The best machine for desktop digital video editing

I have my own production company. My partner and I have been using a friends office and we bought into his G4 with him. This was a pretty bad ass editing machine. We are about to have our own office space, and decided to get bought out of the office and that machine. We need to invest in a new dedicated editing computer, and I am leaning towards the G5 if theyt release it in July.

My question is, for under $7000, what is the machine that best handles large amounts of video clips. I know that “Final Cut Pro” is the standard software for a Mac. That is what we have been using.

If the G5 does not come out, what kind of box and what software should we get. This may seem like a IMHO type of thing, but I figured there might be a definitive answer since it is all basically numbers in the end. Plus, alot more techies hang out here than in IMHO. Sorry if I’ve misplaced the thread.

Gotta run. Thanks in advance for any help.

DaLovin’ Dj

I used a G4 and Final Cut Pro, professionally. I spec’d the computer on the basis of a recommendation from a nameless SF film professor that Final Cut was the hottest thing in editing software.

I would not do this again. I’d buy a PC. They’re cheaper. I don’t know, is Final Cut available on PC, yet? I wasn’t so overwhelmed with that I’d stay with a Mac, just for it.

The big question is whether you need raw processing power for the editing software, or a very high quality video capture card. If you can make do with an inexpensive video card, then I’d get:

Two processors, either the absolute top end, or something close. It’s probably safer to buy Intel, because it’s less likely to fight with the video card, capture software, etc.
RAID 0 (doubles disk speed access). At least 50 gigs of disk space.
At least a gig of RAM
Also, get a largish monitor which has great color (not one that’s optimized for text). Use BNC connectors. (This would be at least $800 of the system.) Not a flat screen display.

Brand? Go to PC World, and pick the fastest computer they’ve got, that’s also a relatively good buy, a fairly well-known company. Make sure that their service and reliability figures are at least fair.

For best performance, you’ll want as little other software on the computer as possible. E.g., turn off screen-savers, virus detectors (that’s safe, if you don’t put the computer on a network, or stay off the network while the virus detector is off).

Any other questions, shoot me an e-mail.

Final Cut Pro is only available in Macs, and sadly the PC world has yet to match it. The PC’s are getting better, but look at the industry rags, or go into the houses and take a gander at what they are using. You will some PC’s used with the $50k Avid systems, and Macs with Final Cut.

I agree with Partly, apart with the $50k Avids, none of the consumer offerings are really going to overwhelm you. But for a small company with a small budget, it looks like mac is the way to go. You may also consider the users, whether freelance or full time, more people “in the business” will be familiar with this set up than any of the several PC offerings. Less learning curve, more productivity. Ask again in 3 months and you may get another answer. It all depends on how the current battle amongst the PC editing software makers hashes out, and how well they design their products.

Definitely go with a Mac. Short of the high-end Avid systems, there aren’t a lot of people who use Windows PCs for video work because of the integration (software and hardware) issues involved. The few comments I’ve heard suggest that Avid is losing marketshare to Apple, because a $7000 PowerMac has almost the same functionality as a $50,000 Avid workstation and for a lot less money. And Apple’s recent purchase of several video/graphics software firms suggest they’re planning to aggressively expand FCP’s capabilities in the future.

We all realize how complicated the OP is. We’re having to make a huge number of assumptions about their editing needs, the complexity of their edits, the number of edits, the length of videos, the technical computer experience, etc.

First, and I expected to bring this up either here or in person, I was going to recommend the OP duplicate an existing system another professional has, and which works very well. We bought our system “complete” from one of the video warehouses, and then were able to phone them for technical support.

Our Mac had PLENTY of integration issues. I’d say they were comperable to similar problems I’ve had in recent years with PCs and UNIX boxes.

In our (limited) experience, upgrading our Mac to solve some of our production delays was so expensive that we (mostly PC) people were shocked. Not just surprised, shocked.

I don’t know whether Apple has them, but I wouldn’t dismiss how extraordinary RAID 0 is. It means that any disk data transfer is twice as fast.

For some reason a copy of Adobe Premiere wandered into our studio, and for kicks one day, I decided to do some of the same things I’d been trying in Final Cut in Premiere. It took me something like 45 minutes to learn how.

In terms of processing time, working on the Mac started to make me desperate. We were starting to do things like sophisticated 3D titles, and 3D animation, and I was so frustrated, I ended up doing those on a PC, and importing them.

So I’m basing my answer on the fact that we had both a high-end Mac, and a medium end PC, and we were starting to transfer more and more of our work to the PC. Had we continued, I’m sure we would have scrapped the Mac.

Finally, and this is one of those hot Mac vs. PC issues, the single button mouse drove me crazy. The same repetitive clicking started to “get to” my hand. Also, I didn’t find the mouse as “easy” to use as the PC mice I selected out of the wide range of models available. (Realize that I’ve owned both a PC and a Mac for years.)

