Building a video editing PC:Knowing your beast(Part 2)

So you wanna build a beast ey?

Dear Readers,

  By the time, you read this post, I could've possibly met with an accident and fail to write my part three...or simply would've already been in the making of the part three of my series(of the same name) So while I'm still able to, I'll go into this article like it's the last day of my life. If my opening paragraph is too much for you to bear, I suggest you close this tab now...and never think about visiting this post...ever ;P

Why so bleak you might ask? You see...building a pc for the creative professional is an expensive endeavour. And like all of us 'poverty stricken' individuals, this is a luxury we can barely afford. Even when you get to build your beast(PC), you'll soon realize then that you're now fully trapped in the vicious cycle of late night editing and unhealthy snack lifestyle. We're building our own curse, they say.

You know, in the olden days, artists used brushes and chisels for their masterpieces. Nowadays, artists use a different tool for constructing their masterpieces: enter the computer.

It's faster and convenient. Imagine doing incredible things that could possibly change the world in one seating! I dream of world peace and human innovation in a current world full of constant repetition. I'm sure you all have ambitions too,no? After all, we creative professionals are all game changers, are we not?:)

So you can imagine my dissapointment when my Imac starts to get slow on me. If you've read part 1 of this series, you'll know that I went searching high and low to get my Imac 'expanded' to suit todays' creative needs. My Imac is 6 years old, has 4gb of ram, 300gb of HDD space and an old graphics card which doesnt support CUDA(not to mention it's 256mb only). Worst is when the Imac leaves you no room for expandability.

My Imac is almost phased out, if not already and if I'm lucky, can only cost max up to SGD$400 :(

Looks slick & thin right? how in hell are you going to expand on this 2013 imac in the future?

MY CURRENT SYSTEM


At the moment, I'm surviving on my imac. Using as little ram and making sure I end unnecessary tasks on my imac so as to not lag the system(activity monitor). Here's the specifications for my 2008 imac:

My hardware specifications. I'm actually proud of my processor:)

So this is a fresh Premiere project with no footage bins yet and not rendering anything. Just running chrome & Premiere along with the other necessary computer crap takes more than half of my ram.

My Imac is old, but through constant maintenance and careful use, is still able to give me quality service. Why am I complaining you wonder? Here is my gripe: 

Painful rendering times for videos. Not only that, I've to usually end all other tasks to avoid potential crashes. 
And in video editing, there's no such thing as too much RAM is it? but here's the problem. I'm bottlenecked because my RAM slots are fully upgraded @ 4gb. I'm only minimally maximising my 64bit system.



I could totally do with more ram, rendering is killing me! but how can I do so?

I've upgraded my ram capabilities to it's max:(
For those of you that don't know it. A 32 bit system only recognizes less than 4gb even if you have 4gb of ram installed. A 64 bit on the other hand, recognizes 4gb of ram and above. It utilizes all of your ram. Hence, you won't be bottlenecked. There's an article online between 32 and 64 bit, which could help.

Here's another issue I face:

My graphics card is ancient. Radeon HD2600 pro is a mid level card for the 2000 Radeon series. It's 7 years old and is the lesser 256mb. It doesn't utilize CUDA(only Nvidia can). My CPU can only handle so much.See how Nvidia's CUDA boosts editing on Premiere Pro. I haven't started talking about After Effects yet.

My graphics card. You can check yours on gpureview.com
 I like Macworld's explanation on how to upgrade your graphics card. I LOL-ed on this one. Short and simple. No beating around the bush.

"In the vast majority of cases, you won’t be able to upgrade the graphics card on your Mac.  Sorry about that."  -MacWorld
So mac users, if this is not enough to convince you to close this tab...read on. Brave thang' you are.

The last trivial thing I have to complain about is the hard drive space on my imac. It's wonderful when I bought it back then in 2008. Now though, I usually find myself running in circles always trying to make sure there's abit of "buffer" space for my mac. So I usually use an external hard drive to solve this issue(more on that later).

Temporary Solutions To Permanent Problems

Most mac users find a workaround with this issue by simply buying a new imac every few years, or combining their imacs with a mac pro. I'd reccomend buying a new imac every few years as a better option. If you're like me and need to do fast editing of a morning footage for an evening event, you'd want your baggage to be as light as possible. Less wires the better. And this is a plus point for the imac really. Easy to setup and tear down...just like a monopod, no? ahahahah;D

Drilling home my point, an imac over a mac pro is a cheaper choice. But it will be more expensive in the long run...at least you can afford to throw abit of your money every two years than to be stuck with a mac pro that offers limited expandability and is bulky(monitor and mac pro). And all of this at a premium price about more than twice of an imac.

