Videoguys DIY NLE Workstation philosophy and DIY9 thoughts

We're getting a lot of calls and questions about our latest DIY recommendations - and requests for a DIY9 build! We've also been participating in some very hot discussions on the Adobe and Creative COW forums about this. I wanted to put this article together to give some insight into why we pick the components we do and what our overall DIY NLE workstation philosophy is.

Our DIY builds have to be able to run the latest versions of Adobe Premiere Pro and Production Premium, Avid Media Composer, Sony Vegas Pro and Grass Valley Edius. We also know that folks will use it to run consumer programs like Pinnacle Studio, Vegas Movie Studio, Premiere Elements and more. It  has to be powerful enough to allow the software to work with footage in a wide range of formats including but not limited to AVCHD, DSLR, iPhone, XD Cam, P2, HDV and good old DV and standard def analog video.  We also try to keep the cost down. We'll offer builds that may be more expensive or cheaper, but Videoguys DIY sweet spot is $1,500.

The bottom line is this. You need a balanced system for best results. Too much of one area at the expense of another hurts performance. So if you have a budget and you can't get the best of everything, you need to make the right choices.  

  • Motherboard

We try to stick with Enthusiast motherboards. We pick the chipset first. That for us is the single most important component in the system. When the first Sandy Bridge chipsets came out they had issues. That made us very gun-shy about recommending them. I realize they've fixed them and improved. That's why we added a Sandy Bridge build to DIY8. We pick ASUS boards 90% of the time.  Not because they are the best or only choice. We just find they suit the DIYer well and they are easy to set up, tweak and maintain. They are not the cheapest, but they deliver good value and bang for your buck.

  •  CPU

One of the worst decisions I see customers make is to go with a more expensive CPU and then cut corners everywhere else. This is a bad choice that will hurt system performance. For our DIY builds I try to keep the CPU cost below $500. So while the 990X is a MONSTER we don't include it. That doesn't mean it's not a great choice, it just busts our budget. We choose Intel CPUs because they are the best for video editing. We think so and so do our vendors.

  • RAM

Our rule of thumb is no less then 2GB per core. We recommend 3GB per core for serious work. So a Quad core gets 12GB and a hex core gets 18 or 24GB. RAM is cheap, and it's an area that I'd rather see you go a little to high, then not have enough. 

  • Disk drives

Disk performance and speed is needed, but you can also end up investing too much in storage at the expense of other areas. Storage is one of the easiest and cheapest things to add down the road. For most of my customers  a RAID0 (either internal or external) gets the job done. I recommend a RAID5 for redundancy, and I recommend putting it outside of the box for ease, flexibility (you can move it to another machine) and the heat issues that having 4 or more 7200 or 10K drives in a case can create if the builder does not properly cool and ventilate. That said, I know that I will have many folks using our build who will install serious RAID storage. So we have to always keep that in mind for our DIY builds. You would be amazed how many very high end post, network and Hollywood shops use our DIY articles as reference for their workstations. Not everyone can afford Dual Xeon HP systems.  

  • GPU

For most folks a GTX470 is a great choice, because of availability and prices, we're now making the GTX570 our go to card. Denis Radke did a great article on why some folks should pay the premium for a Quadro4000 or higher.  He is also a strong advocate for a balanced system. 

  • Upgradeability

This is not as big a factor as you would imagine. We find that our customers want to build the right machine for the software they have or plan to buy, and they want it to last. They want to build a system that can support the next NLE upgrade, but they don't plan on adding upgrades to  the computer unless they have to. The main upgrade is to add more RAM down the road. Which is why our base line recommendations often use half the available RAM slots. They wait to upgrade the CPU until there is a new chipset and DIY build that warrants that level of investment. They don't want to change the GPU unless they have to support some new feature down the road. So if one of my guys builds a system today, and it runs CS5.5 and then CS6 down the road for a few years, he is a very happy camper. 


  • DIY9 Update


I am waiting for the new Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) And X79 Platform to be released later this year. We posted a blog article from Tom's Hardware in Sept about it. The Intel Core i7-3930K Hex Core should hit the price/performance sweet spot that we hope will deliver all of the promise and potential of Sandy Bridge for our professioanl NLE apps and workflows.

I can't wait to get started on this one, but it's still a few months away. While Intel has released a reference motherboard, we have not seen anything from ASUS yet. We are also not sure if the 3930K CPU will come in at our under $500 target price. We hope it will, and when it does get built, we expect our DIY9 machine to offer incredible performance at a price that video editors can afford. We'll keep you posted!





Videoguys DIY8 recommeded builds:


 (Sept 2011 update) Sandy Bridge  $$$  DIY8 Budget  $$$  DIY8 Hotrod  $$$ 
Motherboard Asus P8Z68-V Pro 210 ASUS P6X58-E Pro 220 ASUS P6X58-E Pro 220
CPU Intel i7 2600k Sandy Bridge  299 Intel i7-950 Quad Core 249 Intel i7-980 Hex Core 580
RAM 16GB (4 x 4GB) G.Skill RipjawsX DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) 200 G.SKILL Ripjaws 12GB (3 x 4GB) SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) 75 G.SKILL Ripjaws 24GB (6 x 4GB) SDRAM DDR3 1600 (PC3 12800) 150
System Drive Hitachi 1TB 7200RPM  60 Hitachi 1TB 7200RPM  60 WD VelociRaptor WD6000HLHX 600GB 10,000RPM 250
GPU GTX570 319 GTX570 319 Quadro4000 849
Case Antec Nine Hundred Two v3Black ATX  119 Antec Nine Hundred Two v3Black ATX  119 Antec Nine Hundred Two v3Black ATX  119
Power Supply CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W  135 CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W  135 CORSAIR CMPSU-850TX 850W  135
OS Win 7 Prof OEM 139 Win 7 Prof OEM 139 Win 7 Prof OEM 139
Optical Drive BDR-206 99 BDR-206 99 BDR-206 99
     $    1,485    $     1,415    $  2,541



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