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Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance

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Nate Harrington
Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 3:56:45 am

I'd like to ask for some guidance with respect to a computer upgrade and/or video card upgrade.

First, a little background. I'm not a professional by any means, but I quickly outgrew Movie Maker that came with earlier versions of Windows and skipped over the consumer products directly to Vegas+DVD back in 2005. I'd say I'm beyond beginner, but probably still pretty basic with respect to complexity of the editing I do. I don't edit a ton of stuff, and in fact, haven't done much shooting/editing at all for the past 3-4 years. Most of my video is of motorcycling. I originally started off with a remote camera that fed SD video to a camcorder, which recorded to MiniDV tapes. Back then, final renderings were typically to DVDs, or to WMV files for viewing on a computer and/or sharing via the web.

Since then I've played with a couple different Contour HD models (microSD), but didn't end up shooting/editing much video with them. I recently acquired a GoPro HERO4 Black, and hope to be shooting a bunch of video with it next month in much higher resolutions than what I've worked with in the past, and possibly some high frame rates to facilitate slow-motion. In fact, there will be five of us shooting video with various GoPros over the course of a week, so there will likely be quite a bit of material. I've upgraded Vegas through the years and am currently at Vegas Pro v12. I'm not opposed to going to VP13, but it's not currently a high priority.

My first test videos on the GoPro were dismal. I tried 4K30 and 1080p120. While I could play them from the GoPro to the TV (FHD) via HDMI cable, I couldn't play them on my laptop:

Dell Vostro 3750; i5-2410M @ 2.30GHz, 4GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 3000 + Nvidia GeForec GT525M, W7Pro-64

or my desktop:

Dell OptiPlex 755, Core 2 Quad Q9300 @ 2.50GHz, 8GB RAM, AMD Radeon HD 2600 XT; dual monitor; W7Pro-64

using Window Media Player, QuickTime, or Vegas (timeline) without jumping/skipping, etc. I later tried some 1080p60 and 720p240 footage. The 1080p60 wasn't terrible; the 720p240 wasn't that great. Ugh! I was excited about my new camera, but I hadn't had the forethought that I might need to replace computers to actually be able to do ANYTHING with it. I wasn't too concerned about rendering time, but by and large, the jumping/skipping was so bad that I couldn't even begin to edit the video. My assumption was that I was going to need a lot more power than I currently had.

I happened to stumble across a great deal on a new desktop:

Dell OptiPlex 9010; i7-3770 @ 3.40GHz, 8GB RAM, Intel HD Graphics 4000 + AMD Radeon HD 7470; W7Pro-64.

I had planned to add more RAM, add a dual video card so I could use my existing monitors, and possibly add some SSD space, but before ordering parts, I tried to view/edit some video with it. To my surprise/disappointment, it had the exact same issues as my existing laptop and desktop, even with the source video stored on local hard drives. I compared the graphics score from Windows Experience Index of:

Laptop (7.1)
New desktop + Intel video (6.6)
Old desktop + HD2600XT (5.9)
New desktop + Radeon video (5.3)

I was not expecting that at all; my new desktop with the add-in Radeon card was the worst performer, and my old laptop was at the top of the list. I've since seen the thread about WEI not being consistent or accurate, but it was all I had available to compare with at that time.

I eventually ran across the thread about the mc_dec_avc.dll from VP11, copied it to VP12, and suddenly Vegas was working great with all of the test videos, so I was ready to move forward with the upgrades to my newly acquired desktop.

Selecting a dual monitor video card has been painful. The video card world seems to be entirely driven by the gaming community, and my gut feel is that I don't need anything nearly that powerful or full-featured to edit video. I'm not too concerned about 4K right now as I don't have a 4K monitor, nor a 4K TV, and neither do the folks that I plan to share the videos with. At some point, that may be a concern, but it's not a significant one right now. I read several threads on the forums talking about various AMD and NVidia architectures, which ones work, which ones don't, some work with Vegas overall, but not with some of the codecs, old cards work great, new cards don't work as well, etc. My head was spinning as it's been a long time since I've shopped for a video card, and things have changed a lot. I then discovered that there doesn't appear to be many dual monitor video cards that will fit in a low-profile slot, and that don't consume the bulk of the power provided by the power supply. The new OptiPlex is a desktop form factor, with a 250-watt power supply.

