Best bang for the $$$ - Speed up video editing

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Madone 5.2, Apr 30, 2014.

  1. Madone 5.2 macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2007

    I would greatly appreciate some help with speeding up my iMac for editing video with FCPX. I've got 1080P footage that I'm trying to edit and I keep getting dropped frames and overall I would like to speed up my system with an SSD like my MBP. I know that my speed bottleneck is my internal HD and external USB hard drives. I'm not needing to work with all of the data at once, the external drives are more for archiving the footage but I will occasionally need to work with footage from them. I'm not a professional, I'm helping out a non-profit with training videos - so price is definitely a consideration!

    Here is my current situation:
    2011 3.1GHz i5 27" iMac / 16GB Ram / 6970M 1024 MB / 1TB HHD at 50% capacity and 110MB/s read/ Thunderbolt, USB 2/ 2 external displays plugged into the thunderbolt ports.

    Several 2TB My Book Studio hard drives (capable of USB 3) @ about 65MB/s read & write on USB 2 (Horrible speed, I know...)

    The options that I have looked into are:
    ($199-349) Getting a LaCie rugged thunderbolt external SSD to run OSX from and use internal HHD as more of a scratch disk. - LaCie portable has only 1 thunderbolt port so I would have to ditch a display, It's also bus powered so it's not quite as fast as other options.

    ($200) Getting a Belkin Thunderbolt Express Dock so that I can tank advantage of USB3 on my existing HDs - Not sure how much of a speed improvement I would get and I would still want to get some sort of SSD to run the system from.

    ($490) Taking my iMac to an Authorized Service Provider to add an OWC 6G SSD into the empty bay to run OSX from and the HHD as more of a scratch disk. - Half the cost is parts and labor, can't swap easily if the SSD fails or I get a new computer.

    ($710) Getting something like the OWC ThunderBay IV and running OSX from a OWC 6G SSD and eventually putting in more HDs and possibly a 2nd SSDs to use as a scratch disk. - Expensive and I'm not sure about the speed of a single SSD in the ThunderBay. (I'm assuming that I can boot OSX from the ThunderBay)

    ($1500-2100) Buying a newer iMac that has an SSD. - The most expensive option, I don't want Fusion drive, and I would have to give up the dvd drive.

    Any thoughts on speed performance and cost of the options? Best bang for the buck?

  2. sevoneone macrumors 6502

    May 16, 2010
    I work with HD video on a similarly specced machine, similarly specced projects too, industrials and real estate property tours "on a budget."

    My boot drive is SSD, but all my media lives on spinning disks from start to finish and I don't have to much trouble. Switching to the SSD did improve the responsiveness of my system overall, but I didn't notice a huge improvement in FCPX. So take that into consideration.

    USB 2.0 does not cut it for HD video editing. If you are working projects off of those drives, that is going to be your biggest performance bottleneck. FW 800 minimum. USB 3.0, ESATA or TB is where you really need to be for external storage.

    For the position you're in, I'd go for the most cost effective TB to USB 3.0 option, or invest in TB native storage to replace your existing drives.

    You say you have MyBook Studio II drives? The silver ones with RAID 0 or 1? The only versions of those drives I know of only support USB 2.0, FW 800 and ESATA. I don't recall one with USB 3.0, so be sure to double check. In the event they don't have USB 3.0, try for some sort of TB to ESATA adapter. If nothing else, the Apple TB to FireWire adapter is $29 if I remember right and it will give you twice the performance of USB 2.0, though still not the best performance.
  3. coldsweat macrumors 6502


    Aug 18, 2009
    Grimsby, UK
    I agree with sevoneone - It's the USB media drives that aren't cutting it.

    Putting your system drive onto an SSD will make your computer feel 'snappier' (& Safari too!) - but won't help with your dropped frames! - If your current USB drives are definitely USB3 then a TB to USB3 adapter will give you the best 'Bang for your Buck' & should sort out your dropped frames issue.
  4. profwilliams macrumors newbie

    Jun 5, 2009
    The other issue is your footage. You say 1080p, but how is it compressed? Are you cutting h.264, optimized or proxy? As others mentioned, USB 2 is an issue- but remember Larry Jordan's rule: never cut with your footage stored on your "boot" (computer) drive.

    Footage should be on a fast external drive. And while USB2 is slow, if you're cutting proxy media, it might be good enough. Then switch over to Optimized for export.

    This distinction- h.264 vs. optimized vs. proxy is important to know, as depending on your system, it will make editing easy, or hard.

    Good Luck!
  5. Madone 5.2 thread starter macrumors newbie

    Oct 24, 2007
    Thanks everyone! I'll probably get the Belkin thunderbolt dock to run my USB drives at USB 3, get an SSD to run my system from then use internal disk as storage.

    @profwilliams, when I import .mov files from my 7D I have FCPX create optimized and proxy media. Do I need to change setting to have FCPX use the optimized media before export? I'll have to look up how to do this as I haven't seen this before.


    I have the a few of the single drive MyBook Studio, yes they are USB 3. I also have one older WD drive with ESATA and FW 800.
  6. profwilliams macrumors newbie

    Jun 5, 2009
    Hey Madone,

    A student just asked me the same question, and despite being very comfortable with the program- I always have to look up. I believe no, it will always use optimized. But I always switch back to optimized because like most folks, I have my quirks where I just don't trust these "damn computers!!"

    Here's a link with tons of info from Larry Jordan, I refer to it often:
  7. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Jan 5, 2006
    Redondo Beach, California
    Placing the data you are currently working with on SSD will help. It all does not need to be on SSD just the active files.

    But before you spend $$$ try setting preferences in FCPX. you can use proxy files and these will be much faster. What automatic features are done on import? Turn that stuff off. The SSD will not help you much if you are doing transcoding.

    Depending on what you are doing now you can gain a lot by changing preferences


    That rule only applies if the boot drive is a mechanical hard drive. If the boot drive is SSD then it is actually fast to put the media files on the system drive.

    The problem with hard disk drives is call "head contention" and SSD has no "heads" so the problem goes away completely.

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