The Build it Yourself Edit Bay

Build your own computer


Not exactly....

Tim Trott's picture

While the basic information is fairly solid it's clear that there are some personal preferences and opinions showing through. For example, throw in 3D and a lot of what was represented may no longer hold true.


The race between Intel and AMD has been going on for a very long time. The I-7 is currently in the lead, but the top performer comes with a price tag of almost $1000 per copy, while the AMD competitor is about a third of that. But the race has been like leap-frog, and rumor has it that AMD has an I-7 "killer" very close to entering the stage. Heat is another consideration. Heat is a prime factor in chip failure and the I-7 generates a lot of it.


Moving to software, in the face of the golden opportunity presented by the dumbing-down of FCP, Adobe has dropped the ball in many respects, with diminished support quality (Malaysia), increasing bugs and defects (Premiere's unexpected codec issue with Nikon video in CS6) and just plain missing pieces (the templates and buttons in Encore). While their software still has room to grow, few companies can match the support level provided by Grass Valley for their Edius 6.5 - 3D "Edit Anything" product.


Nvidia's support is also superior, and I would add the Quadro 4000 to the suggestion list.


I concur on the suggestion of the LG BH14... but a little research will reveal a better price.


In regard to cases, a close examination of factory-made editing machines like the HP Z series and  others, will find a case layout where the cables actually come from behind the MB mounting plate, which can be a big factor in controlling heat. Some of the better DIY cases include that design feature.


Building is not for everybody, and little things like using too much heat sync compound on the CPU or forgetting to totally power down before testing to reseat memory cards or forgetting to fully plug in a fan cable can be fatal pitfalls. Setting up BIOS on some of the more advanced motherboards is not for the faint of heart either. The devil, as they say, is in the details, and saving money doesn't always save money in the long run. Also be careful in calculating the overall power needs, including the CPU and the video card.


It's not at all unusual for a parts supplier to suggest a memory package that is in stock rather than what is actually correct for a particular motherboard. Bottom line: rely on the manufacturer's web site and if in doubt, call them. I've even found obvious errors in the manufacturer's information. Memory can be the most expensive part of a build and it is certainly as critical as the CPU choice, so the selection needs to be made carefully. My personal recommendation from experience would be 32 GB over the suggested 16 GB.


Tim Trott Productions - Video Does It Better (sm)

I think that the basic

bigsplash's picture

I think that the basic articel was useful and fairly accurate. I also agree with Tim's comments above.

I would worry that someone who did not undesrtand about SSD vHDD, or the need to match the CPU with a pinout LGA 2011 or have antistatic protection is likely to have a hard time building the editing PC. I would add the following points:


> You should go to the manuf web site of the motherboard and checkout which memory devices etc are approved, and detailed setup instructions. I would check out the NVIDIA board web site also for approved types. Forget using any instructions that come with the motherboard as these are almost certainly obsolete!


> I would put more effort into choosing the two monitors and would consider a Thunderbolt output board that allows connection to an Apple monitor plus provides access to external HDD. 


> I suspect that 4GB as suggested here is on the low side if using HD...Why not use 4X 2TB HDD ? and allow extra drives externally connected via Thuderbolt?


> I also suspect that for a high end machine 650 Watt is on the low side. I believe either two PSU's or one at about 1000Watt is needed.


> I would not contemplate using memories in overclocking mode for editing  as the thing will be unstable


> I would look at how many USB3 ports and firewire (400 & 800) ports are available. 


> You need LAN access to down load software updates and transfer files. I agree that you should not use the editing PC for games, or email.


> The NVIDIA Quadro 4000 is better but that is not cheap and will be a significant cost within the build.  This is what the professionals use however. 


> The Matrox MXO2 MAX is a great item and I would get it with the PCIe card and the Thunderbolt interface card.....then it can be used with an Apple and the Thunderbolt card mentioned above. 


> The above configuration only has 16GB and allows space for another 16GB. I would have thought it would be a smart move to go for 32GB within 4 slots that way you can increase if needed to 64GB if ever needed, although 32GB should be adequate. I feel that 16GB for a high end editing PC with Matrox MXO2, NVIDIA Quadro, SSD and a iT 3930 deserves a 32GB memory! 

AMD and ATI are not to be overlooked..

