Budget PC for full HD video editing (if that’s not a contradiction in terms)

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    • #48191

      Hi guys, new to the forum. Would appreciate some advice on this.

      I’m looking to build a budget PC for editing full HD, if that’s even possible. My choice set up is an AMD Phenom II X6 1055T 2.80 GHz processor
      with probably an MSI AMD 3+ 890FXA-GD65 motherboard and 4-8 gigs of DDR3
      memory. Video card wise I was looking at this (ATI Fire Pro V4800). Would this combined with the above setup give me enough to work at full uncompressed HD? Or, am I looking at something a bit more juicey in terms of spec?

      One final question. Is there anyway to view HD on a VGA computer monitor (some kind of conversion cable maybe)?. I’ll be looking to replace that too, but might have to wait a few months…

      Ta in advance!

    • #198102
      AvatarMoab Man

      What’s your dollar figure range?

    • #198103
      AvatarGrinner Hester

      I’d skip the pc and grab a macbook pro loaded with Final Cut Suite. It’s b y far the most bang for the buck today. Quite often, my Avid adrenaline suite is pushed aside so I can get work done on a system that cost me less than a tenth of the Avid.

    • #198104

      I’m with Grinner, with two caveats:

      1) load it up with as much ram as it will take.

      2) skip final cut suite for now, just use the free iMovie program for now, there is a new final cut pro being released in june that will be worth waiting for….

      ps: samsung makes some very nice and affordable flatpanels, and use external drives for scratchdiscs and media files…..

    • #198105
      AvatarGrinner Hester

      ya think? Being that FCP is taking on iMovie’s code base, I’d be inclined to grab it’s latest version now. Most are not kicking and screaming at the downgrade so far but only the NAB goers this yearhave kicked it’s tires so far. From apple’s point of view, it makes sense. From users’ point of view, it shines bright on Avid.

    • #198106

      I remember the same debate when Imovie 09 debuted and Imovie hd users hated the ‘Downgrade” once imovie 11 came out and addressed all the shortcomings of the new imovie, I switched and never opened the old imovie hd again.

      I think apple learned from that debacle.

      I think the new final cut will be awesome right out of the box. From what has been shown thus far, I think it will be a streamlined workflow with many advanced abilities hidden under a user friendly skin. It will be great for multi cam and d-slr shooters….

      If it works like imove on steroids, I’m in.

    • #198107

      I’d go with a new Macbook Pro as well, or one of the new iMacs.

      Regarding your question about viewing HD, you are going to want to send the video from the editing program, to an input/output device (BlackMagic and AJA will both be making some to accommodate the Thunderbolt connection), then to an HDTV. You don’t want to trust computer monitors.

      I disagree about the new FCP. It’s completely re-written and it will most likely be buggy when it is first released. You’re better off getting what we all know works – FCS3.

      Macs are a bit more expensive, though. But then again, you never informed us on your budget…

    • #198108

      Good point Rob, about possible bugs in first release…

      I’m optimistic that Apple realizes the significance of a ground up redo on something people have been waiting for years for an upgrade….. I generally wait for the first round of bug fixes before jumping in, but this time I will take the plunge and let you guys know how I fare.

      don’t overlook FCE if you want something short term, and are afraid to dive into Final Cut Pro x

    • #198109

      This will be a good ready for you, Don.


    • #198110

      Thanks for the advice guys. Can’t stretch to a Mac, as much as I’d love to. Out of my price range. Basically, I’m looking to build a HD capable PC for as cheap as I can really. I suppose what I really want to know is what do I need in order to be able to do that? From reading around it seems to be a case of – multi core processor as a given – that the amount of system RAM (at least 8 gigs) you have plus the graphics card has the biggest impact on performance/rendering times.

      Graphics cards wise it’s between the GTX 460, the ATI Fire Pro V4800, or at a push, the Radeon 5870…

    • #198111

      Well now that you’ve thrown water on my ‘mac weenies’ (would you like another bucket sir?), as someone who builds PC workstations I can say building a PC may or may not be cheaper than buying a pre-built. Definitely cheaper if you can get parts wholesale (as a parts dealer) but if not, you’ll have to do some serious shopping around. After you factor in shipping, handling and any returns (you have to pay to ship them back) all that including parts and software adds up.

