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Old November 29th, 2009, 11:42 AM   #1
Join Date: Nov 2009
Location: Manhattan
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Need help buying a computer.


I've been editing small 640x480 projects on an old laptop with Vegas and it has worked very well. But I need to upgrade the laptop and I want to upgrade to HDV. So I need help.

Until recently, I hadn't even given the HDV upgrade any thought because I was sure that I would need a purpose built desktop that would cost a fortune. But for some reason, I got the sense that maybe I was wrong. When I think about HDV, I am thinking in terms of a Canon HF S10 (not just 720P from some $99 dollar pocket cam).

My original reason for joining here was to get help with the amount of memory choice, but now I might as well ask other questions. I was considering a HP laptop with a 3.06GHz dual core processor and 6 or 8 gigs of DDR3 memory. Is it unrealistic to want to edit HDV from that Canon on this computer? And if so, how low of a resolution compromise would I have to make to be able to do the editting?

Also, I figured I would get the fastest dual core processor I could because the quad core's offered by HP top out at around 1.7*. So even though I think video editting is an app that could take advantage off the extra cores, the available processor speed just seems too slow.

What about memory? Should you buy as much as you can afford, or do you start to lose the benefit past a certain point? In this laptop, the memory choice tops out at 8 gigs.

So any advice to get a newb pointed in the right direction?

Andy Boschi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 29th, 2009, 01:17 PM   #2
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First thing is HF-s10 is an AVCHD camera, not HDV - and AVCHD requires far more computer horsepower to comfortably edit. My AMD 6000+ and Intel Q6600 (quad) would do HDV reasonably well... AVCHD not so much...

HP has some nice laptops with 18.4" full HD screens, and various quad core options, including the new i7 mobile processors. I "can" edit/render AVCHD on a Q9000 laptop from the above HP line, with patience. BUT, I'd suggest the i7 machine since those seem to be better optomized for video. More RAM is better, but 4G would work.

Your observation is somewhat correct about needing some pretty serious computing power, but you need to keep perspective - a "plain vanilla" hardware combo today will probably be significantly faster in almost all respects than a "hot rod" machine that's 2 years old... that's the nature of computers! Improvements in individual components and subsystems over time help out too I'm finding, making the overall performance snappier.

AVCHD is becoming mainstream, and computers are catching up with what's needed to edit/render/display it effectively. If you aren't ready to jump yet, wait a few months and as usual with technology, it will just improve and you'll get more bang for your $$.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 08:24 AM   #3
Join Date: Nov 2009
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Thanks Dave. I learned something already. I didn't realize HDV was an actual format. I was using it generically.

I guess I am kind of in a pinch. I need to upgrade my computer now but would like to be able to get into hidef video at the same time. But it sounds like they are really two separate problems to deal with. That is, I might be able to get away with some light processing on a faster laptop, but to do it right, I would have to spend a lot more money than I am prepared to now. The flip side is that if I am going to commit a reasonable amount of money now ($1600 to $1800 bucks!) to the laptop, then that might be wasted money in 6-8 months if I decide to upgrade my video gear (which seems inevitable).

I am going to have to think about this for a while now. One thing that bothers me is the slow quad core processors available. Even though there are four cores, I can't see buying a new computer and steping back on processor speed from the single core pentium I have now. I think my 3-4 year old laptop has a 1.8GHz speed. If I could pay a little more and get somehing in the mid to upper 2's on speed, then maybe that gets me a little closer to killing two birds with the single rock. What to do!?

Thanks for the insight.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 08:53 AM   #4
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If you search here for info on laptops for editing, you will find several threads with contributions by Harm Millard who is pretty much against the idea and I agree with him. There are few with a deeper understanding around here on the subject than Harm. The problem is that laptops by their very nature are going to be significantly slower than desktops with disk speed being a major contributor. Unless you absolutely have to be portable, I'd stay away from laptops regardless of how fast they are.

I'm with Dave on waiting if you can. The price/performance curve is going to bend in your favor in the future so three months hence you will get more speed for your dollar.

AVCHD needs all the performance you can throw at it. I use one AVCHD cam for racing events and it takes nearlya full day to transcode about five hours of footage into an intermediate format using a Quad Core Q6600 system. I have to do this since CS3 doesn't support AVCHD. The Q6600 is 2.4GHz (I think) and while I don't think that you can add the speed of the four processors together to get a speed equivalent to a single processor, they are much faster. You also need to consider other performance enhancements in buss, memory and other component speeds that continue to improve.