Hey all,


I gotta say that while I do agree with many of the sentiments of this original post, I disagree on skipping out on AMD and ATI. In particular, Adobe CS6 added solid OpenGL support that matches that of the CUDA support in previous versions. Prior to Adobe CS6, I was looking at buying nVidia cards for CUDA. But now that CS6 has fantastic OpenGL support, passing up on the new ATI V5900/7900 cards is a grave mistake. The V5900 compares well to the Quadro cards costing 3x to 5x as much and surpasses them in OpenGL performance. A set of V5900's in SLI will set you back $800 or so, but will give you $4000 workstation graphics capabilities.


As for Intel only.. no way. For $180 the AMD 8350 8-core cpu is a monster. It's not as fast as the top Intel for some things..but for rendering work for the price it's a no brainer. If you have 4K+ to spend on a workstation machine.. then that's fine. But thanks to cheap DSLRs and cheaper gear, I am guessing a lot of the readers like me are hobbyists that want decent gear for an affordable price. I priced out a decent workstation that would hold well against a 2x to 3x as expensive Intel/NVidia based one:


AMD 8350 cpu - $180

Asus VI m/b ($220)

32GB 4x8GB PC2133 RAM ($230)

SSD Samsung or M4 128GB drive ($100)

250GB Samsung or similar SSD edit drive ($200)

2TB internal storage/backup drive ($120)

2 x V5900 ATI video ($850)

LG Bluray burner ($80)

Case (I chose Antec Lanboy) ($100 - $250)

P/S (I chose the CoolerMaster Gold 1200watt) $150-$250

C/M H100 water cooler ($100)

USB 3 Pluggable external SATA3 dock ($30)


The above system gives you 8 cores, overclockable to about 4.5Ghz if you wanted to.. 2 super-fast workstation level graphics cards, 32GB of very fast memory, 2 SSD drives (boot + edit drive) and an internal 2TB storage, bluray burner, fantastic case with up to 15 fans of cooling and suspended HD bays, water cooler for the cpu, and an external SATA3 dock to allow hot-swap of SSD and HDs.. all for about $2500. Add in $200 for a full Windows 7 or 8 Pro disc, and $100 or so for a few extra fans (my case comes with 4 already), and you've got a screaming workstation class machine for under 3K.


I am confused about the information saying that Adobe, Avid, etc are writing their code specifically for Intel though? As far as I know, the AMD64 is the chipset they all write to for 64-bit machines..which is basically AMD's 64-bit chipset that Intel has adopted. I could be wrong..haven't kept up on all the very latest changes, but I don't believe their software runs any better on Intel cpus.


The one area that the AMD based motherboards are falling behind is Thunderbolt. But with USB3 apparently working on an update to go to 10Gbps, perhaps that isn't a big deal. Frankly, other than copying large amounts of video from cameras to the PC.. I don't see a big deal. In fact.. the BlackMagic camera and HDMI recorders and many of the new cameras are now supporting SSD drives. So it makes it pretty easy to just use that $30 USB 3 SATA 3 dock I have there to drop in the SSD drive from a camera and copy and/or edit directly on it, although I would personally copy files to my big internal drive, then move stuff around to the SSD work drive as necessary for editing sessions.


Also, while not relevant to the PC build, BlackMagic has some really good external gear. I picked up their HDMI Shuttle 2 recorder for $340 shipped, which works great as a SSD recorder for pure HDMI output, and records in either uncompressed or DNxHD or ProRes formats. They have lots of nice external input/output gear for not too bad a price that could handle high-end 4K+ video and audio as well. I am itching to get my hands on their 2.5K camera as well!





I think that all of the above

bigsplash's picture

I think that all of the above is very valid. The only points I would make are:

> Not sure about AMD as I am not aware of editing PC's that have used AMD ...most older motherboards / Matrox PROVEN combinations that have interested me seem to be Intel centric. That said I accept that inherently there should be nothing that is negative towards an AMD choice.


> I have seen many threads elsewhere that say do NOT consider over clocked memory. ..stability seems to be an issue for those that try this. Frankly if you have 32GB as suggested here for 230$ do you really need to go for overcloccking? 


> ASUS motherboards seem to be well suited for editing applications and their latest Intel board seems like a winner  

look at: ASUS P9X79 Delux 





I think the point of overclocking a cpu is more speed, thus more rendering capabilities. I don't believe the amount of memory makes much difference. It affords more assets and such loaded without going to the HD as much perhaps.


That said, I don't like to overclock. I would hope 8 core 4Ghz cpu would be fast enough. If you can crank it to 4.5Ghz.. do you gain a good 20+% performance in rendering and runtime editing capability? I don't know. The other way to look at it though is.. with the cpu only being about $180.. if you got 6 months use out of it and it did give you a 20% boost in performance..thus you were able to get more done.. it would be worth the $180 replacement every few months for that extra 20% boost.. but that is also if you were really utiilzing the cpu all day long. If you're rendering a job for 1 hour out of 24, then that ~% boost seems far less worth it.



