It is time to retire the “old” video editing computer that I built for Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 in early 2009 (pictured below with green trim on the case). It isn’t that it wasn’t fast enough for my workflow but I got an offer I couldn’t refuse to sell it and have decided that the timing was right for me to build an even faster video editing computer for when Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 is released. Adobe will announce Premiere Pro CS6 and the entire Production Premium CS6 suite at NAB 2012 in April and will release the software
in June or July 2012May 2012.
My Core i7 920 system was cutting edge when I built it and although I did upgrade a few of the components over the years, it still is basically the same system I started with and is still blazing fast. I called her “Green” because her NVIDIA co-branded Coolermaster case had green ribbing, a transparent green side panel, and emitts a green LED glow from its fan.
Here are her final specs:
Intel Core i7 920 CPU 4 core 2.66 GHz LGA 1366
Asus P6T Motherboard
12 GB RAM – Triple channel
NVIDIA GeForce GTX 285 video card (Premiere Pro GPU supported)
USB 3.0 PCIe Card
750 Watt Power Supply
2x2TB RAID 0 Video editing hard drives – Western Digital Black (Hardware RAID using ASUS Drive Xpert)
1×1.5TB storage hard drive – Seagate
500GB SATAII operating system hard drive – Western Digital Blue
Basically this was a quad core system with a good amount of RAM, a Premiere Pro supported NVIDIA CUDA card for GPU acceleration, and traditional spinning hard drives. The USB 3.0 was a late add-on for me and I used it for both speedy client file transfers to external USB 3.0 hard drives and for my always-on and backed-up-nightly 10TB Sans-Digital external RAID tower that backs-up of my video editing and storage drives.
My new system is a much different beast. My OS will be Windows 7 Professional 64bit. I’ve listed the actual prices I paid from my local computer supplier, NCIX. Thanks to Videoguys for getting me started on this build with their DIY 9 specs, on which this build is based.
Here is what I chose, and why:
Intel Core i7 3930K CPU 6 core 3.2 GHz LGA 2011 – $600
Moving to a higher clock speed will speed-up video render times but adding another two cores, all running at a higher clock speed, will add even more processing power. Premiere Pro is built on a 64bit architecture and supports multi-core processing so this should dramatically improve my video render times.
ASUS P9X79 Motherboard – $302
There aren’t currently too many options for LGA 2001 CPUs and with one exception, all my previous and current video editing systems have ASUS motherboards. The P9X79 has all the features I need, including support for multiple GPUs, which might be useful if I was to add the NVIDIA Tesla C2075 companion processor, but I don’t have plans to at this point as my 1920×1080 HD workflows don’t need any more GPU power. (It turns out that the base model lacks some of the features I need – see below)
Update – February 24 2012
ASUS P9X79 Pro Motherboard – $323
I returned the Asus P9X79 base model motherboard and upgraded to the Asus P9X79 Pro (for a measely $21.61 more). Although it lacks a Firewire connection (which I really no longer need) I do not recommend the base model for two reasons:
1 – The ASUS P9X79 lacks a hardware RAID solution. ASUS did a poor job of documenting which of the X79 motherboard models include the ASUS Drive Xpert feature that allows hardware RAID 0 or RAID 1 arrays – I had to download each of the motherboard manuals to confirm which featured ASUS Drive Xpert and which didn’t. It turns out the base model lacks this feature but the Pro, Deluxe, and WS models include it. In hindsight, the lack of the Marvell controller on the base model should have been an indicator that the hardware RAID solution that I wanted was not included on the base model.
On my last two motherboards I have used the ASUS Drive Xpert, which is a two disk (only) hardware RAID solution, offered by the Marvell® controller. Even though it is only a two disk RAID, it is a hardware RAID, and is much more stable than an Intel software solution. I’ve had too many Intel RAIDs fail. Despite this, and faced with a motherboard that didn’t have a hardware solution, I instructed my system builder to continue with the build anyways by enabling the RAID mode in the BIOS. At that point we ran into problems. By enabling RAID in the BIOS, the SATA controllers for optical drives no longer would work and we could no longer install Windows 7. My guy thought the problem was with my Blu-ray drive but it turns out that it was a driver issue. He eventually got Windows 7 installed with an external USB DVD burner and a lot of luck but the system was so unstable that I wasted a day fighting with it before trying to reinstall Windows 7 myself with an external USB DVD burner. The install failed and the only solution I could find online was to change the RAID mode back to AHCI. So I RMA’d the board and upgraded to the ASUS P9X79 Pro motherboard.
