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After Effects / Video Editing PC build (<$1200)

Last response: in Systems
December 16, 2011 4:08:37 PM

Approximate Purchase Date: within 1 month

Budget Range: $750 to $1200 (after rebates)

System Usage from Most to Least Important: Motion Graphics (After Effects), Video Editing (Sony Vegas, Movie Maker, Premiere), Video Conversion (Freemake)

Parts NOT Required: keyboard, mouse, monitors, speakers, Windows 7 Ultimate. software

Preferred Website(s) for Parts:

Country: USA

Parts Preferences: by brand or type: Intel CPU, nVidia GPU, Samsung HDs

Overclocking: Unlikely

SLI or Crossfire: No

Monitor Resolution: 1920 x 1200 (primary) + 1280 x 1240 (secondary)

Additional Comments: I would like to have really snappy RAM previews in Adobe After Effects and quicker video rendering times. I plan to be working with a couple AVCHD video streams for editing, eventually looking at 3D video too. A quiet system is preferred (can't stand hearing lots of fans whirring up loudly when I start previews, rendering, etc.). Seems like RAM might be the most important item but think I also need a fast CPU, lots of cores / HT, GPU with CUDA & OpenGL support. If it makes sense to wait for later IvyBridge Intel CPU offerings, let me know.
December 16, 2011 4:12:17 PM
December 16, 2011 5:35:31 PM

You do not mention if this is being used for personal or business use?

However either way.. do consider the fact that at least two 7200 rpm or greater HDD's (four, as 2 sets of raid 0, is best minimally imho).
This is to have at least one disk (or set) to "read source" from and at least one disk (or set) to "write edits" to. Anything less is heartbreaking and problematic at best. Rendering times on anything less is absolutely like watching grass grow.. not to mention artifacting creeps in pretty much off the bat unless you channel (step) those two operations separately. If you go with one disk, it can be parsed easier on one disk w 2 partitions.. but quality and especially your time will still suffer.

Also for HD or 3D, some type of hardware based encoding system w/ a lostless option would be a very smart thing to do. Especially for live edit previews. Along the lines of a "Video Toaster" say. Depending on the material and expected edit quality/features. This can go from the truly sublime, up to the professional grade level of products. If you are working in or with many format types and many digital compression schemes of source material, it's downright necessary to bring everything into one scheme or format to edit a source and then render the final output into whatever scheme or format is desired. Transcoding becomes a non-issue as long as you can support the input type and render out to the desired type. It really comes down to whats important to you and the way you see yourself working at it.

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December 16, 2011 6:43:29 PM

@Omi3D, thanks for the reply and your recommendations.

This is for personal use, as a hobby, not for a business. All video I expect to edit should be in AVCHD format, since that seems to be the standard for consumer camcorders that record to SD cards today. While I don't expect to be editing 3D video yet, that might be something I want to look at as the technology matures.

In addition to video editing, I have been dabbling with After Effects. I have an old version (CS3) on a 4GB system and previews and rendering are pretty slow. I'm looking to get the educational version of CS5.5 to have 64-bit support. Again, I'm not talking about epic Hollywood CGI productions with THX sound or anything, just some fun with intros, motion tracking overlays, flying videos in 3D space, etc. I just want something that will make it fun to play. As it stands, it's hard to tell what the final output will look like. And a short 60 second AE project with some motion blur, particles, etc. can take about 12 hours to render on my current system. I'm okay with overnight, but not really much more.

So besides the separate drives for source and output, what are things I should be focusing on? Memory seems to be one thing that will make AE much happier so I was planning to max that out. Is that a good plan? Should I consider an i7-2600K with 16GB? Or does it make sense to look at an i7-3930K with 24GB?

Ideally I'd love to hear from someone that has a similar system already running the same applications to know what they are experiencing and what they would recommend.

Best solution

December 16, 2011 8:09:42 PM

You're very welcome!

And yes, therein lies the rub.. how do you see what you're putting together without a live preview option?
Trial and error editing is the only recourse you have without it. "invoke", "adjust", "render,.. nope not it", again & again.
More on this in a moment. There are wonderful solutions though, AND even better yet, with a student license discount.

