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THE BASICS OF A FAST VIDEO EDITING PC
A Simple Guide

In the last couple of years, cheaper internet has made audio-video entertainment accessible to more and more people. Youtube and other video streaming platforms like Twitch have made it a lot easier for common people to approach video shooting and documenting their daily lives. And not just individuals, even corporations have learned the value of video campaigns for their business. There’s a good reason why video marketing is at an all-time high.

No matter what your actual work is, whether shooting high-quality 4K travel vlogs, modern visually intense music videos or shooting corporate grade footage on cinema quality cameras, you need a production machine to handle all the storing, editing and exporting of these videos. Having a reliable and fast machine in your stable allows you to focus on the business side of the work. You can handle more video projects at the same as you don’t have to keep on waiting for that editing PC to finish the export. Load up the files, edit the flow and export it in the highest quality all in a snap.

But What Makes a Good Video Editing PC?

It is a lot easier to build a powerful video editing machine today than it was a few years ago. You have so many options in terms of components which makes it easy to make a system that matches your needs exactly. And you don’t have to spend a part of your fortune to build a fast system.

For the people who want a simple but limited option, you have the Apple Mac lineup. The entry to a Mac ecosystem is easy but not cheap. You are also limited in terms of hardware upgradability and options. But there is plenty of documentation and support for it making the approach a lot simpler.

On the other hand, people who consider value for money or the best money can buy options, custom video editing PCs are the ones to choose. The options available can be a little overwhelming but the overall customizations that you can get from a custom PC are unmatched. Some applications can only be utilized to their full capabilities with a proper custom PC.

A good video editing PC has three main components – A powerful CPU, plenty of Memory and fast storage. If you have these 3 components sorted, your editing experience will be as smooth as silk. But don’t forget about the other components as well.

We will tell you all about what a fast video editing PC needs to have the best editing and exporting times possible. Let’s start with the Processor first –

PROCESSOR

The processor is a vital part of any video editing rig. The processor will largely determine how smooth and fast your editing experience will be. For the most part, this is where you should start your build. Changing and upgrading your other parts is easier compared to a CPU so be careful with the choice you make. Let us put it simply for you –

Effect of Core count – The number of cores affects the overall exporting or encoding time and will also make it easier to playback high-resolution files at full quality and FPS. For example, a quad-core CPU will be slower than a 12 core CPU when dealing with overall render times.

Effect of Core Frequency – The core speed helps in handling effects like warp stabilizer, text effects, animations, and other simple tasks. This is why you often you see even a fast quad-core beating a low-frequency high-core count CPU when it comes to effects.

A high core count (8+) CPU with decent core frequency is ideal for 4K level video editing. For higher resolutions like 6K/8K RAW and high compression rate files, more cores always help. When working in professional environments, you don’t just open one application and run it when working with bigger projects. More cores allow you to do multiple things at once.

But there are diminishing returns to go with extremely high core count processors (over 18 cores). The current bunch of video editing applications is not yet ready to properly utilize the core heavy processors. Though, having more resources in your hand is never a bad thing when the next higher core count processor is just a few bucks more.

There are also two other things to note. The first is the format and the Video editing suite that you are going to use. Some media formats perform better on certain CPU types. This is not a big factor but if you are working with a particular codec or media type, you should keep this in your mind. For example, if you are going to work with a lot of .r3d files from RED Cameras, you are better off with the AMD’s Threadripper platform. If you are working with other codecs like the standard ProRes and other common codecs, any system will do the job. Similarly, a highly compressed video format will be harder on the CPU.

Then comes the video suite that you are going to use. Believe it or not, this can have a great impact on the overall performance and selection of the processor. For example, Premiere Pro does not efficiently utilize an extremely high core count processor (+12 cores) so even an 8 core Intel or AMD will do just fine in simpler scenarios. But add in additional plugins, multiple effects, multiple layers and you will see the system strain.

There’s another small point to remember with your CPU choice. The CPU platform that you choose for your system will greatly affect the amount of RAM that you can put into your system. The mainstream desktop models from both Intel and AMD support up to 64GB of RAM. If you need more than that then you will have to move the HEDT options like Intel X299 and AMD X399.