With that, I come to my request for guidance. I've considered several potential pathways to a solution.

Regarding the OptiPlex 9010 in general, it seems like a decently powerful system to start with (i7-3770 @ 3.40GHz), currently 8GB memory but planning to upgrade to 32GB, SATA3 6Gb/s ports, RAID capable, etc. I think the biggest downsides to it are the 250W power supply and the desktop form factor that requires low-profile cards.

Regarding the OptiPlex 9010, is there any potential for a decently working system by using the built-in Intel HD Graphics 4000? It came in second place in the WEI comparison that I did. It can support up to three monitors, two of which can be digital via DisplayPort at 1080. It also performed slightly better (per WEI) than the add-in Radeon HD7470. Downsides are that it only has 64MB of dedicated memory and uses up to 1.7GB of shared system memory. Does it have much/anything to offer to Vegas in terms of computational power?

Regarding the OptiPlex 9010, I don't see much hope for the Radeon HD7470. It was the worse performer per WEI, it only supports one monitor, and while it has 1GB dedicated memory, it also uses 3.7GB of shared system memory. I only have one PCIe x16 slot, so adding a second card isn't really an option; I'd have to replace it with a dual monitor card.

Regarding the OptiPlex 9010, are there any dual monitor, low-profile, low-power, (remember 250-watt power supply) PCIe x16 video cards available that have something to offer with respect to Vegas? Are there heftier power supplies available that could remove the power constraint that I'm facing? Does a power supply upgrade make sense?

Would I be better off to cut my losses on the OptiPlex 9010 and look for a better base system (e.g., mini-tower form factor that can handle full-size cards; bigger power supply, etc.)? I can likely find a new home for the OptiPlex 9010 and lose little to nothing on it, so it could essentially end up being a zero-cost experiment if that seems like the best option.

If starting over with a new system is the most practical option that provides some room for long-term growth/expansion (i.e., if I buy new, I want it to last me a few years), what sorts of recommendations would you have for processor, memory, video, disk, etc? I don't mind spending some money on a decent system, but video editing is not my profession, so I'm looking to keep the price at a reasonable level. At present I store all of my video on a NetGear NAS device connected via 1GB Ethernet. It's not crazy fast, but it has quite a bit of space available, it's running XRAID2 with dual redundancy, and it's backed up to separate drives. My initial thought was that I'd copy the content that I wanted to work with to local drives if working off the NAS was too painful.

Please feel free to ask any questions for clarification. Any/all suggestions are welcome.

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John Rofrano
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 1:44:41 pm

[Nate Harrington] "Regarding the OptiPlex 9010 in general, it seems like a decently powerful system to start with (i7-3770 @ 3.40GHz), currently 8GB memory but planning to upgrade to 32GB, SATA3 6Gb/s ports, RAID capable, etc. I think the biggest downsides to it are the 250W power supply and the desktop form factor that requires low-profile cards."
Sony recommends 8 Cores, 16GB memory, and RAID 0 or SSD for working with 4K. So any consumer PC you buy from Dell will be woefully inadequate for editing 4K. I would not buy a computer for video editing with less that a 850w power supply so 250w isn't even in the ballpark. That's typical of Dell to give you barely enough power to turn the machine on. You will not be able to expand that system at all. I would never buy another PC from Dell.

You didn't say what your budget is it's impossible for anyone to make a recommendation but I'm guessing you can't afford a computer to edit 4K.

You should buy the biggest baddest gaming PC you can afford because what's good for gaming is good for editing video. Get one with an AMD graphics card if your main use is Vegas Pro. Stay away from Dell. I would get a HP Z-Series Workstation class machine. If you can't afford that, look for boutique builders like There is no such thing as cheap 4K editing so if you can't afford it, forget about 4K and stick with HD. While 4K consumer camera are cheap, 4K video editing workstations are not!