I do this (3D Animation/visual effects/editing) often. Mainly for scientific 3D illustrative, film or technical systemic process videos.
I use After Effects, Lightwave 3D, Blender, Video Toaster, eyeon Fusion and whole plethora of various plugins and tool sets as well those tools custom created for me under contract programmers I hire, to develop them alongside me.

I just recently built a new Sandy Bridge (test) workstation that to my amazement.. Is very much on par with a 2 year old Dual Xeon WS. It flat keeps up and even blows it away on a few things. Gotta love progress! Mainly built to advantage the better math handlers and more optimized newer versions of some of these wares. I have 3 identically built machines now. I'm very happy with them. I've already gone though the process of testing many various configurations and many hardware substitutions to squeeze out all of any advantage they might offer.

The one I've chosen, built and seen to operate best (for Sandy Bridge) as an editing suite is:

- Intel i7-2600k unlocked CPU @ 3.4Ghz (up to 4.8Ghz O.C.)
Built-in Intel 3000 Video Accel'd Graphics on die (via Virtu)

- Asus P8Z68-V Pro Sandybridge Z68 Mainboard LGA 1155
Featuring: LucidLogix's "Virtu" iGPU graphic Accelerator for nVidia/ATI Cards
Featuring: Intel SSD Rapid Storage Technology, DIGI/VRM Dual Processor
Audio 7.1/24bit/96Khz, Intel Gb Hi-Speed dynamic LAN, on-chip Intel RAID

- 16GB (4x4Gb) Corsair Vengeance 1600 XMP DDR3 Ram

- nVidia GTX 560Ti-1GB Direct CU II 850Mhz OC.
Aluminium Core Shield w/ dual whisper quiet fans
CU Solid Copper heatsinks and heatpipes.

- Corsair H60 H2O Closed Loop CPU Cooler
120mmx30mm Radiator w/ 2x120mm Variable fans in Push/Pull

- RaidMax 1000w PSU w/ modular frame cabling (Gold 80 SLI)

- Ultra MD3 Front Panel
Audio i/o w/ LCD combined Front panel, Black Edition
Dual variable speed adj. of front intake fans
CPU & Sys mainBoard digital temp displays
2x USB 2.0, 2x eSATA, 7.1 HD audio
52-in-one Flash Card reader/writer

- 2x TSST CD/CD-RW/DVD/DVD-RW/Virtual drive, Black Edition
Optical disk ROM Reader/writer w/Ram Disk

- 1x Corsair Force 3 60Gb SATA3 SSD Drive (Win7 cache)

- 3x WD Caviar Black 1TB SATA3 HDD w/64MB Cache

- 2x WD Caviar Black 750GB SATA2 HDD w/32MB Cache

- Hauppague HDTV PVR-1600 DVR w/dual Digital tuner
all band - ATSC/NTSC/QAM/CQAM/FM radio
on-chip Mpeg2 & sw Mpeg4 HD/HDTV encode/decode/record

- Antec 300 Armour Black, Mid-Tower Gamer case w Quick SSD mounts.

- Samsung Blu-Ray DVD 7.1 Digital Home Theatre package

- 2x Samsung 26" T260HD 16:10 PC Monitor & ATSC/NTSC/QAM/CQAM Tuner
Max Res. each 1920x1200x60Hz / Power sleep and unified TV/DVD Samsung remote.

Flat out.. kicks butt, renders fast, previews fast (low res) and builds some very nice eye candy.
I would say build this puppy, you'll be glad you did. I know I am.

Every single item has a purpose and the proper end-user configuration of all this is not quite a simple one.
Once acheived - It does perform easily, quickly and accurately.

If you do build it. I'll offer to help you set it up properly for editing. Just too much to detail here on Tom's

- How's that?
December 16, 2011 8:21:10 PM

Sounds like a plan.

