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$3,000 Video Editing Computer - What Parts?

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June 24, 2010 12:36:26 AM

Hey everyone, I'm not very literate when it comes to all the jargon of computer parts and performance... so I need someone's help!

I have about a $3,000 budget and I am using Adobe CS4. I use Premiere the majority of the time, and once I get a new system plan on using After Effects A LOT. Basically all I know is I want the 3.06Ghz i7 processor and Windows 7, I want to run dual-screen. I definitely need faster rendering times. I'm going to need a fast DVD burner, and possibly a blu-ray burner.

I also plan on getting into 3-D creation and more special effects stuff. But for now, it's just straightup video editing. I'm not a PC gamer at all, just need the BEST for MY BUDGET for VIDEO EDITING

PLEASE HELP ME SELECT THE BEST PARTS FOR MY NEEDS!

P.S. I'm having a friend build it because he knows about the building part of it, I just need to tell him the parts I need.
June 24, 2010 3:37:08 AM

Oh, also, I've heard the Nvidia Quadro CX would be prime, but I see that it comes at an astounding $2,000.

1 - I can put a "few" more bucks into the project if I really need to!
2 - If I get a lesser card, can I upgrade once I get the cash?
3 - Would I need dual card to run dual montor? I've heard 'crossfire x' and other terms thrown around, but again, I'm not very literate...

Also, can someone explain (in Lay Men's terms) what RAID exactly is and how to set up seperate hard drives for source footage and paging files, etc.

The ideal situation would be to get a system that is at least ideal for now (12 gigs ram, suitable video card, i7 chip, etc.), and set it up so that as I get more cash, I can upgrade specific parts.

SO, if any performance has to be sacrificed for the sake of cost, please tell me the parts that could WORK DECENTLY for now, and could be upgraded to the best part for my situation LATER.

ANY proper advice would be GREATLYYYYYYY appreciated, and if anyone has the time, a brief guide and explanation would be the mosty amazing thing for a budding videographer and editor like myself!

Thank you :) 
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June 24, 2010 6:10:58 AM

To answer some of your questions directly:

  • Any graphics card with the same interface as the motherboard will work (in your case, PCI-e x16).
  • Nvidia Quadro cards have dual link DVI. This allows you to run two monitors from what seems to be one DVI port (through an included Y adapter). Also, most modern graphics cards have two outputs (of varying types); 'performance' cards tend to have dual DVI ports.

    RAID:
    RAID is the use of several identical discs in an array to give better performance, and/or better data integrity. There are a number of RAID 'modes' that have different uses/benefits, but the one you've probably got wind of is RAID 0 - "striping". In a RAID 0 array, two or more discs (of identical capacity) operate as one 'physical drive' that appears (to operating systems) as a volume the sum total size of all the drives in the array (ie three 500GB drives in RAID 0 show as one 1500GB volume). Imagine you have a RAID 0 array with four drives. In layman's terms, if you save the word GOAT to the RAID volume, the word is divided into four pieces and one letter will be written on each disk at the same moment (drive 1 writes "G", drive 2 writes "O", etc). This is effectively four times faster than writing each letter of GOAT to a single drive, as in the time one drive would be finished writing "G", the RAID array would write the entire word. This works in the same way when reading files - each disk in the RAID array will read its letter simultaneously and the whole word will be loaded in the time a single drive would have read one letter. The more disks are in an array, the faster files can be written and read (by a factor of how many disks there are), BUT with every disk you add have in a RAID 0 array, the chance of failure also increases. EDIT: Note that once a RAID array is created, drives cannot be added.

    Due to the nature of a RAID 0 array, if one drive is taken away, all data is corrupted. This is because (in our four drive scenario) one forth of every file will be missing. Considering catastrophic drive failure, with four drives, you are four times more likely to have a drive failure than you are with one drive. A 1TB RAID 0 volume made of four drives is thus four times more likely to fail than a single physical 1TB drive. This actually happened to my brother a few years ago - he had 5x 200GB drives in a RAID 0 array, one drive died, and he lost every bit of that 1TB. In short, the factor of speed increase in a RAID 0 array matches that of the chance of failure.

    With exception to RAID 0, the primary purpose of all RAID modes is data integrity. At Weta Digital (in New Zealand), a RAID mode is used (can't remember what number) that has 3 drives in RAID 0 and one spare (redundant). When any one of the RAID 0 drives shows signs of failing, all its data is copied to the spare drive, and a technician is alerted to replace the faulty drive (all automatically).