 

Intel vs. AMD

While the end to the AMD vs. Intel debate is nowhere in the sights, AMD with their recent CPU efforts have given us more points to defend the Red team. The Ryzen and Threadripper platforms, undoubtedly, have pushed Intel to be less lazy with their releases. So how is it?

It will take a complete article to explain all the fine details. But to understand it in clear terms, if you want an affordable platform and absolute bang for your buck then it is AMD. If your every second count and the difference of 1-2 second can mean a huge loss to the video editing business then you should consider Intel. AMD has the core advantage which means you will get faster exporting and decompression performance. On the other hand Intel has the speed advantage which means some things are just inherently faster on an Intel processor.

But truth to be told, at the higher end of the spectrum, both are equally good now. Both Intel and AMD has compelling options in the higher end processor market. AMD Threadripper platform gives you the power of extra cores and PCIe lanes at a lower cost. On the other hand, Intel X299 gives you plenty of advanced connectivity options like Optane and Thunderbolt.

MOTHERBOARD

While the motherboard does not significantly affect the overall speed of editing, if at all, it still plays an important role in an editing machine. The most important role of a good motherboard is to remain stable even when pushed to its limits and providing enough connectivity options to handle a project of any size.

In a professional level video editing station, multiple devices are connected to the system. Having more ports to work with is always a delight.

The best part of choosing a motherboard is the number of options to choose from. The worst part is same, the sheer number of options, which in all honesty, is a little overwhelming. Depending on the processor, you choose the platform and within that platform, there may be different chipset options, different size variations, and different connectivity options. In the end, you want to have the most value-oriented option that will provide you with enough connectivity option and stability without breaking the bank.

As long as the motherboard has enough storage connectivity options and VRM circuitry options to handle continuous operations, it can be considered a good base for video editing. Additional features which make for great video editing machines is the availability of fast Ethernet options plus ample direct use USB options and advanced connectivity options like U.2 and Thunderbolt connectors.

RAM

The choice of RAM is relatively simple when compared to other components. The capacity is purely dependent on the projects that you work on. Larger the files, the more RAM you need, to an extent. If you predominantly working on 1080p videos, 16GB RAM is the bare minimum. As the resolution and size of the videos increases, the more RAM you need. 32GB is the optimal amount for any serious 2K/4K editing machine. If you are moving into the RAW 6K/8K footage, you are looking at minimum 64GB if you want the smoothest workflow possible. 128GB is not hard to imagine on most single CPU based 8K video editing workstations.

Other than the capacity, there’s also the speed factor of RAM. It can be read in two terms, Latency and the Frequency. Frequency is the MHz number you see in the model name. Latency is C/CL number that you have with RAM. A high frequency and low latency is the best combination. It essentially determines how fast your RAM should be. Faster ones are expensive.

How do they matter with video editing? Not significantly,

It is easy to go deep into the discussion of the RAM timings and frequency optimization but let’s leave that to a later stage. All you have to know is if you have the budget to go for the faster RAM, then do it. They usually have better quality IC and also have better designs. Anything more than 2400 and better than cl15 is good point to start. 

STORAGE

Undoubtedly, the most neglected part of a video editing PC is the storage. People always talk about fast processors, multiple memory modules but rarely pay attention to the storage. When dealing with large, uncompressed RAW video files, you have more chances of running into storage bottlenecks. The loading, trimming, and editing, process sees a huge boost when you include fast storage in your setup.

There are three primary types of storage in the video editing process – The boot drive, the mass storage, and the cache/scratch disk. The boot drive houses the OS and applications that will be used during the process, the mass storage is used for storing completed projects and the scratch disk is used as a cache file to store the temporary previews.

The optimal setup will be a full SSD setup. It will be fast, reliable, silent, power efficient but crazy expensive. HDD setups, on the other hand, are cheap, available in many sizes and most reliable. The main con is the speeds at which they operate. Even the fastest single HDD in the market usually does not go over 300MB/s. Even the slowest SSD is at least 400MB/s.

The best middle ground is using a hybrid setup, combining the benefits of both the technologies. We recommend a fast boot drive (SATA SSD), a large archival storage and an ultra-fast scratch disk (NVMe SSD).

