System Recommendations for Video Editing

Intel and AMD would be happy with me: I think I may have finally found a killer app that will actually force me to upgrade from my rapidly-aging P3 system. And it’s not games.

Digital Video.

Namely, recording my favorite TV shows on my PC, and then converting them into Windows Media 9 format and then burning them on a CD.

The real CPU cruncher is taking MPEG-2 and converting it into WMV9.

I’ve all but given up trying to convert MPEG-2 on my current system, because my PC was just way too underpowered to properly convert. The end product would have frame rates so slow it would be like trying to run Doom 3 on a 486. Talk about jerky video.

I can convert MPEG-1 into smooth Windows Media 9 files that take up 3/4 less hard drive space and that can be burned onto a CD. However, on my system, it takes about 5 to 6 hours of system time to convert one hour of MPEG-1. I could do this overnight while I slept, but there has to be a faster way.

So I’m looking into the big upgrade mess. I’ve got top-notch video and sound cards, but I’ve pushed my 440BX mobo, P3 CPU, and PC100 SDRAM to the limits of their performance envelopes. So I’ve got to replace those three components.

I’m thinking that I’m on a budget, so an Nforce2 board, an AthlonXP 2000, and 512MB of DDR RAM, though if I had my druthers and cost were no objective, it’d be 1Gb of DDR RAM.

Anyone got any recommendations? Perhaps go Intel and the P4? Anyone know if the new multithreading technology in the upcoming P4’s is gonna kick ass for digital media?

Or, I guess a second option would be to just buy a DVD-R drive and just burn my 2Gb MPEG-2 files of my TV episodes onto DVD. The trick is to just get the damn things off my hard drive. It’s scary how fast you can eat up a 40 Gb hard drive nowadays.

I saw you didn’t mention the DivX codec. I don’t know anything about it except that everybody seems to speak about it in terms of offering the most ridiculous compression ever.

Might be worth adding into your equation.

(Can somebody who knows something about DivX help me out here?)

From what I understand, WMV9 offers some wicked compression as well. And I like the encoder, it’s a lot more user friendly than DIVX, which you have to find and install and configure third-party apps to use if you want to encode something.

And whether I use DIVX or WMV9 doesn’t really matter, as I’ve tried both and I still run into the bottleneck that is my system not being able to decompress the MPEG-2 into readable form and then compressing it into DIVX or WMV9 at the same time.

CPU and mem choice are fine. An additional bottleneck may be your single hard drive, or multiple hard drives on a single IDE channel.

IDE can’t efficiently read and write on the same IDE channel. Put a different hard disk on each channel and makes sure the target and destination files are on different IDE channels.

DivX encoding is not straightforward. It does compress my 500MB Enterprise MPGs to an 80MB AVI. I’ll check out WMV9.

DivX is just MPEG-4 with some tweaks, guys. Nothing magical about it.

It’s just more complicated than I wish it were (two-pass compression, lots of settings).

And to add to the dilemma… It’s darn hard to find much information on DDR Pentium 4 motherboard performance. But if I go P4, that’s the route I’d take – the extra extortion for RAMBUS memory is just more than I can afford at this point.

So my upgrade choices (gaming and video editing as primary uses, in addition to work) are a P4 2.8GHz with DDR SDRAM, or an Athlon XP 2600+.

I know the RDRAM P4 kicks the 2600+'s silicon butt, but what about the DDR version? When I last tested some DDR P4 systems about six months ago, they were about 10% slower than RDRAM.

Anyone done any testing here, or seen any good pointers to coverage on this issue?

The other thing I’m wondering about is whether I should wait for the 3GHz P4. It has that new multithreading feature, right? Any ETA?

P4 is still generally better at this task (video editing) because of the faster FSB, and thus, the greater bandwidth between the chip and the memory. If you are building a system specifically for video encoding, P4 is better. Athlon is still your best bang for the buck overall, but this is a special case.

There are some articles on this specific to divx encoding on Tom’s Hardware. Tons of benchmarks and so forth. I would post the links, but I’m lazy.

You know the worst thing about going Intel? The friggin’ mobo chipsets for the P4 seem like they change every month.

So, like, if I went Rambus P4, what’s the best (i.e. most cost effective, bang for the buck) mobo?

Or if I went DDR P4, what’s the best mobo in that case?

I’m not kidding. There seem to be a gazillion different variants of 845 and 850 that Intel put out.

That and I’m still trying to figure out which DDR ram goes with which mobo (Why do they say 333 DDR dram, but then call it 2100/2400/something another place?)

Also, I haven’t even tried figuring out the hell that is Rambus.

Rambus is dying. The 10% performance hit for DDR pales against trying to upgrade your system memory a year from now-- when Rambus will be rarer than hen’s teeth, and priced accordingly.

Just go check out those Tom’s Hardware articles; don’t get fixated on Rambus. For this specific task, P4 (and by that I mean the P4 with 512kb L2, eg, 2.0ghz and higher) will be faster even with DDR.

Well, this may be an easier question, but that may be due to my ignorance.

