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Old June 2nd, 2005, 04:59 PM   #1
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Building a new Edit Workstation

Hi there. I was wondering if anybody out there can help me, as i'm in need of some advice? (It may also help out others in a similar situation!?)

I am about to buy/build a new Editing Workstation in the next couple of weeks, and I need some help to determine what System specs and Hardware I need for my new system.

The Workstation will be used solely for the purpose of capturing, editing & producing "Event" video projects (okay, who am i kidding? "Wedding" videos!!), and for no other applications.

I'm gonna need a PC that can capture a solid 60 minutes (a whole tape) of miniDV footage from my AG-DVC60 with no errors or dropped-frames, at 1:1 compression (no reduction in image quality), with the ability to capture anolog/composite video as well (VHS, VHS-C, Hi-8).
I'm also interested in capturing footage from store-bought DVDs to use in my own video projects if anyone knows of a way to do this?

After i've captured all the footage i need (several hours perhaps), i'll usually be making projects about an hour in length, though occasionally i'll wanna make projects longer than this, so the ability to produce projects of 2 hours or so is also something i want the Workstation to be able to do.
With regards to software I recently bought a new copy of "Cyberlink PowerDirector 3" which looks like it will do most of the things i need it to do, though i'd be prepared to upgrade to a better (more stable / versatile) package if it's within my budget and if it's necessary to change. Does anybody have any experience with PowerDirector? What Editing software package would you recommend for someone in my situation (i.e. budget is a factor right now, though a i'd like a Workstation that could handle a higher-end package when i can afford it)?

I'll then of course want to output my finished projects to DVD (and also back to my miniDV camera, and perhaps to VHS as well, though this can be done via DVD or miniDV).
I've come across a HP DVD burner which has "lightscribe" technology, which enables you to laser-etch designs onto the top-surface of the DVD disc, so if anybody knows anything good or bad or alternative to this then please let me know what you know! I could also go down the DVD-label-printing path to make the DVDs look nice, but i quite like the idea of laser etched designs.

Finally, the budget: I'm trying to stay within $1000, though I'd be prepared to go over a little if i had to, as i don't want to buy a system which is prone to crashing or slowing down purely because i didn't spend enough - i'm buying this new machine purely for the purpose of video editing, so it has to do it well!!

If anybody has any solutions to my predicament then i'd be very happy to hear them. If anybody has any suggestions for any or all of the areas i've discussed (and if i've missed anything!) then i'd be very grateful to hear them. Please feel free to tell me what system components (and specs) you would get if you were in my situation, and had my budget.

I'd like to say a big thankyou to anyone who's read this far! I appreciate you taking the time to read this and (hopefully) helping me out!

Fledgling Filmmaker & Videographer
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 06:59 PM   #2
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Hi Alan! Welcome to DV Info!

There have been at least a couple threads recently with advice/opinions on building computers. Check out these two for some advice.

There is also an article over on about building a gaming computer for $800. Now that's not the purpose you are building your computer for, but nonetheless it has good advice, and they specifically chose the components with easy future expansion/upgrading in mind. Check it out:,00.asp.

Of course you would want to change the optical drive they chose to some kind of DVD burner. And whatever route you go in building your computer it would be a good idea to have a second hard drive for your video.

As for capturing analog video (VHS, Hi-8, etc.), if your AG-DVC60 supports hooking up an analog source and passing the signal through it's DV connection, then you could use it to help capture those analog sources onto your computer.

Last edited by Christopher Lefchik; June 2nd, 2005 at 07:56 PM.
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Old June 2nd, 2005, 07:21 PM   #3
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1- Do you qualify for academic discounts?

2- My recommendations:

If you want something easy to use and powerful, I would strongly consider a Mac with Final Cut Express/Pro. However, at this price point I would probably go with a PC, which would be much faster. You'd probably only be able to afford a mac mini, which would be a little slow at rendering and making DVDs and things like that.

On the PC side, I have never used the program you use so I can't say much about it. If it does work for you, then probably stick with it (if it ain't broke don't fix it). Otherwise I'd look at Vegas+DVD or the cut-down version of it. It's very powerful, relatively stable, and easy to configure. Perhaps its downside is that it renders a little slow (but the other editing programs do that too when you step outside the particular filters or effects they're good at).

