How to build a computer for video-editing: Part 1 – Components

Some of you may know, I’m doing a weekly show for now… I expect the show to run about twice as long as my normal videos (probably 8-12 minutes). Filmed and edited in 1080P HD, that makes for some fairly large files, and subsequently a significant amount of processing time. Right now I’m doing it all on an 64-bit, 11-inch, dual-core laptop with 2GB RAM. It gets the job done, but my last render took about 2 days to complete. That’s time that I can’t afford with a weekly show.

So I’m putting together a new rig… here are the specs:

Case: Cooler Master Elite 360 m-ATX ATX Mid/Mini Tower Case RC-360-KKR1
This case holds a full-sized PSU and a full-ATX motherboard. It doesn’t have a lot of room for internal drives, but two 5.25″ and one 3.5″ internal + one 3.5″ external should be just fine. This case is unique in that the PSU is located at the lower-front part of the case, utilizing room that would normally go unused (or be reserved for several hard drives). This layout lets the case be about the size a uATX/mini-ATX case, saving space on the desk in the process.

Power Supply (PSU): Corsair Enthusiast TX V2 Series 850-Watt 80 Plus Bronze Certified High Performance Modular Power Supply CP-9020004-NA
80 Plus efficient PSUs should be the only ones you consider. They are much more power-conscious, and in my opinion are higher-quality than their non-80-Plus siblings. The case I’m looking at comes with a 350W PSU, but honestly, for as much RAM and CPU as I’m putting in, I need the extra juice. As a side-note, your PSU won’t consume more power than is needed, so if the computer only needs 200W, that’s all the PSU will require. Going with a higher wattage means you’ve got more room to grow.

Motherboard: ASUS SATA 6 Gb/s DisplayPort Intel Z68 Micro ATX DDR3 2200 Intel LGA 1155 Motherboards P8Z68-M Pro
I like small motherboards. They’re easier to handle, easier to route cables, and today have pretty much everything you need in the uATX formfactor. I went with the -M version of the Asus P8Z68 simply because I didn’t need the extra stuff the non-M version included — and it saved me some money in the process.

CPU: Intel Core i7-2600K Processor
The CPU is what does most of the heavy-lifting in a computer. I was tempted to go with a Core i5, but was talked into spending the extra money to go from a basic quad-core to a quad-core with hyper-threading. That means apps that support multi-threading will essentially see 8 cores and be able to get the processing done that much faster. With video editing and rendering, the more cores you have, the better.

RAM: Corsair Vengeance Blue 16 GB DDR3 SDRAM Dual Channel Memory Kit CMZ16GX3M4A1600C9B
The motherboard I selected has 4 slots for RAM. Adding 4 sticks of 4GB RAM gives me 16GB RAM. Video editing benefits greatly from being able to keep project files in RAM, rather than in a scratch or swap file on disk. I decided to upgrade from four individual sticks of Kingston Value RAM (which is on this motherboard’s “certified RAM” list) and go with the Corsair for a nominal amount more. Corsair has really good RAM in my experience, and with the addition of the heatsinks that come on the Corsair sticks I hope keep them cooler and “happier” than their “naked” Kingston cousins. Also, I’ve had more success when buying RAM as a “kit” than buying sticks separately.

SSD: Crucial 128 GB m4 2.5-Inch Solid State Drive SATA 6Gb/s CT128M4SSD2
SSDs are so much faster and use significantly less power than traditional hard drives. Yes, they’re smaller in capacity, but that’s because data access is so much faster! With video editing, having a fast disk is important. If more storage space is needed, one can add a traditional hard drive, but for my purposes, 128GB working room is plenty. I’ve already got a storage server for archiving video files off to, so that’s not a problem for me.

Also, boot, resume, and resume-from-hibernate times are reduced a LOT when your primary disk is an SSD.

Bay Adapter: SILVERSTONE SDP08 3.5 to 2 X 2.5-Inch Bay Converter
Since SSDs are 2.5″ and desktop cases are designed for 3.5″ hard drives, you’re going to need an adapter to make sure everything fits right. This Bay Converter has room for two SSDs (or any 2.5″ drive, really) with a nice gap between the two drives to allow for air-flow.