May 28 Update: It turns out I wasn’t using the ASUS Drive Xpert on my 2600K system because I previously came to the conclusion that it was slower than a non-RAID SATA drive. So for the time being I’m going to leave it in the Drive Xpert RAID mode but will either use my external RAID tower (10 TB) as my video editing drive or add a proper RAID controller card.
2 – The base model has one less PCIe slot than the Pro model does and in its place it has an older PCI slot. Because of my choice of video card, the three-slot-hogging NVIDIA GeForce 570 GTX DirectCU II (since replaced with a 2 slot EVGA GTX 570), I wanted the extra PCIe slot that the Asus P9X79 Pro has. I am decided to add the Blackmagic Design Decklink Studio as it has both HD-SDI and HDMI. The Decklink Studio requires two slots but the 2nd slot doesn’t require a PCIe connection so I seated it below the lowest PCIe slot on my motherboard as pictured in the top photo. My case has an extra mount that is below the lowest PCIe slot on my motherboard, in case you were wondering.
I’m keeping my Matrox MX02 Mini with Max on my 2600K system. For a time it conflicted with my set-up. Two weeks ago I installed it on my 2600K Red system and it worked beautifully except that Adobe Encore would no longer open. I uninstalled the Matrox drivers and the problem went away. This isn’t the first compatibility challenge I have had with Matrox over the years. Fortunately Matrox just released updated drivers for the MX02 Mini and Premiere Pro CS5.5 that should solve this problem. I haven’t tested them yet.
May 28 Update: Matrox released CS6.0 drivers and I’m now using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6 so will start testing the Matrox MX02 Mini in that configuration shortly.
32 GB RAM – G.Skill RipJawsZ 8x4GB DDR3-1866 – $245
This is more RAM than my two previous systems combined but my motherboard has 8 DIMMS (RAM slots) and a 4GB RAM stick is only $30. This will also be the lowest price for system RAM I have ever spent. Do I need this much RAM? I don’t know. But with six cores I knew I wanted more RAM on this video editing system than the 16 GB on my current Core i7 2600K system (named RED because it has a red fan LED).
Update – April 5, 2012
Kingston KHX1600CpD3K4/16GX 8x4GB 1600Mhz DDR3 CL9 DIMM – $181.98
I was having some stability issues in general and my system builder decided to change the RAM to see if that made a difference. I didn’t have a say in which RAM he chose but it turns out it is only 1600Mhz compared to the 1866Mhz one it is replacing. I’m not sure if this will matter so much, especially seeing I have 32GB of RAM and doubt I’ll use all of it in Premiere Pro CS6 but it will come in handy when I’m working in After Effects. A small bonus was that this RAM is a few bucks cheaper than the faster G.Skill RAM it is replacing so I actually got a bit of a refund, which I used to buy a DVD burner with. I decided to skip a Blu-ray burner on this build because I have on one my other video editing system that rarely gets used.
ASUS GeForce 570 GTX DirectCU II– $360 (less $20 MIR)
NVIDIA likes to promote their Quadro line of cards for video editing on Premere Pro but I like their GeForce line for the combination of a high number CUDA Cores and a much lower price. I chose the GTX 570 because it hits the sweet spot of cost and number of cores. I could have saved a bit of money by selecting a not-officially-supported but unlockable GeForce card but I like that the 570 is officially supported. The GTX 580 is faster but the price is also a few hundred dollars more. The DirectCU II means that this card occupies three card slots (GTX 570s usually occupy two slots) but the benefit is quieter cooling, thanks to the copper heat-pipes directly connecting with the GPU. CU is the elemental symbol for Copper.
Update – April 5, 2012
EVGA GeForce GTX570 HD Ferni 2560MB – $349.99 (less $10 MIR)
I was having too many video card crashes with the Asus GTX570 card, even when I wasn’t running any applications, so I decided to RMA the video card and try a different model. I went with EVGA on this one and this particular GTX 570 has twice the amount of RAM as the one I am replacing it with. Harm at Adobe forums says that RAM on the GPU is important so I consider this an upgrade at a slightly lower cost. One of the other benefits is that the card is smaller in that it uses only two slots rather than three slots and isn’t as long, so I have an easier time accessing the SATA connectors on the motherboard.
Corsair Professional Series Gold AX850 Power Supply – 850 Watts – $170
850 Watts for this build should be enough power and the jump to Gold gives me more efficient performance, which means less heat and higher quality components.
2x2TB RAID 0 Video Editing hard drives – Western Digital Black – 2x$200
I’m going to use ASUS’s RAID controller for a two drive RAID 0 array. I don’t like software Intel RAIDs and a hardware card would support more drives but I don’t need any more speed than a two-drive RAID 0 can push, so I can’t justify the additional cost right now. I’ve been happy with WD Black hard drives in the past and Black drives are faster than Blue and Green drives.