Other options are:
Premiere Pro/elements - I'd just use Vegas. In my opinion a much better program.
You can get hardware acceleration cards like the Matrox RTX100 for Premiere (which makes it faster for specific things), but that is likely out of your price range.

Avid - Never used it. I don't think it would be too good for Weddings?
May have specific hardware requirements, like no ATI video cards.

3- Suppose you want to configure a system for Vegas or "Cyberlink PowerDirector 3" for a low price.

Probably the best option is to wait for a hot deal on a Dell Dimension 4700 (not the 3000 or 2400). American hot deals sites:
and many others. Typically, read the forums because the people there can answer your questions and will tell you what you need to know about the deal (i.e. whether or not it's good, specifics about the product like the dell dimension 3000 not having a slot for a video card).

There have been a few good deals on the computer with a LCD (most of the time you have to get the monitor too). Specs:
A- Processor: Look for a Pentium processor, not Celeron D (about 80% speed of equivalent clock speed Pentium) or Celeron (50% Pentium). AMD is slightly slower than the "same" Pentium (i.e. 3000+ is a little slower than a 3ghz Pentium). Dell doesn't sell AMD.
This applies to video only... AMD is typically faster in games, DAW, server use.
B- RAM- 512MB minimum. You probably can't go wrong with 1GB, but you don't need it for Vegas.
DDR2 RAM can be expensive, which may kind of kill the Dell deal unless they have the 512MB RAM upgrade going.
For best performance on Pentium platforms, run pairs of the exact same memory (which may mean ebaying off the sticks already in it). It only makes a few percent difference in performance, so it may not be worth it.

Maybe look at eBaying off the stick you get from Dell, and using the following:

C- Hard drive storage- as much as possible. DV = 13GB/hr, knock 10% off your computer's "total" storage and then divide by 13.
The 4700 only has 2 drive bays? You could probably improvise a third, or use external storage (i.e. Lacie firewire drives off or similar vendor).
Probably throw in your own 200-400GB drive. Brand doesn't matter too much, but I like Seagate as's database indicates they may be more reliable. Plus they are a little cheaper, run quiet, and have a longer warranty.

D- Video card: If you want to run dual monitors, get a video card with two of the right outputs (some/most DVI can be converted to VGA with a DVI-VGA adapter; DVI-D ports can't; if it comes with a DVI-VGA adapter, the DVI port can probably drive a VGA monitor through it). Nvidia is slightly preferred over ATI.
E- Monitor(s): More resolution is typically better.
F- DVD burner: Get one of course. Check the buyer's guide for a recommendation, or check out The best ones are all running neck to neck and you probably won't go wrong with any one of them. I have no idea about lightscribe- it may be worth looking into considering it can be expensive to get ink to print on DVDs. If you do large quantities of DVD, definitely outsource it- video duplication is a huge pain.
G- Firewire card- add one. i.e.,

Grab a base system from Dell and throw in your own upgrades. Dell's upgrades/add-ons are typically overpriced, because they have to make a profit. They are selling their base systems somewhere around cost, which can mean a good deal for you (but some deals are better than others).

Another option would be to get a custom computer built by a local computer shop or online vendor like (excellent rating), OR
try to find a deal on a refurbished machine.

I'd avoid extended warranties, because they are ripoffs. You do get support sometimes, but they are typically India-based (but not always). Check out the ratings for Dell, HP, etc. on on why not to go for support.
If it's a bricks and mortar store, definitely avoid getting an extended warranty on your computer because they're not worth it.

4- TO capture from analog sources, your camera should be able to do passthrough. Read the manual or search this forum.

The easiest way to get material off DVDs is to treat the DVD player like an analog source.
There are some software programs that can rip DVDs. Maybe try searching the forum.
Using copyright material may be against the law, and there is copy protection in place most of the time which makes things difficult.

Last edited by Glenn Chan; June 2nd, 2005 at 07:39 PM.
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Old June 9th, 2005, 03:09 PM   #4
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Firstly I'd like to say a big thankyou to those who posted replies to my original post! Your words were much appreciated & i've been thinking a lot about what i'm going to do.