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Graham Bernard
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 2:02:05 pm

[John Rofrano] "While 4K consumer camera are cheap, 4K video editing workstations are not!"
Excellent analysis.


Video Content Creator and Potter
PC 7 64-bit 16gb * Intel® Core™i7-2600k Quad Core 3.40GHz * 2GB NVIDIA GEFORCE GTX 560 Ti
Cameras: Canon XF300 + PowerShot SX50HS Bridge

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Aaron Star
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 7:28:30 pm

I agree with John's comment on the cost of 4k.

I would also argue that consumer cameras are not 4K, they are just HD cameras with higher resolution. 4k is about 4096x2160-60p, Rec2020, capturing in at least 10-bit color, Intra-frame, and with a bit rate of >100Mbs. When TV manufacturers release 4K displays, they need to release a camera capable of shooting a picture for that display. This is not for pro shooter reasons, but to appease the guy that bought a 4k TV, and now wants 4k home videos of his kids.

I have edited 4k on my Gen1 i7-870, but the workflow is strictly HD proxy editing, with CC done by disabling the display scaling and using Pan&crop to see 1:1 zoomed view of the 4k image. The rendering time is not that bad and comparable to HD editing, adding time for the 4x resolution.

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Bob Peterson
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 3:23:41 pm

I've been very pleased with systems I bought in the last few years at Micro Center. You pick out the parts to assemble the system, and can either build it yourself or, for a modest additional fee, they will build it for you. They will also provide technical support after the purchase. If you are not sure of your components, they will recommend a reasonable choice. I have built two systems now based on their advice, and information I've picked up on the internet. Both systems are still doing very well, and I am very happy with both purchases. I think you get a much better computer than any manufactured machines that I typically see in the stores.

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Nate Harrington
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 8:01:31 pm

Thanks to all of you for your quick replies. You've definitely given me some food for thought. Let me expand a bit on what I'm after.

Not specifying a budget was somewhat intentional. It's not so much a matter of what I CAN afford vs. what I WANT to afford. I could afford a $10k video editing system; I don't want to. As I mentioned, video editing is not my profession; it's simply a hobby. Being able to edit 4K now would be a bonus, as I don't currently have the monitors or TVs to enjoy the final product, and neither do any of the people that I'm going to be sharing my video with; it would be more of a "be prepared for the future" scenario. It would be nice to have a system that I could upgrade to support that at some point, but it's not mandatory that I have 4K capability out the gate. That said, if it makes sense to start off with equipment that can handle it rather than upgrading later, that is an option.

The "biggest baddest gaming PC" is not out of reach, but I'm not sure it's necessary. I could spend $5000+ on a video card, $1800+ on memory, and $2000+ on a processor plus another few grand on supporting components. Would it be impressive? Sure. Is it necessary for an amateur to edit video, even 4K video, reasonably effective? I'm guessing probably not. I didn't want to put artificial financial constraints on the thought process. I want something that is workable, but not excessive.

I'm not opposed to building my own. I used to do that all the time, but in recent years have opted for the manufactured machines, primarily for simplicity, and because I just needed a general purpose machine.

With the above in mind, so far I have 8 cores, at least 16GB memory, SSD, a hefty power supply, and an AMD graphics card.

I think my biggest struggle is the video card; obviously a pretty important component. The range of video cards is HUGE, and what Vegas can and cannot make use of is still somewhat confusing to me, so I think video is probably where I need the most guidance at this point. Aside from Vegas, everything else I'll be doing on this machine is good with pretty generic video; I'm not a gamer at all. I am looking for dual display. Are the R9 200s, 300s, and Fury all good options? Even within the R9s there is a pretty wide range of prices. Does Vegas make more effective use of some of the cards in these series than others? Which is more important: more memory or faster memory? Are some brands typically better than others, or are they more or less equivalent?