Ignoring the rest of the message (since it sounds to me like a classic case of “no experienced Mac person available to help with basic troubleshooting”), but assuming this was a recent Mac, you could have probably plugged a two-button USB mouse from one of the Windows PCs and used that instead.

Why people get so hung up on the Mac’s default one-button mouse when multi-button mice are dirt cheap is beyond me. Shrug

rjung We had professional Mac troubleshooters all around me, and none coughed up this information about the mouse. Not my problem.

Placing the evaluation of an entire system on some single nit, is a classic way of people who are obsessed with their own favorite <hardware/software vendor goes here> avoid confronting the usability of a system overall. My intention was not to provide a “bullet proof” argument that PCs are better than Macs. Who gives a shit.

I was saying, as a professional, that I would buy a PC, next time.

We bought a Mac video package from what we understood was the top company, and we STILL had problems with it. Our group WROTE troubleshooting documentation, used by 100,000 of people every month. None of us were beginners.

Ignoring my statements like “I know how to use both Macs and PCs for video editing and I chose PCs for convenience and cost” is basically ignoring the OP’s question.

And also, reviewing your tired tirade, sounding so much like any other of a thousand nerds defending the system they “know is right”, for a professional to trust to Apple’s promises of coming features, or your glee that Avid seems to be losing market share is the surest way that a businessman could lose his ass. “Experts” like you cause failures of companies.

I said: “Duplicate an existing professional system that works well.” That’s a businessman’s answer.

I hope you aren’t suggesting that Adobe premeir is a viable replacement for Final Cut Pro. I think we can all agree that it isn’t. Since the OP mentioned “large amounts of video” it would appear that he is focusing his decision on video editing capabilities. 3D rendering is best left to 3D rendering apps.

NurseCarmen, I only played with Adobe Premiere for a couple hours, and for the things we were doing, it produced quite similar results. I’d definitely be interested in knowing (and probably the OP would, too) where Final Cut stands out.

We used 3D Studio Max for our 3D work, with a PC. My observation is it seemed like more and more of the overall project work was moving to the PC. (I was also looking into using the PC for post-editing file compression, too.) I began to wonder “Why are we using the Mac at all?”

My feeling is that the more intensive the video editing, the more the PC is a better option. About the same time we bought our, say, $4,000 G4, I bought a PC with RAID 0 and 1/2 a gig of memory for $2,000 which seemed like a whole new world in terms of performance. I believe that my computer would considerably out-perform the G4. And if I had spent $4,000 on it, I would have bought a second processor, and a couple gig of RAM. In that case, there is no doubt in my mind that it could have out-performed the G4 of its era.

Qualifying my earlier rant about Macs, I’d also agree that people without much PC experience, or who don’t want to learn about computers, but just do their job, would find Macs easier to learn, configure, and control.

Again, it’s a matter of questions which the OP has not answered. I kept thinking, this guy is asking a business question. That means he’s got a bottom line, and possibly, direct competition. In that respect, I was trying to alert him that a PC-based editing system might be a competitive advantage.

OP, can you clarify?

Thanks for the responses! Please, play nice everybody. I was afraid this was going to go to IMHO, now I’m worried about the Pit!

OK. I already have a 500 megaherz PC with a souped up graphics card. I use it for gaming, surfing, and word processing. Works dandy for all of those things. It cannot playback digital video I have recorded without being jumpy as hell.

The G4 we have been using works pretty good. When I import the clips, and then edit them, add transitions and renderings, adjust the light as neccesary, and put them in a timeline, I can then play it back and it is (almost) like watching it on TV. Not jumpy. I can get a real feel for what it looks like BEFORE I import it.

Still, I could deal with faster renderings, and when we work at it for a while the system tends to crash. I learned many years ago to save everytime you do something you don’t want to do again, so it has worked out.

We intend for the new system to be a dedicated video editing machine. No games or other software really. Part of the reason we want out of the friends G4 is it is overworked from all angles and does not perform as well as it initially did. We will be editing hours and hours of footage into feature length (1-2 hours finished product) projects. We hope to be able to shoot at least two big flicks a year. Shoot in the fall and spring and edit in the summer and winter. We are both familiar with PCs and Macs, so the learning curve on new software is pretty quick. The things that are most important to us (most to least) are as follows:

  • Less than $7000 (Display included - software not)
  • Able to handle large amounts of video clips at once
  • Advanced editing capabilities (Is there really no decent PC alternative to FCP 3?)
  • Crystal clear playback maintained for long periods of time (a five minute sketch can take 10 hours or more to edit to perfection)
  • Fast rendering
  • Limited crashing

I guess where I really am confused is in understanding why a souped up G4 is better than a PC with a much faster processor. Is it simply the fact that they don’t have decent video editing software for a PC yet? What part of the machine is most important for capturing and editing video? If processor top speed is not the most important number to be looking at, then what is? Could you guys point me towards a comparable system on the web?