    I don't recommend using RAID for file storage unless you have a good reason to (ie. dealing with files bigger than any one drive can handle). I do however recommend having a RAID 0 of Solid State Drives to run your operating system and programs from (but not to use as a scratch disk). I have one SSD for OS and main applications and it is blazing fast - 2,3 or 4 of them in RAID 0 would be incredible. I'll note here that one big RAID volume really wouldn't suit your needs as outlined below.

    Drives for paging, source footage, etc:
  • Premier allows you to set scratch disks (for various types of temporary files) when creating a project. Generally this is where previews are rendered (when you press enter).
  • If you have enough RAM, the operating systems page file probably won't get used, and it's best to avoid using it anyway (but for reference, the page file settings are accessible by right clicking on my computer -> properties -> clicking advanced system settings on the left [vista/win7] -> click "settings" button under performance heading -> Advanced tab -> Change button...and don't forget to click set when you change a drives settings).
  • For optimal performance, footage should be on an independent drive. In fact, for optimal performance, software, footage, and scratch should all be on different physical discs. In my system I have a physical drive for OS, a physical drive with documents/photos/music on one partition and non-important programs on another, 3 physical drives for file storage, and one physical drive for scratch/current projects (they are archived to another drive when complete).

    Hardware components:
    As you've said you will be using a lot of After Effects, RAM is key to productivity. 12GB is good, but get more (or plan to at least) if you can. I have 9GB and AE chews through that no problem. Note I said productivity though - more RAM will just allow you to render more frames to RAM before it starts over-writing the older frames. Intel i7 is a must for this kind of machine, and it wouldn't hurt to overclock a little as they do so easily (I have a super-stable OC at 3.8GHz [on stock voltage] which gives me a 30% hard speed increase over stock). For a graphics card, memory [again] is important, although you don't want to skimp on power. More graphics power will result in smoother use of CS4 and CS5 apps. Editing a single 8MP image in Photoshop uses about 300MB of VRAM on average for me and I see the GPU usage sky rocket when doing any simple editing/manipulating tasks.

    For upgradability I would suggest an LGA 1366 i7 as this will future-proof you a little for CPUs. As far as other components are concerned, you are only limited by the number of PCI slots, SATA headers, and other headers on the motherboard. The type of most interfaces used on today's motherboards are unlikely to change in any significant period of time (as in, when they do, you computer will be old news).

    If you want to sacrifice performance for price, your safest bets are to get an el-cheapo graphics card and keyboard/mouse, and don't get the bluray drive yet (they are really expensive and I doubt it would get used much initially). You'd be okay to get cheaper CPU, RAM and monitors for now, but in my experience that'll just end up being more expensive in the long run. The parts you should absolutely not compromise on are (primarily) motherboard and (secondly) power supply. Instead of getting cheaper RAM, the obvious thing would be to get less (good quality) RAM to start with and then add more sticks as you get more money (buying packs of RAM though, not single sticks).

    One last note which I'm sure you are already aware of - you will need to run the 64bit version of Windows 7 to use more than 4GB of RAM.

    Hope this all helps,
    Stecman
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    a b B Homebuilt system
    June 24, 2010 6:24:05 AM

    stecman said:
    To answer some of your questions directly:
    With exception to RAID 0, the primary purpose of all RAID modes is data integrity. At Weta Digital (in New Zealand), a RAID mode is used (can't remember what number) that has 3 drives in RAID 0 and one spare (redundant). When any one of the RAID 0 drives shows signs of failing, all its data is copied to the spare drive, and a technician is alerted to replace the faulty drive (all automatically).


    Good explanation of RAID 0. The RAID level you're referring to above is RAID 5, though what RAID 5 actually does is calculate parity data (the information you'd need to retrieve your data if one of the drives failed) and then saves the data+parity across the drives in the RAID array. Then if one of the disks fails, you can pop in a new one and the array can rebuild itself. It does not copy all of one disk prior to failure. RAID 5 is a little slower than RAID 0 when writing (takes a little bit to calculate the parity data), but approximately as fast as RAID 0 at reading.

