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Old December 8th, 2008, 02:37 AM   #1
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Newbie needs help finalizing computer

Hi. It is a long story, but basically we are making documentaries, and the video editing just got dumped in my lap. Now I am blessed with the opportunity to get up to speed as fast as possible. I have been reading, and I still have a lot to learn, but I am hoping some of you old pros would please be so kind as to help me finish figuring out how to configure the computer. I appreciate your patience and help.

I need to make 2-6 hour documentaries, with the base footage shot in an indoor studio with three point lighting. I will be editing on a three year old Dell Precision 380 workstation with a Pentium D 930 at 3.0 GHz. I have 4GB RAM on Windows XP SP3, with the Control Panel preferences set to 'performance'. NLE is Vegas 8. Hard Drive C is twin 250GB 7200 RPM HDD's in RAID 0 that back up externally to a 1TB Seagate via Symantec BESR 8.0. Hard Drive D is twin 1TB Seagate 7200 RPM HDD's in RAID 1. The video card is a Palit (NVidia) GeForce 8600 Super +1GB. The primary filming camera is a Sony HDR-FX1, but I will use an HDR-HC1 to feed the tape into the computer via firewire.

1. My main concern is the processor. Is a Pentium D 930 at 3.0 GHz capable of handling and rendering 2-6 hour films with Sony Vegas? The Sony website (Sony Creative Software - Vegas Pro 8 - System Requirements) gives the minimum system requirement for HDV in Vegas at 2.8 GHz, but I read somehwere that this is only the minimum system requirement, and that it is much better if your processor is significantly stronger than that, especially once the machine gets warm. I can upgrade to a 3.4 GHz processor (Pentium D 950) for about $120.00, or to a 3.6 (Pentium D 960) for about $240.00, plus grease, but my question is: is this upgrade worth the cost? Would upgrading to 3.4 or 3.6 GHz processor make the editing/rendering process more stable, and more reliable on long renders? Or is a 3.0 GHz Pentium D 'plenty' of processor even for long HDV rendering? And what are my rendering times likely to be for a 2-6 hour film?

2. A related concern is the codec. I am told that Cineform NeoHD can convert the HDV codec to HD. It is expensive, but I am told that processors can handle HD much easier than they can handle HDV. (I am also told that it gives greater fidelity). Does anyone have experience with this? If I purchase Cineform NeoHD, would I still need/be well advised to upgrade the processor to 3.4 or 3.6 GHz? Or is a 3.0 GHz Pentium D 'lots' of processor, especially with HD (not HDV)?

3. My second main concern is the HDD arrays. Instead of having C: in RAID 0 and D: in RAID 1, would it be better to put C: in RAID 1 and D: in RAID 0, and then back up the D drive externally? Either I would have to find a 2TB external drive, or else with the standard compression I could probably back up to a 1.5 TB Seagate Free Agent drive. Alternately, I could leave C: in RAID 0, and put D: in RAID 0 without too much trouble.

I should probably say that there are four internal drive bays, and I have not considered RAID 5 because I do not know how it works. I just want to make sure I have enough speed and capacity to handle HD/HDV without any problems.

4. Is the video card adequate?

5. Do I need any kind of a video capture card? I have just been feeding things in to the motherboard via the 1394 Firewire port. Is that good enough?

Thank you very much for your help. Our budget dried up, but it is do-or-die time, and this is my life. If there is something that will make a difference, I will try to find a way to do it.

Thank you very much for your patience and help.