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John Rofrano
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 9:01:31 pm
Last Edited By John Rofrano on Jul 24, 2015 at 9:09:17 pm

[Nate Harrington] "Not specifying a budget was somewhat intentional. It's not so much a matter of what I CAN afford vs. what I WANT to afford. I could afford a $10k video editing system; I don't want to."
Well, if you want a sweet 4K editing machine that won't break the bank get an Apple iMac with Retina 5K Display starting at $1999. It has an incredibly mind bind blowing display and can edit 4K smoothly configured at around $2400 - $3200. Because the display is 5K you can view full res 4K in the preview window of FCP X! I spent some time with it at the Apple Store and I'm seriously considering it for my next computer. Of course, I already own a Mac Pro and MacBook Pro. ;-)

If you want to stick with a Windows computer and don't mind building you own, take a look at the Video Guys DIY 11 specs. These are designed for video editing and come at several price points. Pick what you want to spend and build it not worrying about compatibility because VideoGuys have tested and matched the parts for you. Do not substitute parts. Only buy what they recommend. PC parts are very finicky and just because the specs match doesn't mean the parts will work or work reliably.

Personally, if you don't have any 4K equiptment then I wouldn't worry about it at all. By the time you get 4K the computer that was $10,000 today will only cost $2,000. I picked up my 2010 Mac Pro earlier this year for around $2K and it was $8K when it was new and has 12-Cores, 24GB memory, 6TB Hardware RAID 5, and AMD Radeon HD 5870. Computers are only going to get cheaper. In other words, it doesn't pay to buy now for what you might need in the future because it will be cheaper in the future when you really need it.


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Aaron Star
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 24, 2015 at 8:12:11 pm

If you are going to upgrade that i7-3770 and stick with HD codecs:

I would look at replacing the 8GB of memory with a 32GB matched set(4x8GB with all the same chips and timing) You need to determine the Chipset you have, as the H67,P67,H77 all use DDR3-1333, while the H77-Z77 can use up to DDR3-1600.

Replace the PSU with 500W or better, more if you have several HHD and not SSD.

GPU - 7970 used, R9 290x/390x(same card)

Multi-monitor - I run 3 monitors on a 5770, but have to utilize the 2 DVI and the Display port with a dongle converter to HDMI. The cards above should all support multi monitors, but you may need adapters if your monitors are old.

You say you would like longevity on a new system, I would wait for Skylake (i7-6000 series) and DDR4 systems to emerge, then add a 390 Fury X or whatever AMD has similar at the time. There are big changes ahead for Vegas, so this suggestion is based on where Vegas is currently at.

You would need a Xeon on system to meet the specs Vegas currently lists for 4K. The 8 core count is physical cores and not 4 cores with hyper-thread.

Codecs matter on how well Vegas does timeline playback. Converting h264.MTS or .MoV from the camera to something like XDCAM-EX, HDCAM-SR, or SR-Lite. If uploading to YouTube, render XDCAM-EX and upload directly. This way you do not have to mess with figuring out the right lowest bit-rate that looks good on YT.

With 4k on the hero black, convert to XAVC.mxf. Best to do this with the project mode in FP 32-bit Video levels.

Vegas 13 is more stable than VP12 in my opinion.

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Nate Harrington
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 27, 2015 at 7:54:11 pm

Thanks for the Video Guys DIY 11 tip. Good information, and I'm thinking now that I'm probably going to go the build-your-own route. I'm curious however, about your not substituting parts comment. DIY 11 specs are for NVIDIA and I have seen posted in several places on this forum that Vegas doesn't use CUDA of NVIDIA. I'm guessing that DIY11 is for a general video editing setup not targetted toward any specific software. Since I'm using Vegas, would it make sense to substitute an AMD card for the NVIDIA?

I'm probably not going to be able to hold out for Skylake to arrive before getting a new system up and running. I am curious about the changes ahead for Vegas. Can you elaborate?

Thanks again to all of you for your feedback!

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Aaron Star
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 27, 2015 at 9:55:35 pm
Last Edited By Aaron Star on Jul 27, 2015 at 11:24:54 pm

The thing to understand about the Video Guys specs are, companies like this have best profit margins based on deals with suppliers or manufacturers. They will always push what they have the best deals on. The system specs they are publishing look best geared for Premier and Avid, and not Vegas. Substituting the 290x/390x in place would be your best bet for Vegas.