Optical Driver/Burner: Samsung Blu-Ray Combo Internal 12XReadable and DVD-Writable Drive with Lightscribe SH-B123L/BSBP
This drive will burn CDs, DVDs, and Blu-Ray discs, in addition to reading them. It’s also got LightScribe built-in, which lets you “burn” a label onto the top-side of compatible discs — no more paper labels or specialty ink-jet disks (which require specialty printers). Very nice.

Operating System: Windows 7 Home Premium SP1 64bit (Full) System Builder DVD 1 Pack
A 64-bit OS is a must to take advantage of all the RAM in this box. Windows 7 Home Premium includes everything that I need, and most of what I want (sure, I’m not able to RDP into it, but I’m okay with that). SP1 being built-in is nothing more than a time-saver on the initial build.

Keyboard and Mouse:Microsoft Wireless Comfort Desktop 5000
Wired keyboards and mice are nice in that they don’t require batteries that you need to replace. I’m constantly “tugging” on my mouse to free up the cord (even with a clip in place to hold the cord), so going wireless is a no-brainer for me.

Battery Charger: Sanyo NEW 1500 eneloop 4 Pack AA Ni-MH Pre-Charged Rechargeable Batteries with Charger
With a wireless keyboard and mouse you’re going to want to have a battery charger so you don’t have to keep buying batteries. The Eneloop system charges AA or AAA batteries in pairs, and comes highly recommended.

UPS/Battery Backup:CyberPower CP1500PFCLCD Pure Sine Wave UPS (1500VA/900W)
Some might feel that a UPS is a luxury or a non-essential component for a computer. I’ve built enough — and fixed more than enough — computers to know that a UPS should never ever be considered “optional”. Unless you have a “clean” source of power coming into your house (solar panels, wind or water turbine, etc.) that feeds into batteries, which are connected to an inverter which powers your computer, you’re probably hooked up to a municipal power grid. The grid’s power is notoriously “dirty”. Dirty power will cause the premature death of your components. I’ve seen it. Popped, leaking, or bulging capacitors are usually the first physical sign of damage caused by dirty power. Even if you don’t care about dirty power, a battery backup will keep your computer up and running (rendering or uploading) while there is a power “blip” (a short brown or spike) — or even an extended power outage. How much runtime you have depends on how much load you have and how big a battery is inside your UPS.

Basically, look at your PSU, and get a UPS that will support it. Then, look at what else you’ll have connected (printer, monitor, multiple monitors, speakers, etc.) and add their wattages together, then add that to the PSU’s rating. Your UPS should be right in that range. When in doubt, more is better: you’ll be able to upgrade your system without having to replace your UPS, and even if you never do, you’ll have a longer runtime when the power does fail.

What’s Missing?
Total cost: under $1,330.00 delivered. Some assembly required. 😉

What’s Missing?

I didn’t include monitor: I’ve already got a 19″ square monitor, that I intend to use until such time as I need to replace it. When I do get a new monitor I’ll likely get a 23″ or 24″ widescreen LED LCD, but I’ll probably keep the 19″ as a secondary monitor.

I did not include speakers: I have a set of basic stereo speakers that should work just fine for my purposes.

I didn’t include a video card: the motherboard I selected includes pretty decent on-board video. One of my next upgrades will likely be a dedicated video card since most video editing programs can use the the GPU to accelerate rendering, not only that, a dedicated GPU frees up the CPU and RAM to do other stuff.

I didn’t include a webcam: I don’t do much video conferencing — yet. When I do I’ll add a webcam to the mix — or look for a monitor with a built-in cam perhaps?

What’s Next?
So, there’s the parts list. Next I need to wait for some funds to come through so I can buy them all with cash (no going into debt here!). Once that arrives I’ll get the parts ordered and will start assembling them. (Stay tuned for that!)

I’m also going looking for a desk this weekend. I would like to get an old desk with large, rustic planks for the surface, but we’ll see how that works out. I’ve got to be able to shoot videos on the surface, but it has to allow for a mouse to glide over (and work on) the surface, too.

I hope this helped, and enjoy!

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