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Non-Linear Editing on the PC
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Old August 17th, 2005, 01:03 PM   #1
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Need to build an editing machine

The company I work for has given me the task of getting a new PC for video editing. Budget it not really an issue.

I'm not really sure where to start. I figured that it might make more sense to build a system rather than buying a package deal, but I could be wrong about this. Does anyone have any advice on where I should start? Are there companies that make PCs designed for video editing? If I were to build such a machine on my own, what kinds of things are important to have? Any opinions and suggestions are welcome. Thanks!
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Old August 17th, 2005, 01:30 PM   #2
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What editing system do you plan on running?
What other programs do you intend on running? What are their recommended specs?

Generally, a good route is to make sure the computer meets or exceeds the recommended specs. If you plan on using hardware acceleration devices (available for specific editing platforms), then you really need to pay attention to compatibility issues.

Lowering render times is probably one of your needs. Look for:
The fastest CPUs that makes sense to buy. If you have the money, the dual core dual Opterons will likely be fastest (although it may conflict with some hardware acceleration devices because of the motherboard/chipset).
Hardware acceleration
Render farm / network render (I think only Vegas does this, and there are some caveats to it.)

2- If budget is not an issue, get a Quantel iQ.
I'm guessing you don't have that kind of budget. So really, what is your budget? (Just need a vague ballpark range)

3- If you can build your own PC, the best bang/buck is likely to get a hot deal on a Dell and throw in your own upgrades.
Go to dell.com --> small business --> outrageous deals --> inspiron 9100
Upgrade to dual core
Nearly everything else you should throw in yourself because dell upgrades are usually quite overpriced.

On the high end, it may be cheaper to build your computer yourself. Although you can try calling up Dell/HP and see if you can find an aggressive sales rep... that may be cheaper than newegg.com and building it yourself. (Never tried that.)
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Old August 17th, 2005, 01:40 PM   #3
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Thanks for the reply Glenn. I'm planning on Using Adobe Premiere Pro, Photoshop, and Encord DVD. I might also be using After Effects and possibly some 3ds Max. All of these programs are very demanding on a computer's resources and hardware. I was looking at the dual-core processors, and they look pretty good? Is it better than have true dual-processors though?

Ok, you're right, there is somewhat of a budget. I was thinking around the $4000-5000 range, with a ceiling of $10,000. My boss wants to make sure whatever we get will work well and we won't be bogged down by inferior hardware. Your idea of getting a Dell and then upgrading the hell out of it is a pretty good one. I hadn't really thought of that. It's something I'll look into.

Any more suggestions now that you know more about my situation?
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Old August 17th, 2005, 08:25 PM   #4
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Premiere Pro: You might want to look into the Matrox RTX100, which provides hardware acceleration for PPro. It may be a good deal if you grab a bundle deal (card + PPro + Photoshop + AE non-production version). You do need to watch out for the chipset you use... it may be or is incompatible with all of the chipsets for AMD processors. The website will list compatibility information.

*Haven't tried the Matrox myself and I don't use Premiere Pro, but it's something to investigate.

3dsmax should benefit from a video card that's good at openGL. The system recommendations should say. You'd be looking at the quadro line from Nvidia, and the fire line from ATI. These cards are non-openGL-crippled versions of the gaming cards like the Radeons and Geforces. If you want to be adventurous, you can flash the BIOS on a particular Nvidia ~$200 Geforce card into a ~$1100 quadro card (not guaranteed, and voids the warranty).

2- If you get a basic system from Dell, you might come in a little under your budget (at the basic configuration, I believe it's cheaper than building it yourself). You could fill out your budget by:
Getting (dual) LCDs. Hot deals sites for your country would have information.
Get a broadcast monitor... possibly a small one you can use in the field too.
Audio mixer, studio monitors, jay rose's books (see dplay.com) and some acoustic treatment
other stuff that you don't know you need right now (betaSP deck and vectorscope?)
etc...

If you edit full-time, it might be worth it to get a slightly faster CPU (because a bit of your productivity is wasted when you wait for renders). You kind of jump up in price a lot for very small gains in speed though.

Quote:
Is it better than have true dual-processors though?
I don't think so...?
If you have lots of money, the dual Xeon systems are clocked faster. There's also quad and 8-way Xeons systems, as well as dual core 4-way and 8-way AMD systems (although those cost $30k+ I believe; that's 16 cores...).
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Old August 18th, 2005, 01:30 AM   #5
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Some key questions: Do you intend to get into HDV and/or HD video editing during the expected life of this system? Do you need to mix formats at capture and on the timeline? Is it straightforward editing or does it involve a lot of compositing? Who are the audience/market for the finished edits, what format/method is needed for distribution?

