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The Digital Director Experience: Video Editing Fundamentals

The video editing laptop adventure

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Forum regulars know my love of laptop editing. It's a great way of ensuring your hobby doesn't keep you locked away in an editing suite. But that freedom comes at a cost: finding a laptop that even approaches the power of a laptop is a daunting process.

Desktop replacements aren't a new thing, and powerful laptop's have never been cheap or portable. But high end laptops are thin on the ground. With most laptops coming in at under 800, the choice of high end laptops on the high street is limited. So finding a video editing laptop is becoming a challenge.

There's not many companies that scream out "we provide laptops for editing". The specialised gaming PC makers have occasionally dipped their toe in the video editing sea - - but they soon tire of us. And although we seem like a perfect marriage (video editing demands the best), we're more often the eccentric uncle than the nerdy teenager. We don't want a laptop with glowing alien logo. We want a sophisticated machine. Understated, yet powerful. We want something like this: A perfect choice, but we're not a small business.

So why is finding a video editing laptop so hard? Why isn't there a company that puts high end components into a laptop without marketing it to gamers? And, just as importantly, why can't I buy a laptop that's been certified by Adobe for use with Premiere CS5. Put simply, if I buy a camera to film (yes, film, not send a text, or order a pizza), a tripod to stabilise, and mic to record, why can't I buy something dedicated to video editing?

So please, please, please, someone make me a laptop for less 1,500 that edits AVCHD in Premiere CS5. I'd like it to have the style of a MacBook Pro, bit use all of my current software. I want it to have a 15-16" screen, with no numeric keys. I want a high screen resolutions, and I want a track pad that's responsive. I'd like about an hour from the battery too please.

That, however, is a bit too much to ask it seems.

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  1. IanA's Avatar
    They're about!
    [url=]Dell Precision M6500 Laptop i7, 3.3G FX2800M 8GB e751 on eBay (end time 10-Nov-10 10:28:53 GMT)[/url]
  2. salfordonline's Avatar
    Been desperately seeking the same myself. MacPro's are the holy grail but ridiculously expensive from a personal point of view. Overclockers from my home town do a good line in MSIs, again, too much for me but could sort you out: [url=]MSI GX660 15.6" WLED TFT Intel I5-450M, 6GB DDR3, 1TB HDD, ATI HD 5870 1GB GDDR5 Graphics, Win7 Home Premium 64-Bit - Black/Red [GX660] Notebooks[/url]
  3. Z Cheema's Avatar
    no help Mark, but SCS (sony) have some recomendations on their site for latops as their recommended ones ut over the 1500
  4. Marc Peters's Avatar
    I've had my eyes on those (actually the M4500), but I haven't been able to try one out "in person". If I'm spending that kind of money, I want to feel comfortable with it. To be honest, a MacBook Pro 15" i7 refurb is still at the top of my list.
  5. Swoopie's Avatar
    Personally, I don't think you'll be happy with a laptop running an i7 or any other high-end quad-core, or hex-core for that matter. One of the main reasons you almost never see a quad laptop for sale in the brick & mortar world is because they're notoriously unreliable. No one has ever managed to come up with a good cooling system for one. The size of heat sink needed, at least two case fans (one to pull air in, the other to push it out) plus the CPU fan not only would take up a lot of space but would make the laptop extremely noisy. There's just no good way to do it as of yet, so no one cools them properly. I imagine editing AVCHD footage would would put such a strain on things that you'd overheat in less than an hour of editing, and that's without overclocking. (And that's a shame since the i7 OCs so well).

    At least with HDV and a powerful dual-core laptop (of which there are many), you could edit to your heart's content. So maybe the real answer for you right now would be to get away from AVCHD cams for the time being. They've never been anything but a pain anyway, and the worst mistake the industry has ever made in my opinion.
  6. Marc Peters's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Swoopie
    Personally, I don't think you'll be happy with a laptop running an i7 or any other high-end quad-core, or hex-core for that matter.
    I took the plunge and bought one this week. I'll take delivery mid-December. I'll let you know how I get on!
  7. Swoopie's Avatar
    Okay then; you'll be our guinea pig on the new breed of machines that are out. Let's hope they've gotten better at the cooling thing. You never know; they might just have it licked now.

    I was going to sugest you look at an Asus machine. They're usually really well built. It's a shame we can't build our own laptops like we can with desktops.

