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Non-Linear Editing on the PC
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Old August 21st, 2008, 11:53 AM   #1
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Quad-Core Tutorial

Background:

I am planning to replace my 5 year old Pentium PC with a Quad-core in the next 30 days. My budget is $1300. I already own a 2 month old LG 22" monitor.

I'll be buying an HD camera in the same time frame so I'll be needing the power to edit AVCHD.
I also use Camtasia 5.1. No gaming on this machine.

I'm seeing some nice bargains at BB and the 2 years free financing is too good to pass up.

Questions:

1- Is Intel superior to AMD?
2- I assume 6 gb is enough to get started
3- What is best graphics board?
4- Is there a manufacturer (i.e. Gateway, HP) I should stay away from because of the support?
5- Is there a web resource(s) I can read?
6- Is there a specific quad-core that is superior?
7- Should I wait 60 days because Intel/AMD will have a superior new CPU and the present CPU's will drop in price

Thanks
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Old August 21st, 2008, 01:34 PM   #2
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1 - There's no correct answer to this really.

2 - Not sure you can actually have 6gb. Memory modules are mostly made in 1gb and 2 gb modules and generally 2 slots must be filled. So, 2gb, 4gb, 8gb...Also, keep in mind that you must use a 64bit Operating system to access more than 3gb of memory. XP 64-bit or Vista 64-bit. I currently have a laptop running vista ultimate 32-bit with 4gbs of RAM. It reports 4GB, but if you look in the task manager it can only access 3gb.

3 - nVidia or ATI. Refer to #1. That said, nVidia has some cool stuff coming out that will allow you to encode video on the video card rather than using the computer's cpu. It's supposed to be faster. You can expect ATI to have a similiar solution if they don't already.

4 - One is probably about as bad as the other.

5 - All over the internet really...For hardware stuff look at Tomshardware.com or www.hardocp.com.

6 - Any of the ones that have 'Extreme' in their name. A system built around an extreme processor will be outside your budget though.

7 - If I'm not mistaken Intel will be launching a new line this fall. My advice..Buy now and then close your eyes for 3 years.
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Old August 21st, 2008, 04:18 PM   #3
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You'll need to do some more research on your own from PC review sites. What works for one of us might not work for you. I built a machine in February specifically for a Matrox RT.X2 card. Therefore, I was somewhat limited in the range of MB/Cases/Graphics cards etc.

Besides, with the offerings changing so rapidly...I wouldn't necessarily recommend something I bought 6 months ago, let alone 2 years ago.

You can always purchase a used gaming system from a system builder looking for the bleeding edge systems. These types tend to pick the fastest/best components, and upgrade as soon as something better comes along. Check Craigslist (but please, do some research on TomsHardware or PCMagazine first).
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Old August 21st, 2008, 05:40 PM   #4
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Also look around AnandTech.com as they have a bunch of good articles like TomsHardware.com. HardOCP.com is a good site for people who are into overclocking and maximum gaming performance.

I would recommend you budget an additional, dedicated drive for video processing (~$75-110 for a 500-750GB drive from Newegg.com & 1000GB (1TB) drives can be had for <$225) and possibly an external drive for backup (1TB externals for <$225 with multiple interfaces, USB2.0, IEEE1394/firewire, and eSATA). Nothing is more frustrating than working on a project for a long time and having a drive die on you. It doesn't happen very often, but it has happened to me and starting over was a real bummer!

Scott
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Old August 21st, 2008, 08:47 PM   #5
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1. The real-world benchmarks show that Intel is far superior to AMD when it comes to encoding multimedia. AMD holds the edge when it comes to gaming because the AMD addresses memory faster. Since you said "no gaming", I think your choice should be pretty clear.

2. Unless you will be using a 64 bit OS, stick with 4GB RAM. The 32 bit Windows systems will not even address all 4 GB, but you get DDR benefits by purchasing two 2GB sticks. If you will be going with a 64 bit OS, max out the motherboard.

3. Just about any graphics board will do well for video editing as long as it has its own memory and doesn't borrow system memory. Stay far away from the integrated graphics. ATI usually gets the nod for image quality, although that's pretty subjective. nVidia has introduced new GPUs that can take over some system processing (CUDA), theoretically making things run faster, although not many applications take advantage of that yet.

4. I build all my own systems, but I know If you buy a pre-configured system, purchase through the "business" side of the company. You'll get better support than you get from the consumer side of things. The downside is that you'll usually pay more for a PC. Your best bet is to find a local geek for support and maybe even to build a PC for you.