As I have not used "Cyberlink PowerDirector" at any length yet, and both my wife and I learnt to edit at college using Avid, what I think I will do is build a brand new system which is capable of running Avid Xpress DV nice and smoothly. Then once I have my new machine i will use PowerDirector and see if it does everything i need it to. If it becomes clear that PowerDirector isn't up to scratch, then i'll get in Xpress DV and won't need to upgrade my system as it will be ready for it.

I'm also considering whether to make my new system capable of running the other main editing systems (Premiere & After Effects, Sony Vegas, Pinnacle) and the next Avid up from Xpress DV, which is Xpress Pro (& Xpress Pro HD). That way when i have the money or should I need to upgrade to either a whole new software package, or upgrade to the next level of Avid software, my PC will be ready for it. Does this sound like a good/bad idea to anyone?

I'm going to therefore build my new PC based on Avid's reccomended system specs, and based on the many things i have read (including the previous posts) online.

In case you're interested, here is what Avid says are the minimum specs for Xpress DV:

Windows XP Professional with Service Pack 1 or 2
933 MHz Pentium III or any Pentium 4 or any Pentium M processor
1 GB system memory (1.5 GB recommended)
A qualified graphics card (as supported by system vendor); Avid recommends the NVIDIA Quadro®4 980 XGL (Windows) or the NVIDIA QuadroFX 1100
An IEEE-1394 (FireWire) port or qualified DV In/Out Card
20 GB or larger internal disk drive
CD or DVD-ROM drive

and again, if i choose to make my system capable for Avid Xpress Pro HD, Avid reccomends the following Minimum PC System Specifications:

Processors: Dual or Single 2.4 GHz Xeon processor OR Pentium 4 1.6 GHz processor OR Pentium M 1.8 GHz processor (mobile configurations). Note: The boot drive should be IDE, SCSI, or SATA 7200 RPM. Do not use internal SCSI as a boot device if you also plan on adding external SCSI drives (in that case use IDE or SATA).
Operating System: Windows XP Professional w/ Service Pack 2
System Memory: 1.5 GB minimum, 2.0 GB recommended for HD and high stream count SD projects
Open GL graphics cards: NVidia QuadroFX 1400 PCI Express, NVidia QuadroFX 1300 PCI Express, Nvidia QuadroFX 1100 AGP 8X, NVidia QuadroFX 500 AGP 8X or NVidia Quadro4 980 XGL AGP 8X
Note: Although supported, use of the NVIDIA Quadro 4 980 XGL in a dual-monitor configuration may result in performance degradation during tasks such as scratch removal, auto color correction, or general color correction when the safe color warnings are enabled, or using the eyedropper to select colors in Effect Mode. Single monitor systems with an NVIDIA Quadra 4 980 XGL perform properly.

Add-in IEEE-1394 PCI card (required if no built-in 1394). Note: The add-in PCI card must be a universal PCI card with the T.I chip set. Mojo is not supported on notebook systems with PCMCIA cards of any kind. Current qualified /supported cards include:
ADS Pyro PCI 64, part #API-311
SIIG 1394 3-Port PCI i/e, part #NN-400012
Internal disk drive : 40 GB or larger
CD or DVD-ROM drive

If you have read this far, first of all thanks! What do you think of my idea to make a system capable of Xpress Pro HD & Xpress DV? What parts would you use based on Avid's reccomendations?
If you have any good tips or advice for me based on this post, i'd be happy to hear what you have to say (as i'm pretty unskilled on PC tech stuff, as i'm a cameraman by trade & director at heart!).
Thanks very much, hope you can help!
What I'm using: Panasonic AG-DVC60 Camcorder, Avid Xpress DV on custom built PC: Intel P4 3.20 GHz Processor, Asus P4C800-E Motherboard, GeForce 6800 128MB DDR Graphics/Video Card, 2GB DDR RAM, WD 80GB System Drive, WD 250GB SATA Media Drive, Pyro PCI 64 OHCI Firewire Card, Lite-On 16X DVD Burner, Epson R200 Printer
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Old June 9th, 2005, 03:41 PM   #5
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Avid and Premiere do not play well together. In fact, many different NLE's on the same system is likely to cause a conflict in resources, as they allocate them differently. Although running After Effects, or Boris, or Photoshop or such is fine.