    The two other common levels of RAID are:
    RAID 1 - Take 2 disks of the same size, and they both store the same data, also known as mirroring. Complete redundancy, but little speed boost. 2x 1 TB drives = 1 TB RAID 1
    RAID 1+0 aka RAID 10 - Take an even number of disks greater than 3 (so, 4, 6, 8, etc.) and then stripe and mirror the data. Speed and redundancy, but high cost. 4x 1 TB drives = 2 TB RAID 10

    If you end up doing any RAID level other than 0, I'd recommend buying a separate RAID card, as motherboard-based RAID uses CPU cycles and it is unlikely to be portable if the entire system goes. If you use an addon card, you are likely to be able to recover the data in a new system. (Assuming you have the addon card still, or the same model card.)

    Choose any 2 of the 3 following: fast, secure, (relatively) cheap
    RAID 0 - fast, cheap
    RAID 1 - secure, cheap
    RAID 5 - fast (reads), secure, (sort of) cheap - most economical data security, most resource overhead
    RAID 10 - fast, secure


    I don't recommend using RAID for file storage unless you have a good reason to (ie. dealing with files bigger than any one drive can handle). I do however recommend having a RAID 0 of Solid State Drives to run your operating system and programs from (but not to use as a scratch disk). said:

    I don't recommend using RAID for file storage unless you have a good reason to (ie. dealing with files bigger than any one drive can handle). I do however recommend having a RAID 0 of Solid State Drives to run your operating system and programs from (but not to use as a scratch disk).


    I'd agree that if you have the money for it these days, 1 or 2 SSDs for boot/applications is the way to go. Then for storage, use traditional hard drives.


    For upgradability I would suggest an LGA 1366 i7 as this will future-proof you a little for CPUs. said:

    For upgradability I would suggest an LGA 1366 i7 as this will future-proof you a little for CPUs.


    While i7 is probably the way to go, it's not all that futureproof, as Intel is rolling out a new socket to replace it next year.

    Agree with everything else.
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    June 25, 2010 12:47:51 AM

    Edit: Hey where'd this guy go

    Quote:
    Do yourself a favor and hire a local computer consultant to help you pick and choose your parts. A good consultant will prevent you from wasting money on unnecessary parts and will guide you so you dont make mistakes buying the wrong hardware or software.


    Not trying sale-block you, but I would say TigerClaw would be better off getting help from the community here on Tom's Hardware - there are more people with more areas of expertise than any one computer company would ever employ, and any bias or misinformation is ironed out by the community. Moreover, this thread is called "$3,000 Video Editing Computer", so it draws in people who specialise/have interest in that area.

    (it frustrates me when I see people explicitly trying to sell their products/services on Tom's Hardware, because the rest of us come here to search for people we can help)

    I'm not saying you're wrong, I'd just like to see a less one sided/ulteriorly-motivated argument.
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    a b B Homebuilt system
    June 25, 2010 3:12:31 AM

    I might not be an expert in the field of video editing, however, I do know a fair bit about home-built computers. I work in the drafting field which has some of the same demands on a computing platform that you are likely to encounter. I'll give you a few tidbits of information that you can ponder over.

    - Raid1+0 will offer the best balance between performance and redundancy. Do keep in mind that this is not the best solution for very large arrays as it is not very cost effective. This is why it is not used very often in professional applications.

    -A raid1 array for redundancy can still be responsive if you buy the right hard drives. I am currently using two 1.5gb sataII drives with a 32 or 64mb onboard cache (cannot remember which offhand) and the response times are more than adequate for me. You could get away with a single drive solution, but you might want to back your work up on seperate media. Actually.. that would be a good idea in any case.

    -Before investing in a solid state disk (SSD) drive be aware of their limitations. If you plan on moving data on and off of your drives at regular intervals I would suggest going with a standard mechanical drive. SSD drives can fail in a relatively short period of time when sectors are exposed to constant rewrites. This is why camera flash memory cards are known to fail. If the data is to remain fairly constant such as in a typical backup/storage drive then the risk is not as great. I'm still a fan of the proven reliability of mechanical drives myself. As of right now i wouldnt invest in sataIII, stay with SataII.

    -The sheer amount of memory (ram) is not the only thing to consider. Buying high performance memory will net you a noticible improvement over value products. Buying a quality high performance motherboard paired with such memory can not only make your system quick, it will future proof it a bit more than going mediocre.

