What desktop PC works best for video editing?
July 22, 2008 10:54 AM   Subscribe

I looked around and didn't see anything that asked this question. I respect this community and thought it could help, as I feel overwhelmed. I am looking for a desktop PC that will help me edit my home movies. I have Sony Vegas 8 and a HV20 HDV video recorder, both high end stuff. My current PC does not seem to be able to handle the heavy lifting of editing and storing. I have 1200 dollars to spend, and I am not sure what media center type PC works best for what I want to do. Googling the net just gives me varied opinions from thinly disguised salesmen. Thanks for any help or advice.
posted by Senator to Computers & Internet (16 answers total)
What is your current PC, and what OS are you running?

Seems like if your PC is reasonably new, it could shoulder the video-editing load with just extra memory and perhaps a nice external hard drive for storage.
posted by Rykey at 11:56 AM on July 22, 2008

i agree with the person above, instead of getting a new pc. add some memory and hd and you should be good to go, most memory cost under $200 to upgrade and newegg/tigerdirect will get you a hd for under $150

Media center type pc have nothing special in them.
posted by radsqd at 12:04 PM on July 22, 2008

Yeah depends on how old your system is. Old = AGP graphics/IDE drives = harder to upgrade. Newer = PCIe, SATA = easy to upgrade. Unfortunately the memory for the older systems seems much pricier than for the new ones. Hard drives are pretty cheap though either way.
posted by Big_B at 12:14 PM on July 22, 2008

I think we need a bit more information to give a complete answer. Adding RAM and a new harddrive may be sufficient but video editing and rendering are CPU-intensive as well. Knowing what you've got is important in order to figure out whether it's cost-effective to upgrade it or whether a whole new computer is in order.

Even if it's a brand-new computer, though, you can easily find something that will work well for under $1,200, especially if you're able to reuse your current monitor.

Some other resources I would recommend if you're looking at complete systems are the reviews at PC Magazine and PC World. Many of the more specialized tech sites review only components, which may not be helpful to you if you're not building something yourself.
posted by camcgee at 12:23 PM on July 22, 2008

I do a lot of video encoding and cutting, the main bottlenecks you will run into are CPU power and hard drive speed. That said, I just picked up a Dell Core2 Quad 2.4/3gb/500gb for $500. That should suit you nicely (may be a bit overkill) and you can pop in another hard drive to do raid0 if you need the performance.

I'm not affiliated with Dell.
posted by wongcorgi at 1:15 PM on July 22, 2008

I noticed that you're editing Hi-Def (specifically HDV) video. This requires considerably more processor power than standard def.

According to the minimum system requirements for Sony Vegas you need a "2.8 GHz" processor for this. Remember, that's a minimum requirement, not the ideal standard. I use Adobe Premiere Pro which lists an 800 Mhz processor as the minimum requirement for editing standard def video (which is what I do with it). While it might very well run at 800 Mhz, I've never tried it and don't want to. I run it using an AMD 2800 processor, which is about three times more powerful, and still sometimes find myself wishing I could upgrade. Moral of the story: shoot for more than the minimum. You'll need it.

The problem is that I don't really know what "more" than 2.8 Ghz would be in this case. Processors have gone through a lot of changes in the last few years and I haven't kept up. They have duo core and quad core models. Clock speeds (Mhz and Ghz) don't tell the whole story anymore. You need advice from someone familiar with the current crop.

I can, though, show you this.
It's a chart comparing the performances of various processors as they encode video. The fastest processor on the list is more than four times faster than the slowest processor on the list. So there's a fairly wide range of performance out there.

Again, please get advice from someone who knows more about this stuff than I do. When talking to them, explain that your software lists 2.8 Ghz as the minimum processor speed and that you plan to exceed that by a healthy margin. This person may want to know whether it has to be a duo core processor or a quad core, whether it has to be an X2 chip or whether it makes a difference if it supports 64 bit. You'll have to tell them that you don't know; the system requirements don't give any further details.

Once you've got the processor question resolved, you can start worrying about the other specs.
posted by Clay201 at 1:33 PM on July 22, 2008

Key points for editing boxes: RAM (more the better) and HD speed (minimum of 7200 RPM).

Also, try to avoid putting your video clips on your system drive as that will cause i/o bottleneck on that drive as the OS runs the editing software while also trying to read/write the video.

If you go with an external drive, use either a SATA connection or firewire. USB can clog up with the type of throughput you'll be generating.
posted by trinity8-director at 3:42 PM on July 22, 2008

$1,200? You could get a PowerEdge SC1430 (E-Value Code: productdetails~pedge_sc1430 - bscwfk1) with two Xeon E5310 processors (that's 8 cores) for less than that if you can order from their small business division.
posted by PueExMachina at 4:14 PM on July 22, 2008

Thank you for the responses. These are my specs on my 3 year old PC.

