Videoguys Top Tech Tips for troubleshooting your Digital Video Editing computer.
The following troubleshooting tips are provided FREE as a service to our customers. If you purchased your equipment from someone else, you are welcome to use these tips but remember, the Videoguys offer the best customer service and tech support in the industry. We hope you will remember this the next time you need to purchase Digital Video Editing products.
Videoguys DTV Tech Support Hotline (516) 759-1615
The following tech tips assume you have a current computer: Dual/Quad Core, running WinXP (Home or Pro) or Vista (Videoguys only recommends Vista 64 Business or Ultimate)
Today's computers are faster and more powerful then ever. As a result of all this pure computing power, video editing software and hardware are easier to install then ever. Unfortunately, things can and still do sometimes go wrong. Hopefully you'll find the solution you need to get up and running with one of these most common solutions.
1) KEEP IT COOL!
We've seen that over the past year, excess heat has become one of our top tech issues.
Folks just don't realize how hot it gets inside a typical computer case. They add a 2 DVD burner, they have all 4 memory slots filled with RAM sticks, they're running a fast 3D graphics card with 256 or 512 megs of RAM, and then they cram in 2 or 3 extra hard drives, all spinning at 7200 RPM.
What they don't do is add extra fans. Or organize the cables to allow for more cooling, or upgrade to a bigger case with more airflow. Sometimes all you need to do is punch a few holes inthe side of the case.
Heat can have several side effects to your system. the first level is general instability and sluggish performance. The next level is the system actually shutting down. The third and most dangerous level is hardware failure. We've seen drives, memory, CPUs and even motherboards breakdown on customers.
If your system starts running too hot, bad things can happen. If left unchecked the results can be disasterous - burned out components like the CPU and memory. Initially heat issues can show up as general system instability and sluggish performance. Typically it goes like this - you are editing along just fine and then after a while your system starts to act flakey or crashes. If you leave it powered down for an hour or so it runs great - for a while - then it gets unstable after a few hours of editing. Most likely the problem is simple to fix. Make sure the vents on the machine are clear and that all the fans are running properly. Try an straighted out the clutter of cables inside the case to allow air to circulate better. If needed punch a couple of additional holes in the case and/or add another fan.
If you think that heat may be an issue with your computer, an easy test is to run the machine with the case open and the airconditioning on high in the room. If things seem to be working better - you need to upgrade your cooling and airflow inside the case.
2) UPDATE YOUR DRIVERS
Most system throughput issues are driver related. Make sure you are running the latest device drivers for all the hardware in your computer. That includes the sound card, graphics card, any video ediitng hardware and your motherboard.
That's right, your motherboard. Many folks don't realize that the motherboard chipset has drivers. These drivers are not only for the motherboard, but for many of the other features integrated into it. These can include the audio, networking, Sata and eSata ports, and more. Here is a list of links to several of the more popular motherboard manufacturers used for NLE:
Even more important then the drivers, want to make sure that you are running the latest BIOS version for your motherboard. Be very careful here. You MUST make sure you are using the exact BIOS upgrade downloaded form the motherboard/system vendor. Make sure you read all readme and help files before flashing your BIOS. If you are not certain that the BIOS revision you downloaded is for your motherboard - DO NOT update it until you are.
Before you install any new drivers, we recommend you set a Windows System Restore Point.
System Restore is a great feature built into WinXP & Vista that will allow you quickly and easily go back to the older drivers if things go wrong. Here is how to do it. Start> Programs> Accessories> System Tools. Select System Restore. Follow the instructions to create a restore point. Give it a name that will make it easy to find later, such as "Before new 4in1 driver". If your system becomes unstable or corrupted, you can go back to System Restore and simply select the new Restore Point you just created.
You must make sure you are running the very latest drivers for your graphics card.
Many consumers do not realize that their new computers are rarely optimized for the best video performance. All too often the computer is built using the generic Windows XP driver or an older out of date video driver.
Fortunately this is an easy mistake to fix. What you have to do is go to the graphics card chipset vendors website and download the very latest drivers for your graphics card. While there are many different brands of graphics cards on the market, most use chipsets from one of the big three graphic card vendors:
Before you install the new graphic card drivers you will want to go into Windows XP control panel and remove the old driver. This is actually very easy to do, but failure to include this simple step can lead to frustration. Go into Control Panel >System > Hardware> Device Manager >Display Adapters >Right click on your graphic card> Select uninstall. Now reboot your computer. When it finds your graphics card, tell XP you have the drivers on disk. Point it to the directory where you saved the new graphics card drivers.
In the future if you wish to install the latest drivers from your Graphic Card Chipset vendor, you will be able to select Update Driver from device manager. This is OK once you know for sure that you are installing them over a clean set of drivers.
3) CLEAN THE WINDOWS
Optimize WinXP or Vista 64 for video editing. When you get your new computer, it is not necessarily optimized for top perfomance with our capture cards. We have put together the following tweaks for each operating system. Some of these tips are very simple, others require a bit more expertise. We advise you to fully read our tweaks guide for your particular operating system before you apply any of the recommended settings. We also urge you to fully back-up your system before you begin tweaking.
4) RELOCATE YOUR HARDWARE CARD
While IRQ conflicts are pretty much a thing of the past, we still run into PCI bottelnecks. Not all PCI slots are created equally. Some motherboards give more resources to some slots over others. So moving a PCI card from one slot to another can fix your problems. We do not recommend that you simply shut down the machine and move the card. While this may work, it may also add instability to your sytem. The correct way to move a PCI card from one slot to the other is to uninstall the card and all it's drivers. Then reboot your computer w/o the card and make sure all drivers for it are gone. Then re-install the card from scratch in the new slot using the latest drivers. This simple trick will resolve most PCI bottlenecks in a 2+ Ghz machine or faster.