    -I wouldnt take the advice stated above. If you decide to skimp out on internal parts now you would only end up with a rig that does not meet your specifications/ requirements and you would get less out of your $3000 budget. If you want to skimp on anything then i'd suggest going with a cheap keyboard, mouse and speakers. As far as internal parts go: if you do not need a blueray drive currently then you can add this later without any penalty.

    -Dont' skimp on the power supply. There are plenty of psu calculators out there that can assist you with finding out your requirements. As a rule of thumb an i7 rig with one graphics card should be about 650w-750w. A dual graphics card system should be about 850w-1000w. Since you are planning on a performance rig it might be best to future-proof with the 1000w now. The cost really isn't too much more. I personally recommend the corsair 1000w modular psu.

    -As stated above you will need to run 64bit windows 7 to utilize more than 4gb of ram. At a minimum I would suggest the professional version. you can save money by buying an OEM copy (if you don't require the support.) Basic or Ultimate probably aren't what you need.

    ----------------------

    I'll end the rant there. Minus perepherals and monitor you can easily put together a good system for that $3000 budget. My current system (bought for about $2500, newegg) is as follows:

    i7-920 1366, 6gb mushkin ram, 2x 1.5tb drives in raid1, nvidia gtx-470, corsair 1000w psu, asus rampage III motherboard, corsair 900d case, extra fans + controller, generic dvd drive.

    the 920 is easily overclocked to match higher priced processors (just buy a better heatsink & have decent case airflow.) You can get 6gb more of ram for $200 or so. Your hard drives will depend on exactly how much space you need. If you will be needing additional hard drives often you might choose a non-raid setup. I'm not sure about this but i've heard that windows 7 doesnt like to be installed on a drive partition larger than 2tb.

    Just my two cents. Good luck!
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    July 19, 2010 5:34:19 PM

    A question for stecman.

    The forums for Tom Hardware have helped considerably on what components to use for a CS5 system build. I am still unsure about the number of physical drives. How many physical drives should I use. How many do you have. Note I am heavily into Premiere Pro and AE.
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    July 20, 2010 2:28:54 AM

    The number of drives you have is entirely flexible around your budget and requirements but, like most other computer parts, spending more will usually result in better performance. When I originally built my computer two years ago, I had a single 400GB drive with a 100GB partition for OS and apps, and the rest for storage (I was on quite a small budget). I mostly did light rendering at that stage so the single drive was sufficient. My needs have expanded a lot since then, and to cater for my space, speed and activity requirements I now have the following:

  • 64GB Kingston SSD NOW for OS and primary apps.
  • The original 400GB Western Digital Caviar Blue drive with a 100GB partition for secondary apps/games and the rest for music, current documents, and web development.
  • 2x 1TB Western Digital Caviar Green drives for storage.
  • 320GB Samsung drive as for archiving (not exactly sure of the model because I took it out of a assembled external HDD package).
  • 500GB Western Digital Caviar Blue for photos (I do a lot of photography).
  • 200GB Seagate Barracuda for scratch.

    (I have my drive power off timer set to 10 minutes, so when I'm doing everyday operations only one or two drives will be powered on.)

    If your budget will permit it, I highly recommend an SSD for OS and primary applications - it makes basic operations flow quickly, speeds up loading of programs/services (installed on the SSD of course), and makes for an overall smoother experience with the computer.

    For your requirements I would recommend an absolute minimum of two physical drives (one for OS/applications and one for active and idle data), and a cost-performance balance of three drives (one for OS/apps, one for idle data [storage], and one for active data [scratch and current working files]). If you are pulling all of your source material off one drive, make sure that drive has a decent size cache so the drive can efficiently retrieve requested data. If you are working simultaneously with multiple streams of full HD video and have many audio tracks, it would probably be better to have video, audio, and scratch on separate drives.

    Premiere is generally more disk intensive than After Effects as it writes preview renders to disk, reads both raw and rendered files from disk, and is designed to deal with great volumes of data (whereas After Effects reads from disk, preview renders to RAM, and is designed for complex processing over volume).

    In short, more drives will allow you to access more data in a set period of time. Drives are also cheap and easy to add to a system, so you can always add more when/if you need.

    If you have any questions, fire away - I've written this pretty quickly cause I've got a class starting in 15 minutes!
    Stecman
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    July 20, 2010 6:37:56 AM

    That response was more then I had hoped for. Thank you very much.
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