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Old November 21st, 2004, 10:11 AM   #1
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ULTIMATE COMPUTER... NLE and Otherwise!

Okay guys, I'm hoping some of you with SERIOUSLY trick computers will jump in on this thread. I've finally made it through an evolution of thought... I'd been paranoid about "ultimate systems" and stability... but after a couple weeks of OCD research on computer design I'm thinking that we really ARE out of the dark ages of stability vs. performance in an NLE system. If you disagree with that then PLEASE let me know!

In my ram thread there were a couple guys with really trick systems... including Michael Sinclair and Rick Bravo. I'm hoping people with systems like those will reply.

Well I never considered doing any OC on my system, but it's basically running like a Ferrari with a tennis ball under the gas pedal! The Intel board I'm using is very limited... but my 2 week haitus from this forum has brought my computer knowledge up to speed. No pun intended. There are some pretty crazy possibilities in the world of computer performance and I'm wondering if we have any other crossover types like myself who have successfully developed a computer system that runs like a striped-arsed ape... AND is 100% stable doing video...

Surely I won't be the first. So let's hear about your system!
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Old November 21st, 2004, 10:28 PM   #2
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Here's my overclocking experience:

My home computer: My Pentium 2.6C (stock retail cooler) overclocks 20%, and is prime95 stable but every several hours will freeze (screen goes black or the thing will reboot). #@$%#@$%!@#$!!! Disabling hyperthreading or throttling the computer back to 10% overclocked makes it extremely stable. It's at 2.925ghz right now. Free performance... but I spent time overclocking this thing.

Another computer: Pentium 3.0C (stock retail heatsink) overclocks less than 10%. Disappointing. It runs at stock.

Computers at my old high school:
One is a 3.0E with a zalman 7000alcu. It overclocks to around 3.6ghz. It is stable for over a day... haven't tested it extremely thoroughly.
The other is a 3.0E with a thermalright XP-120 heatsink (it's.... HUGE). It overclocks to 3.7ghz. It also runs with low CPU temperatures. Did I forget to mention that the heatsink is huge?

The cool thing is, you can't buy a 3.7ghz Pentium.
*Those computers use the Prescott-core Pentiums because they are faster at Vegas. The Canterwoods overclock better... but still run slower.

2- Too bad Intel motherboards don't let you overclock.

3- Based on my own tests, the biggest performance boosters are:
#1 by far: High CPU clock speed. Overclocking help.
#2: Getting rid of other software running in background, especially distributed computing apps.
distant third: Memory bandwidth. Get pairs of all the exact model RAM. If overclocking, your computer will go a tad faster if you get overclocking RAM (to run at a 1:1 divider), but at the cost of overclocking RAM it makes no sense at all (go water cooling or go through a few processors to see which OC better).
#4: Setting the Vegas process to real-time priority does give a ~1% performance boost.

RAM timings and windows tweaks make no difference, hard drive speed doesn't make much difference.

4-
Quote:
Okay guys, I'm hoping some of you with SERIOUSLY trick computers will jump in on this thread. I've finally made it through an evolution of thought... I'd been paranoid about "ultimate systems" and stability... but after a couple weeks of OCD research on computer design I'm thinking that we really ARE out of the dark ages of stability vs. performance in an NLE system. If you disagree with that then PLEASE let me know!
From my overclocking experience above... I would be a little hesistant to push your processor all the way to its prime95 stable maximum. Random reboots and freezes is not cool. Leaving the computer running a stress test overnight does reveal the problem I had. Other people report instability even though their computer may be prime95 stable.

If I wanted to overclock, I would:
A- Stress test with prime95's torture test. On Pentiums, have CPUBurn running at the same time. Run Motherboard Monitor or you motherboard's temperature/voltage monitoring utility to check your voltages are good.
B- Use your motherboard's OCing utility and overclock from Windows. This saves a lot of time.
C- Once you figure out the limit where your computer is prime95 stable, you want to seriously consider backing off a little.
D- Test the computer's stability by using it over a week (at the point where it's prime95 stable). You should not see BSODs or freezes or weird behavior. Testing is key to stability!