I too have not seen many AMD editing boxes. I really want a new AMD based m/b with AM3+ and updated PCIe and having Thunderbolt on board. I wish we could remove all the built in video and audio hardware on these boards too. That said, I was entertaining the idea of using a dual-socket g-34 motherboard..which would be about $400 for the board, to fit 2 16-core g34 cpus and have room for 128GB ram. I just don't know enough if the cpus are that much different than the desktop FX chips.. seems to me server chips are always built to take a beating.. so as primarily a rendering farm with some editing work.. it would be great. My thought is.. if the AMD cpus do work well.. build an I7 or FX8350 desktop "editing" box.. and a separate stand alone dual-socket G-34 setup for rendering farm. Even so, a dual-sock g-34 would cost about $5K or so to outfit with say 64GB ram, 2 16-core cpus and a basic video card.. would only be using it for pure rendering anyway. Now if only I could find some way to actually make money doing this sort of stuff!


Hi all

bigsplash's picture

Hi all

I recently looked at the current Apple products and was amased that the Mac Pro does NOT have thunderbolt. I also was surprised that Apple's iMac top of the line now outperforms at a much lower price the older MacPro, in fact the Apple store people tell me that for video editing iMac is the way to go and more than capable. They put much emphasis on fusion (SSD plus HDD) and Thunderbolt as a way of connecting a second monitor, plus daisy chaining through Thunderbolt the Matrx MXO2 box plus a bunch of external HDDs.


They are pushing this configuration heavily for video editing around the Adobe Creative Suite set of software. If you take the top of the line iMac with the fastest CPU, best graphics board, fusion technology you will get a price of about £3000 (Europe) or 3000$  in the USA. Frankly the kit outlined above should be considerably faster and would cost less. 

Actually building a computer

Actually building a computer from scratch is a daunting task . . . .  but once overcome it is an enjoyable hobby. I built my first computer about 1999, a DAW which I used for post sound editing ( to make a living ). I'm now running on my fifth computer which I built with the express purpose of editing video. Typically I use " last weeks components ", deliberately avoiding the bleeding edge for price and stability purposes. This machine handles HD very well. I have no use for AVCHD and its attendant processing intensity. If I continue with this video hobby, I may run into a situation which will make my computer and software obsolete, unsupported by manufacturers. I'll either build another machine or throw in the towel.


Rick Crampton

build your own edit bay

markp's picture

The article title and content do not match. The content is a simplified overview on assembling a DIY computer for video editing. An editing bay is an entire ecosystem in which the computer is a single component.

If one approaches this article from the perspective that the general information provided is informative to the audience then it follows that the author has omitted here and mislead there.


First, the purpose of a building a DIY computer is saving money; however, one shouldn't forget time is money too. How much income is forfeited while waiting for a working editing computer? Sometimes solutions can be very subtle. Is the RAM the right spec? Are the BIOS setting correct? Is there some obscure incompatibility between parts or software and hardware? Support from component manufacturer punt saying, “It’s the other part’s fault” when a qualified system gets continuing support. Building a DIY computer can be educational and rewarding; however, the purpose of the exercise is making money as a professional. The hardware and software are just tools of the trade.  "Remember this is an editing machine, not your personal computer."


Second, build the computer to run the software not pick software which the computer will run. Ultimately, a post production professional will spend his time inside the software packages. Pick the tools one wishes to use then buy the appropriate hardware. E.g. Avid Media Composer requirements include NVidia Quadro GPUs (Hacking MC's hardware requirements is clearly outside the article's scope.) A Quadro 4000 costs over $700.00. Adobe works with both workstation and desktop NVidia cards. A very roughly comparable GTX 560 costs under $200.00. Perhaps someone else will identify a more precisely matched card. Matrox I/O products are twinned--with and without Max technology. (I.e. h.264 hardware encoding.) If one won't be encoding into H.264 or using software which takes advantage of Max technology then don’t pay extra for Max.


Facility with multiple programs provides more flexibility and opportunity. Some clients have preconceptions and want their projects done with particular programs. Others may incomplete projects and want you to continue working on it. Sometimes one program is better suited to the task. The programs are just tools—sometimes a philips screwdriver is better for the task at hand, sometime a flathead is better. Having both in your toolbox isn’t the worst idea ever.