      Now in fairness to my mac loving colleagues, if you really want a one you can build one since all the parts are the same anyway. However, due to the tyrannical objections to independent manufacturing Apple blah, blah, blah, basically you’re not supposed to do so though you can. That’s a whole other topic but just so you know it’s an option.

      Okay, sans dealing with anything apple related, I haven’t looked up any of the components you’ve listed so I can’t quote pricing. However, I trust you have a build budget in mind and that it’s more than $500. You’re not going to get far on a build for less than $1200 particularly if you have several ‘first choices’ on your wish list. Keep in mind, the most expensive parts on a build are; the CPU, RAM and Graphics Card (GPU). Those parts will blow your budget quick if you go with your first choice for each.

      Depending on your budget, you may need to come up with ‘second’ or ‘third’ choices which will meet the minimum requirements for the software and tasking the workstation will be used. Just because you have to scale down your choices up front isn’t a bad thing. For God’s and your sake, please look up the required and recommended hardware for any software you plan on using. Too many times novice builders run out and get a pile of gear only to find out it’s incompatible with what they planned to use with it.

      Lastly, don’t forget you’ll need a good case, extra harddrives, 2 monitors (for NLE editing), a good soundcard (capable of outputting 5.1 mixes unless you just plan on doing stereo), a good keyboard for editing, a mouse, OS (recommend Win7 Pro for editing and Graphic workstations) network capability and fans, lots of fans (you don’t want to mess with watercooling on a budget!)

      Here’s a couple of parts dealers you can start pricing your gear out with.



      Good luck.

    • #198112

      I built my desktop. It cost me significantly more than one off the shelf. Components andsoftware were expensive, even though I shopped around. It’s a pain in the behind too – of course I’m my own tech support. That said, it’s a sweet machine when it’s running on all cylinders.

      If I had to do it again on a budget, I’d go with a laptop. I would consider getting a Macbook Pro. I just don’t think the stuff off the shelf at Bestbuy has enough oomf. I have a Sager and it rocks…but it was expensive.

    • #198113

      I’ve been building computers for friends and also selling them onebay for about 4 years. From what I’ve seen, most bottlenecks occur from a processor that is underpowered, not from ram, although a lot of ram doesn’t hurt.

      I’ve never used one, but everyone I know who uses a mac loves it.

    • #198114

      “I’ve never used one, but everyone I know who uses a mac loves it.”

      Eh. Started out using them at the pro level. Once PC’s got serious with Intel Gear and NT based OS’s I’ve worked primarily with them ever since. Now if I’m collaborating and someone has Mac gear, INBD to switch over.

      Still though, in Chris’ case he sounds like he needs to look at pre-built gear vice building his own no matter which platform it may be. In Design’s case, if you think being your own tech support is a pain, you shouldn’t build your own gear. That and if it cost you more to build a comparable workstation to something pre-built, you obviously didn’t shop around enough.

    • #198115

      Chris, it depends on what you’re editing, and what your budget is. I upgraded to HD (and AVCHD) in November. I wanted to get a new system, and I wanted to stay under 1K. Not possible, I learned. But I DID stay under 2K, got a fast, clean system (custom built by a company that specializes in video systems..and they’re local to me). I only do short, business videos, and the system has performed way better than I was told it would. Do shop around. For me, it was worth having a shop that would build and support a system that is exclusively for video.

    • #198116

      RE:<span style=”color: #00477a;”>harpervideo</span>I built one of about 500 bucks. It is a quad core, 2.5 I believe and has 8 gb’s of ram. It is pretty slow when it comes to saving the changes made when editing. I see the processor in mine is what slows it down. I may replace it with a high wattage power sucking monster soon. For just over a grand I could build a real monster.