That's why if you already have an imac, it's good to maintain your imac. I keep upgrading my OS, installing updates, do regular disk checks, upgrade ram whenever I can, ensure sufficient storage, quality checks and all that kind of stuff. But then again, these are just temporary solutions.

Constantly make a habit of updating your software

Some softwares need manual updating

Do a disk check regularly, especially after "house cleaning" your imac

Monolingual helps cut down space alot by deleting all your softwares' multi-languages

Cutting down applications you don't need in activity monitor helps alot

Some apps open on login which actually slows down system. Nip the problem in the butt.
Leaving many widgets on kills your system. I've disabled my dashboard
All the solutions mentioned here are not ALL the solutions you can find off the internet. There are still alot of other solutions that have helped me. For example, although not mentioned above, I've tinkered around alot with terminal to do system checks,  to kill widget, to increase performance etc.

Ok. so back to topic. If you're like me and can't bear to buy a new imac every few years, then you'd want to build a computer. Besides, your PC components won't be dictated by a manufacturer. Your components are only what you need.

And so, begins my quest to look for a new computer. Checked online and found a better alternative. Why not build one instead? You get parts you specifically need while also leaving room for future expandability.

*Note*: You must be aware that building your own pc has no warranty, it's at your own risk. If you're just casually using your computer, then building one wouldn't be necessary as the PC DIY scene is not economical anymore. That being said, imagine the satisfaction you can get from powering on a pc you just built?;)

Researching my components

Looking that I'll be using Adobe suite software, I'd need cuda from nvidia cards. It's reccomended to run on a 64bit system. This also allows for more headroom for ram space to work it's magic. But all this tech talk I will go into deeper the more I go into the build.

I went into this build thinking alot about expandability capabilities and faster video rendering speeds as well as faster storage. Then the second thing, I'd think about is how to budget the parts that I buy. I could spend lavishly though, but that wouldn't be useful in reality...at least, not yet.

*Note*: The items stated here are new as of October 2013. If you're reading this in 2014, this might still help. If you're reading this in 2015, well...you could find a more recent article. Also, my chosen items are restricted to it's availability in Singapore. If you plan to ship your items, then you could be extravagant with your list. I personally don't like to ship electronic items because it's no guarantee. It would be a hassle to resend any unsatisfactory items.

Motherboard

Most people I know would want to start with choosing all the components needed first before they get a mobo that can suit all of their components. Any way is fine, because in the end, you're probably gonna take a step back and soak in all the parts you'd wanna get and check whether they're compatible, right? So this is not an issue. Alright, so....

Choosing the mobo for me took the longest time, essentially because I'd want to leave alot of room for future expandability. I had two top requirements initially, but then decided to go all out on 'expandability': 

  1.  Haswell chipset supported...because it is the dawn of the fourth gen processor era.
  2.  Thunderbolt ports. This is for fast external storage and I foresee this as a future link between PC and macs...somehow.
  3. SLI support. Leaving enough room for future. Also, if the board accepts crossfire too, that'd be great:)
  4. RAID supported. well, cause...ya never know when you'd need to use 'em.
  5. Since we have RAID, we just need to make sure we have more than enough SATA ports on 'em. Preferably Sata 6Gb/s.
  6. Ram slots. The more slots, the merrier. If you have been reading around for tech stuff like I have, you'll know there's no such thing as too much ram for content creation. 
  7. Windows 8 ready....and also windows 7.
And so, after all this searching and surfing, I figured the best one for me would be the Asus z87-Expert mobo.(Pictured below)

Asus Z87 Expert. Haswell. Thunderbolt. SLI & Crossfire. RAID. 8 Sata 6gb/s. 32gb ram.
Motherboard overview
Some of you might be wondering why this mobo when I could be looking at the Z87 deluxe dual or quad mobo. Well, my answer is... my budget doesnt allow for that kind of luxury. I got what I need with the Z87 expert. For those with a little more cash to spare, should wait and pounce straight for  the Z87 Deluxe quad when it comes out. It is equipped with two thunderbolt 2 ports. I highly reccomend.

Pictured below are all the other motherboards that fulfil my requirements but aren't my choice. Just for your consideration:)

They are in no order of importance:

Asrock Z87 Extreme4/TB4

Asrock Z87 Extreme 9/ac

Asus Z87 Deluxe Dual

Asus Z87 Deluxe Quad. It's coming out soon. Keep a lookout for it. Thunderbolt 2 ports!