5. Tomshardware.com as mentioned in a previous post is a good resource. If you build a system yourself, check retail sites like newegg.com for reviews of components.

6. Pretty much comes down to how much you want to spend. Don't waste the extra money on Intel Extreme Edition CPUs, but buy the fastest you can afford.

7. There will always be something new getting ready to come out, so don't play the waiting game or you'll never buy anything.

Building is definitely the way to go as you get exactly what you want without paying for stuff you don't need. You'd be surprised at some of the CHEAP stuff the big vendors like HP put in their systems. You may not save any money building your system piece by piece, but you'll end up with a higher quality, more reliable system.

Oh, and $1300 is very do-able.

My 2 cents (adjusted for inflation)
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Old August 21st, 2008, 11:12 PM   #6
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1 - as much as I prefer to patronize AMD, for video, it's an intel Quad all the way... AMD has fallen behind dollars for doughnuts...

I just picked up a Q6600 with a cheapo miniATX motherboard for around $200 at Frys... nothing fancy, 2G RAM, and it's stable and pretty satisfactory so far - re-used my video card (512M XFX, passive cooling, dual DVi-I), and the rest of my machine, got a nice cheap boost. Definitely better for editing AVCHD, still have to see how much rendering improved, but I expect it to be much better!
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 07:57 AM   #7
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Actually, with the Core 2's, Intel chips now generally outperform AMD chips at a given clock rate and number of cores. With video encoding, the gap is a little closer. The larger caches on the Core 2 family processors help more with gaming than video encoding, in general.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 10:06 AM   #8
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For AVCHD you want an Intel Core 2 Quad. I like AMD chips too but for video encoding Intel has a clear edge.

The Q6600, Q9450 and Q9550 are all good choices, just pick whatever is in your price range. A lot of hardware review websites like hardOCP tend to focus on overclocking, which is nice if you want to try it, but I recommend just running the chip at its rated stock speed for at least a month to see if you're happy with it.

As for that price drop, it has already happened. Intel just announced its new line of multicore processors, nicknamed "Nehalem". The official name will be something like "iCore x". They'll be out late this year and may be as much as 20% faster for video work, presuming you're using software that can do good multithreading and all that. However, the new chips will probably cost over $1000 each. They'll be targeted at the server market first, getting them for desktops will cost an arm and a leg. If you want that power at today's prices then you'll need to wait about 18 months. Personally I think it's better to go ahead and buy something now if you're ready to use a new system. Compared to your current PC, the three processors I mentioned above are shockingly powerful, and they can all handle AVCHD, for the price range of $200-$350. They were $500 just a few months ago.

I build my own system, but you can get prebuilt ones too. Just keep in mind that this stuff is not entry level hardware and so you probably shouldn't take the lowest bidder. Stick with a company that offers a good video card and plenty of RAM because it's an indication they paid more attention to the details.

If you will use anything like Magic Bullet Looks then you should consider an nVidia card, either of the 8000 series and up, or a Quadro card. If you're just going to do straight editing, the video card doesn't matter.

You can get 6 GB of RAM if you arrange the chips correctly, depending on the motherboard, but if you're not doing any gaming then you're better off buying at least 8 GB and using a 64-bit operating system.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 10:08 AM   #9
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My IT department built me a new editing computer last week for under $1000... It's got the 2.4GHz Intel Quad core proc, 4GB of the fastest RAM available for Intel procs, a server motherboard, 2 TB of SATA HDD in a RAID-0, multi-format Lightscribe DVD burner, 500GB OS/programs HDD, and two 22" ASUS HD LCD monitors... all for under $1000. So yeah, its definitely doable if you build your own.

I would echo that Intel is definitely better than AMD. I read an article earlier this summer (can't remember where now, but I think it was over at PCMagazine) that showed benchmark tests between the AMD and Intel and Intel won out in a big way every time. I was an AMD man myself until I read that article and saw the test results. Now I'm working on my first Intel based machine and I'm hooked...