5- 3.6ghz versus 3.0/3.2ghz is noticeable, but doesn't make a world of difference. If you edit video day in and day out, it can be worth the effort to overclock. If you're a performance whore, then it definitely is worth the time wasted to overclock.
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Old November 22nd, 2004, 08:52 PM   #3
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Glenn, thanks for stepping up on this topic. I'm by no means committed to the idea of Over Clocking... but a modest OC is appealing. So far in my computer experience, which totals 5 systems built now. It almost seems like stability is nebulous anyway... I've done 3 Asus systems with the best mobo I could get at the time, updated to latest BIOS and kept updating drivers... basically I'm a freak about computer maintenance and yes, I know what I'm doing. But anyway, 2 of the 3 Asus comps I built eventually became unreliable. Even with clean installs of windows! One of 'em was pure junk, the second one just recently became unstable and met the round file... and I gave my brother the third Asus and he's had pretty good luck with it.

I guess my point is that I really only consider a computer to have a legitimate life of about 4 years at the MOST anyway. I've talked to SO many people who have systems OC'ed to 50% over spec and run 'em like that for years that I feel I may be missing out by not pushing a little 20% OC. I've actually got the best ram I could get... okay SECOND best... and I'm using that same xp-120 cooler. (Yes, it IS huge... but it's as effective as water cooling!)

Basically my whole system is set up to be a screamer already... and it's cooled really well. I think the reason you couldn't get that 3.0c to OC was because it stayed on the stock cooling. As soon as you push the 3c on stock it's 30 or more degrees hotter then with the xp-120. That's HUGE! 30+ degrees? You were probably getting thermal throttling on the stock cooling. An OC'ed P4 with an xp-120 runs COOLER then a STOCK P4 on stock cooling!

I guess we'll know in a couple days... 'cause even if I don't keep my system OC'ed I'm at least going to do a check to see what's modestly possible on this board. The fact that everybody says an Intel can't be OC'ed is making me want to prove that it can. But in the end... unless it's REALLY stable... I'll stay stock. If it IS really stable... I'm taking the free performance in trade for a 4 year CPU life over an 8 year CPU life.
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Old November 22nd, 2004, 09:22 PM   #4
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Unfortunately you can't get processors that overclock 50% on stock cooling anymore... new processors put out insane amount of heat.

Overclocking doesn't seem to significantly shorten your processor life. CPUs might last like 10-15 years overclocked. By the time they crap out you've moved on already.

Quote:
An OC'ed P4 with an xp-120 runs COOLER then a STOCK P4 on stock cooling!
Yeah I noticed! That is one killer heatsink.

2- You might be able to use Speedfan to overclock your computer? Intel motherboards allow 4% at most from what i hear.
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 08:26 AM   #5
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Yeah, everybody told me that also... within my BIOS it allows a 4% OC and all I can say is, "why"? The comedy of it is how Intel markets that 4% OC... CLICK HERE to see my Desktop Control Center.

When that app opens it shows a logo of a kid in a sportbike road racing helmet with his eyes bugging out as he's trying to hold onto this "control panel"... That logo stays up for 10 seconds or more as this loads and I want to punch my computer screen out! Attention Intel... You're a Joke!

Then once you're into the app if you select the max OC of 4% it gives you two (2) warnings about using this "Burn-in Mode" for anything other then "Testing and Evaluation"... Oh man where's the smilies for this forum so I can indicate how hard I'm laughing?!

Also of note in that app is that those are the SAME settings as in the Bios... so what's the big freakin' deal? Yeah it looks nice and it's intended to appease some moron who wants to say his board is OC'ed 4%. I guess in all fairness it would be the equivalent of the next processor up, but who cares? If you're gonna' do something then DO IT. Not to mention Intel is so cowardly to not even FULLY ENDORSE their offering of a 4% OC... instead they FILL the app with warnings of actually using this lousy 4% for prolonged periods.

ENTER CLOCKGEN... ClockGen is a mobo specific app for a small handful of mobo's... and you have to download the right one for YOUR mobo. Well it just so happens that the d875pbz is on that short list. A brilliant guy wrote a softOC app which takes the GUI beauty out of the Intel app and replaces it with COHONES. ClockGen on the CPU and Memory and CoolBits on the AGP... and then you've got more freedom to convert your system to an EZ-Bake Oven then you really should have.

