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Old March 1st, 2009, 07:37 AM   #1
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Need good results with modest budget!

About 5 years ago I retired from a career that started in analog broadcasting in the mid-1960s and morphed into computer consulting in the 1980s. So my "post-retirement" homebased business is to build a one or two person production house to assist Christian faith-based organizations and "family values" non-profits to acquire professional grade multi-media products on a small church or small non-profit budget.

On the audio side, I have acquired the Digidesign 003+rack/ProTools, several Rode mics, a Yamaha XS8 with Cubase and an HP duo core Vista laptop to capture/manage their products, etc. I'm VERY happy with the audio decisions.

On the video side, I've committed to Canon XH-A1S and have been experimenting with a trial copy "Vegas 8 Pro" (8.0c) on Vista-64 on an Intel Core2 (6420@2.13Ghz) and 4GB of RAM.

I'm "just barely OK" with Vegas for editing, mainly I guess because it LOOKS so much easier in comparison on a Mac with iMovie. And a test rendering with Vegas/DVD Studio took nearly 11 hrs to go to NTSC standard DVD.

From several recent postings here, I've developed the idea that to get to a reasonable rendering rate on a PC, an I7 with at least 6GB of RAM is approximately the same as a Mac Pro with at least 4 cores, but more likely 8 cores.

So for a "ballpark budget", I'm thinking: best bang for not MORE than $4K for a new computer and software, I could probably get a Mac Pro with 8 cores and FC Studio, or an I7 940 and 6 or 12 GB of RAM which would keep up or surpass the Mac as far as rendering time, but I don't have a clear picture of what software combo would compete with or exceed the Mac/FCS combination and still stay within a 4K (excluding S&H or taxes).

I've had plenty of experience, etc. with RAID over the past couple of decades and for the moment, for my budget, I don't think I NEED to include RAID in this architecture...mostly because I don't see any postings where it really provides a substantial ROI on performance. I think the SATA-3 drives @ 7200RPM or greater will be quite satisfactory for our needs.

I see various combos of software and/or CODECS tossed into forum postings, such as Cineform, Edius, TMPGenc, Adobe CS3, et al. It's a luscious fruitbasket, but it drives me nuts trying to discern the idea combination, given my budget/operating parameters.

Another thought came to me that "wondered" if it would it make sense to just get an entry level Mac laptop with FCS and then upscale my Vista machine to I7 for the rendering? Ballpark there seems to be about $2500 for the Mac/FCS and that would leave $1500 for I7/rendering side.

In full production mode, I want to be capable of producing at least 1 hour of heavily edited "pseudo Hollywood" type stuff per MONTH and at least 60-90 minutes per week of sermons, seminars, multi-chapter training videos, etc. My potential constituents will want very high quality production values that can be delivered on YouTube/Vimeo or standard DVD and eventually Blu-Ray, but we don't expect that for at least a year or more.

Feel free to PM me or respond here if you feel you might provide guidance to my thinking and actions.

Thanks in advance and best regards to all from San Antonio, Texas.
Dave Nuttall
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Old March 1st, 2009, 11:11 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by Dave Nuttall View Post
From several recent postings here, I've developed the idea that to get to a reasonable rendering rate on a PC, an I7 with at least 6GB of RAM is approximately the same as a Mac Pro with at least 4 cores, but more likely 8 cores.
Rendering speeds are determined by CPU power and disc speeds, not RAM. More RAM will not speed up your rendering time, it will only help in caching and playback, generally speaking.

A new Mac Pro built with the i7 chips will likely emerge in a month or so. Everyone "in the know" is expecting (though based on educated conjecture) that Apple will announce them at the end of March or early April.

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I've had plenty of experience, etc. with RAID over the past couple of decades and for the moment, for my budget, I don't think I NEED to include RAID in this architecture
You're editing HDV, therefor you don't need a RAID. If it was uncompressed HD then yes, but not for HDV which is like working with DV (except for the Long GOP issue).

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Another thought came to me that "wondered" if it would it make sense to just get an entry level Mac laptop with FCS and then upscale my Vista machine to I7 for the rendering?
Not really. First, an "entry level" MacBook will not be sufficient for using FCS; you will need a MacBook Pro and likely the top one at that. Second, by the time you put money into the MBP, you are not far off from spending same money for a Mac Pro that will have more power and expandable options. The only good reason to ever consider a laptop, IMHO, is if you have a real need for portability. Laptops are not cost effective options; they have a premium for their portability which also comes with a sacrifice in power. If you have to be able to edit on location, then a laptop is a necessity, otherwise it is a compromise that is not worth it.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 11:22 AM   #3
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Based upon what you've written, your output product is not in any form of high definition at this time. If that's true, you can stick with what you have for now. You can simply down-res in the camera during the capture process. Using SD DV source, your eleven hour rendering time will be cut by about 55%. I can render two hours video to a DVD image in about three to four hours on a Dual Core 3.0gHz PC. 90 minutes of HDV source will take 11 hours on a Quad Core 6600. It's long, but not a huge issue since I'll just render overnight.