    Good luck.
  8. snapper1's Avatar
    I suspect that you have made a valid point re. the cooling for a quad, mine (desktop computer) has a case fan and conventional fan, the guy who built it for me insisted that the case fan was essential.
    Unless we are being too dismissive of laptops in this respect, don't think so though, commonsense tells us that there can't be much if any air space around the CPU on a laptop, to help cool it.
  9. Marc Peters's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Swoopie
    Okay then; you'll be our guinea pig on the new breed of machines that are out.
    Don't say I don't do anything for you guys!
  10. Marc Peters's Avatar
    Got a nice suprise today... my new laptop sitting on my desk! Have just finished installing Premiere CS4 and have tried a sample clip. Not bad so far!
  11. snapper1's Avatar
    [QUOTE]Not bad so far![/QUOTE]
    (sniffs suspiciously) Do I smell burning?
  12. Marc Peters's Avatar
    Well, I've been editing in earnest today (with Premiere CS5), and I'm one happy camper! Finally I can edit HD files from a whole variety of cameras... and even (almost) real time magic bullet previews. It's exactly the same as editing DV 5 years ago . Fingers crossed it stays that way! Rendering a one minute clip to H264 for Vimeo upload took 4 mins, including magic bullet effects.

    As for the heat issue. Well, my other laptop running a Core 2 Duo runs a lot hotter! The fan is slightly louder, but its comfortable on my lap and the top doesn't heat up.
  13. Swoopie's Avatar
    Good! Which one did you get?
  14. Marc Peters's Avatar
    Quote Originally Posted by Swoopie
    Good! Which one did you get?
    Dell XPS 15. Came out at just over a grand after the usual 20% Dell discount.
  15. Swoopie's Avatar
    I worked on a Dell desktop a couple of weeks ago owned by an old acquaintance of mine. It's the first time I've been inside one in nearly ten years, and I must say the construction was great. It was built physically like a tank within a tank. I used to not like Dell years ago because they had so many proprietary parts back then. I had used computers at school as far back as the mid 80s, but the first one I bought for myself was a used Dell Pentium 1in the late 90s, and I founld it almost impossible to find RAM for it because it used EDO RAM on a DIMM which was unheard of. They don't do that kind of thing anymore though from what I understand and seem to make a pretty good machine. My old laptop is a Dell too (an early Pentium 4). It's been replaced now, but I still keep it in the closet. It was a good computer, and I still use it in my homemade teleprompter setup.
  16. Antony Warnes's Avatar
    Are you using any kind of "external box" or is this all being done purely with CPU/RAM?

    I'm a 17" macbook pro user and i do a lot of multicam HDV stuff and "comfortable on my lap" is not something I'd ever say about my experience :)
  17. MikeTV's Avatar
    I work on a Sony Vaio 17" laptop, which runs Windows 7. It has an Intel i5 chip inside, and 'ATI Radeon Premium Graphics' whatever that may be. I run Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 10.

    I don't ever actually put it on my lap, so I can't comment on the heat thing, but it is powerful enough to edit HD video.

    I think they are around 800 new, maybe less.
  18. Stripe's Avatar
    Have plans to buy an i7 with 2670QM chip and 2mb dedicated NVDIA graphics from Asus for about $1000AUD - I would have thought that was plenty spec for video editing, so this thread almost disheartened me. But the reality is different with some research.

    The chip is the most important factor in determining high end as opposed to office or home use, this wiki link is perfect for seperating the wheat from the chaff...

    [url=]List of Intel Core i7 microprocessors - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia[/url]

    Use the bottom table to see the bees knees - the chip I am getting was only released in Oct 2011 - the article explains how to decipher what is a high end chip.

    Oh and seperate graphics are a must - the Intel HD Graphics 3000 contained on these chips will not even smell mustard, let alone cut it.
  19. Paddle Productions's Avatar
    "[COLOR=#494C4C]We don't want a laptop with glowing alien logo"
    Hahah I love this one.

    Anyway, I was asking myself the same question. I always love editing on a desktop workstation, but sooner or later I'll have to get a laptop for field editing. But like you said, it hard looking for the ones that's really built for editors, I think none so far. So the best bet is to go for the ones with the glowing alien logo. Hahah.

    Thanks for sharing.

    [URL=""]Videographer NYC[/URL][/COLOR]