Most Worthwhile Upgrades for HD Video Editing

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by mkitchen, Dec 18, 2010.

  1. mkitchen macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2008
    I have the original macbook unibody core 2 duo 2.0ghz, 160gb 5400 RPM HD, 2 GB RAM

    I started editing HD video recently (1080P AVCHD) on my macbook in Final Cut Express. It is completely workable and I had no problem editing a 3 minute video including keying, filters, etc. I'm about to move on to editing 10-20 minute videos and I know that this is going to take much more time and I was trying to figure out the best way to cut some of the time rendering and "writing video down." I'm not expecting miracles, I have about $200 I could put into it, and I am trying to decide how much difference the following would make:

    2GB of RAM -> 4GB
    5400 RPM HD -> 7200 RPM (possibly a 2nd HD in the DVD bay that would just be a scratch disk for video)
    5400 RPM HD -> Smaller SSD

    Once again - not looking for hours off my rendering time, just possibly 10-15% performance gains in the area of "writing to video" mostly. Does anyone have any experience or knowledge as to what would provide the greatest benefit? Thanks guys.
  2. alust2013 macrumors 601


    Feb 6, 2010
    On the fence
    Unfortunately, the only thing that can improve rendering times is a better CPU, which cannot be upgraded without simply buying a new computer.
  3. matteusclement macrumors 65816


    Jan 26, 2008
    I kind of agree with the previous poster.

    I found that ripping out my DVD drive for a 2nd hard drive made a HUGE difference. The 4 gigs of ram will also go a VERY long way.

    But when you are rendering, check out your ACTIVITY monitor. If your CPU usage is at 100%, then you're screwed.

    Are you using AIC or Prores when you're doing this?
  4. xStep macrumors 68000

    Jan 28, 2003
    Less lost in L.A.
    Matteusclement suggested looking at Activity Monitor which is the best suggestion for starters. This will help you determine where your bottleneck is. If it is CPU, then yea, a newer Mac would be the solution.

    You need to be running you application of concern when looking at Activity Monitor. Also, you are best adviced to quit the other applications. They will interfere with some of your readings.

    This article explains Activity Monitor well. You are interested in three things; CPU usage, memory usages, and page ins/outs of the virtual memory swap file.
  5. bearcatrp macrumors 68000

    Sep 24, 2008
    Boon Docks USA
    If your not using a scratch disk, this would be the 1st thing I would recommend. Then ram, then a ssd.
  6. mkitchen, Dec 19, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 19, 2010

    mkitchen thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2008
    Guys, thanks for the Activity Monitor suggestion - not sure why I didn't think of that. I read that article on how to read it, it all makes sense, but maybe you guys can help me interpret the results, cause I'm a little confused.

    When I am writing to video in FCE it is using 150-180% CPU (which doesn't make sense to me). BUT when I look at the bottom CPU tab, it says my user is is using 75-85% and often leaves anywhere from 10-20% idle - so i think that means i'm not maxing my processor... right?

    RAM seems to be not an issue as it said I had almost half a gig "inactive." (452Mb). It was using 199mb of real memory and 275mb of virtual.

    I think disk is the issue when i clicked on the diskactivity it was red and constantly peaking at 4-4.8mb/s.

    So I am thinking that with a better/faster HD. I could see some performance gain. Maybe a 7200 RPM dedicated scratch in my SATA dvd bay? How do I know that a new hard drive will write at faster than 4mb/s as i can't find that stat listed anywhere when buying a drive.

    Does this make sense? Thanks again.

    I am using AIC (someone asked)

    Ok, i've just tried a USB External HD and I get the same write speeds at about 4mb/s so does that mean I am bottlenecking at the processor? I am now getting much more confused...
  7. MrLatte23 macrumors regular

    Jul 18, 2007
    Elgato TurboHD

    If the majority of your renders are to the H.264 codec, check out the USB Dongle by Elgato. It plugs into any USB port and significantly speeds up H.264 renders with decent quality trade offs for those who like to use two pass VBR. Has a number of presets for easy exporting to YouTube, iPod, AppleTV as well as full-res HD.

    I occasionally use H.264, but find the Elgato valuable for outputting a quick SD version of a HD project for a client.
  8. matteusclement macrumors 65816


    Jan 26, 2008
    that is a CPU bottle neck for sure.
    you might get a little more punch with the 2nd drive. but it won't be much.
  9. THX1139 macrumors 68000


    Mar 4, 2006
    As been said, the bottleneck for renders is CPU. However, having a decent secondary disk for scratch is extremely important too. You don't want to be editing from the same drive that you're writing and pulling files from. That doubles the amount of tasks that the drive has to do.

    And for people using Final Cut Pro an issue in that it's not optimize for multiple CPU or 64bit yet. We should see an increase in speed if Apple ever gets around to brushing the cobwebs off.

    I have the 2008 Unibody that has the card slot. I added a SATA card (cost about $20 from OWC). When I'm working from home, I run scratch/files from the eSata port plugged into a Voyager Q drive. This way I'm able to swap out 3.5" 7200 RPM drives for projects. It's fast! When I'm on the road, I take along my Seagate firewire 800/ 7200RPM drive. You might want to look at those solutions if you don't want to lose your Superdrive.
  10. mkitchen thread starter macrumors member

    Jul 7, 2008
    Thanks again guys. Unfortunately this revision A unibody MacBook 13" has no card slot AND no FireWire port. It figures... I am currently then trying tO decide how much my time is worth. I could probably get 600-700 on eBay for the laptop and then through in an extra 400 and get an iMac that would probably comE close to doubling my render times or just stick with it. I only need to do about 13 10-15min long videos that maybe I could just deal with... Frustrating...
  11. the vj macrumors 6502a

    Nov 23, 2006
    My friend, when editing video the main thing is to know what you are going to do.

    If you are going to put footage one behind the other with some color correction and transitions you may be ok with your internal drive or an extrenal USB2 drive.

    If you are going to composite several layers then things will get slow. But everything depends on the project.

    It is beter to save some money and get a good 27: iMac. I got one last week, 8 processors i7 and 1GB of video ram and it goes so fast! faster than my quzd core Mac Pro.

    But if you are going to edit in your mac book just do it, consider that your mac book is faster than the fatest machine 5 years ago and 5 years ago people did video as well.
  12. matteusclement macrumors 65816


    Jan 26, 2008
    yeah, that i7 is SICK!
    I used to use a 2.0ghz intel dual core iMac and it was decent with a few FW400 drives. So I can only imagine what the i7 would be like.

Share This Page