    • #198117

      FWIW, I’m in a similar boat. I need to upgrade to a system that will rock in editing video.

      However, there were a few things you didn’t make clear.

      First, what NLE are you going to be using? If you are going to be using Adobe Premiere Pro (CS5 or later for CUDA support!), you want an Nvidia card as opposed to the ATI cards. A Nvidia card will enable CUDA acceleration of rendering and, in some cases, encoding. Be aware that Adobe does not support the ATI equivalent of CUDA, OpenCL… and they have not said they ever will.

      Technically, this would only include the following cards: GeForce GTX 285, GeForce GTX 470, GeForce GTX 570, GeForce GTX 580 (unless you decide to go crazy and get a Quadro card, which start at about $750). They are the officially supported CUDA cards, per Adobe:


      The procedure for adding other Nvidia GTX card can be found in the thread below. Be aware that this is a “hack” that works, but is not supported by Adobe.


      I just purchased a ASUS GTX 560 Ti (the next generation of the GTX 470) for ~$265 (after $20 rebate and taxes, ASUS ENGTX560 TI DCII TOP/2DI/1GD5). The GTX 560 Ti is available for less, but I went with a more expensive ASUS because I’m going to buy an ASUS motherboard and want to minimize compatibility/support issues. Any GTX 200 series will help a lot. You can see some benchmarks at the link above.

      If you are looking at a different NLE, then you need to check CUDA/OpenCL (ATI) compatibility before buying the NLE to make sure you have the right card.

      Second, are you looking at getting a completely new system, including drives, display, and case? Or are you looking to replace a motherboard, processor, memory, GPU, and, possibly, power supply? If it is the later, then that will reduce your expenditures.

      OK, I just remembered reading you have a “VGA monitor”. That can mean a lot of things. I take it you are referring to CRT monitor with a 15-pin VGA connector with a maximum resolution you haven’t specified, rather than a monitor that is limited to the official VGA spec of 640×480 resolution. The ASUS GTX 560 Ti, for example, comes with a DVI to VGA converter.

      Be aware that most NLE’s have a minimum resolution requirement, so you will want to confirm you won’t need to get a new monitor. However, there are many “starter” ~$100 19″ LCD monitors with ~1440×900 resolution, sufficient to start. Newegg.com has a 21″ for ~$150.

      Third, the AMD equipment you are talking about will probably be replaced in the next 6 months or so. I’ve been an AMD fan for years (my current home built PC is running a OC’d Opteron 165). However, the new Sandy Bridge I7-2600K quad-core CPU’s are absolute screamers! The 2600K has hyperthreading, which means that the OS sees it as an 8-core! Also, the majority of people who have been overclocking them report hitting 4 GHz on the stock air cooler without much effort. Frankly, it will leave that AMD in the dust. The downside is that it is ~$300. I’ve been looking at either the ASUS Sabertooth or WS Revolution mother boards. From what I can see, their build quality is on another level altogether. They will set you back ~$230-270.

      Finally, I’d get at least 8GB (16GB would future proof you and then you’d be able to buy “matched” memory, eliminating one more potential problem). You’ll be looking at ~$80 or $160, respectively for G.Skill Ripsaw X (designed for the P67 motherboard).

      Now assuming you have at least a 750W power supply (~$70-100 for an “80 Plus”, an efficiency measure, supply), a case, and a keyboard, you should be set. I’m assuming you will be using a Windows license you already have (Win 7 Home Premium should be fine).

      If you need a hard drive or two, I’d suggest two drives, one for the OS/programs and the other for Video. 7200 RPM 1TB 6.0 Gb/sec drives are ~$60-90, depending on brand. You might even want to spring for a third drive and run two of them in a motherboard based RAID 0 array for your video “drive”.

      Anyway, with the configuration I’ve outlined above, you are looking at between $950 and $1400 for the hardware only, depending on additional items (case, keyboard, monitor, power supply, 16GB DDR3, hard drives, etc.)

      Here is another link in the Adobe forums you might find worth reading:




      Anyway, just some thoughts.


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