Other advanced options for storage include using standalone or network RAID setups which are always needed depending on your use case scenario. Professional work demands NAS setups to aid in backup and sharing work between teams. They are expensive to set up but can be very beneficial if you have the budget to spare.

If you want to know more about the storage options, then BHPhotovideo has written a great piece on what options you have for video storage options for video editing studios.

GRAPHICS CARD

Surprisingly, a graphics card is not the most important bit in a video editing PC, at least yet. Instead of actual processing units, graphics cards are used accelerators for video previewing and encoding. But does not mean you should ignore the importance of it completely. You will see the effect of faster card when scrubbing through the timeline, applying multiple visual effects and post processing applications. The more complex you make your project, the better utilization of the GPU.

With GPU acceleration, you can usually cut the exporting time in half. And this is true for both mid-range and higher end cards. A 1060 6GB can perform just as well as the GTX 1080 8GB when exporting the video. This is good news as you can now choose a mid-range card and higher end processor which is much better combination than a mid-range CPU and higher end GPU. But the area where you will notice the difference is scrubbing and working with higher resolution RAW files. Even though the actual rendering times might be the same, something like a GTX 1050Ti 4GB does not have the processing power to handle real time editing of 8K RAW footage when compared to a GTX 1080 8GB.

When choosing the video card for video editing PC, the VRAM is important to consider. The higher memory capacity will allow the GPU to handle higher resolution footage in real time, making for a smooth and lag free editing. Generally, following VRAM capacities are recommended for working with different resolutions –

1080p – 4GB

4K – 6GB

6K – 8GB

8K+ – 10GB+

You can bypass the limitation of your GPU’s processing power by using proxies and caches but having a fast enough card at your disposal is always a great starting point. Overall a mid-range card with good VRAM is more than enough for most users working with 4K or less. If your budget is less and still want to work with high resolution files then you should work with proxies and caches for a while.

POWER SUPPLY

Fortunately, the choice of PSU is simple. Calculate the total system power consumption and buy the one that can support it. It is almost that easy and we are being serious. Apart from the usual power rating, there are a few things that you will have to look into. These include the number of connectors and the efficiency rating of the power supply. Yes, there are many other features as well but if you are getting it from a reputable manufacturer, these options come standard.

The PSU should have enough connectors to power multiple graphics cards, storage units and other additional components that you add at a later stage. A large video editing station can easily pull over 500W to 600W at full load. 1000W supplies with loads of PCIe and SATA connectors are common in video workstations.

When you are rendering a lot of videos day in and day out, your PC will guzzle power. These speeds can run at max speeds for hours. Having an efficient power supply can reduce your power bills to some extent. It will not cover the costs of running the system but when you have multiple such systems in your premises, the savings surely add up.

But don’t stress about the titanium and platinum efficiencies too much. As long as the overall build quality and the power output is reliable, there will be no problem with even affordable power supplies.

CASE

Choosing a case for any kind of PC is a personal thing. Looks, performance, and function – all have equal weight. You don’t want to skip any single point. But because we are talking about some work here, let’s put emphasis on the functions and performance first.

Big video editing workstations need big cases. All that storage media needs to go somewhere. Either you can set up a separate storage server or you can do it all in a single tower. The latter is the more convenient and cheaper option for most users. You don’t need to have a case that can house 12 3.5” drives unless you are setting up a proper server but a case with 5 3.5” bays is a great start.

The other equally important factor is the cooling potential. When you are stuffing your PC with the absolute fastest components, you need to have a way of cooling them. And a good case can really aid in it. A case with multiple fan options with unrestricted airflow path is the way to go.

Two or three hard drives in a case is not a big concern. But when you have 6 hard drives, 2 graphics cards, a workstation grade CPU, RAID NVMe drives, multiple extension cards – the things can get a little toasty. You will need a case that can pull in lots of air and circulate it without any problems.

Many cases since the last couple of years have downgraded in both these aspects. To pursue a cleaner and minimalistic look, companies are pushing cases with fewer hard drive bays and close off solid panels. This may look clean and modern but can pose some issues when building a workstation level video editing systems. Only a few options provide the luxury of both cooling and storage options. There are surely a few, but the list has shrunken a lot in the few years.