CPU

Intel CPUs are my pick for this battle between them and the AMD. I love their hyperthreading and power that it gives...but if budget is a problem, perhaps amd could be for you. I'll explain the reasons though for my choice:


  1. Intel CPUs are known for their hyperthreading capability. Which means it's able to have multiple threads running on each core resulting in more productivity.By splitting the processing work on certain programs, it can do multiple tasks better at one go. Too much of it though, is not needed as programs that don't utilize it wont get to use the cpu to it's full power.
  2. Intel CPUs have more processing power. A single intel core's performance relative to amd also is a plus point. Multi threaded applications will instruct it's programs to split the work to each core/thread but the catch is that, the tasks that the program splits will require different processing power. If task A is intense than the others, it will still result in the program being slow.
  3. Lastly, my motherboard cpu slot is made for intel. but this is a small problem. The big issue though, is motherboards made for amd have alot of limitations in terms of ports and expandability.
My pick: Intel i7-4770. This version is not to be confused with the unlocked version of the processor. 
Despite great reviews for the 4770K variant. Sadly, I will not be willing to risk stability and money for enhanced power which I don't need. 4770 already gives me power with extra margin to work with, thanks. Just wanted to get it off my chest.

That being said. AMD does provide multiple cores for cheap. The downside is that AMD is reknown to be relatively slow in processing per single core. I didn't want to risk it in this department, therefore, I chose Intel.

You can check this link


On another side note, Adobe does say that it's After Effects CS6's multi-processing option can only run via physical cores and not virtual. Thus, if AE is your main bread and butter, AMD's FX8350, 9370 & 9590 could utilize this software....if, intel's 4 core cpu is not good enough for you. Price is also a good plus point to consider this. Be aware though, that the motherboard to suit this cpu may not be what you want.

Look at all those eight cores!


Oh, and by the way, making a move to Intel 4th gen CPUs(Haswell) is a reasonable move for me because I come from an imac with the old intel core 2 duo. If you're on Ivy bridge, the move to Haswell is not much improvement. Just so you know.


VIDEO CARD

Ahh...Unless you're into 3D animation-intensive stuff like modelling and animating, you don't need the best video card. One thing to note though is that, you do need a minimum. Therefore, it's not necessary to get 6gb memory size, but essential to at least get 1gb. So...here's my list of the minimum requirements for my video card.

  1. Memory size(Vram): 2gb is enough for me. 1gb minimum for everyone of us.
  2. Memory type: As of this moment, GDDR5 is the latest, and combines best of GDDR3 & 4.
  3. Core clock: Basically, the more you have, the more it can perform. Example, 500Mhz equals to 500 million simple operations per second. Less if you are running complex operations.
  4. Is it SLI capable for Nvidia cards? Is it Crossfire capable for AMD? whichever you use
  5. Ports: It is important for me to have a HDMI and DVI port.
  6. Can your program utilize your video card well?
Adobe has provided a list of video cards compatible for it's GPU acceleration which should be checked out before you purchase a video card. These are cards with cuda in them that has been tested successfully with Adobe software, namely Premiere Pro. Also, they align with the mercury playback engine. Expect smooth playback and scrubbing, which is something essential for me since I like to go over a few segments over and over. MPE runs on both physical and virtual cores.

...And so, judging from the little choice that I have here in Singapore, I've gone with Asus Geforce GTX 680 DC20- 2GD5. Pictured below.

2gb Vram. GDDR5. 1019Mhz core clock(w boost potential). HDMI. DVI. HDCP.SLI
1536 Cuda cores. 
Some of you might be wondering...why not the GTX690? or any of the quadro series. Well, truth is, simply whether your budget can hold such a card. In my case, I can't dish out that much, but if your building a massive workstation and use AE more than Premiere, you could consider those aforementioned cards. Be aware though, that Quadro cards actually have lesser cuda cores. I've already asked Adobe about this....but still no answer. I could contact Nvidia, but from where I am, I have no way to contact them. Here's the transcript between me and Adobe.

Transcript between me and adobe. Will someone please help me get Nvidia's take on this too?
Other cards to consider are:
*Note*: At time of writing, the GTX700 series are NOT yet the under the supported cards for adobe software utilization.

  1. MSI GeForce GTX 680 Twin Frozr 2GB DDR5
  2. Nvidia GeForce GTX680 reference Card
  3. Asus GTX690 4GD5
  4. Quadro Series cards

STORAGE DRIVES

 If you have alot of money to spare and think that storage read/write speed and space is a complete must(which I know most of you think so), you can consider building a RAID system using SSDs. RAID 0 SSD will make your write speed instantaeneous, but at the cost of security. RAID 1 SSDs are well...waste of money. RAID 5 SSD combines the best of both worlds. Check video below for RAID explanation.


