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Old October 18th, 2011, 08:02 AM   #1
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Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

I'm feeling a bit philosophical this morning.

Let me preface this by saying that I haven't even thought about a new computer since I built my AthlonX2 workstation in 2005, so I'm pretty far removed from current technology.

I just finished tooling around on Apple's website looking into the new 12-core Mac Pro setups. The machines, while beautiful (and I'm sure very capable of handling anything I could throw at them) are grossly overpriced. I guess this is a product of some extreme component mark ups. Anyway, after setting up my $9,400 (conservative) fantasy system, I began to wonder just what the hell I was doing going with a Mac, especially when the new FCX prog is a piece of dookie. I can surely save many thousands of dollars if I build this thing myself on a Windows platform.

I bought a Canon 60D about three months ago. For the price and the overall video/photo product, it just makes sense to look beyond all the problems with H.264 encoding and all the other little blippy problems with DSLR video. The looks you can achieve right out of the box are stunning. End of story. Anyway, I'm sure that's all been covered extensively and you guys have read volumes on the subject.

What I'm wondering about is this stuff I've read concerning how H.264 is not a good native format for editing video. There seems to be a large community of professionals that recode all their footage to ProRes or AVI or whatever for editing. I read that high-end computers running CS5.5 can handle rendering H.264, even with a few effects, in the timeline with no problems. I guess, my question is this: how high-end do we need to get here, people? Do I really need to go out and buy a car's worth of computer just to edit some rinky-dink, poorly encoded HD video from a DSLR? What can I get away with?

I don't really feel as though I need two six-core Xeon processors, 48GB of RAM, three solid state drives and all the endless bells and whistles. That just feels wrong for the amount of data we're talking about.

What are your thoughts? I'm totally sold on the reviews for CS5.5 and the stability of Windows 7. I just need to nail down the hardware.

Word.
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Old October 18th, 2011, 08:17 AM   #2
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

In the long run you are better of buying a nice reasonably priced i7 machine and transcoding the video.

It doesn't take that long and once you have the video in an edit friendly format the performance improvement is so great you'll ask yourself why anyone would quadrupole the cost of the computer to get the same job done.

Yea, its a bit oversimplified but in reality the people writing the editing software haven't figured out the best way to decode H.264 so it can be easily edited. That day will come (as it did for MPEG2) but whether the solution is software, hardware, or SW+HW remains to be seen. Either way its going to cost you.

My workflow looks something like this - I import the dSLR footage into the machine NATIVE then do a quick rough cut of what I know I'll need. I select the clips and transcode what I know I need. If I miss a bit here or there I can go back and grab it from the bin and transcode it as I need it.

If I shoot something more long form with a H.264 camera then I transcode everything on injest.
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Old October 18th, 2011, 10:00 AM   #3
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

For the past six months I have been editing raw video files from my Canon 60D on my 5 year old Acer Aspire 3 core computer with Vista 64 with no problems. No transcoding needed. I don't even use Cineform Neoscene anymore. No playback problems either. Try using Sony Vegas Pro 10. It works great!

Save your money.
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Old October 19th, 2011, 05:03 PM   #4
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Medico View Post
It doesn't take that long and once you have the video in an edit friendly format the performance improvement is so great you'll ask yourself why anyone would quadrupole the cost of the computer to get the same job done.

Yea, its a bit oversimplified but in reality the people writing the editing software haven't figured out the best way to decode H.264 so it can be easily edited. That day will come (as it did for MPEG2) but whether the solution is software, hardware, or SW+HW remains to be seen. Either way its going to cost you.
To which format are you transcoding exactly? The thought of editing and storing uncompressed AVIs at 1920x1080 makes my brain swell.
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Old October 19th, 2011, 05:05 PM   #5
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

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Originally Posted by David Rice View Post
For the past six months I have been editing raw video files from my Canon 60D on my 5 year old Acer Aspire 3 core computer with Vista 64 with no problems. No transcoding needed. I don't even use Cineform Neoscene anymore. No playback problems either. Try using Sony Vegas Pro 10. It works great!