But don’t think that we are against the smaller cases. We believe, they do have their place. In fact, if you are working in a video company, where storage servers and client PCs are a thing then it makes more sense to go for compact systems. Many components now have smaller variants like M.2 SSDs, mini graphics cards, compact liquid coolers, feature rich micro-ATX motherboards and SFX PSUs. With components like these, you can have a small client system with enough power to churn through the editing and have a separate server to handle all the storage.

And if you are just starting out with video production then don’t fret. Most mid-tower cases are good enough to handle ample amounts of storage because of the readily available high-density solutions from storage manufacturers. 6TB, 8TB, or even a 10TB hard drive is just a click away.

There are some other nice to have functions too. Having multiple current-gen IO ports, integrated fan controllers, sound dampening, tool-less assembly are just some of the stuff that you should have in a high-quality case. Just a reminder – RGB is not effective in giving you extra FPS in rendering, unlike gaming. Thank you.

COOLER

You have two major option with cooling your processor. You can stick with the traditional but highly-effective air cooling or go for a little more sophisticated liquid cooling. Both have their pros and cons but let’s just briefly discuss the features.

Air cooling is affordable and almost fail-proof. But scaling its performance means introducing problems of dust and noise. Liquid cooling can be cooler and quieter if you are ready to take the custom loop route. But it is expensive, time-consuming, and a little more risky to set up. The closed-loop liquid coolers offer a nice middle ground for the work as they are easy to set up and most reliable but can cost a lot more depending on the model you choose.

Even for most advanced users, a high-end liquid cooler or air cooler is more than capable of handling the temperatures of CPUs. But do note, for better temps, you need bigger coolers and in turn, you will have to go for a case that can easily fit in such bigger components.

ACCESSORIES

With the major components out of the way, let’s talk about some additional accessories that can help you in the video editing process.

For the peripherals, a keyboard and mouse suited for long hours of video editing and is a great addition. In a keyboard, having dedicated macro buttons for binding key actions and shortcuts can greatly increase your overall speed of trimming and cutting. A backlight is also good to have to churn out those videos late at night. There are certain keyboards in the market with features like adjustable rollers which can be configured to perform a certain function in the editing application. You don’t actually need a mechanical keyboard with but a keyboard with adjustable software settings is great for increasing productivity.

For the mouse, the two thing that matters the most is the overall ergonomics and the precision. It should feel comfortable in your hand and be accurate to get the job done. For the bells and whistles, you can have a look at the mouse with multiple, software adjustable buttons which will allow you to customize and add macros. You can even take it to the extreme by picking up an MMO gaming mouse with over 15 customizable buttons. There’s also the option of going completely wireless. Modern wireless mice are lag free, have great battery life, portable and can be had for cheap.

In terms of audio, unless you are doing some proper sound editing and mixing, the onboard audio from most high end motherboard is good enough to produce high quality work. The new codecs on higher end boards are on par with some entry level dedicated sound cards.

Now for monitoring the sound, a good pair of monitors or headphones is hard to beat. Sound monitoring can get really expensive depending on the equipment you use so we don’t suggest getting too deep into it if you are not doing sound recording full time.

Wrap Up

 

Buying a prebuilt system like Apple Mac or HP/Dell Workstation is always a simpler approach. Just place your order and you have the product. But you end paying a lot more buying the system. You can easily get the same or better performance for a lower cost by going with a custom video editing PC. You also have the advantage of customizing the components to suit your needs and requirements. And in case you feel the performance is not up to the mark, you can simply upgrade without affecting your overall build.

But we also understand another important point. Everyone does not have the time to dig through performance benchmarks, reviews or case studies to find the perfect component. This is where people like us come in. We, at Hardware Mana, provide complete solutions for your video and production PC requirements. We have the expertise to build custom PC systems that exactly fulfils your needs without costing a bomb.

This is not a definitive guide at all. There are many other things to discuss. We plan to bring in such information at regular basis. The discussions on the exact components is always chore. There are so many variables that need to be taken into account. This article will be further developed with component specific recommendations.

If you are interested in a video editing PC then contact us today at +91 9876499728 or info@hardwaremana.com. We will be more than glad to help you!