Can you elaborate on how you have the drives set-up? You mentioned Raid-0. Does that give you a performance boost when reading/writing files, or is it just to get a larger apparent drive size? I assume you have two of the 1TB drives in a Raid-0 and two of the 750GB drives also in Raid-0?
December 16, 2011 8:31:41 PM

That is correct. Throughput that can keep up with the elevated math handling operations at render require at least 2 HDD's in raid 0. Keep Windoze (pun) on a separate drive which also includes the application installs also.
December 16, 2011 9:02:09 PM

To address some the other questions -

By all means max the ram. I have Windows limited to see only 12GB of ram. The other 4GB is a dedicated ram drive space.
This space is configured at boot load to cache After Effects and eyeon's Fusion wares individually (never need both at same time).

The game here (editing & rendering) is "facility" & "throughput". Combine those properly and things get easy real quick.
December 16, 2011 10:31:31 PM

I probably would not build any Ivy Bridge system - yet.

It would be at least another year or perhaps more before most software would catch up to it. I would stay with Sandy Bridge until Ivy has been in the consumer pipeline for a year or two. When they do catch up to it, I'm sure it'll be even better for VFX/editing.

For current consumer software, it looks to me like Sandy Bridge for a couple of years.
December 16, 2011 11:56:51 PM

So any thoughts on quad core vs. hex core? For example, videoguys recommend the i7-980 (hex core) and they are also looking at the i7-3930k (hex core). The other advantage to these would be the triple-channel or quad-channel memory, wouldn't it? Seems like I could fill an i7-980 motherboard with 24GB (6 x 4GB) and a the i7-3930k motherboard with 32GB (8 x 4GB). Would that be a help?
December 18, 2011 4:32:37 PM

Hex, that would do nicely. Certainly its an option. I'd say the i7-3930K. Simply because you can expand the OC's extra headroom as long as temps are under control. If you do OC, at least a 240mm Radiator (H-100 or equiv) and 4 fans should do for this one.
Engineering in the video software for a Hex core (SB-E) is not much differant that a Quad. So, It should do well.

The i7-2600k follows a close 2nd after OC. As to the cost, I see that one as a better choice - strickly based on cost/value ratios.
To me, these are quick enough to keep up with how I think & work. And to be able replace it.. if need be - is no brainer.
And replacement is very much something one needs to consider. Rare, but oh so real a possibility. I've worn out many past machines both cheap & spendy types. I'll stick with cheaper as long as I know I can achieve performance improvements over what I'm using at a particular time. Knowing I'm building at least two machines (usually 3), Im covered.

Me, I tend to think of and use dual multitask systems. Thats is 2 or 3 machines identical. I can use one when the other is busy.
I've worked this way for so long that I really only think of multiple machines when building my systems. I consider my 3D & editing suites as a dual pipelined systems tied to common external fast storage along with, their individual system storage needs met.
And this extends even into 3D or Rendering. Used as a networked rendering farm when I don't need more that one machine to task with while I render some final composition together. The 3 system environment is truly the way to go (for me).

Also, consider that flash memory is now so cost effective, I tend to use 16GB & 32GB compact flash & SD cards a lot, going back and forth. These make for some quick & easy RAM drives as needed and 2x16GB and 2x32Gb get the job done well between 2 identical machines. Now I know most people who don't need this type of arraingement may think it's over kill but the productivity is my main concern after "Facility & Throughput" needs are met. Certainly this qualifies well in such an environment.
December 18, 2011 4:48:31 PM

Best answer selected by VeedyO.
December 18, 2011 4:50:16 PM

I think I be exploring the i7-3930k route... but I may now wait a few months to see what prices do on the motherboard and the CPU.

Thanks for all you time on this.
December 18, 2011 5:58:53 PM

You're Welcome,

Be sure that you have at least selected a MB with enough USB and SATA 3. Plan for 6 drives. 1 SSD and 5 HDD's
Since you'll use 2 step-sets for read & write and 1-HDD large capacity with the SSD for the system image & software.

Add some SD flash cards w/ a hardware reader-writer, and you'll be very pleased I feel with the single system environment.