I’ve got a DV camcorder. And I’ve already got my system, so that’s not a question (AMD XP 2200+, with a 2600+ on the way to be popped in, kt333 MB, 512 fast RAM, GeForce 4 Ti4600, etc.) What I need to be able to do is two-fold:

One, I need to be able to edit a variety of smaller MPEG, WMV, and AVI files. These are for work. Nothing special, just basically edit the start and stop points, put clips together into a single clip, remove some frames here and there, etc.

Secondly, I need to be able to do some basic editing of home DV movies. Again, I’m not trying to be Speilburg, just basic editing, add a soundtrack, etc. And then I’d like to be able to burn these to a DVD that would be playable on almost anyone’s DVD player.

I thought the software side would be simple, based on some reviews I’ve read: Pinnacle DV Studio 8. But one thing I read was people complaining that it take 10 times real time to burn a disk (or write back to a DV tape.) I.e., one hour of video would take 10 hours to write. Ugh.

Suggestions?

Jeff

For what it’s worth, I have a decent Adobe Premiere editing rig set up on my Athlon 1.5 w/512 RAM. Standard IDE hard drives have been good enough for constant playback (i.e. a steady 4-5 mb/sec) so I can output back to digital video. I have had a couple of instances of stuttering but they have been very rare. I bought a secondary hard drive (120 gigs) to store most of my video footage, and have also been downloading some royalty-free sound effects, as well as some music programs (i.e. Fruityloops) to do some low-end scoring where needed. When in doubt, slap a crappy drum loop over a scene. :) Plus I’ve got a $10 Radio Shack microphone for temp voiceover.

Next up on my purchase list is a DVD-burner so I can (I hope) make DVDs of my Premiere videos, and also make backups of the raw video footage on DVD so I don’t have to keep recapturing it after I’ve deleted it off my hard drive.

It’s far from a hardcore pro Final Cut/AVID rig, but it’s a hell of a lot more powerful than much of the crappy equipment we used when I attended USC film school back in the early '90s. Now if only I could think of something decent to film…

Jeff –

I got Pinnacle Studio for something like $30 online. (That’s version 7.) Pretty cheap, basically has all the essential editing functionalities – the main problem I found with it was that there are only something like 3 audio tracks allowed. That’s just too few for my purposes. So I got Adobe Premiere 6.0 for $350, and now I never use Pinnacle. But if you’re content to limit yourself to fairly simple soundtracks (i.e. production FX, some spot FX and/or voiceover, plus music), then Pinnacle Studio is a fairly powerful application for the cost. You can download the demo for that and for Adobe Premiere for free from their websites.

I don’t know about this “10x real-time” for outputing back to DV tape. Everything I have outputted to DV tape has been in real-time playback. That’s definitely true for Adobe Premiere and I believe for Pinnacle Studio as well.

Jeff,

Don’t know where that 10X came from… I use Studio 8 and it outputs to DV tape in real time on an Athlon XP 1800+. I haven’t tried its DVD burning features yet – they’re pretty obscure, and I was already using Ulead DVD Workshop so I just stuck to that.

The 10X came from either a forum discussion or a Usenet group, can’t remember which, but a lot of people were chiming in. Perhaps it was for writing to DVD.

I suppose Adobe Premier would be cool (I love Photoshop) but I’m not sure I can justify the cost for what I’m doing. One question about Pinnacle 8 - my understanding is that I can only work with AVI files, correct? I need to be able to edit a number of MPEGs of different format, as well as some WMVs, as well as AVIs. Can Pinnacle at least import the MPEGS and WMVs and then save them as AVIs?

Speaking of photoshop, can anyone recommend a good primer? Like a For Dummies? (I’ve found For Dummies books to be poorly organized.) I hate reading manuals and just want a book of solid, common, tricks.

Studio 8 can read MPEG and AVI, but not WMV. You’d need to convert the WMVs to AVI or MPEG first. (There are free utilities for WMV to AVI, I believe.)

Bub:
I’ve gotten my best Photoshop tips from the web. Such as:

http://www.apple.com/creative/resources/ttphotoshop/index.html (These all work fine on the PC too)

http://www.gurusnetwork.com/tutorials/photoshop/curves1.html (Curves is very useful, and there are many other tips too)

Better black-and-white photos:
http://www.outbackphoto.com/workshop/channelmixer/channelmixer.html

Found all of these in discussions on dpreview.com – the message boards have lots of fun tips for photo editing with Photoshop.

Hey Andrew - are you looking for general Photoshop tips, or specifically tips on using Photoshop for editing/fixing/improving digital photos? If the latter, I’ve got a great book recommendation (and I have a shelf of Photoshop books) - but I’m at work and can’t remember the name. If you’ll send me an email, I’ll send you my list of recommended books and websites from home.

(ah - found the title on the photo focused book:

Photoshop Restoration and Retouching
by Katrin Eismann, Steve Simmons

Amazon link with reader comments:

Denny - go look at the comments on Pinnacle 8 on Amazon. I know that’s not the most reliable place for reviews, but even someone who liked the program mentioned an 8/1 time ration for rendering for DVD.

Jeff,

Could very well be… I’ve never tried the DVD features. I just render DVD-quality video and use Ulead DVD Moviestudio to create the actual disk. (I had DVD MovieStudio already from the Studio 7 days when Studio had no DVD burning feature.)