Requirements for Video Editing
June 7, 2016 2:21 PM   Subscribe

I'm learning to edit video and high-res pictures for a new project, and can buy new equipment. I'm reluctant to blow the bank for an Apple laptop, though! What are the minimum requirements for video editing for a new laptop (i5, 4GB RAM, etc)? Any recommendations? (Most of the material will be for web display.)
posted by johnsohl to Computers & Internet (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
An i5 and 4GB RAM will do it, but you may need to turn your preview quality down, and some transitions may not preview smoothly, if at all. Render times will take a very long time if you are doing HD-web and any video over, say, 10 minutes long.

An i7 and 16GB RAM will do better. Even better will be a discrete nVidia graphics card if you are using software that will utilize the GPU (CUDA).

Video editing and hi-res photo editing take tons of power/RAM/video to do in a satisfactory way. Of course anything less will definitely do it, just in a more frustrating way.

My video editing machine can also play any current game at mostly highest settings, yet it still isn't enough for my video editing desires. I have an i7, 16GB RAM, dedicated 980 (with 6GB video), and three SSDs in RAID, and I *still* have preview quality issues and transition issues if I don't pre-render, using professional-level editing software (Sony Vegas) on Windows 10. But I do big projects, though, where rendering in 1080p (for web, not Blu-Ray) can take over 90 minutes for a 40 minute clip.

On my i5, it took 3 hours to render a 30 minute clip in standard def, though, so my current rig is better...
posted by TinWhistle at 2:59 PM on June 7, 2016

Here are the minimum requirements for Photoshop and Premier.

Many new laptops that you buy will hit these requirements. The question is how fast do you need to be able to turn around videos and photos. If you can hit the render button on a video at the end of the day and come back the next day to a rendered video, then a cheap machine will be fine. If you have to have videos render in 20 minutes and get them published you'll need a much more expensive machine.

I would not buy an Apple machine for this, they tend to not have a great performance to price ratio. If you can buy (or a build) a desktop computer rather than a laptop for this you'll be much happier with the performance to price ratio.

Since you're learning, I probably wouldn't buy a new computer right now; wait a few months and figure out exactly what specs you need for the machine. That way you won't over or under spec a new machine.

Check out some powerful and expensive laptops here.
posted by gregr at 4:19 PM on June 7, 2016

I've made plenty of 1-5min videos on those specs [i5, 4GB, no SSD] and less, and as stated, the only real issues are the occasional iffy previews, and not-quick renders. You can extrapolate from there for your requirements - long/complex movies? Add RAM. Need quick renders? Up the CPU and RAID your SSD's or something. If you can share some project details and budget, you could probably get the hivemind to go window shopping for you. (Because yep, custom built will get you better power to price for something like this.)
posted by quinndexter at 11:46 PM on June 7, 2016 [1 favorite]

I'd say your biggest benefits will come from having a high amount of RAM, an SSD, and a solid CPU to work with, in that order.

Why? Because with shorter-length videos to work with, your rendering/encoding times will be more marginal a consideration. I'm presuming most of your time will spent in the editing stages, in which you'll do a lot of read-and-write and memory caching direct from the hard drive. You'll want a snappy CPU, but I don't think you necessarily need to go for a discrete graphics card; any and all upgrades, towards, say a six-core CPU or a separate GPU, would mostly only improve multi-threaded processing, and the speed in which you could spit out a draft video or finished product when you're done with the work you're doing on it.

Firstly, shoot for 8GB+ RAM when you look. 16GB would be preferable, but you can check the model directly to see whether it's upgradeable at the Crucial parts-checker website. Being able to make the jump to 16 would be the best $100 investment you could make for your new machine, as you'll find the performance gains incomparable if it's not up at that level already.

SSDs - especially the M.2 technology variant - are where your goldmine is for whip-snap operation. Even just a traditional solid state hard drive can make a several-years-old computer feel new again; you're essentially not waiting for a spinning disk to reach its target, and are able to access most all of your drive contents near-instantaneously. The only problem is that mostly these drives are still rather expensive... but the return-on-investment is significant enough in my mind that it's worth a hearty recommendation. You'll likely need at least a 512GB SSD to do what you need to do for shorter videos, and you'll want to look into an External HDD, possibly RAID'd, for archival purposes - either Thunderbolt or USB3.0. Are you open to replacing a drive?

You could also go the route of having an OS-and-programs SSD (about 128GB would do you) and a normal HDD for your main storage, and you'd see similar results, but you'd need to find a laptop that was able to take in two hard drives. Certainly possible, but be advised that they're a rarer breed than most. For video editing, however, I think it could be worth it.

An i5 could be suitable; I'm not saying that it will be, as I think you'll find a four-core i7 to be much more where the money's well-spent: but I don't think you necessarily need to look into a super-high-end GPU or a six-core i7 to take your videos to task. Do go ahead and nix any and all i7-xxxxU processors, though, while you're at it; you're dealing with the Ultrabook line, then, which plans more conservatively around reducing CPU clock speed when it can be in the interest of saving battery life.

Please feel free to MeMail if you have any questions or thoughts along the way, or if you need advice when choosing a model!
posted by a good beginning at 8:25 AM on June 8, 2016

I edit video on a laptop with those specs and I hate it. It's SOOOOO slow and waiting even a second between clicks and edits significantly slows me down.

You can't have too much power/RAM/space when it comes to video editing. Go for as much as you can possibly afford. Photoshop, After Effects, Premiere...they all need serious machines to do render quickly.

My current machine has taken 40 minutes to render a 4 second clip in AE. Nothing serious - just some basic effects on text layers.
posted by guster4lovers at 10:53 PM on June 8, 2016

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