How much does RAM matter with video editing?

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by Siderz, Mar 26, 2013.

  1. Siderz, Mar 26, 2013
    Last edited: Mar 26, 2013

    Siderz macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2012
    I know it's a bit of a n00b question, but it's been sitting on my mind for a long time.

    When I first started proper editing, I had 4GB RAM and I was able to edit 1080p video just fine, managing FCE4 perfectly and even Premiere Pro and After Effects. I soon upgraded to 8GB, and I don't know if there was even a difference, I didn't feel as if I could run more programs either, the 4GB seemed to be good enough at running so many programs. However, I was definitely able to do longer RAM previews in AE.

    What's more important in video editing; getting more RAM or getting a faster processor? Where does RAM even make a difference when video editing?

    And, with today's software, what's more important, CPU or GPU? I've been reading around and people keep saying CPU, but they appear to be older threads before we had so much 'GPU accelerated' stuff. Perhaps they're outdated, but I saw a thread from last year where people were agreeing that a CPU will do better when working with video.

    I was arguing with my friends earlier today about how video editing is [apparently] more CPU intensive, but they kept on with their belief "No, all video is done in the GPU" (They definitely don't know much about video in general, I told them their belief is built on gaming - Something to add is that they think FW800 is outdated and that Thunderbolt is a 'crappelised' version of USB, lulz, no idea how you could act like a computing warlord and have no idea what Thunderbolt is)

    Edit: Don't take me for a n00b in other threads though! Sometimes I like to check over things to make sure I am actually correct, regarding RAM though, I'm taking this from personal experience.

    And, regarding the CPU/GPU dilemma, if someone could explain what actually goes on, that would be cool.
  2. rei101 macrumors 6502a

    Dec 24, 2011
    4 GB of ram is ok with video editing since what you are doing is basically sucking video from the hard drive.

    When rendering from one format to another you need processor.

    When doing color correction and effects, graphic processing is used.

    If you use After Effects GPU is what you need.

    When rendering and batch rendering is CPU.

    In my office there is a Mac Pro with the latest processors, but I have 2 27" iMacs from 2 years ago and I do way more than the other guy since I am rendering in one while editing in the other one.
  3. Zwhaler macrumors 604


    Jun 10, 2006
    What is more important, RAM or CPU? Definitely CPU. If you have enough RAM to run the program, the CPU will rip through rendering. Example: Mac Pro Quad 2.66 with 64GB RAM vs 12 Core 2.66 with 4GB RAM. The 12 core will outperform the other one so bad it isn't even funny.

    What is more important, CPU or GPU? The answer is both. Important to note here that older software won't utilize all of your computer's resources. If you used FCP X or PRemiere, you will get much better results and will notice the RAM bump way more than in Final Cut Pro 7 or older. Color grading software like DaVinci Resolve relies most heavily on GPU. FCP X definitely uses CPU, GPU, and RAM in that order. When exporting, for example, it uses GPU accelerated export.
  4. 12dylan34 macrumors 6502a

    Sep 3, 2009
    Make no mistake. RAM is very important to pretty much any application involving video. In After Effects, a moderate collection of effects use certain models of GPUs, but it's very important to have plenty of RAM, otherwise you end up needing to re-render frames because it has to purge frames from memory as you try to RAM preview more.

    I use After Effects extensively, as I'm a motion graphic designer, and more RAM, even with the same processor boosts performance significantly. I've experienced it firsthand many times.

    Most video applications will use whatever RAM you have in your system. I have 32GB, and After Effects will use all of that if I let it. At a certain point, more RAM becomes more about convenience and less about really boosting the performance of your system.

    I'm not really much of an authority on NLEs, though.
  5. kohlson macrumors 68000

    Apr 23, 2010
    As you may have figured out by reading the earlier replies, this is not a simple question. The two resources are interrelated. RAM's function, in a nutshell, is to make it easier/faster for the CPU to get the data it needs to process the job its working on. Not enough RAM throttles the CPU while it waits longer (a lot longer) to get data from the disk. If you don't have enough RAM for the task(s) you are doing, adding more will boost performance. But if you have enough, adding more RAM will not increase performance. If you don't have enough RAM, a faster processor will do the work it can more quickly, but will still have to wait while getting more data to process. Fortunately, RAM is so cheap these days that there is little cost to overprovision consumer systems. But the answer really, is it depends. Applications rarely take advantage of all system resources (cores, threads, RAM). iMovie and QT Pro, for example, rarely use more than half the CPU while encoding. Handbrake, otoh, does a pretty good job of using all the CPU you have.
  6. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    I use FCPX+Compressor on my 2011 MBP and 2009 iMac (quad core and Hyperthreading, i7 on both). I'm editing 3-4 hours of 720p video a week.

    On both machines the CPU "pins" at 100% on all cores doing rendering/encoding for both FCPX and Compressor. I don't try to run both at once. And I have virtually no effects (I don't even own Motion!) as these videos are of lectures. Even with both machines having 8GB of RAM, I never see more than 5GB of usage even with a normal set of other programs open simultaneously.

    So for at least this software, the faster and more cores the better as that will be the limiting factor. Today's standard 8GB RAM is more than adequate.
  7. Siderz thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2012
    Thanks for all the responses!

