Video Editing Hardware: What You’ll Need To Get Started

Graphics, Audio, Video I/O And Monitors


Five years ago, your editing system's graphics card would have been picked based on graphics quality and enough on-board memory to run your monitors at their native resolution. Now, if your editing software supports GPU acceleration, you want a potent graphics processor to take full advantage. Some solutions only use the GPU for encoding and decoding video. Some employ OpenGL to accelerate effects. And others (Premiere Pro in particular) use CUDA and/or OpenCL to accelerate certain features.

AMD and Nvidia each offer certain strengths and weaknesses in the workstation world. Both support OpenCL, though. If you look at each software developer's recommendations, however, a great many recommend Nvidia's GPUs for their applications. Check the ISV's compatibility list to make sure your GPU is supported.

If your application does utilize CUDA or OpenCL to improve performance, then consider adding a second GPU to the machine. Not in SLI or CrossFire, though. You want it to operate independently. If you're elbows-deep in accelerated effects and working on one GPU, you may run into problems with UI interactivity as your sole graphics card is slammed by the software.


Especially under Windows, your integrated audio codec isn't going to be sufficient. On large projects, with a lot of audio streams and effects, at least consider a professional audio interface that uses ASIO to reduce latency. If you are shooting dual-system (recording your audio separately from your video), having large latencies in your audio can make it difficult to precisely synchronize the tracks. And if your video has stereo audio, you're going to need two outputs. If you're mixing surround sound, that requirement grows to six (5.1) or eight (7.1) outputs.

Video I/O

For truly hardcore editors, you'll need actual video I/O hardware. It used to be that one of the primary uses for these was capturing from tape. But with tape-based workflows falling by the wayside, they now function as a way to output your project for preview and final viewing. On a higher-end setup, you may want a separate monitor for previewing video. Depending on your software, you'll either require a dedicated hardware I/O card or use one of your graphics board's outputs for this task.


In this case, we're referring to screens. Audio monitors are another can of worms entirely. Assume that you'll need high-quality IPS-based panels at the very least. And it's recommended that at least one of them natively support your final output resolution. If you're doing serious professional work, you should be looking at monitors with 30-bit-capable panels calibrated to match color. You may even want to use a pro-level monitor made specifically for this. But be prepared to spend thousands of dollars, especially in 4K.

  • qubits
    software responds to more cores.. ok the i5 can be comparable with the high ipc to a fx 8-core but what the i5 lacks in comparison is in prime numbers and floating-point math.. no?
  • qubits
    i decided to compare synthetics
    i5-4950 and fx-8350 score close in floating-point math and prime numbers but the i5 falls short with a overclock
    fx-8350 destroys i5-4950 in integer math, sse, compression, encryption, physics, and sorting
    i think the fx-8350 may get the job done a little better than the i5-4950 as a pure editing build but the i5-4950 would win to double as gaming and editing plus you got a i7 to upgrade to so after some thought on it i could back you on the suggestion but i dont think a fx-8350 is something to just cast aside as a option.
  • CaedenV
    I came here to tear this apart, but am pleasantly surprised to find that this article is very well done and practical. About the only two nit-picky things I would point out is; that to do the actual editing you can do just fine (at least for 1080p editing) on the entry level with an i3 processor and onboard Intel graphics. Yes, you are not going to get much in-software acceleration for effects, and your export may take a little time, but it is more than enough power to import your clips, set your cuts and transitions, and export overnight effectively on the low end for those starting out. Certainly you would want to move up to an i5 with whatever GPU acceleration is supported by your software of choice ASAP (especially as your income comes to depend on it and rendering time begins to cap your income), but to say that it is required for an 'entry level' system is really underestimating what a modern i3 can do.

    The other little point is that I would never be able to suggest a single HDD even on the entry level. Your storage drive should at least have a RAID1, or you should have a nice fat USB3 external HDD or NAS of some sort to off-load video. Drives fail, it is just a fact of life. But drives are also cheap, and just about every board under the sun comes with a basic RAID controller. I would much rather spend $75 on a 2nd 2TB drive for the worry-free uptime that it brings to the table than $150 on a GPU that is going to have minimal impact on the editing process, and merely accelerate exports which are likely going to be done at the end of the day and are much less time sensitive (at least when starting out). Faster exports are a nice perk, but catastrophic drive failure is catastrophic.

    Still, great article, and full of great information that is sorely lacking in the forums.
  • edwd2
    The Xeon E3-1231 V3 is priced at around $240 tray is the equivalent of an i7-4770 without the iGPU and is compatible with any LGA1150 motherboard. It games and renders better than both the non-k i5s and the FX-8350. It's really the best choice if you're looking for a balanced and reliable multipurpose work and gaming rig.
  • Duckhunt
    You can get a phone now that is 4k.
  • Duckhunt
    I have a 4k smart tv.

    It is much better on my eyes.

    I am trying to say that 4k video on a phone has been done and you can upload it to the pc. Then we have folks talking about 1080p video editing? Are you kidding me?
  • TheFluffyDog
    You dont need a 4k monitor to produce 4k content. When you zoom in on a 1/4 section of a frame on a 1080p monitor you will be seeing a 1/1 pixel ratio. Meaning, when you view the whole frame or the whole clip, you just won't see it how it will look, however you can still edit and render full 4k content.
  • silverblue
    "Most editing software responds well to additional CPU cores, and as a result more cores are preferable to higher clock rates. A caveat: most of the calculations for video rendering are floating-point math. And in most cases, the audio is calculated in floating-point as well. Sorry AMD fans. Those extra integer cores won't help much here."

    The following results may not serve to prove your statement wrong, but will show that it's not a universal truth:

    There may be a question over the amount of power used for the work done, however.
  • harley2ride
    It would have been nice to see a little more information. IE: Capture device recommendations, and a list of softwares would have been nice. Doing mostly my own videos and doing some for friends and family, I use an ADS PYRO AV/Link, and my softwares of choice are Pinnacle Studio Ultimate for simple stuff, and Sony Vegas Pro for stuff I want to look more professional.
  • Demianra
    You can make a review for video editing of Windows vs OSX covering quality, performance and price?