5) DON'T STUTTER. CHECK YOUR STORAGE.
If playback stutters, it's your storage. Today's cards do NOT drop frames. Jerky playback is most often caused by inadequate storage or improperly configured storage. If you are using a single UDMA drive, go into Device Manager. Hit the + sign next to disk drives to get a list of all your drives. Check out the properties of each one. Make sure the DMA box is checked for all hard drives. If you are using SCSI, make sure that you have proper termination and if you have external SCSI drives make sure you are not negotiating down. What this means is simple. Your external SCSI chain is only as fast as the slowest SCSI device on it. Putting a 50 pin Jazz drive or Scanner on your external SCSI chain can kill performance. Make sure that you do not have an IRQ conflict with your storage controller and another PCI device in your system. For best results your storage controller needs it's own IRQ. Click here for Videoguys Video Storage FAQ
6) TEST YOUR SYSTEM
Make a small test project. Open up a brand NEW project. Load up the correct presets. Capture three NEW video clips of various lengths. Put them in the timeline. Add a transition between each clip. Add a basic title. See how it plays. If you find that this simple test project works great then you now know that your NLE is functioning properly. Many times the problem is just a corrupted project or project settings. If your test project worked, open a new project. Import your old project that was giving you problems. Many times it will know work fine. Save it under a new name.
Read the Readme file. Yes I know it seems like a waste of time, but the absolute latest and greatest tech support tips for the product are in the Readme file. If you download new drivers, always read the readme BEFORE you install them. I have found that most of the tech tips I have, I first found in a readme file somewhere.
8) CHECK YOUR MEMORY
If you have tried all of the tips above and optimized WinXP or Vista 64 for Video Editing and you are still running into stablitiy issues, it could be memory related.
- Make sure you have enough memory. WinXP and todays NLEs require at least 2 GBs of memory for stable performance. For Vista 64 we recommend a bare minimum of 3GB, with 6 or 16 GBs being much better. If you create long format, complex projects with lots of effects, get a full gig.
- Make sure your using the best slots. Many current motherboards support dual channel memory. To take full advantage of this you want to make sure you have a stick of memory in each of the dual channel slots. Don't mix & match slots.
- For best results, choose memory that runs at 1/2 the speed of your front side bus. If you have an 800Mhz front side bus, go with 400 Mhz memory.
- Test your memory. This is easy if your machine came with two DIMMs. Just try running the system with only one of them. The try the other. If you see a noticable difference between the two, then one of them is probably bad.
- Try new memory. If you can't test your memory, try getting a couple of new sticks. Forunately memory is pretty inexpensive. Take out the old ones and put the new ones in. If everything works well, try taking the old sticks back to the dealer and see if they can test them.
9) CHECK YOUR POWER
It could be the power supply. This can be especially true if your system was running great and now it isn't. When the power supply starts to have problems, it can show up as general system instability and sluggish performance. How can you tell if your power supply is having problems? Unfortunately there really is no easy way, other then pop in in a new one. We recommend at least a 350 Watt powewr supply in your NLE computer. The folk over at Asus have a really cool utility you should check out Asus Recommended Power Supply Wattage Calculator
10) IS IT TIME TO UPGRADE?
Old Capture cards don't work well on new, super fast computers. I can't tell you how many calls we get from frustrated users who had a working NLE system that no longer works properly because they tried to install it on a brand new machine. If you've got a capture card that is working fine (ie DV500, ProOne, RT2000/2500, DV Rex, DC30 etc) leave it where it is. These older cards are from another era. From a time when you needed proprietary hardware in order to edit video. Today this is no longer the case. If you're going to run a hot new computer for video editing, then step up to one of today's hot new NLE solutions. They are designed to fully leverage all of the power and performance of your new computer.
Even with these great tech tips, the time may come when you have to call tech support. If you follow these tips when you do, you should get the best possible service and support.
- When you do call tech support, get the tech's name. This is more important then you think. Even if you can't get back to that particular support person, the tech you get will be aware that you are working hard and he can consult with the original tech if he gets into trouble. Telephone (or e-mail) tech support is often trial and error. We try to first isolate the problem, then fix it. This may take several calls. Some of our suggestions may seem odd or redundant, but there is often a method to the madness. If you follow the first 5 tips here before you call, you'll have the answers ready so more can get accomplished. The other reason to get the technicians name is simple. It creates a friendlier, more positive environment. Make sure he has yours as well. That way when you call back he'll recognize you and your problem faster.
- Listen carefully and give good answers. This is one of my most important tech tips. It is extremely frustrating from the techs point of view to have to repeat the same thing several times because you aren't really paying attention. If you can't give your tech call 100% of your concentration, call at another time. If you don't understand a question, ask the tech to explain it better. Never bluff. If you give me a bad answer to question #3, by question #5 we may have made your tech problem much worse. Remember, the tech is trying to fix your problem, not cross-examine you. Do not be defensive. We all miss the obvious sometimes. If you made a bonehead mistake, just admit it. That way it can get fixed faster.
- Call at the right time! Techs are people just like you. They have good days and bad days. They have families they want to go home to and bosses making them crazy. No matter how frustrated and angry you are, try to stay positive and calm. If you both get irritating and start bickering or name calling, then neither of you is getting the results you need. You both want the same thing: For your card to work!!
The worst times to call tech support (based on the tech's time zone) are:
- Fridays after 4PM
- Mondays before 1PM
- Any day during lunch (between noon and 1:30PM)
The best times to call tech support (based on the tech's time zone) are:
- 10 AM on Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday
Videoguys DTV Tech Support Hotline (516) 759-1615