May 28 Update: I’ve decided to add a hardware RAID solution, either internal or external.
1x2TB storage hard drive – Western Digital Black – $190
This is same drive as I’m using in my RAID. The internal storage drive is for non-video editing projects and temporary storage of archived projects that I might want access to but don’t want to take-up space on my RAID. Because I’m using an SSD (below) for my C drive, I won’t have much extra space for traditional My Documents and Desktop storage and these files will be saved to the storage drive instead.
128 GB Crucial M4 Solid State Drive (SSD) – $170
I’m hooked on solid state drives for my boot drive. I have one on my Core i7 2600K system and applications load so much faster. The Crucial M4 is very fast and has a small price and I didn’t like that my OCZ Vertex Max IOPS SSD required several firmware updates before it was stable so I’m moving to Crucial on this one. The downside with an SSD is that the cost per GB is very high so my storage, as I described above, will be assigned to a regular SATA HDD.
May 28 Update: 128GB is too small for an OS drive. I’m pretty good at not storing stuff on my C drive but I don’t like running my OS drive at 85% capacity, which is where it currently is. I’m going to move to 256 GB at some point and use the 128 GB SSDs on my Blackmagic Design Decklink Studio.
Coolermaster Haf X EATX full size tower case – $170
I’ve used Coolermaster cases for my last four builds and have been very happy with them. Full size video cards require much larger cases so I’ve selected a full size, or EATX, case in order to give me enough room in the case for proper airflow and so that it is easier to work around my massive video card. I selected this case for my Core i7 2600K system (pictured below) so now I will have a matching pair of these massive towers. I also like that this case has a pair of front USB 3.0 and a slider over the power button (although my two year old son has long ago defeated this small safety, it at least gives me a chance to catch him before he powers-down my computer).
Intel RTS2011LC CPU Liquid Cooling System – $79
I almost forgot to order one of these. I’ve never bothered with after-market cooling, let alone liquid cooling, on my previous builds but my hex-core CPU doesn’t include a heat sink fan and this liquid cooling solution will give me the cooling I need, along with a bit of street cred that I have a liquid cooled system.
So watch this space for future Premiere Pro CS5.5 and CS6.0 benchmarks comparing this new build to my Core i7 2600K build.
If you have any questions, comments, or advice, please leave them in the comments section below.
Feb 13 update: My system is in. It runs extremely quiet, thanks to the liquid cooling. Unfortunately I’m sending it back to the shop for some more work as Windows 7 wasn’t installed in RAID mode as per my instructions and the video card keeps on crashing.
Feb 14 update: My system is ready for pick-up. It looks like my Blu-ray drive (the old one that I installed) had some issues as well, which prevented my from installing Windows 7 when I tried. No word on the video card stability at this point but I’ll be picking it up tomorrow morning.
Feb 24 update: It turns out the problem was not with my Blu-ray drive but with a driver problem which causes Windows to fail when installing while the motherboard in RAID mode on the BIOS. I replaced the board with the Asus P9X79 Pro motherboard that has the hardware RAID that I originally intended on using but was lacking from the base model.
February 28 update: For my first benchmark I took an AVCHD file from my Sony NEX-FS100, colour corrected it, and exported it as an H.264 video file. I exported both with GPU acceleration enabled and disabled (software only). I then compared the results to my 2600k system (specs below).
April 5 update: I thought I have everything stable back in February but there were a lot of little things that had me worried. Programs wouldn’t install properly, data would get corrupted, Internet Explorer kept crashing and Chrome would freeze. The video card was also freezing-up, mostly when I was outside of Premiere, but this wasn’t good either. So I changed the RAM and video card, as I describe above. I’m going to run the below tests again on both Premiere Pro CS5.5 and the Beta build of Premiere Pro CS6 that I now have access to. Unfortunately I won’t be able to share the CS6 results until NAB.
May 28 update:
My system is stable and running Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. I installed most of the components of the Adobe CS6 Master Collection – I skipped a few programs that I never use. Regrets: Not buying a larger SSD for my OS. I’ll be upgrading that soon. And not opting for a proper hardware RAID solution. I’ll be upgrading that as well soon.
Effect: “Fast Color Corrector”
Source Footage: AVCHD 24Mbps FX mode 1920 30P
Output: H.264 Baseline 4.2 1920×1080 30P 6 Mbps VBR 2 pass with 10Mbps Max and Stereo audio at 128 Kbps. Max Render Quality Enabled.