7200 RPM disk drives are a must

Ok so, for storage disks, here are my considerations:


  1. 7200 RPM HDD(or faster SSD)
  2. A few drives for Software & operating system, Source media & Project files, Exports & Media cache.
  3. These drives must be 6gb/s SATA compatible.
I'm getting the 256gb. Here's the specifications



I felt that this SSD was the best bang for buck SSD out there in the singapore market. Besides, this drive is going to be used for installing Software and Operating system in my pc. It's fast and is 6gb/s SATA capable. If you're scouting for SSDs in Singapore, you might wanna try to check these also:


  1. Corsair neutron GTX 256 gb
  2. Sandisk Extreme SSD 240GB


Here's the specification for this HDD. Seagate ST500DM002 Barracuda. SATA 6gb/s.
This baby runs at 7200RPM and provides the cheapest price for HDD. I chose 500GB because budget constraints do restrict how much I can dish out since I'm buying two of them. Also, I might go RAID 0 on these, so I'd want to not keep all my eggs in one huge basket. I already have a usb 3 1TB external drive so to get too much at the start would hurt my wallet alot. One HDD would be for Source media & Project Files, while the other would be for Exports & Media cache.


RAM MEMORY

Over here, there's no such thing as too much memory,no? How I choose my memory cards is simple:


  1. See if it is compatible with the motherboard
That's all there is to it. Example, I know my motherboard has 4x 240 DIMM pin with a max capacity of 32gb ram. Memory type it accepts is DDR3- 1333, 1600, 1800,1866, 2000, 2133, 2200, 2400, 2500, 2600, 2666, 2800. Supported voltage is 1.5v.

All that's left is where your loyalty lies. I personally like Corsair vengeance. Plus, the reviews on it is not too bad.

Here's the specifications for this bad boy

Then there are other minor things, like heat spreader. This is a matter of choice. One thing to note though is that I ran into abit of trouble with RAM cards' voltage. Because my mobo can support 1.5v and below, those RAM cards that exceed the voltage will run slower, so becareful.

If you're into luxurious spending and is not limited to only singapore retail RAM cards, you could consider a higher memory type rate. Mine's 1866, perhaps you could go 2800 to max out your RAM capability...but I think those would require a higher voltage though. Again, check your compatibility using pcpartpicker.com. 

Note: It is important to get more than 4GB at least. A 64bit system is able to recognize 4GB and above to utilize it. This is also a reccomendation from Adobe themselves to optimally run their software.

Oh and by the way, you could check some RAM cards from G-skill. Particularly the Ripjaw or the Sniper series.


POWER SUPPLY UNIT

There's not alot of hype when it comes to PSUs. It's often the most overlooked or underrated item in the pc components list. What many fail to realize is that A good PSU gives constant power to your system. It powers each and every one of your computer components, from motherboard, videocard...everything. It is in it's essence, the heart of your computer. So, this item should be picked carefully, just like how the rest were chosen. Here are the things I look out for in a PSU.


  1. 80+ certification. Proves to me that these PSUs were quality tested by professionals.
  2. Above 700watts. At current, my whole system runs at 422watts without any fully adding more storage and videocards(although it could). Always leave more room for future expandability.
  3. Modular or semi modular. This means that your wires could be packed more easily. It might not seem like a big issue, but when your whole computer needs to get constant cool air flowing through it, its much better to have your wires neat and tidy to avoid any restriction to air flow.
  4. Noise level. I've worked with a few computers with insane noise level from their PSUs. It's not pleasant and frustration can often lead to less productivity...but this is just my two cents.
  5. Price. Off course I don't want to be spending a bomb for a PSU. As long as I know I need and what I don't, choosing a cheap 'bang for buck' PSU is the way I'd like to go. Off course, don't compromise the things you are looking for in a PSU.
Here's the specifications for my choice. Cooler Master Silent Pro M2 720W
With all my pc components, I'd roughly need 422Watts. More for expandability.
But off course there are other better options out there. For example, you could pick only the best PSUs out there with the highest wattage and what not. Ultimately it's for your system. I've stumbled upon a video by youtuber group; indy mogul that discusses on reccomended PSU brands. In the video, Jordan reccomends Corsair or Seasonic PSUs. I'd highly recommend you check out these PSUs:


  1. Corsair HX750
  2. Seasonic X850
  3. Corsair HX850


You could find more interesting advice on pc parts from here. This was also one of the influencing videos while I was researching for pc parts.