AMD Athlon XP 3200+
2.19 Ghz, 1.00 GB of RAM

I have a 1TB (2 500GB) external drives on an HP Media Vault where I store all my video.

I don't know my HD speed.

I appreciate all the helpful comments so far.
posted by Senator at 4:37 PM on July 22, 2008

Running MS XP Home Edition SP 2
posted by Senator at 5:55 PM on July 22, 2008

Key points for editing boxes: RAM (more the better) and HD speed (minimum of 7200 RPM).

Yes and no. For HDV on a system with "normal" amounts of RAM, your processor is going to be the bottleneck. If you're using the HV20 and want to use the 24p "feature" you'll need to perform inverse-telecine conversion on the video, which is extremely processor-intensive. You will certainly need at least two gigs of RAM. Just about every hard drive out these days is 7200 RPM--you'd know if they were faster because they'd have cost more.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:18 PM on July 22, 2008

Thanks for the additional details about your box, Senator.

That machine has a very limited upgrade path, mostly because your motherboard is probably a socket 754 (though possibly a 939). You'll want to upgrade the processor but the processors that will fit in that socket will not be justifiable performance improvements given on what else is available in the market.

The internal HD is probably 5400RPM, but most retail PCs will include 7200RPM as a matter of course. 10,000 RPM HDs are more expensive and it's unlikely that you'll find a machine in your price range.

I should say, though, that if you're editing video while it's sitting on the external harddrives, then that's a big source of slowdown right there -- you'd get an immediately noticeable performance boost by moving the files you're editing to the local HD while you're working on them.

As far as systems go, I would recommend 4GB of RAM, 7200 RPM HD, and an Intel Core 2 processor (Q6600 would be my personal choice but anything in that line will be a big performance boost over your current system) for the processor. Here's a chart showing the performance of a selection of Core 2 processors in video editing compared to your Athlon 3300+ (lower is better). Obviously there is a lot of price variation as you increase performance, but Dell, Gateway, and HP all have builds that will be similarly priced with similar configurations.

The main caveat here is that buying a new computer right now means changing operating systems. There are only a few systems that are still sold with XP and there is a price premium (Dell, HP, and a few other retailers still sell computers through the "small business" portal on their sites, but you won't find it in the home PC market).

You can buy an OEM XP install disc and "downgrade" the OS yourself, but that's going to be another $100+ to the price of a system that will come with an OS already installed. If you hate Vista, or think you're going to, then it might be worth it to you.
posted by camcgee at 9:15 AM on July 23, 2008

FYI, here is a great resource for questions about your HV20 camera. I have found it very helpful.
posted by BozoBurgerBonanza at 10:41 AM on July 23, 2008

Also, back when I got my HV20, I read a great article by a guy who had one. He was having a lot of trouble with getting his system (much better than yours or mine) when he was editing a lot of the HDV quality video, but it ran perfectly when he shot standard definition. I know it kind of defeats the purpose, but perhaps that is a short-term solution.
posted by MrZero at 6:24 PM on July 23, 2008

I have had to send the HV20 twice to the manuf. in the first year. It has the best look I have ever seen from a low end (1000K) video camera but seems to be made of glass.
posted by Senator at 6:49 PM on July 23, 2008

If anyone followed up, I went with this:

It came with a 24'" LCD monitor - all for 909.00 at Newegg.

Brand HP
Series Pavilion Elite
Model M9150F(KC880AAR)
Recommended Usage Media Center / HTPC
Processor Intel Core 2 Quad Q6600(2.4GHz)
Processor Main Features 64 bit Quad-Core Processor
Cache Per Processor 2 x 4MB L2 Cache
Memory 3GB DDR2 667 (2 x 1GB & 2 x 512MB)
Hard Drive 720GB (2 x 360GB) 7200RPM SATA
Optical Drive 1 HD DVD player
Optical Drive 2 SuperMulti DVD burner with LightScribe Technology
Graphics NVIDIA GeForce 8500 GT graphics card with 256MB dedicated video memory, TV-out, DVI, and HDMI capabilities with support for Microsoft DirectX 10. Up to 1535MB Total Available Graphics Memory as allocated by Windows Vista
Audio High Definition audio
Ethernet Integrated 10/100/1000Mbps network interface
Wireless Card Wireless LAN 802.11 b/g
Keyboard HP wireless keyboard with extended range (up to 16 feet)
Mouse HP wireless optical mouse
Operating System Windows Vista Home Premium
posted by Senator at 5:10 PM on July 24, 2008

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