If you want to purchase a prebuilt system, go with an HP workstation. I think its the HP x8600 workstation that's commonly recommended by multimedia manufacturers for running their software/hardware. Stay away from Dell--support sucks. No experience with Gateway. But, as one of the earlier posters said, you can't beat a self-built system for price/performance and there's plenty of guys in every community that know how to build rock solid systems for very little money.
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Old August 25th, 2008, 01:30 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Beisner View Post
My IT department built me a new editing computer last week for under $1000... It's got the 2.4GHz Intel Quad core proc, 4GB of the fastest RAM available for Intel procs, a server motherboard, 2 TB of SATA HDD in a RAID-0, multi-format Lightscribe DVD burner, 500GB OS/programs HDD, and two 22" ASUS HD LCD monitors... all for under $1000.
Would you mind posting a full list of all the parts and where they bought them? That $1000 seems unreal and awfully tempting for all this good stuff - the two monitors alone are north of $500...
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Old August 26th, 2008, 07:13 AM   #11
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I actually don't have a full parts list, nor do I know for sure where they purchased everything. Some of the parts may have been things they already had in stock and pulled off their shelves. I know the monitors go for about $230/each at Newegg and they're beautiful monitors. They include cameras and a stereo mic array on each monitor for video-conferencing, etc.

All I know is that they charged my department an even $1000 for the computer when they did the inter-departmental funds transfer for it. It's got an Intel Core2 Quad at 2.4Ghz, 4GB of Ram (2 sticks), a PNY 8800GTS video card with 512MB, three 750GB SATA drives in a RAID-0, a 500GB PATA drive as the OS/Programs drive, and a multiDVDRW w/lightscribe on the last of the four SATA ports. It's got onboard audio (not my preference, but I've got a separate machine for audio, so it's not the end of the world). I think he said that they had used one of their server mobos for it, but I'm not certain. It's also got an extra firewire card in it giving me a total of four active firewire ports. Rounded out with a wireless MS keyboard/mouse.

Anyway, sorry I can't give more info than that. I know they purchase all their parts wholesale from a distributor that doesn't sell to the public, but I can't remember which one. I know they also get significant non-profit discounts and also obviously don't have to pay tax since we're non-profit.
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Old August 26th, 2008, 08:37 AM   #12
 
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In a commercial operation, I think a quad core xeon or q9450 is probably the best choice. In a one man studio, like mine, my choices are a bit different. I built up an Intel Quad core Q6600 on an Intel DX48BT2 mobo. The consensus seems to be that the Q6600 overclocks quite easily. On first startup, I couldn't get the new system to run over the advertised clock speed of 2.4GHz. Then I stumbled over the fact that the factory specced voltage for my 4Gb Patriot Memory cards is 1.7 volts, while the Intel default memory voltage was 1.4 volts. After resetting the memory voltage to 1.7v, I can now run my Q6600 at 2.9Ghz. It is rock steady after a month of editting, runs at factory temperature. I am quite happy with this setup.Overclocking isn't for everyone, but, it's a way to get higher speeds for a much lower cost.
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Old August 27th, 2008, 12:22 PM   #13
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You can build a quad core editing system for under $1300 (especially if you already own the monitor), but building the above mentioned system for $1000 isn't realistic at even the best current retail prices for parts (even accounting for some vagueness).
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Old August 28th, 2008, 09:54 AM   #14
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I don't imagine you would be willing to spec out such a system so we can get an idea what it consists of. I am looking at possibly having to upgrade my motherboard (its about 3 years old and is beginning to act a bit flaky), CPU, and memory and would like to get one that help me with video.

I have about 75 hours of home video I need to edit, correct, etc. and put on DVD and I just bought a Z1U and plan on using it to record more video of the kids. I just did not want to use my old camera as the video it produced was just not that good and I felt embarrassed using it.

Anyway, specs are, IMO, always welcome, especially with tested configurations!

Scott
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Old August 28th, 2008, 11:33 AM   #15
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David, $1000 for that machine including the screens is a GREAT price, even at wholesale prices. They must have had some parts already in hand that they didn't get charged for.

Scott, here are the specs to a machine I recently built that I use for editing HDV videos using Vegas 8:

Intel Q9450
ABit IP35 Pro MOBO
4 gig crucial ballistic ram DDR2 4-4-4-12
2 oem 750 GB 32mb buffer drives (run in Raid 0)
1 retail 500 GB WD Drive (Program drive)
BFG 9800 GX2 Video Card
Creative Extreme Fatal1ty Sound Card
Corsair 750W PS
Lite-on SATA DVD R/W
Rocketfish Full tower server case (actualy made by Lian-Li for Best Buy, no longer available, it was a $300 case on close out for $79)

Total cost with Windows Vista Ultimate

$1550 (not including tax).

I recently added a 1TB drive that I use for longer term data starage since RAID 0 drives are more prone to data loss. I went overboard on the Graphics card but I got a good deal on it and even though it doesn't do a bit of good for video editing it sure plays nice games.
The $1550 also includes a great Zalman fan (biggest one they make) and various wires and wire harnesses.

The system runs great and is very stable.
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