You'll notice that the Avid XpressPro reccomendations are quite a bit higher than the simple Xpress recomendations. This means, a machine that is just fast enough to run Xpress, will likely stall on Pro, while a machine that'll run Pro will also run Express. So If you think you're likely to upgrade to Pro/HD, then build the machine for it or incure the upgrade headaches later.

Lots of Media storage is good.

I think you'll be pressed to get it all together for a grand though.

I'm running XpressPro on dual Xeons. Still on version 4.2 as I'm finishing up a documentary, but will upgrade to HD as soon as I am done, for the fifty dollar upgrade price.

Avid has great media management for long form projects, as you are no doubt aware.

Good luck.
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Old June 14th, 2005, 11:57 PM   #6
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About using Avid

Granted, Avid is indeed an excellent choice for NLE, but be aware that it will be very hard to run a decent Avid workstation on your budget of $1000, considering that Avid Xpress Pro HD runs at about $1,499 (MSRP), and then you still need to find or build a computer that can smoothly run it. I think you would be hard pressed to find or build a suitable workstation for any less than $2000. I have looked into building a workstation specifically designed to run Xpress Pro HD (dual Xeon 3.0 workstation with RAID 0 and 2GB of RAM), and I realized it would cost me about $2300.

If you have your heart set on running Avid however, you can look at Avid Xpress DV which costs about $499 (MSRP), and has less demanding system requirements. Avid is no doubt a great editing choice, but you would definitely need to shell out a bit more buck.

Happy Editing

Last edited by Liam Dempsey; June 15th, 2005 at 03:41 PM.
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Old June 15th, 2005, 01:40 PM   #7
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Thanks for all the replies! Your words are very appreciated!

I think that building a Machine capable of Avid Xpress Pro HD or Studio HD is out of my price range right now, so instead i'm going to build a machine specifically for smoothly running Avid Xpress DV, and also some good DVD authoring, burning & disc printing software.

Does anybody have any good tips or suggestions for what hardware should go into my new machine? I have looked at Avid's own suggestions, but can anybody give me some names or model numbers for anything i'll need (Motherboards, RAM, System drive, Media drive, Graphics card, Processor, DVD drive/burner), as not being a whizz at PCs means i wanna try and make sure i get the best stuff, without getting ripped off or getting stuff i don't really need.

Also does anybody have any reccomendations for any of the following needs: DVD Authoring software, DVD Burning software, DVD disc printing?
I want my new machine to be able to do these things after the editing has been done, and so can anyone tell me if these things will change what should go into my new system?

Finally, if anybody has any knowledge or experience of editing with Avid Xpress DV, and then transferring to DVD, i'd be very grateful to hear their advice, what problems can arise, how to overcome them, and basically how to do it right! (And hopefully without any hassle!)

I really appreciate the help given, i hope to put it all to use this Sunday when i go to buy my new system! (Looking forward to finally getting my own edit machine, while at the same time apprehensive & worried that i'll spend a ton of money and still not get what i need and run into several problems with it all! If you can help me avoid these problems, that would be great!!!)

Thanks a bunch to all who read & reply!
What I'm using: Panasonic AG-DVC60 Camcorder, Avid Xpress DV on custom built PC: Intel P4 3.20 GHz Processor, Asus P4C800-E Motherboard, GeForce 6800 128MB DDR Graphics/Video Card, 2GB DDR RAM, WD 80GB System Drive, WD 250GB SATA Media Drive, Pyro PCI 64 OHCI Firewire Card, Lite-On 16X DVD Burner, Epson R200 Printer
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Old June 15th, 2005, 02:14 PM   #8
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Im pretty sure Avid XpressDV comes with Sonic DVDit SE for DVD authoring. From the Avid website --

Fast, easy DVD creation - You've finished your edit. Now create a DVD with only a few clicks using the industry-leading DVD creation tool for Windows. Sonic DVDit SE (included with Avid Xpress DV) automatically converts your audio to Dolby Digital, and supports a wide range of devices and media. Mac users can also use any of their favorite DVD-authoring applications for their Avid Xpress DV projects.

I suppose it works exactly like XpressPro (which I cut on). You mark your sequence, select "Send to" and Sorenson Squeeze. Avid exports a quictime reference file to Sorenson, where it's 'squeezed' into whatever format you want. Then import the file into DVDit and author and burn.

