What specifications would I need on a desktop to edit 1080p HD Video?

I'm a video editor. I purchased a camera recently that films in 1080p HD video. I currently edit in Sony Vegas on a Windows 7 machine, that was fine for standard video, but I need a more powerful machine to edit in Sony as it lags massively skipping many frames at a time with this laptop! What are the components of a good HD-Video editing computer? Is it ram, graphics card, processor that enables it to run these video editing programs in order to edit HD videos? If so, what are the requirements or minimum specifications you would suggest?

Thanks all!

1 Answer

  • 9 years ago
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    1) There are two routes you can go, you can either get a traditional desktop PC, or you can get a workstation. A workstation is basically a mix between a server and a desktop that has special features that PCs don't, most notably the ability to use multiple CPUs at the same time, SAS, etc... They are also slightly more stable than desktops. If money isn't a concern, and you want professional level editing and speed, go with the workstation. If this is just for personal/hobbyist use, go with a desktop. I'll describe the desktop approach below, but you can research the workstation option from those more knowledgeable in workstations than myself.

    2) In any video editing machine, you'll want lots of brute force. That means lots of threads/processing power and lots of RAM. Get as much RAM as you can get, 1600MHz minimum speed. 16GB is probably the minimum I'd recommend for 1080p editing, but you can go up to 32GB or even 64GB. You'll also want as many threads as possible.

    The Core i7-2000 series and 3000 series CPUs offer anywhere between 8 and 12 threads, depending on the specific model (4 core vs 6 core, 2 threads per core). Opt for these CPUs if possible. If money is no issue, the $1000 Core i7-3960x is the best money can buy right now for desktops. Next best is the i7-3930k, which offers 95% the same performance as the $1000 CPU but at half the cost. If you are on a budget, I'd recommend the ~$330 Core i7-2700k or i7-3770k, which offer about 75% of the $1000 CPU. If you are really on a tight budget, a comparable Core i5 would do as well. No matter what, try to get an unlocked k-series or x-series CPU. These will allow you to overclock your CPU to get extra performance. Make sure the motherboard you get is compatible with your CPU.

    3) (optional)

    If you want to take advantage of Intel's QuickSync technology, you will need a motherboard that can do so, as well as a CPU with a GPU. Z68, Z75, and Z77 motherboards offer this technology. A graphics card isn't really necessary for video editing, since the best video editing software brute forces the encoding via software, and not hardware. Hardware encoding (Intel Quicksync, AMD APP, NVidia CUDA) can reduce image quality. The only decent one is Intel's Quicksynce, which I've already explained.

    4) Also, invest in a good RAID setup. This is often the most overlooked aspect of a video editing system. Storage is the biggest bottleneck in modern systems. What good is a $1000 CPU if it's being slowed down by a poorly performing HDD that can't deliver data fast enough?

    I'd recommend RAID 10, since you will get both redundancy, and a nice performance boost. However, for such a setup, you will need at least 4 identical storage devices. You could also go the RAID 0 route, but you won't get the redundancy of RAID 10.

    Western Digital RE4 drives are good, as well as Samsung Spinpoint F3s and F4EGs. Avoid Western Digital Caviar Black drives: they are excellent drives, but they don't support RAID. Avoid other brands if possible. Western Digital has the best reliability by far, followed closely by Samsung, although don't wait on Samsung, since they were just bought out by Seagate. Obviously, you'll need a lot of space for raw videos. Buy as much as you deem necessary.

    If money is no object, you can just get a huge RAID 5 array of SSDs. With good enough SSD storage, you can edit 1080p in real time or better. SSDs are about $1/GB at the time of writing. SSDs also don't need RAID 10 or 0 to boost their performance, which allows for maximum efficiency of space, while still getting performance and redundancy via RAID 5.

    5) Make sure all your other components are suitable as well. You'll need a reliable PSU, a motherboard with all the proper connections and slots, optical drives (if necessary), a good CPU cooler for overclocking, and a good case with plenty of airflow. All in all, the minimum would probably be around $1000 for a Core i5 based system or $1300 for a Core i7 based system. Obviously, the sky's the limit if you want to go higher.

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