Also get the system blank with no OS loaded, and load this yourself, to make sure they are not using an image preloaded with NVidia, and backing out to install your AMD option. The fact that the VideoGuys think NVidia is a best case solution for Vegas is sort of not good in my opinion. This is just lumping all video editing systems into the same boat for marketing reasons.

Something else to consider is you may not need the most expensive z97 board. The H97 and h87 series boards are the same performance with less additional hardware soldered on board. Less hardware you might not use, means less licensing and reduced cost. If your editing configuration is 32GB RAM, i7-4790, and a single 290x/390x, you will not need additional 8x PCIe slots, or gamer oriented feature of the Z97. The memory specs and processor specs are the same.

X99 w/5960 is something to consider for the following reasons:
DDR4 has built in CRC, and 2x the memory bandwidth.
X99 has multiple memory channel configuration over previous generation, more like Xeon.
Gen5-i7 has enough PCIe lanes to fully support two x16PCIe3.0 GPUs, or Single GPU and one x8PCIe3.0 SDD.
X99 has full support of 10 SATA3 ports, and enough left over lanes to support an Intel X540T1 (10Gbs NIC) at 500MB/s.
Note - DMI2.0 i7 to x99 connector only supports 2GB/s(20Bb/s) total, the 10 SATA ports +10Gbs NIC is an oversubscription. Skylake chipsets are suppose to include DMI3.0 connector at 8GB/s)

This would be this videoguy's configuration on an X99 - 5960 as of post date.
32-64Gb GSkill Ripjaw DDR4
390 Fury x-HBM or w9100
Intel 750 PCI SSD or Samsung SM951 512GB M.2 - M.2 might be better OS incase next release of Vegas allows multiple GPU in OpenCL configuration.
Media storage 1TB Samsung 850 PRO pairs in RAID1 or JBOD depending on backup routine available.
Intel Ethernet Converged Network Adapter X540T1 - out to 10Gbs storage network using iSCSI or other network storage.

Vegas's future at the moment seems up in the air. Vegas is limited to 4096x4096 and most cinema grade cameras operate beyond this. Vegas needs a engine upgrade to compete with new tech. Will they upgrade the engine of an old app, or make the new app look that much better with high resolutions. The new catalyst series is using a different interface UI, and a ground up engine. My guess Vegas could be end of life, and when Catalyst reaches about 4.0, Sony will market people over to simplify support. But the full featured NLE under the Catalyst brand has not been released yet, or Edit 4.0 will acquire the features that do not yet exist in the current release.

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John Rofrano
Re: Request for computer and/or video upgrade guidance
on Jul 28, 2015 at 1:54:40 pm

The reason I say not to substitute parts is because of stability. This is how you build your own solid system from scratch:

CPU: You decide on the processor that you need based on the workloads you need to run.

Motherboard: Then you pick a motherboard from the list of approved motherboards that the processor company suggests. You don't just pick any motherboard with a compatible socket. No, you select a motherboard that the processor company has tested and approved for use with their processor.

Memory: Then you go to the motherboard company and you only buy memory that's on the approved use list by part number. You don't just by any memory with the correct specs. You buy sticks that were tested and approved by the motherboard manufacturer because you know these are going be trouble free.

This is critical for ensuring that your system is stable. You may be able to use other motherboards and memory and you may get lucky, but you may also build a system that randomly freezes or restarts and you'll never figure out why. I've been there and done that and have the useless parts to prove it. You gotta ask yourself, are you feeling lucky? or do you want computer that works the first day, every day, trouble free?

This is why I suggest that people not stray form tested parts that are known to work well together. Unless you are a system builder who can experiment with what works well together (and most people are not)... tweaking memory parts here or motherboards there can get you into trouble and make your system unstable.

As for the graphics card, yes by all means get an AMD if you are buying this primarily for Vegas Pro. Technically the NVIDIA cards work fine because they support OpenCL. It's just that AMD supports it better so for Vegas Pro editors I would suggest and AMD R9 290/x series. I have an AMD Radeon HD 7950 because that's the fastest Mac Edition card that works with my 12-Core Mac Pro. It's equivalent to an R9 280 and it works well with Vegas Pro.


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