Most important hardware specs for video editing?

Discussion in 'iMac' started by chiggywawa, Oct 4, 2013.

  1. chiggywawa macrumors newbie

    May 2, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    Wondering if anyone can offer their expertise on this subject.
    I'm a videographer and my workflow includes Final Cut Pro X, Compressor, Adobe Encore, and a handful of post applications (Magic Bullet, CrumplePop plugins, etc.)
    What hardware specs most influence rendering times? Is it the CPU, the amount of RAM, the graphics card? Are they all equal in importance for video work, or is one more crucial to have than the other?
    I'm currently running on a couple-years-old MacBook Pro that's starting to lag quite a bit and looking to upgrade, but want to make sure I'm putting my money towards the specs that matter most for my work.
  2. KaraH macrumors 6502

    Nov 12, 2012
    All are important. If I only had to pick one I would lean towards the graphics card since it has vram but the cpu influences the computation time.
  3. talmy macrumors 601


    Oct 26, 2009
    FCPX and Compressor here. For me the bottleneck is rendering time, and since it hits all my processing cores at 100% I'd say the CPU is most important. For certain, get the i7.
  4. joema2 macrumors 65816


    Sep 3, 2013
    Typically rendering is CPU-bound, not I/O, memory, or GPU-bound. For rendering you want the most available cores (hyperthreaded i7 if possible).

    There is some variation -- a lower-compression codec like MPEG2 will do more I/O, and a higher-compression codec like H.264 will do less I/O and more CPU.

    There is some software that tries to offload rendering to GPU, but this must be explicitly coded and you'd have to evaluate the software and actual benefit.

    Newer Intel processors have Quick Sync instructions which in theory can improve rendering performance by 500% to 800%. However it only works with certain codecs, and to date editing suites have poorly supported this. To my knowledge neither Premiere Pro CC or the latest Final Cut Pro X support Quick Sync, although there are some add-in libraries which do.
  5. Bear macrumors G3

    Jul 23, 2002
    Sol III - Terra
    Get the i7, the 780M if you can afford it would help. You will also probably want more memory, but that can be added later.
  6. chiggywawa thread starter macrumors newbie

    May 2, 2008
    Los Angeles, CA
    It seems the consensus is DEFINITELY plunk down the extra cash for the fastest CPU possible.

    So, in regards to video work, CPU affects rendering...
    While GPU affects ... ? (barring specific software that offloads rendering to GPU)
    And RAM affects... ?

    Sorry for the newbie questions, I got into video work when my workflow was pretty simple, so i never had to really know the whats or whys of my hardware. But now that work is requiring more and I'm looking to upgrade, I figure educating myself is important. So thanks in advance for your guys' help!

  7. zedsdead macrumors 68040

    Jun 20, 2007
    A few misnomers about FCP X:

    - it now largely uses the GPU to render and export. This came in one of the recent major updates, maybe 10.0.6 or so. So a high end GPU will definitely help.

    - Final cut still does not adequately take advantage of all available cores and threads (not sure why, but it doesn't). Apple is horrible in this area, whereas free programs like handbrake do use all cores without problem. I have a maxed out 2012 iMac and it never uses above 60% or so of the CPU. Not saying don't get the i7, but don't expect it to actually do much in way of render times.

    - fast raid hard drives are very beneficial for editing speed regardless of the system. This can be a bottleneck for performance if your drive is slow.
  8. ioannis2005gr macrumors 6502


    Aug 10, 2013
    I agree...
  9. jwhazel macrumors regular

    Sep 22, 2005
    FCPX user here. Having used this across multiple machines with varying specs, here's a list of whats important ranked in order. This is also mostly true for Adobe tools as well. This assumes HD or higher editing in an intermediate codec like ProRes (SD editing requires very little power).

    1.) CPU - huge difference in switching to machines with more cores. Particularly when getting into effects/longer timelines. You can skimp on this *if* you only work on short timelines or don't do a lot of effects/layering.
    2.) RAM - Very close race here between this and cpu. Most video gets pre-rendered to ram cache. This is one instance where you simply can't have too much ram. If you can afford 64GB, go for it.
    3.) HDD - faster disks load and save clips faster. You don't have to have some crazy RAID1 fiber link setup to work with editing, but 10k RPM or SSD's will definitely make a difference. Even moreso when you start poking around with 2.5 and 4k video.
    4.) GPU - Was the least useful thing I found. On windows, Adobe makes better use of GPU power but no matter what I always found it to be buggy. And even though FCPX makes use of OpenCL on the mac side, I couldn't tell you any perceptible differences between an iMac/Mac Pro with lower end gpu vs the highest end one. And people may happily retort back with a chart showing X thousand percent gain in the latest version of FCP/Motion using high end gpu's. Thats fine. I certainly wish I experienced this at least once, but never did. You listed a bunch of different programs. Does GPU processing scale nicely among all of them? Probably not. But CPU power will.
  10. fhopper macrumors regular


    Sep 18, 2007
    Wichita Ks.

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