Third, monitors. Monitors usually last longer than most other computer hardware. Many people reuse their monitors when they upgrade everything else. Conservatively calculating use at 8 hours a day, 300 days a year for 5 years is 12,000 hours. The difference in price between a cheap monitor and a good monitor is less than the cost of a visit to the eye doctor and filling a new eyeglass prescription. Not to mention ergonomics or permanently degraded vision. Don't scrimp on monitors.


Fourth, disks. SSD drives are great for fast boot time but editing workstations but don't assist keeping a machine editing all day and compressing all night. The author makes no mention of SSD unproven long term stability, data integrity or unit reliability. The author recommended SSD has a 3 year warranty. Better hard disks have warranties up to 5 years. Also, SSDs cost substantially more than HDs. The author recommended 256 GB SSD is ~$200. ~400 GB is the bare minimum for a boot drive running windows 7. Multiple operating systems require even more space; less bloated OS such as UNIX require a little less space. A 1TB Caviar Black HD cost half as much, has copious space for the task and can be recycled into an auxiliary, ghosted image or data backup drive when SSD more cost effective and proven reliable. Disk I/O speeds (bandwidth) for even the slowest currently available disk is far faster humans connected devices such as keyboards, mice, printers, etc.


Bandwidth is entirely relevant for video data. Disk capacity and bandwidth are the historical bottlenecks for computer video. A brief description of video data compression would have been appropriate for the target audience. Cherry picking some data points since it wasn’t. DV & HDV require 25 megabits per second (Mb/s) sustained throughput. Western Digital Velociraptor (10k rpm) drives have sustained I/O rates of ~200 Mb/s. That’s enough for 4 streams (25 x 4 = 100 Mb/s) or fewer higher bandwidth streams plus a very conservative 100% overhead. Sustained read/write speeds which limits moving vast quantities of data in real time, not the usually advertised peak bust R/W times is a function of disk spindle speed (rpm). 7200 rpm drives will have ~75% of the throughput of 10k drives. Avoid slower (5400 rpm) drives for video data. Higher end work, many video or effect layers, uncompressed or ultra high definition video (greater than HD), require the higher throughput available from RAIDs. Determining which bits are written to which drive in a RAID requires extra calculation. Offloading these calculations from the CPU to a hardware RAID controller is recommended; however, it’s an added cost of a hundred to a thousand or more dollars. SSDs’ tremendous sustained read/write speeds relative to single HDDs will be marvelous for UHD video once they become cost effective.


Fifth, power supplies. "Get the most watts you can afford." I disagree. Buy what’s plausibly needed. Some gaming power supplies exceed 1500 watts. That’s a hair drier. Not only do they cost more to buy, operating them costs more because they draw more electricity making them less green (if that has any resonance), and they run hotter shortening part lives or require more, louder cooling. Buy what’s needed including added margin for not operating at the extremes, growth and the unanticipated. The biggest power consuming parts are CPUs & GPUs. Both max out around 150 watts except for some extreme gaming GPUs. Hard drives are ~10 watts each. RAM is even less. I concur with the author when he writes, “Stay north of 500 watts and use a reputable brand.” unless building for multiple CPUs or GPUs.


Sixth, RAM. Be certain to get the right RAM for your motherboard. Different RAM chips having different number of pins, speeds, latencies, voltages, number of channels, and timing. There’s also error correcting (ECC) and non-ECC RAM.


In general, installing vast quantities of RAM is a waste. Any individual program can address only a finite amount of memory. Providing 4 GB per core is plenty. “Remember this is an editing machine, not your personal computer."  More RAM saves time swapping idle programs from a hard drive. Without many programs running concurrently each assigned as much RAM as they can possibly consume or working on extremely large data sets, additional RAM provides no significant benefit.


Lastly, A/V Input/Output hardware. This alone is a vast topic. The author did little more than list a few brand names. He did not explain different workflows. For example, what need of any video capture card in a tapeless environment? Just copy the data to one’s video drive(s) and link to/import from it there. What’s the point of mentioning video output devices without discussing the devices to which they send data and the different deliverable formats different clients require? Fewer and fewer clients want tape. A video I/O device doesn’t necessarily speedup creating DVDs (blue ray or traditional) or web-based deliverables. Nor does the author discuss connecting them to color correct monitors nor the calibrating tools they require.


Before this reply becomes bigger than the original article, I want to support the author’s mentioning the importance of backing up data--both an image of the OS & programs cleanly installed on the OS drive as well as all the user data on the video drive(s). The old adage if you don’t back it up you deserve to lose it maintains its relevance.