Save your money.
I have absolutely no experience with Vegas, but I'll look into it. When you say "no problems," am I to take this as meaning your software is running buttery-smooth?
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Old October 19th, 2011, 06:37 PM   #6
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

Nick,

Have a look at some of the better performing systems here: PPBM5 Benchmark

These are all Windows systems, but remember that MAC's are like hookers, they look sexy but afterward you wonder whether your money was wisely spent. MAC's are overpriced and under performing in comparison to Windows machines because of the lousy multi-threading of the OS. Not to mention the limited and very pricey options for expansion.
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Old October 19th, 2011, 06:51 PM   #7
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

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Originally Posted by Nick Vaughan View Post
I have absolutely no experience with Vegas, but I'll look into it. When you say "no problems," am I to take this as meaning your software is running buttery-smooth?
Download a trial of pro 10e and see for yourself.
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Old October 21st, 2011, 09:06 AM   #8
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

Hi Nick,

As mentioned, a PC with the Core i7 -2600 will work great to natively edit your H.264 footage in Premiere CS5.5. Be sure to get a supported Nvidia display card though, as the GPU acceleration provided by the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine makes a big difference.

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Old October 27th, 2011, 09:35 AM   #9
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

Nick...I would suggest you take a look at VideoGuys 'DIY 8 Hot Rod' set-up. I built that system a few months ago, loaded MS 7 Pro OS (recommended by VG), and Sony Vegas Pro 10.0 and haven't looked back. The machine is screaming fast, stable, and purpose built for a Video NLE. One of the things I've learned in the process is I was under the misconception that the 'gamer's' video cards (GPU) were the hot ticket. I couldn't have been more wrong. I'm no expert, so I'll just say the 'math' required for video 'throughput' is different than a 'gaming' card. Spend the money and buy a 'real' Video GPU, like nVidia 4000 or better. I used an Intel 970i Hex-Core processor, with matched 3-stick 12Gig of RAM. The other thing you'll want to consider is the MOBO. I ended up with an ASUS P6X58D-E. I'm sure the 'configuration' has been upgraded since I last looked.

Good luck,

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Old October 27th, 2011, 04:02 PM   #10
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

BTW, regarding HDD storage, I have a VelociRaptor 10k RPM, 600Gig 'system' drive, a W-D 7.2k 500Gig HDD finished Video Projects storage, and a stand-alone G-RAID, 2TB 0-RAID for video clip storage. My whole system, starting from scatch, cost about $2,750.00, including one ASUS 24" monitor (I already have one other). The only 'mistake' I made was I should have gotten a 'modular' power supply because cable management would have been more...err,more manageable.

Just my $0.02 worth. YMMV.

J.
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Old October 27th, 2011, 04:14 PM   #11
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

+1 on the Video guys recommendations. I built a system based on their ideas and it's good enough (Editing System Build - Xeon Vs. i7). There's always better, faster, cooler ($$$). Combine the system with workflow optimizations and you're good to go. I went
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Old October 27th, 2011, 10:54 PM   #12
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

Build your own. It's worth it. I had Mac pro's. My last was a 2008. Got tired of the apple tax. My latest build is a dual xeon X5670 - 24gb ram - ATI 6950 for around $3300 bucks. Feel allot better knowing what's in it. Saved a couple hundred by getting my processors from eBay. Zero problems. A new sandy bridge will keep your costs down further. I'm just stuck on which video editing software to get coming back to windows. Good luck.
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Old October 27th, 2011, 11:09 PM   #13
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

An i3 or i5 processor with 8GB ram and 7200rpm HDs are all you need for H.264 - especially if your brain swells on anything more complicated. If you want a GPU-based rendering platform, throw in a GTX that matches the software you are using. With the money you save from the system, buy a good LCD monitor and a color calibrating system and you're all set.

More money makes it faster, not better. How fast do you want to go?
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Old October 28th, 2011, 12:45 AM   #14
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

Right, if you want a system that is slow as a snail, who brakes before cornering, follow Sareesh advise. Even a top i5 CPU with only 8 GB memory is more than 3 times slower than a low end i7 with more memory. An i3 is even slower. Without hardware MPE around 20 times slower, but even with hardware MPE it still is around 7 times slower than a low end i7.

H.264 is about the most demanding codec to edit and an i3 or i5 just will not suffice if you want to do anything more than single track editing, in comparison to an i7.

What makes an i7 more complicated than an i3 from the users perspective? That is nonsense. It is the same socket on the same mobo.
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Old October 28th, 2011, 04:47 AM   #15
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Re: Tough Questions About Windows Workstations and Canon H.264 Editing Performance

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H.264 is about the most demanding codec to edit and an i3 or i5 just will not suffice if you want to do anything more than single track editing, in comparison to an i7.
You're just scaring the kids, Harm...I've done double track h.264 on a core 2 duo with 4GB RAM on a 32-bit machine (so all I get is 3GB). It is slow, of course - but doable if one can't afford anything better.

You might want to remember, people were editing 2K (and possibly 4K) stuff long before the i series was introduced. There are many ways to make cheaper CPUs and RAMs work - one just needs to be bright with computers.

Like I said, how fast does the guy want to go?
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