If you can wait, do that. If you need to buy now, go with an i7 machine. AVCHD will need that performance.
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Old November 30th, 2009, 12:53 PM   #5
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The whole transcoding issue is moot if you have a sufficient computer to edit NATIVE AVCHD, and I was able to do it on a Q6600, albeit a bit clunky and trying on patience. An HDX18t with Q9000 (actually a SLOWER processor, 2.0 vs 2.4 x4) is better, simply because the subsystems are faster than my older build Q6600 - still not great, but it can be done.

I don't understand the insistence on transcoding... if the computer is fast enough to handle the CODEC native (presumiing the software will too), edit natively! I do realize that AVCHD is very processor and I/O intensive, but so was HDV back in "the beginning", and time and computer (and software handling) speed improvements took care of "the problem".

AVCHD gets pounded for all the editing issues, but I always see "transcoding" time as the reason... I haven't needed to transcode yet, and I know that at least with Sony software, it will kick out a usable (SD) file quite quickly, and I would suspect one could use the SD files to edit, change the names when it comes time to render, and save the whole transcoding hurdle... can't say as I've tried it, but it should work...

Just as HDV had teething pains, so too AVCHD is having some... that's life on the bleeding edge. BUT, to dismiss a major format because it takes a while to "get" the workflow is shortsighted.

I'll admit that if I had jumped from DV to AVCHD, I'd have a big head shaped hole in the wall from the pounding... but DV-HDV-AVCHD wasn't THAT bad, except the SD-HDV transition...

There's at least one highly respected event/wedding videographer here (VonLanken) who is using the HMC150 and lovesi it, and I think he's got the same laptop I've mentioned AND he's doing same day edits...
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Old November 30th, 2009, 01:08 PM   #6
Join Date: Nov 2009
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When I thought of this exercise, I never really concerned myself with time. I am a pilot and am making little 2-10 minute clips for th web. At some point I might like to build a 1 hour prioject maybe, but if I have to wait an hour or two to make a 10 minute clip, I might be able to live with that. My biggest concern was some other imagined problem like frame dropping back when I started editing MiniDV. I guess I just figured that if in theory your machine could do the editing, that in practice it would be too problematic to ever complete a project (either dropping frames on capture or crashing or whatever). It sounds like you guys are just arguing that it simply takes forever.

I'm going to read-up on the laptop threads like suggested. I also did a quick bit of research on the two formats and now I am a little worried that AVCHD as it stands is going to be some interim format that I might have to switch from later again. I have a lot to learn I guess.

Keep the posts coming.
Andy Boschi is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 30th, 2009, 11:16 PM   #7
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Frame dropping is one of those things that goes with tape, and one of those things I don't miss...

I find that editing NATIVE in Vegas with the preview window at a lower resolution is a necessity, but something I can live with, and I can switch to the highest res if needed. Render times with a Q6600 were around 6x "real time" (3 hours for a 30 minute project, plus or minus) for HD/BR type output, a little less for SD final product... Core i7/920 looks to cut those times in half or less, and during one test I almost had real time rendering...

If you're just doing low res for the web, you can downrez the files before you start to edit, at least with Sony PMB software, I presume Canon supplies similar functionality. There's more than one way to skin the proverbial cat...

For me, being able to pull the files in at around 1/3 real time (20 minutes for an hour of footage) and jump right into editing helps me stay fresh on a project - I don't transcode, and it would probably be a big problem if I felt it necessary... Render times aren't that big a deal - you start the render, and come back later...

I suspect AVCHD will be around for a while, as it seems like some variation/flavor of mpeg4 is used by just about every newly released camera, and at the consumer level tape is dead or dying... pros are divided, some liking the archival asset of tape and somewhat easier to work with HDV format, and some who have tried tapeless, have an archiving approach, and wouldn't look back for anything...

FWIW, I really didn't like the idea of tapeless at first, until I actually tried it and got it working, now I scratch my head at tape...

You might want to pick up one of the earlier HF series cams just to fiddle with - or just jump to the HF-S series. I myself use the XR500V, which for me has advantages, but earlier cameras are getting cheap on the secondary market (or holiday blowout sales!), grab one and start to learn, that's your best bet, upgrade the laptop as needed...
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