One final unrelated question for you Mac folks. When I press “Shift + End” on a PC, it very handily highlights the text from the cursor to the end of the line I am on. Great for clipping short pieces of text. On a Mac the End button just sends me to the bottom of the page. What is the keyboard command to highlight text from the cursor to the end of the current line on a Mac?

Thanks again.

DaLovin’ Dj

That line shoud have read “BEFORE I export it”, as naturally I have already imported anything I have edited.

Then they should have been pimp-smacked for their ignorance. :slight_smile:

I never said it was. I was just pointing out that the “mouse problem” is a trivial matter, and wondered why people get so hung up on it.

(Have you considered switching to decaf? :wink: )

I’d send you my bill in the mail for the following advice, but since rjung might send me his bill, we’ll call it even :wink:

Easy stuff first:

Better system integration is the way to solve crashes, switching to a PC won’t help that.

Macs CPUs are faster than PC CPUs, everything else being equal, because a number of things are done right on the Mac CPU, or on one of their dedicated chips.

A 500 MHz PC is not suitable for video editing projects of your size. They’re selling 2000 MHz chips! That means at least halving your processing time.

From what you’ve said, you are doing basic editing. By which I mean you weren’t doing “blue screen”, multi-layer overlays, special effects on sound, etc. We had a half dozen filters on every shot, up to a dozen tracks. So now I’m doubly curious, NurseCarmen, what of these Adobe Premiere can’t handle. Perhaps that’s besides the point, since Avid is one of the packages provided by the following vendor.

Deeper waters:

We used proMAX to configure our Mac system. We had better-than-average service and customer support from them. They’re

here. I’ve pointed to an interesting page with what appear to be two equivalent(?) PC and Mac systems. They’re both in your price range. They use Avid software, which I know nothing about. The PC system is $1000 cheaper. The PC system is about $5000. I’m not swept away with the hardware specs, the configuration I suggested would double or triple the effective processing speed.

When saying you have a need for “crystal clear playback”, I’m unsure whether that means a need for good video compression, or whether you have to apply heavy filtering to the source to make it appear clear (for example). Compression needs suggest raw processing power (buy a fat PC), advanced filtering suggests the best possible rendering and compression software (make the fatness of your computer a secondary criteria).

The “jumpy as hell” situation is a big, complicated issue. I spent a couple days making a hi-res version of a video, only to have the manager two levels above me play it back on a laptop that was running a streaming audio program in the background. On our system, it looked fine. Also, I seem to remember Final Cut stating in the manual that “what you see is not what you get” while editing, because the editing playback frame rate couldn’t match what was actually being written for post-processing.

Video card quality. We started running into problems, controlling and capturing our high-end DV camera with the default board given us by ProMax. I can’t remember details, but one of the ways out of our problems (which included jerky video, poor blue screening, and inaudible audio) seemed to me to be to buy what today I suppose would be a $1500 video capture card. But there’s a HUGE problem with this approach, which is that the cards vary wildly in terms of features, quality, support, integration. There’s absolutely no way I’d get a card that wasn’t either part of a standard package, or which duplicated exactly another professional setup with a proven track record.

Were I you (in fact I had an urge to do this myself) I’d phone up ProMax and lay your problems on the table before the salesman. When we purchased, we never asked about upgrade costs, and I wish we had. I think we would have chosen a PC. Given your background, I don’t think a Mac with Final Cut is in any respect a foregone conclusion.

I guess there’s a maximum length on URLs…

go to, and look for a page that has ProMax X press DV XP-2000SP and ProMax Xpress DV G4/1000DP Core.

The price tag.

You might want to invest in a Matrox RT.X100 card, the latest and greatest, and set to blow Pinnacle out of the water. It comes bundled with 3ds max, Matrox Media Export, etc., for all of your file compression needs. Check out the page. (Shameless plug; I work for Matrox.)

RT.X100 is scalable, meaning the faster your CPU, the better your effects, and the lower your rendering time (if you have to render, which in most cases with RT.X, you don’t). Plus it includes a ton (well, even more than a ton) of realtime effects, including realtime customizable 2D & 3D DVEs, realtime chroma and luma keying, color correction, colorization, and what not. It also provides realtime emulation of Premiere transitions.

Did I mention dual-head and triple-head monitor support (with a Matrox Parhelia card)? :wink:

There’s also the RT2500, but it doesn’t have all of the features.

If you have a Mac, there’s the RTMac, but there’s still no OS X support for our software. :frowning:

  • s.e.