Good luck!
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Old June 15th, 2005, 04:57 PM   #9
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Components for running Avid


Stick with a Pentium 4 with Hyper-Threading if you can afford it. Remember, you can buy a system with less than the required 1GB of ram and then add your own for probably less money. Look for ram on, or Also keep in mind that Avid runs smoothly on nVidia chips, preferrably the nVidia Quadro Chip. Once again, you can add a video card after you buy the computer but make sure the computer can accept the new card you want. (Most nVidia quadro chips are PCI-Express). If you are looking into a notebook, make sure you get either the 1.8 or 2.0 Pentium M processor for best performance. Finally if you are interested in building a workstation, heres what I would do:

Motherboard: Asus P5GD2 - $133

Processor: Intel Pentium 4 640 3.2GHZ W/HT 2MB Cache 800FSB - $277

Memory: Kingston 1GB DDR2 533mHZ RAM (1024x1) - $105.00
AND: Kingston 512mb DDR2 533mHz RAM (512x1) - $54.75

HardDisk: Maxtor 200GB SATA150 7200RPM 16MB - $99.90 (x2=$199.80)

If I were you, I would get two of these drives and run a RAID 0 Setup
or use one for programs (WIndows XP, Avid etc.) and the other for footage and saved projects.

Video Card: nVidia QuadroFX 1300 PCI-E - $584

nVidia GeForce 6800 PCI-E 256MBDDR - $299

The nVidia Quadro series is specially designed to run applications like Avid, and other NLE's and would be the best choice for an editing workstation. However if you feel the price might be a little restricting, (the most expensive Quadro card is at least over $6k), most other PCI-E middle/high end nVidia cards with at least 128mb vidoe memory should do fine.

Firewire Card: SIIG 1394 PCI Firewire adapter - $43

You'll need to get a DVD+/- drive for DVD authoring so plan to spend about $50-$100 on that. Additionally if you are going to buy all these components, yu need an ATX form factor case with a power supply.

So not including an optical drive(s) or Case, you're looking at about
a $1400 computer with the Quadro card, or around 1100 with a lower end nVidia. Dont forget you still need to buy Avid software. However this or a computer similar to it would be a GREAT investment in your business, and would be able to handle all the editing work whether you use Avid DV or another NLE.

Good Luck and happy buying
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Old June 18th, 2005, 10:29 PM   #10
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10 hours to go until computer show, and then i should return with my spanking new NLE machine!!!!
Thanks so much to all the posts especially Liam Dempsey. I've taken your advice on board and will be taking it with me (literally) tommorow morning to help me get the right stuff!
I shall be sure to let this thread know what i end up getting and how it works (and what i paid!).
Many warm regards,
What I'm using: Panasonic AG-DVC60 Camcorder, Avid Xpress DV on custom built PC: Intel P4 3.20 GHz Processor, Asus P4C800-E Motherboard, GeForce 6800 128MB DDR Graphics/Video Card, 2GB DDR RAM, WD 80GB System Drive, WD 250GB SATA Media Drive, Pyro PCI 64 OHCI Firewire Card, Lite-On 16X DVD Burner, Epson R200 Printer
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Old June 19th, 2005, 12:22 AM   #11
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Some minor comments:

RAM: If you want it to run in dual channel operation (improves performance by a few to several percent for rendering), get pairs of the exact same model+capacity RAM.

Processor: The 5xx series Pentiums might be better value. They have less cache and lower cache latency. They generally perform around the same speed as the 6xx when comparing the same clock speeds. The 6xx Pentiums cost more though for the same clock speed.

As far as the processor, RAM, video card, and motherboard go you should check they are all the right type (CPU socket, chipset support for that CPU [likely not an issue], DDR2 or DDR, pciE or AGP video card).

Hard drive: In my opinion RAID isn't necessary and doesn't improve performance at all. If you do a search you can dig up many posts on RAIDing or not.
Main reasons in favor: Better performance.
Main reasons against: The same performance (the better performance only shows up on particular benchmarks; real world tests like timing renders typically don't show any improvement for RAID 0). On RAID controllers with problems, you can get data corruption or low performance (the Intel RAID on many motherboards is fine).
RAID 0 doubles your chance of losing data to HDD failure.
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