Norman
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Old December 8th, 2008, 05:22 AM   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman Willis View Post
1. My main concern is the processor. Is a Pentium D 930 at 3.0 GHz capable of handling and rendering 2-6 hour films with Sony Vegas? The Sony website (Sony Creative Software - Vegas Pro 8 - System Requirements) gives the minimum system requirement for HDV in Vegas at 2.8 GHz, but I read somehwere that this is only the minimum system requirement, and that it is much better if your processor is significantly stronger than that, especially once the machine gets warm. I can upgrade to a 3.4 GHz processor (Pentium D 950) for about $120.00, or to a 3.6 (Pentium D 960) for about $240.00, plus grease, but my question is: is this upgrade worth the cost? Would upgrading to 3.4 or 3.6 GHz processor make the editing/rendering process more stable, and more reliable on long renders? Or is a 3.0 GHz Pentium D 'plenty' of processor even for long HDV rendering? And what are my rendering times likely to be for a 2-6 hour film?
I think the processor is the weak link in your chain. It's old and slow. You can probably do it but rendering will be very slow. You could upgrade the processor but the gains will only be incremental. Would and upgrade from 3.0GHz to 3.6GHz be worth the money? It wouldn't be for me. I'd take save the money to put toward a new box.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman Willis View Post
2. A related concern is the codec. I am told that Cineform NeoHD can convert the HDV codec to HD. It is expensive, but I am told that processors can handle HD much easier than they can handle HDV. (I am also told that it gives greater fidelity). Does anyone have experience with this? If I purchase Cineform NeoHD, would I still need/be well advised to upgrade the processor to 3.4 or 3.6 GHz? Or is a 3.0 GHz Pentium D 'lots' of processor, especially with HD (not HDV)?
Cineform products have a lot of people who like them. Some don't. I fall into the second category. I demoed AspectHD for Premier Pro twice and found myself wrapped around the axle both times. System crashes and ropey tech support relegated it to the bin for me. I went back to straight HDV and haven't looked back.

Cineform can lighten the load on the processor, but the question I'd ask is would you be better served by combining the money for the CPU upgrade and Cineform and buy a new computer. You're almost there.

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Originally Posted by Norman Willis View Post
3. My second main concern is the HDD arrays. Instead of having C: in RAID 0 and D: in RAID 1, would it be better to put C: in RAID 1 and D: in RAID 0, and then back up the D drive externally? Either I would have to find a 2TB external drive, or else with the standard compression I could probably back up to a 1.5 TB Seagate Free Agent drive. Alternately, I could leave C: in RAID 0, and put D: in RAID 0 without too much trouble.

I should probably say that there are four internal drive bays, and I have not considered RAID 5 because I do not know how it works. I just want to make sure I have enough speed and capacity to handle HD/HDV without any problems.
I'm not a fan of RAID 0 because of the exposure to data loss so I absolutely wouldnot have the C volume (technically it's not a drive if it's an array) configured RAID 0. RAID 1 would protect you and offer nearly equivalent read performance. Write performance could be about the same as a single drive.

You can configure your D volume as RAID 0 if you understand the risk to data. You will want a daily (or nightly) regimen to back up all the files otherwise a crash will cost you days of work. RAID 5 only gets effective with larger numbers of physical disks. Small block reads can be quite fast but large block writes will be slower than a single drive. I know this from nearly 10 years working for a RAID manufacturer. If you want to learn more, there's a decent overview of RAID technology here.

Does the RAID use it's own controller or is it done on the motherboard or through software? If it's either of the latter two, I'd go back to JBOD. It will free up CPU cycles that you really don't really have to spare. I use only 7,200RPM SATA drives as JBOD and can't complain. For your system, JBOD will maximize available storage from four internal drives, which you'll need if you're going to do eight hour projects.

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Originally Posted by Norman Willis View Post
4. Is the video card adequate?
Yep. I'm using a 256MB 8500GT with pretty good results. I have an 8800GT en route only because the 8500 has gone flaky.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman Willis View Post
5. Do I need any kind of a video capture card? I have just been feeding things in to the motherboard via the 1394 Firewire port. Is that good enough?
Nope. 1394 on the mobo will be fine.
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Old December 9th, 2008, 09:31 AM   #3
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Well, I fall into the first category of folks and Cineform. I use AspectHD with Premiere Pro CS3 on a daily basis and I love it. I've definitely noticed a faster render time if I run with AspectHD than if I run with straight HDV.

But, Tripp's right... your whole computer system could use an upgrade. Your CPU is going to be your weak point. I personally wouldn't try to do HDV without at least a quad-core. My system is a Pentium Quad-Core at 2.5 GHz and while it's fast enough for what I do (short commercials and promo pieces), even it would take a long time on a full length doc render.

You asked about times: my system is fast enough to render HDV (with very little to no color correction or graphical effects) in real time. The moment I add in color correction or other heavy-duty effects, the render time increases to about one fifth real time (i.e., if I have a 1 minute piece, it will take about 5 minutes to render. And that's on a good day. Sometimes it's even slower.

So yeah, CPU would be the one thing on your system list at which I would throw money.
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