dog at keyboard.jpg - Help me figure out how to order/build a pc
August 6, 2012 4:48 PM   Subscribe

You know the meme of the dogs who have no idea what they're doing? That is me trying to order/build a video editing/gaming PC. Need help or directions to a good source of same.

I am a FCP editor looking to teach myself Avid and other PC editing programs before the winds of the professional world change entirely. It doesn't have to produce broadcast quality work at lightning speed, just for practice and small projects. After years of being PCless, I would also like something that can handle the likes of Skyrim with some higher quality mods.

That is what I know. I can get around a computer all right once it's running, but I don't have the slightest idea what's going on looking at tech specs and product lines. I am also sure if I were to try and build myself I would forget some essential part. Ideally I would like to pick out the core parts online or from a local retailer (Toronto) and have them assemble it into a functioning package. I'd like to price out under $1000 if at all possible.

Avid Media Composer 6 system reqs:

Computer: Avid-qualified Windows-based computer2
OS: Windows 7 Professional SP1 (64-bit) (Still need 32-bit? Learn more about Media Composer 5.5)
Processor: Intel Core 2 Duo 2.33 GHz processor or faster
Memory: 4 GB of RAM (6+ GB recommended)
Graphics card: NVIDIA Quadro FX family3 (FX 560 or higher recommended)
Internal hard drive: Minimum 80 GB 7200 rpm hard disk

Skyrim Hi Res Texture Pack reqs:

Processor: Quad-core Intel or AMD CPU
Memory: 4GB System RAM
Video Card: DirectX 9.0c compatible NVIDIA or AMD ATI video card with 1GB of RAM (Nvidia GeForce GTX 260 or higher; ATI Radeon 4890 or higher)

I start to look for the parts these require and my brain starts turning to mush pretty fast. I don't know what lines are better than others, and what substitutions can be made, or anything, so picking it out all on my own doesn't seem to be an option. Can anyone suggest a build or direct me to a web community or computer shop that would work with me to figure out what I need? The communities I've stumbled across like Reddit's r/buildapc don't seem super newbie friendly.
posted by yellowbinder to Computers & Internet (9 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm sure you know this already, but Avid Media Composer can run on Mac also. And in fact most of the Avid editors I know use it on a Mac. If you want to get a PC for other reasons, that's obviously totally fine, but I don't think the platform switch is necessary (or even wise) from a professional standpoint (learning Avid and probably Premiere also is a great idea, though).
posted by primethyme at 5:00 PM on August 6, 2012

I'd find a build guide. The ones I've used in the past were Ars Technica or Anandtech's, but it looks like those haven't been updated in a while. I found this one while Googling, and it seems decent to me. You can obviously mix and match stuff to your needs. Most new builds stress getting an SSD instead of (or at least in addition to) a spinning disk , for what that's worth. Your reqs are pretty tame, so even the budget builds of any new desktop will be okay.
posted by thewumpusisdead at 5:12 PM on August 6, 2012

Do you want to learn how to build systems, or do you just want solid custom PC?

If the latter, you're better off going someplace like NCIX and buy one of their pre-built custom desktops.

Win7 x64 will run all 32 bit programs. You'll want the 64 bit version to be able to take advantage of >4GB of RAM, of which you'll want at least 6GB.

Slight problem with the Quadro FX requirement for Avid Media Composer - make sure that the model you have supports DirectX 11 for gaming.

You'll want at least an i5 processor. Once you go SSD, it's very hard to go back.

The people at NCIX are good/friendly - perhaps send them your requirements and they'll recommend something for you.
posted by porpoise at 6:42 PM on August 6, 2012 Go to their guides section, and start reading.

Here is their updated recommendation's page as of July 2012.

They have many other guides as well, although sometimes you have to dig your way through their layout to find them.

They're willing to talk to you on the phone if you have questions.

They also have occasional great deals -- like when Final Cut X came out, and Crossgrades were being offered for half the usual price by Adobe Premiere and Avid, trying to woo away disenchanted users.

On the other hand, their recommendations may take you well over that $1,000 limit, but it's still a good place to start learning what is and isn't possible.

Cyber Power PC - And here's a place that will let you configure a computer and build it for you, if you decide you don't want to assemble it yourself. They're geared towards gamers, but as it happens, a lot of the specs you want for gaming you will want for editing.
posted by instead of three wishes at 7:02 PM on August 6, 2012

So, it sounds like you want to build this yourself - its really not all that bad.