As a warning to anyone who stumbles across this thread and decides to experiment with these programs... THESE APPS LINK RIGHT TO YOUR MOBO AND THEY FULLY GIVE YOU THE CAPABILITY TO FRY YOUR MOBO, GRAPHICS, AND PROCESSOR! There is a common perception that nothing you do with software can do any more damage then simply requiring a system restore... NOT SO with this stuff. These apps aren't changing files and other apps... they're changing the way your computer runs! So there's your warning. If you really want to learn about OC'ing then LEARN about it and be cautious!

One quick point about OC'ing... for those who don't know. It sounds like something only a handful of people are qualified to speak about, but really it's not that big of a deal as long as you do it right. Did you know that processors vary from one to the next? AND that on a given line processors come off within a range and then are locked down to a given frequency? Before your 3.0c was a 3.0c it may very well have been a 3.7c... and the one next to it may have been a 3.2c... but after the final stage they're both 3.0c and they're guaranteed to run at that. If you're lucky enough to get a "golden lemon" or "freak chip" then who knows how high it would have gone? Frequency is capability that was right in the chip to start with... about the only consideration after that is HEAT MANAGEMENT. So doing an OC isn't as horrible as a lot of people think... it's just a matter of KNOWING WHAT YOU'RE DOING and not being an idiot about it.

Like I said from the outset, I'm hoping that I got a chip that's good for a 20% OC 'cause that would be easy on the rest of the system also... and if I leave the AGP NOT OC'ed then it's only the cpu and ram that are feeling the heat... and my ram can be stable to an OC of 254 Mhz at stock 2.6v... A 20% OC is only 240 Mhz... that would be quite easy for this ram plus it would give a BUS of 960 bandwidth... now THAT would give the Intel kid reason to put on the helmet!
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 01:52 PM   #6
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This is only tangentially off topic here but why OC when stock computers will run RT systems without any problem. One can only go as fast as RT anyway. The cost for an RT upgrade isn't equal to all the motherboard, memory, and processor swapping costs and it is much more stable.

I can run for several years without swapping motherboards and everything else before I need to swim a bit further upstream. But almost never because of my editing application.
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 02:58 PM   #7
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Sorry Mike... I guess I should have given a little more background. I sorta' got this thread building in other threads where this would all make more sense.

Basically I've got my PC set up to work as two seperate computers with two removeable hard drives. I boot up to a completely different configuration depending on what I'm going to do.

And the gist is that in my experience an RT NLE isn't really RT anyway. Sure it will be under most circumstances... but in a system where the NLE is working under scalable architecture... the faster the architecture the faster the NLE. Sometimes I won't do anything that's really demanding outside of normal editing parameters... but other times there's just something weird I want to do or try, and then rendering comes into play.

My system is a Canopus RT setup that does RT most of the time, but even in the litho that came with the card it clearly states that better hardware equals more RT performance... The sky's the limit.

If you want to do morphing or some 3d animation and incorporate it into your project you can do it in another app, which takes a lot of time by itself, and then import it into your NLE... but if your setup has the balls to run complex plug-ins and multiple layer composites... and give you an RT preview... why not bang it out in the timeline?

I guess I'm a little nuts about stuff... but I just want a computer that can do anything I can come up with... as fast as I can come up with it.
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Old November 23rd, 2004, 07:01 PM   #8
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Quote:
...why OC when stock computers will run RT systems without any problem. One can only go as fast as RT anyway. The cost for an RT upgrade isn't equal to all the motherboard, memory, and processor swapping costs and it is much more stable.
1- Vegas! You can't get hardware acceleration for it, and dual processors don't help much (while are much more expensive).
2- OCing doesn't cost that much. You need:

Asus/Abit/MSI motherboard or other motherboard that is overclocking-friendly. This costs nothing extra (maybe arguably $10-20 more).

*normal* RAM. The fancy overclocking stuff is not worth the money and unnecessary.

normal processor- possibly a lower speed stepping since you are overclocking anyways.

heatsink + fan - i.e. Thermalright XP-120 + Panaflo "low" 120mm - $100???

slightly beefier power supply - $40 for sparkle 350W if you find your power supply is weak.

TIME.

On average, overclocking doesn't cost that much.
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Old November 24th, 2004, 08:51 PM   #9
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Well it certainly sounds like one can get wrapped all around the computer instead of using it with OC. I build my own and do use Asus, etc. but doing OC sounds (by the descriptions I've read) a lot like looking for land mines by dancing on the field.

