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Non-Linear Editing on the PC
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Old September 26th, 2004, 11:21 AM   #1
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Ultimate PC set up

I am about to put together a PC for serious editing work using Vegas 5 and I want to get it right the first time. I am interested in what others consider the perfect or ultimate set up.
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Old September 26th, 2004, 12:12 PM   #2
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(Note: information only applies to Vegas.)
Processors: The faster the better as the CPU makes the biggest difference in rendering speed.

Prescott Pentiums are faster than AMD64.
Prescott is faster than the same clock speed Canterwood processors except they consume more electricity (higher cost if you pay for electricity) and generate more heat (more noise, maybe less reliability).

An overclocked single processor system will be one of the fastest you can get. Water cooling or phase change cooling (you can buy a kit or buy a prebuilt system from go-l.com) will give you the highest overclocks. If you have the money+time to spend and don't fear overclocking then a overclocked system is the way to go.

Multi-processor systems are also good as they'll let you encode MPEG2 faster. Vegas does not take advantage of multiple processors or hyperthreading very well so you don't see very good performance gains from them. An overclocked single processor system will edge out a much more expensive dual/quad Xeon in rendering (vegas). The multi-processor system will be better at MPEG2 encoding.

If you have multiple instances of Vegas open then you can take advantage of multiple processors well.

2- RAM: debatable, but you need just more than enough. For everything except for RAM previews, you need like 128-256MB. RAM preview is what you need RAM for. Some people say you need 2-4GB when using large still images. I haven't tested things out myself, but 512MB can do you very, very well.

3- Hard drives: the higher the capacity the better. With lots of drives, you should probably setup an automated backup system for your .veg files.

You could go RAID5, but it's a better idea to use an automated backup system as that will protect against user error (very common cause of data loss).

4- dual/triple monitors. Bigger is better.

5- Not computer stuff:
calibrated NTSC monitor for color correction.
deck (or camcorder)
comfy chair

6- DVD burner of course. Plextor makes the best stuff, but there are cheap burners out there that are excellent and better buys. i.e. Sony, NEC, Pioneer

7- Render farm:
With Vegas5 you can use network rendering. However, it doesn't speed things up too much. There's overhead "stitching" the project together and the render may not be distributed evenly among your nodes.

You also need extra licenses for Vegas if you wish to have more than 3 copies of Vegas running at once.

Single processor systems would be best for render nodes, a 1U or small form factor case.

If you have lots of money, an overclocked single processor system + a render farm is probably the best idea. You can get MPEG2 encoding hardware if MPEG2 encoding speed/quality is important to you (I believe Cinemacraft sells this). The only thing better would be a quad processor setup + a render farm, but that's ridiculously expensive and marginally faster/slower.
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Old September 30th, 2004, 11:29 PM   #3
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Glenn puts out some great info and solid guidelines.

The question is - what do you consider "serious editing"??

When I consider this, stabillity is key. I want my machine to work right all the time. Slightly slower with no bugs is better than a fast machine that may crash after 3 hours of render.

For this reason, I'd recomend avoiding over-clocking unless you're very familiar with the issues involved. This can add heat and other instabillites that may cause problems.

Overall, I've found P4 with the Prescott core to do very well. Purchase a 3.0Ghz or faster. Consider cost though. The very fastest processor available is usually 2 or 3 times the price of the next slower speed, with only a small percentage of performance gain.

Get an after market cooler/fan for your CPU. The one supplied in the box is marginal. Video is very taxing on CPU and generates lots of heat. Get somthing made of copper (best thermal transfer). Not necessarily a 'liquid' cooler - just a solid coper cooler with a big-a$$ fan.

Another major factor is motherboard selection. You want a solid maker with an updated 'chip set' (the chips that make the board work, they are hard coded and installed by manufacturer). This will add to the stabillity of the board. A recnent and known stable chipset are boards with the Intel 875 chipset.

I have personally built very stable systems using the Abit IC7 board. Avoid the "IC7-MAX3" as this is intented for video gamers. The IC7 or IC7-G would make for a suitable workstation. They are commonly available.

