be recompressing to bluray, dvd or whatever as a final step. Unless you are interested in doing cuts-only editing, this recompression will need to happen regardless of whether you are using Cineform or not -- even if you are working on native avchd footage intended to end up on a bluray disk.
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Old August 9th, 2009, 08:49 PM   #14
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Thanks Graham I will have to give it a go, I like experimenting.
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Old August 10th, 2009, 03:51 PM   #15
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Hi Graham, I just did some editing using cineform avi's I found they were about 6 times larger files made from MTS files at 1920x1080i, I then re-encoded back to AVCHD h164 1920x1080i the results were stunning no perceivable quality lose even comparing still shots at 2 times magnification.
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