So, if you're staying SD for this year, keep your current kit. By the time you move to HD, there will be more options and they'll likely be cheaper.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 11:46 AM   #4
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you can stick with what you have for now. You can simply down-res in the camera during the capture process.
I would stay native (in HDV) until the very end and down-res for transcoding to MPEG-2 for DVD. This way maximum quality is kept until the end.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 05:08 PM   #5
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I would stay native (in HDV) until the very end and down-res for transcoding to MPEG-2 for DVD. This way maximum quality is kept until the end.
It has been my understanding that "...stay native (in HDV) until the very end..." is a "best practice" to ensure that if you wanted to produce in HD-DVD/Blu-Ray, et al in the future, you could reissue.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 07:37 PM   #6
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It has been my understanding that "...stay native (in HDV) until the very end..." is a "best practice" to ensure that if you wanted to produce in HD-DVD/Blu-Ray, et al in the future, you could reissue.
If that's what you want to do starting now you might want to go ahead and build a BD iso file at the same time you build the DVD or DVD iso file. It's the simplest way to do it you eventually want to release on BD.

However, your current kit will seem tortuously slow whilst editing and even worse when transcoding. You'll want to either upgrade to a faster PC or Mac, or invest in Cineform. But note that Cineform does not yet support Adobe CS4.
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Old March 1st, 2009, 08:35 PM   #7
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It has been my understanding that "...stay native (in HDV) until the very end..." is a "best practice" to ensure that if you wanted to produce in HD-DVD/Blu-Ray, et al in the future, you could reissue.
Yes, that is another good reason to stay native, or perhaps transcode to an HD intermediate codec (such as Apple's ProRes, Avid's DNxHD or Cineform).

I'm not as skeptical about your current system's ability to handle HDV as Tripp is, but he does bring up a good point about considering an intermediate. HDV is long GOP which puts a burden on the CPU to process the frames.
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Old March 2nd, 2009, 05:48 AM   #8
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Yes, that is another good reason to stay native, or perhaps transcode to an HD intermediate codec (such as Apple's ProRes, Avid's DNxHD or Cineform).
Transcoding to an HD intermediate codec makes sense....but should I have them all and then decide which is best or is there some comparison somewhere that would instruct me?

Also, ProRs and DNxHD seem to be free downloads but which Cineform product would fit my projected needs?

From what I can tell, if I get Cineform Neo Scene to capture/convert to Cineform AVI/MOV and then use Adobe Premium Pro I should be able to produce technically excellent products within my budget. Does that fly?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Mike Barber View Post
I'm not as skeptical about your current system's ability to handle HDV as Tripp is, but he does bring up a good point about considering an intermediate. HDV is long GOP which puts a burden on the CPU to process the frames.
From what I can see, a new I7 box should be within reach budget-wise. For example:
Upgrade current PC to I7: $1300
Cineform Neo Scene $ 130
Adobe Production Pre $1700
Retiree learning curve: Priceless!

Thanks Mike/Tripp (and others who didn't post but had kind thoughts!).

Dave
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Old March 2nd, 2009, 07:20 AM   #9
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Transcoding to an HD intermediate codec makes sense....but should I have them all and then decide which is best or is there some comparison somewhere that would instruct me?
More options never hurt anybody. It is good to be flexible. :-)

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Also, ProRs and DNxHD seem to be free downloads but which Cineform product would fit my projected needs?
I have never used either DNxHD or Cineform myself, so I can't say for certain. I just know these by reputation.
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Old March 2nd, 2009, 07:59 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Dave Nuttall View Post
...but which Cineform product would fit my projected needs?

From what I can tell, if I get Cineform Neo Scene to capture/convert to Cineform AVI/MOV and then use Adobe Premium Pro I should be able to produce technically excellent products within my budget. Does that fly?
It might work, but I don't believe it's recommended. I have CS3 and looked into Cineform over a year ago. At that time, AspectHD was the least expensive option for Adobe users. Neo was not recommended for use with Premier Pro. Now that AspectHD has gone end of life, the more expensive ProspectHD is the only real option for us.

After downloading the trial, I ended up not going with Cineform because the price/value ratio just wasn't high enough. You might want to spend a little time looking at the Cineform list here for a better understanding of your options.
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