First, Find a Build Guide. Any good one will have a list of all the major parts you need and the reasons why they chose them. Tom's Hardware is arguably the gold standard for gaming. Tom's Hardware does a really nice system build guide a few times a year. That's their June one, and they do a 500/1000/2000 dollar PC build. Their focus is typically more on gaming, however they do do some encoding tests as well. In addition, they do lots of hardware reviews and comparisons, you can usually look at a linked review and find out why they chose that part against the competitor. In this case, I would probably swap out the graphics card with a Nvidia GeForce 680 - it was having availability issues in June can be found pretty readily now, and is a better performer than the linked radeon. Note, they do leave out details like fans, you may or may not want more (or quieter ones) depending on what your case comes with. Similarily, feel free to swap out the case from an aesthetic standpoint, and choose a new one based on size/noise factor/prettyness. They also dont include windows (~75$)

Then, order it online - in the states, Newegg and Tigerdirect are a good place to order from in the states - they dont always have the absolute cheapest prices, but they will be pretty close barring super sales and have great shipping and customer service. Not sure how they work for you folks up north. Try Amazon too. Typically US retailers like frys or microcenter will have a bit more markup than online, plus sales tax. On the otherhand, easy to return.

Basically, for the core specs in the toms guide would cover all of your needs that you have listed. If you can push your budget/find deals online so that you have a bit extra cash, I would suggest a couple of upgrades, otherwise no worry. In order of preference, upgrading to an Intel Core i7-3770K (~150 extra over the i5) or a SSD for windows + editing programs and maybe skyrim (probably a 128Gb Samsung 830/Crucial m4/Intel 520) (~100) would give you the most bang for your buck. The reason why I suggest it in that order is that it is probably cheaper to do the CPU now than later, and you are much less likely to upgrade the CPU in the future (expensive, more involved breakdown of the PC, have to replace a component rather than just add a new one) than add a SSD which are a newish technology still making rapid improvements and dropping down in price/Gb. Also, Its relatively trivial to throw a new SSD in and reinstall windows on it, although honestly its probably a bigger performance boost short term. Alternatively, if you have a current computer with a decent HD that you are scrapping (7200rpm and SATA 6 Gb/s, throw the old HD in your new comp and get a SSD. And upgrade the CPU.

Finally, find a guide on how to put it all together. Actually, read/watch these first. Newegg has a youtube series, and Toms Hardware (again) has an article. They are a year or two old, but not much has really changed. Get an anti-static wrist-strap and ground it, maybe an anti-static mat if you are paranoid. Don't build it on carpet. Touch the case or another ground often, and before touching silicon. Tough the green bits not the metal bits. You might need to use a little force, but you'll never force things in.

Feel free to memail me if you have more specific questions, although disclaimer really I know gaming/number crunchers rather than whats best for Video Editors or the wisdom of mac switching for them. Ymmv.
posted by McSwaggers at 9:44 PM on August 6, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks very much for answers so far!

I was semi open to building myself, but I think this time I'll just go with ordering a custom built machine. I know I would forget something obvious but not mentioned in specs like the fan or Windows as noted by McSwaggers.

Yes I could run Avid or Premiere on a Mac. I have a MBP circa January 2009 that runs FCP 7 ok but seems to be getting a bit sluggish at times. I'm not interested in a new MBP and a MacPro is out of my range. I also miss the freedom of PC gaming after a few years of PS3 and Mac (ha), so that's a large factor.

Thanks porpoise for the NCIX recommendation, I took a quick list and I like their interface, very easy to pick a build and make substitutions. I will dig in deeper over the next day or so and contact them if I am having issues.

Thanks again, if anyone else has ideas keep them coming!
posted by yellowbinder at 6:34 AM on August 7, 2012

If you end up building it yourself, places like Canada Computers in Toronto tend to do better price-wise than the Canadian versions of Tiger Direct or Newegg.
posted by thecjm at 11:22 PM on August 8, 2012

It's rather late and you may have already ordered, but if you are interested in building your own PC here are 2 indispensable resources:

PCpartpicker will take you on a fairly straightforward path on selecting only compatible parts, and giving you the current prices from most referenced vendors.

/r/buildapc will 1) supply links to reference documents in the sidebar, 2) provide builds that you can use as a base, 3)a knowledgeable community that will review your selections.

pcpartpciker also provides reddit style markup of your build for easy posting an reddit, and most folks on r/rbuildapc use pcpartpicker for reviewing builds.
posted by lyam at 9:45 AM on September 10, 2012

Response by poster: Thanks! I ended up just buying a $1250 gaming machine off, a little higher than my initial plans but I looked at so many rigs and it was the best for my needs. I tried to price it out on some other sites but couldn't manage to make a cheaper one and at some point just wanted to get on with it. It's working out very well, I've got my Skyrim modded up and running like a dream, and although I didn't get a Quadro card Avid MC 6 seems to be working just fine for my purposes!
posted by yellowbinder at 4:24 PM on September 10, 2012

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