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How to build a video editing PC based on your requirements

One editing PC, made to order, coming right up!

The other day I got a call from an old friend of mine with whom I’d lost touch over the years. He’d recently quit his job and wanted to join the bandwagon of entrepreneurs and enter the world of videography. Just like old friends who’ve never bothered to keep in touch with you, he proceeded straight to asking for hardware advice. Ah … well. A PC was needed, that too for video editing and he had the budget for it. He’d already started editing videos on his laptop but the export times were through the roof, hence the need for an upgrade.

As I went about asking him about his production pipeline, it dawned upon me that he makes absolutely no use of any special filters at all. At most, certain clients would request some garish filters to give it the classic Indian wedding video feel but that was about it. So naturally, I couldn’t suggest the usual Killer Rig recommendation for the guy since the video editing rig makes use of a really good CPU and a GPU to strike a balance between core count and the GPU so that export times were reduced even if plenty of filters were used. However, if you aren’t going to use a lot of filters or effects in your video, then getting a powerful graphics card isn’t prudent. The only outlier here would be if you are using a software that is optimised for GPGPU. Then you’re better off with the Killer Rigs recommendation.

There is a simple reason why you shouldn’t base your rig purchase off of benchmarks because benchmarks, by definition, are built to make use of all the aspects of a software and push the hardware to its limits. This is a scenario which is not at all seen in real-world situations. Most amateurs simply perform jump cuts and add scene transitions. Essentially, all the GPU intensive tasks are kept to a minimum while CPU intensive tasks take up most of the editing process. This is with regards to every software out there except just one – DaVinci Resolve. Resolve makes use of the GPU intensively and there’s a great benefit to be had for your edit process if you’re using DaVinci Resolve. Running batch filters becomes more convenient if you have a good GPU while using DaVinci Resolve. For the most popular software such as Adobe Premiere Pro and Final Cut Pro, you’re better off with a more powerful CPU and a normal GPU.

So now the question remains, what kind of GPU should you get? Is the GPU intensive task so minimal that you can make do with a simple RX 460 or GTX 1030? Turns out, that’s not the case. Real world tests reveal that while performance does scale as you get a better GPU, the magnitude of difference brought about with a high-end GPU is minimal. So yes, a GTX 1080 will be better than a GTX 1060 but in a real-world test , the difference will be about 3-4 seconds on average. So if you’re using something like Premiere Pro or FCP, you can make do with a GTX 1050 Ti or an RX 470 as long as your CPU is powerful.

Now that the GPU is out of the way, you need to worry about the CPU. Well, this isn’t as complicated as the GPU and the simple rule of the thumb is that more cores are better. Previously, buying a server CPU was the way to go since core counts across mainstream CPUs were limited to just four. Now that mainstream CPUs like the Ryzen 7 1800X or the 2700X pack eight cores, you’re better off getting one. In fact, even the HEDT platforms have got a lot more SKUs to choose from these days. Intel has the Core i9-7980XE which absolutely wins the race but it also comes at a really high price. So the more economical option ends up being the Threadripper 1920X from AMD, not the 1950X because that’s a bit pricey too. So while most of the suggestions in our Killer Rig fits the bill, you’re better off deciding on the CPU and GPU after analysing your style of editing.

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