Answers to these questions will probably influence your nle options and the pc kit you need to get. More complex and demanding requirements may benefit from a turnkey solution unless you are confident about building and troubleshooting your system.

Last edited by David Andrews; August 18th, 2005 at 06:23 AM.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 06:31 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Chan
If you can build your own PC, the best bang/buck is likely to get a hot deal on a Dell and throw in your own upgrades.
If you can build and configure your own PCs or hire someone to do that for you, buying any brand-name PC and upgrading it is a lousy idea. You can get better results for the same price with fewer hassles (if you know what you're doing) by selecting your own parts and assembling them from the ground up.

Dell does wacky things which can make upgrading a nightmare I wouldn't wish on anyone: something as simple as adding another hard drive can cause hours of frustration if you don't know that Dell expects you to put your drive jumpers on the "cable select" setting. I just finally replaced my two year old Dell with a shiny new home-built system and couldn't be happier: now when I make hardware changes they work as expected without all the hair-pulling and cursing.

Brand-name or turnkey systems are fine if you don't want to bother with hardware issues directly, but for maximum flexibility the do-it-yourself option is the way to go.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 09:17 AM   #7
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Quote:
Dell does wacky things which can make upgrading a nightmare I wouldn't wish on anyone: something as simple as adding another hard drive can cause hours of frustration if you don't know that Dell expects you to put your drive jumpers on the "cable select" setting.
I don't think "cable select" is a wacky thing for Dell to do, and checking the jumper settings on your drives when you install them is a fairly basic thing.

Now there's some things about Dell I don't like:
the OS install comes with a lot of crap
on windows CD
tech support may be from India? *depends on which segment you buy from. big contracts get better North American-based support, and is good.
proprietary parts - case, motherboard, hopefully not the power supply
The computer may have limited upgradeability (i.e. limited hard drive bays)

But if you buy a base system from Dell and throw in your own upgrades, you save a lot of time as well as a little bit of money. If you price out a DIY build versus Dell + your own upgrades, the Dell is about the same price or cheaper (plus it wastes less of your time).

2- Another alternative:
If you know what parts you want, you can get someone to build the computer for you. Local computer shops and online vendors like monarchcomputers.com can do this (see their resellerratings.com rating).
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Old August 18th, 2005, 10:49 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by David Andrews
Some key questions: Do you intend to get into HDV and/or HD video editing during the expected life of this system? Do you need to mix formats at capture and on the timeline? Is it straightforward editing or does it involve a lot of compositing? Who are the audience/market for the finished edits, what format/method is needed for distribution?

Answers to these questions will probably influence your nle options and the pc kit you need to get. More complex and demanding requirements may benefit from a turnkey solution unless you are confident about building and troubleshooting your system.
As of right now, I don't see HDV in our future, but I suppose that all depends on how big it really gets in the next few years. If, by some chance, SD video is completely wiped out by HD, then maybe we would be using HD. At this point, however, I'm going to say no HD. There might be some need to mix formats. We often get video from multiple different sources, most typically a combination of MiniDV tapes and DVD's. For the DVD's I've just been ripping the video off of them as AVI's and mixing them in the timeline with captured miniDV footage. Would you consider this mixing formats? Most of the editing is pretty straight forward. We typically have some titles and graphics at the beginning of each video, but there won't be anything like green screens or intense composite layers. The audience will usually be clients of my company... more specifically, automotive companies. We give the clients DVDs of the videos they want after giving them an initial web preview to evaluate. That gives you an idea of the kind of work I intend on doing on this machine.

I am fairly comfortable with computer hardware and everything, although I do have to admit that if I had all the parts in front of me right now, I would have a difficult time knowing exactly what to do. I would definitely want someone helping me who knew more about this than I do. So perhaps Kevin and Glenn's idea of going to a place that will build a custom machine for me is the best option. Any other recommendations?
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Old August 18th, 2005, 11:59 AM   #9
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This site will give you some specific ideas of what is currently available:
http://www.videoguys.com/Shootout2005.html

Scroll to the bottom of the page and you will see a d-i-y pc for under $1000.

I am only familiar with EdiusPro3 of the nles listed. Key benefits, for me, are its reliability and real time (ie render free) performance. The interface is somewhat different from other nles but once over that small hurdle it is easy and fast to use.