This isn't criticism, just trying to understand the point of it.
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Old November 24th, 2004, 09:11 PM   #10
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If you use Vegas, then boosting your CPU 20% will speed up your renders close to 20%. On 25 hour renders this means you'll save around 5 hours.

If you edit day in and day out, small performance gains can translate into lots of saved time over 2 years. Or, you can get a little faster turnaround on projects. Or, you can save lots of time not having to render if the extra speed lets you preview a little more in real-time.

Assuming the benefits are that you save half an hour of your actual time every day, that's about $4000 over two years (assuming you work 200 editing days a year, and you make $20/hr). Half an hour/day might be quite an overestimation- usually most people leave their computer alone when it is rendering.

Downsides to overclocking:
Some people say your processor life will be shortened by overclocking. However, from reading computer enthusiast boards no one has really reported overclocked chips dying faster than normal (in fact, CPUs rarely fail unless they seriously overheat).

Other people argue that overclocking is not worth it because of the possible instability it can create. This is probably the main downside to overclocking. The counter-arguments are:

A- You can stress test your computer to check for instability. Unfortunately, some of the stress tests aren't 100% accurate (i.e. my own experience with Prime95). You can do real-world stress testing (using the computer for its intended purpose and checking for weird behavior). This is a tradeoff between time and stability.

B- Once you stress test, you know that your computer is stable to a certain level. If overclocking does create instability, it would be a very low level of instability. Other things are now more likely to cause instability (i.e. software issues, user error) or problems (i.e. hard drive failure). Considering computers aren't 100% reliable anyways, so you just have to make sure overclocking doesn't make a big impact on your computer's unreliability.
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Old November 24th, 2004, 09:27 PM   #11
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I've really enjoyed your input Glenn... clearly you think like I do on these things.

I guess I'm not really debating the value of OC... rather this is just one more extention of my obsessive nature. With mics I was really happy with Oktavas for many uses... but I still proceeded to get two different $1K mics for a difference that I doubt any casual viewers would hear.

I can say the same about many interests in my life... where there's a premium to be paid for going first class.

Nobody wants a buggy or really unreliable computer, but EVERYBODY wants the fastest and most reliable computer they can afford. In all of my varied interests I can honestly say that being enthusiastic about computers is CHEAP... all it requires is a time investment to learn how to do things right and then exercise some common sense judgement.

I'm not on DVinfo because I like computers... I'm on here because I'm into audio visual production. The few threads I've started about computer issues are so that I could discuss these issues with people who ALSO do video and share my enthusiasm for computers. Obviously I do a lot of communicating with the computer forum members too, but I wouldn't go there and talk video. It just happens that in modern digital video, the computer and NLE is as much a part of the final production as the camera was...

I don't expect others to be as nuts as I am about this stuff, but I'm glad to run the people who have been!

In all honesty, once I get my system set up and working exactly like I want it to I'll be totally OFF the computer thing and back to focusing 100% on my video production.

This is just a passing obsession of mine since my video computer/NLE crapped out on me last month. Now I'm setting up the way I want... and as for the last system? It was BONE STOCK and set up extremely conservatively and with 100% recommended components... I even chose parts that showed up on Matrox, Canopus, AND Pinnacle's compatibility charts. Basically I build a spec turnkey that cost me $2500 and would have retailed for nearly $4K... and THAT computer died with no explanation after 3 years. Now I figure "what the hell"... I may as well get the most I can out of my current system since there's no predicting catastrophe anyway!

Sure there are ways to play the odds in your favor, but trust me, simply setting up a stable computer and assuming it will last 10 years like your last one did doesn't always work! I couldn't believe that my last "perfect computer" developed problems!
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Old November 27th, 2004, 01:22 AM   #12
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Hmm some ideas I came up with:

1- Strangely enough, overclocking your computer might actually make it more stable since it implies you're going to be stress testing it. You may discover semi-faulty parts while doing so.

2- There are other things you can do to ensure your system is stable and these things have nothing to do with hardware.
A- Only updating when you know the update won't break your setup. Applies to Avid and Final Cut more so than Vegas.
B- Ghost + partitioning for fast recovery.
C- Spyware and virus prevention (including user education).
D- Things like that.

3- To get 99.9% uptime in a year, you're allowed 8.76 hours of downtime. That's a lot ;)
If you're on your computer 5 hours every day, that's about 2 hours/year. One crash loses you maybe 15 minutes of work.
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