Memory selection - be sure to get the fastest RAM your board supports. Whatever memory you get, buy a pair of identical chips, and install them in the ODD numbered slots (not the two slots next to eachother). Though not required, this will allow modern boards to access both chips at the same time, thus doubling the speed of your RAM. This will speed general use.

I found 1 GB RAM works great, with a slight speed boost going to 2 GB - but if $$$ is at issue, spend it on a better board and an extra monitor - you can always get another stick of RAM later.

Finally, case selection. Don't cheap out here. You want a large case with room for extra fans. All those drives (and the 300-plus watts of heat your CPU will generate) will make the system very hot. The more air mass the better. Some workstation oriented cases slot the hard drives up front, and have fans right there to flow air between the drives.

A bit of good luck helps also.

-Good luck!!
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Old October 1st, 2004, 06:57 AM   #4
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Yes, overclocking can create instability. But since we were talking about the ultimate setup, I thought I'd mention it :D

There are a few vendors where you can buy an overclocked system or you can do it yourself. If you do do it yourself, you really need to thoroughly test it for stability issues. You can get it down to a point where random Vegas/software crashiness is a much greater concern than hardware instability (i.e. test it so that you know that the instability is something extremely neglible).

But like Kevin said, unless you're familiar with the issues involved you should avoid it.

2- For aftermarket heatsink/cooler, the Zalman 7000alcu is very good bang for your buck. You could go with a better Thermalright heatsink, but that's really unnecessary.

3- The Intel 865 chipset is just as good as the 875 for video editing, unless you want the better gigabit ethernet. PAT makes no difference.

Intel chipsets have historically been very stable. You can get Sis chipsets now- they seem to be stable.

4- RAM: Generic RAM is just as good for video editing as long as it works. The cheap stuff likely has a higher defect rate. You can test your RAM anyways, which makes that a non-issue.
Any RAM over PC3200 makes no difference unless overclocking.
Low latency RAM makes no difference (I tried).
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Old October 1st, 2004, 05:48 PM   #5
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I am curious to know what you expect from the system?
The best and fastest system is always the best. It depends on the money you want to spend. But a lot of better PC's now have enough power to do the editing without trouble.

Myself I work with 768Mb RAM and 2 Ghz clock which apears to be sufficient for editing. More is not utilised at all ! 512Mb appeared to be to small. Above that I have memory optimalysed for systemactivities . I work with Adobe Premiere

The modern harddisks are not a problem anymore. They are faster as necessary for capturing avi's.
But the disks and the system should not be interupted by other programs or scheduling software. A separate disk for caturing and for editing is generally to be advised in all cases.

I have installed my Windows two times on two disks ( Windows XP supports two different installations after ServicePack2; before it was disadvised! )This works great!:

1. one for general use including printing and so on and
2. one installation totally dedicated for video editing without printing, email, office, windows media-encoder and so on, and so on: just scenalyser to capture and premiere to edit.
Every other thing can be done within the normal and general installation.

I capture on the other disk( the non-system disk and without pagefile) on a dedicated clean formatted partition (quick format is not good enough:it leaves residues of files and directories!).
All together it works very satisfying!

Premiere loves to have more disks for different tasks.
Of course double processing will help speeding up things and certain Raids also, but they will raise the money to be invested: it is up to your choice.

A very effective way to install windows XP is updating Win XP before installing !
"To create an installation of Windows XP integrated with the service pack 2"
It will improve your PC's and disks performance! SP2 replaces all prior updates!

Another important thing is to enable all kind of error controls in yr bios settings: for your PC-bus and for you memory! Video editing gives a heavy load: you will need those error controls for stable and effective editing. I certainly prefer stability above overclocking!

In our fight against defragmentation this tweak can be applied

Jan Roovers
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Old October 2nd, 2004, 03:51 PM   #6
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Hes putting together a new system. Why go legacy (old) chipset?
Checkout www.anandtech.com under guides.
http://www.anandtech.com/guides/showdoc.aspx?i=2185&p=3 for good intel system. I would recommend getting a cheaper processor and upgrading when after the dual cores have been out a while.
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Old October 3rd, 2004, 12:53 AM   #7
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Right now the old chipset is better bang for your buck as far as I know. The extras like DDR2 is expensive while performing pretty much the same. Eventually the new chipset(s) will be the better choice.
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