    Another quick question, how much would having Skype, Chrome, and Mail open affect the editing software?

    I used to restart my computer before using Premiere Pro, just to clear anything out, stop any processes etc., and then just use my iPad for Skype/Mail/browsing the Internet.

    Should I get back into the habit of doing this? Or is it not going to speed much up?

    Whenever I need to use After Effects at the same time as Premiere Pro however, then I do restart. But if it's just plain editing, I don't restart.
  8. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    They shouldn't affect it at all if there is nothing going on in them

    I never restart my computer for any program. The last time I restarted was 9 days ago. I don't even remember why.
  9. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    I have 32GB, 6-core CPU and 5870 GPU, and run mainly Premiere and After Effects.

    When I edit, I often have Skype, Firefox, and Photoshop open at the same time as Premiere and/or After Effects. Sometimes, I also have iTunes open if I can get away with listening to music, such as in AE most of the time. I have Premiere/AE set to only use 26GB of RAM and AE set to only use 8 of 12 threads, and I find this works well. It will use all 26GB of RAM for sure, and I firmly believe that having the other 6GB of RAM and 4 threads reserved for all the other apps prevents crashes. Every now and then, with a massive project open (such as a feature-length project with many effects) in both Pr and AE, I'll have an error rendering an AE project out, and have to either close and reopen AE, or close both and only open AE to finish it, and every time this has happened, I've noticed I'm using up just about all 32GB of RAM.

    My observations indicate that one should have as much RAM as possible for heavy video work. I sometimes consider bumping mine up to 48GB, but so far, I've managed well with only 32GB.
  10. Siderz thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2012
    Probably restarted for an update. I'm pretty sure there've been a couple of OSX updates in the past couple of weeks.

    Do you turn your computer off at night?

    A lot of people don't, and I've never found their reasons to be good enough.

    A lot of people with ultrabooks packed with SSDs and good batteries go <I>"Well, it wakes up very quickly and sleeps efficiently, no point turning it off now"</i>. I see SSDs as a good reason to turn your computer off at night.

    I turn everything off at night except my iPhone. My iPhone normally spends a week on until I leave the battery to drain completely, then I recharge it to 100%. My iPhone 3GS battery is in very good shape still and I see no reason to get a new iPhone. I'm sure iOS7 won't be supported on it, that's when I plan to upgrade finally.


    How do you set the amount of threads AE can use? Or any application for that matter?
  11. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    Only our portables (a MBP and a MBA) get turned off when not in use. Our two iMacs and two Mac mini entertainment centers sleep when not in use. The power savings from turning them off would be negligible and we get nearly "instant on". Also the entertainment centers can not be turned on via a remote control but they can be brought out of sleep by remote control.

    The final Mac is our server system which is on 24/7.
  12. laurim macrumors 68000


    Sep 19, 2003
    Minnesota USA
    I'm a motiongraphics designer and I have to occasionally restart my computer when I notice rendering is going extremely slowly. I've had a small animation take hours to render and then I restart my computer and it takes a couple minutes. Very frustrating! I wish I knew what wasn't getting flushed out and clogging the system. Can't wait for a new Mac Pro! And this time, I think I won't bother buying a ton of ram. When I look at the stats while I'm rendering, it doesn't use all 24 gigs of ram so I think I will get no more than the 12 gigs of ram the current 12-core option comes with standard. I WILL get the best graphics card, though, and keep that current because Motion uses a lot of GPU processing.
  13. Siderz thread starter macrumors 6502a

    Nov 10, 2012
    Yeah, I've definitely noticed that restarting before a render/export (Be it video or motion graphics) can help a big deal.

    Very annoying when the render bar just stops, you decide to wait 10 minutes, and nothing's happened.
  14. wonderspark macrumors 68040


    Feb 4, 2010
    It's in Preferences, under Memory & Multiprocessing.

    I went through every possible combination, including how much RAM is allocated to each thread, and so on, running the same render and noting the time each took, before settling on the combination that gave the fastest results. It will all depend on how many cores, RAM and everything else, so I recommend trying the different settings methodically to see what gives the best result on *your* system. :)
  15. Magdielito macrumors newbie


    Dec 11, 2016
    Hi guys, i need Help, i am doing photo and video and my 2013 27" iMac performance sucks
    I used Lightroom 6 and Premier CS6 all the time
    This is what i do have:
    iMac (21.5-inch, Late 2013)
    2.7 GHz Intel Core i5
    8 GB 1600 MHz DDR3
    1TB Macintosh HD
    Intel Iris Pro 1536 MB

    i am planning to get this:

    • Intel Core i7-6700K 4.0GHz (Max 4.2GHz) Processor
    • 32GB DDR4 3000MHz SDRAM / 64GB (Max) RAM
    • 2TB - SATA III - 7200 rpm + 240GB SSD Hard Drive
    • NIVIDIA GeForce GTX1080 Graphics
    • 8GB Dedicated Video Memory
    Do you think it will make a real difference?
  16. Silencio macrumors 68020


    Jul 18, 2002
    Adobe app performance is most definitely going to suck with only 8GB of RAM. Unfortunately that iMac maxes out at only 16GB, though.

    Obviously the system you spec'ed out will be much better. I assume you're considering switching to Windows if you're specified a GTX 1080 card?

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