No doubt the other choices would also serve you well given the needs you identify.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 04:30 PM   #10
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Ok.... so I took a cruise over to http://www.pugetsystems.com where I spent about four hours creating eight different video editing machines. I whipped up a little web page that has each system's specs laid out and their prices. The systems begin at $3000 and go up from there. If you have the time (it's a long list, I know), let me know what you think of these, or if I'm going wrong somewhere.

By the way, there are no monitors with any of these computers, because my company gets a really good deal on flat-panel LCD monitors through a contact we have. :D

http://www.thecarlab.com/pccomparison.html
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Old August 18th, 2005, 05:16 PM   #11
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Look at getting lots of hard drive space. You'll know yourself how much you'll need, although it may be nice to keep projects kicking around if clients need revisions done.

Some sort of backup system would be good too, although I don't know of any particular cheap (in terms of time+money) ways to backup/archive your projects.

If you get something like a Dell, expansion is limited so get the biggest hard drives you can (500GB I think). Once you run out of internal space, that's it. The configuration page will show you the maximum number of drives (look at how many drives you can upgrade to).
You can install these yourself. I'm not sure if it's easy to upgrade the drive the OS is on.

2- RAM: Don't bother with the overclocking or low latency RAM, it doesn't make any difference at all for video editing. The cheapest generic RAM available may be slightly more prone to be dead on arrival though.

3- Video card: I would avoid the mid-high end of the gaming line cards (the geforces and radeons), you are probably better off with a cheap video card of a workstation card (fire, quadro lines).

4- Sound card: There are better choices than an Audigy2 in my opinion. Look at cards like the M-audio revolution or better (more inputs, slightly better technical specs, usb/firewire interface so you can put it on a laptop too).

5- Matrox RTX100: There are some good bundle deals on them... computer vendors may not sell those bundle deals. For $1100, you can get the card plus Premiere Pro, AE 6.5 standard (not pro), encore, audition. There's another bundle which gives AE6.5 pro and Photoshop too, about $2000.

Also really check the compatibility of the Matrox with your motherboard and its chipset. I don't think any of the AMD motherboards are compatible, so you can't go AMD.

6- Stock cooling is fine, unless you want to overclocking (which is involved, and you risk instability).
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Old August 18th, 2005, 05:40 PM   #12
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Thanks for the tips, Glenn.

I went light on hard drive space because we currently own two 400GB Seagate External Hard Drives. When that 200GB drive I put on my systems gets added in, that's a full Terabyte of hard drive space. That seems like more than enough.

What's the deal with the video cards? Why would a more powerful graphics card be worse? The other problem I am seeing is that the lower-end graphics cards don't have dual-DVI outputs for two monitors. Can you recommend me another one?

The Matrox RT.X100 in those packages include the software bundle as well, that's why it's so much. The card alone is about $700 or so. You could also be right about AMD compatibility. However, as I chose parts for my computer on the site, it took away incompatible hardware options. Maybe the software doesn't take the matrox cards into account.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 05:57 PM   #13
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If you want a custom computer from guys that build such, try http://www.monarchcomputer.com Their prices are good for workstation class machines.

Another option in audio is the Audigy 4. It has a better S/N ratio than the 2 and close to the M-Audios.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 07:27 PM   #14
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A bit of a biased but worthwhile consideration when considering ANY computer for a professional video editing workstation is to buy from an authorized, certified integrator (Puget and Monarch are not). The reason being the most important thing this computer will be doing is Post Production, and if your integrator doesn't know what they are talking about for that specific purpose, your most important support aspect is lost.

I invite you to take a look at our systems.

The Matrox hardware is NOT NOT NOT compatible with AMD. Glenn and eeryone else, just so you know the AE Pro + Photoshop bundle is not available anymore.

As far as your questions about the video cards, my suggestion always is to match it with your software's recommendations. In this case, all Adobe software is just fine with or without a Quadro or FireGL card. Workstation class cards, however, can sometimes give you some useful features, like triple-head parhelia, or HD-output Quadro 540 Pro.
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Old August 18th, 2005, 08:08 PM   #15
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Quote:
What's the deal with the video cards? Why would a more powerful graphics card be worse? The other problem I am seeing is that the lower-end graphics cards don't have dual-DVI outputs for two monitors. Can you recommend me another one?
If your video card performance matters (I don't think it does for Premiere Pro), then it's probably going to be a program that uses openGL acceleration. I would check the recommended specs for the program in question... 3dxmax and After Effects presumably benefit from openGL acceleration, which will speed up the previews a bit (but not the renders??). I don't use either program so I can't help you much there.
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