CPU COOLING

I'll just mention this first: I will NOT be overclocking my cpu nor is my cpu chosen with overclocking capability. For those that do, will want to check out the overclock variant of my cpu, i-7 4770K. For me, consistent performance trumps higher performance at the expense of stability.

That being said, you could use the stock cooler if you're on a budget. This provided you can bear the noise level and is not just purposely stressing your pc all the time for the fun of it(yes, I do have friends who do that).

Unfortunately, This is where I'm stuck at. Should I or shouldn't I buy an aftermarket cooler? So I decide that I should not take any chances. By the way, you should check this forum post on this issue.

I'm not choosy in this area, as long as it is compatible with my cpu socket, I'm fine with it. But,here's what I look for in cpu cooling:


  1. Compatibility with cpu socket. You need to see if it fits on your cpu. Snugly.
  2. Noise level. After all, I'm getting an aftermarket cooler, might as well it be silent. This is not a priority though
  3. RPM speed. The faster the better.
I didn't go all out for this. So I chose the one most reviews reccomend. Cooler Master Hyper Evo 212. This thing is quite huge though, so you should consider your configurations. Some ram cards might find a problem fitting in, when this bad boy is inserted.

Looking pretty


MONITOR

What better way to end this article than with the very very important monitor! You and I both know that this is our make or break. What people see as a luxury, is a must, in our work. While people want a monitor that produces vibrant colors, we want a monitor that produces accurate colors. We want a monitor big enough so we could have a few windows in that big space. Some of us want two or three monitors even!

We love our monitors! Here are some of the things I look for in a monitor.

  1. IPS technology
  2. HDMI 
  3. DVI
  4. 23" above.
It seems there's alot of hype for creative professionals to get IPS monitors. Essentially what they are, are these monitors have (1)wider color gamut to display the extended colors of adobe rgb, and (2) wider viewing angle means that the colors on screen shows accurately no matter which angle you look at it from. Despite that being said, the IPS monitors do suffer from slower response times compared to the usual TN monitors that consumers always use...but i usually decide my colors still-frame by still-frame so there's not an issue here. There's quite a fair bit of articles online to share more of this technology.

IPS monitors are essential especially if you're doing a multi-setup.
Points 2 and 3 wouldn't make alot of sense to alot of people(or at least I wouldnt think so). HDMI and DVI are interchangeable. It's one and the other most of the time. So what's the deal here though? Well, I chose to have a dvi and hdmi input because to have two is better than to have one.

And the last point...simply because bigger is better. More space for more windows operating at once. If you're using Premiere or FCP, it's just better to have more space on screen.

Here's my pick, the Asus VS239H.

Yep, bigger is better...especially for a monitor.

I wouldn't wanna cram all of this on a 17" screen
Other great big monitors which I think could be a lifesaver is the (1)Acer H236HL and (2)Dell U2312HM. I feel the differences between these monitors and the Asus VS239H is negligible...but then again, don't let my decisions affect you. Try researching first before you dive into it. Lastly, I'd just like to throw it out there: Note to self, please calibrate monitor before use. Thanks.

CONCLUSION


If you pay close attention, you'll realise, I left out two last components to my pc: the case and an optical drive. I'd like to leave this last two components to taste, because I can't dictate what people would like to get. It's not that it's not important, it's just that it's not AS important as the rest. Nevertheless, I'll just keep you informed on these components and what to look for.


  • PC case: Design is hugely up to preference. What to look for is the build quality and whether the form factor fits with your mobo. Oh boy are there alot of ugly designs out there! I got an Antec GX700, just so you know.
  • Optical drive: If you're me, you'd like to build a dvd duplicator instead. Then again, if you're not looking at daisy chaining your dvd duplicator system, you should look out for whether it writes Blu ray, it's read/write speed and whether it's gonna fit into your pc case. It's also good practice to check on the build quality. I'd try my hand at the Asus BW12B1ST.
I hope that helps you as well as the future me(just in case he needs to refresh his memory on what each individual component does). That being said, calculating the total amount of money I'd need to build this system is SGD $2700++! and I'm not building the optimum system, so there...that's the forwarning to all of you who'd want to build a pc. Do take note that prices can and will fluctuate. At least no one will have to sell his kidney for this build. 

The last and final part of the "Building a video editing pc"series will contain the build process itself! So stay close for that article:)



© 2013 Fadly.M.H.Wychowvski
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