Hard Drives: RAID 0 array for footage and single SATA drive for export
Timeline length: 3 minutes
GPU Enabled Results:
3930k Build – GPU acceleration enabled: 3m31s
35 seconds per minute of footage per pass
2600k Build – GPU acceleration enabled: 4m21s
43.5 seconds per minute of footage per pass
3930K CPU ran between 75-85% of max, evenly on all twelve cores (6 primary and 6 hyperthread cores). 10-11GB of the 32GB of RAM was addressed. 26GB was available to be shared by Adobe CS5.5.
2600k CPU ran between 80-99% of max, evenly on all 8 cores (4 primary and 4 hyperthread cores). 7.75-7.9 GB of 16 GB of RAM was addressed. 12 GB was available to be shared by Adobe CS5.5.
Please note that with 2 pass VBR times will be double single pass times.
Conclusion: 3930k has an 18% advantage with GPU enabled. This is not as much of an advantage as I thought a system with 50% more cores, each with a higher clock speed and more available RAM per core would have, but it points to the GPU being the new bottleneck whereas the CPU on the quad core 2600k build once was (99% CPU utilization is the tell).
Software Only Results:
3930k Build – GPU acceleration enabled: 7m53s
79 seconds per minute of footage per pass
2600k Build – GPU acceleration enabled: 20m13s
202 seconds per minute of footage per pass
3930K CPU ran at 90% of max, evenly on all twelve cores (6 primary and 6 hyperthread cores). 13.5GB of the 32GB of RAM was addressed. 26GB was available to be shared by Adobe CS5.5.
2600k CPU ran between 35-40% of max, unevenly on all 8 cores (4 primary and 4 hyperthread cores). Some of the hyperthread cores showed no activity at times. 6.9 GB of 16 GB of RAM was addressed. 12 GB was available to be shared by Adobe CS5.5.
3930k has a 256% advantage in Software Only mode. The low CPU utilization and inactive-at-times hyperthread cores showed that there is a serious bottleneck in this build that only rears its ugly head when GPU acceleration is disabled. This is probably why I never noticed the bottleneck in the almost year since I build the 2600k system because I always enable GPU acceleration.
Discussion of Videoguys DIY8 Sandybridge build:
Videoguys updated their DIY8 build in the DIY9 article (the DIY8 is what I based my 2600k build on) and offer it as a lower cost built alternative to what they are calling their DIY9 Choice Build (they also list a “Hot Rod” build that is $1,200 more). At first glance the DIY8 build appears to be $850 less expensive than the 3930K DIY9 choice build but when you take a closer look at the components, it reveals that lower cost components were suggested. But if you wanted to isolate just the motherboard and CPU combo the price difference is just $394 different (exact pricing depends on the day of the week and fluctuating sales prices). Is the $395 premium worth it for an 18% performance boost for GPU acceleration? For my workflow it is, especially as the benefit increases for more stressing workflows.
The questions you need to ask yourself when deciding between these two builds are the following:
1) Do you need 32GB of RAM? This test didn’t utilize all of the 16GB of RAM on my 2600K build.
2) If you build the DIY8 system, you probably want to upgrade the CPU from the 2600K to the 2700K. The price difference is just $25 and you get an extra 100K! Just kidding – you get an extra 1 GHz of CPU power on each core.
3) Most importantly, regardless of which system you build, the most important component in an Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5 (or 5.0 and likely 6.0) build is a supported NVIDIA CUDA card for GPU acceleration. I’ve selected the GTX570 card for its cost per CUDA core value over the slightly faster GTX580 and the much more expensive and possibly even slightly slower Quadro cards.
Shawn’s 2600K Build:
Here are the specs on the 2600K build that I compared to the 3930K build. If I had to rebuild it today I might change a few components so don’t take this is a recommendation of what I think you should build in a 2600K system. For that matter, I’m sharing the results of my 3930k build for information purposes only and I take no responsibility for any problems that you may run into in the future if you decide to build the same system as I have.
Intel Core i7 2600k CPU 4 core 3.4 GHz LGA 1155
Asus P8Z68 Deluze Motherboard
16 GB RAM – Corsair XMS3 4x4GB
PNY GeForce GTX 470 video card
LG Blu-ray Burner
Corsair TX850 Watt Power Supply (I wouldn’t choose this again because the cables are not modular)
2x2TB RAID 0 Video editing hard drives – Western Digital Black (Hardware RAID using ASUS Drive Xpert)
1x2TB storage hard drive – Western Digital Black
128GB SSD – OCZ Vertex 3 Max IOPS (which was initially very unstable but with firmware updates is now stable)