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The Digital Director Experience: Video Editing Fundamentals

Optimising a laptop for video editing

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If you've read my ramblings before, you'll know all about my unhealthy obsession with laptops for editing. The editing elite dictate that laptops shouldn't be used for editing. These people clearly live in a house with an editing studio featuring 50 screens and a separate hard drive for each video file.

I always judge my system performance on whether I want to throw the laptop out of the window. I'm not really interested in shaving 5 seconds off my boot time, or live previews of 25 video tracks. My ideal system is one that gives my limited creativity a bit of space. And my 2 year old dell xps 15 does just that. Or it did until recently.

I've been gradually filing up a premiere cs5 project with video of m daughter, which is now approaching the 2,000 video mark. Unsurprisingly, cs5 was starting to lurch. My 7200 rpm disk was trying to do far too much and I needed a solution before my laptop flew out of the window.

So I started looking for a new laptop. Again. But I just coukdn't justify the cost, and deep down I love my xps 15. I looked for upgrades, something I've never considered before and finally opted for the following:

- increase the RAM to the max
- rip out the DVD drive and install a Seagate momentus xt drive in a caddy
- replace the system drive with an solid state drive.

It's been the best money I've spent this year.

I can't remember the last time I used my DVD drive, so I was happy to see the back of it. And installing the HDD caddy was easy. I moved all of the video files to to the new drive, including the caches, and previews. You wouldn't believe the difference. A lot was due to freeing up the system drive space, but most of the performance gan was due to holding the videos on the new drive. The project files load so much quicker, and premiere n longer hangs when it loses focus.

Installing the SSD was much more hassle and can't say I notice any difference. The physical change of the drive was easy, but Norton Ghost wouildn' copy the drive. And annoyingly, I had only days earlier deleted the dell recovery software to free up space to fit the OS onto the smaller drive. Once I'd found the tool on he net, I could create a bootable USB stick and finally install windows.

So, if you want a huge performance gain, ditch the laptop's optical drive and install a SATA caddy with a fast drive.

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Comments

  1. Stripe's Avatar
    Would like to know how this would compare for speed to a USB 3 external drive, (only some external drives are 3.0 capable). The box says 10x faster than USB 2.0, which would hardly be sluggish - (although your old laptop would not have USB 3 of course). Although here are some usb3 sata adapters which may be worth a peruse, it says usb2 is backward compatable too - all this could lead to 2 or 3 external drives running on usb3 - very handy...

    [url=http://www.usb3.com/]USB3.com - USB 3.0 SuperSpeed Product Site by USBGear.com[/url]
  2. Marc Peters's Avatar
    In theory, quicker. in practice, you'll likely not notice any difference. from a practical perspective, the internal solution would be the optimal choice. my laptop has usb3 and esata.
  3. TimStannard's Avatar
    Interested to hear you don't use your DVD drive. I can understand you don't need that medium, but what about family who want to see all those films of National Trust sites and other places you visit, to say nothing of your lvely wife and baby daughter - how do they view? My father would love me to produce copies on VHS (as he's partially sighted and can't read menus on screen)
  4. Marc Peters's Avatar
    Everything is online Tim. My parents view the videos on Facebook as I post them. They spend a lot of time abroad, so it's the easiest way.
  5. Bpotter908's Avatar
    [I]"The editing elite dictate that laptops shouldn't be used for editing"[/I]
    And yet there are a wide range of broadcast level companies out there who sell laptops designed for video editing...These elitist guys need to get their heads out of a studio and do some field work once in a while, Then they will quickly realise just how handy laptops are.

    [I]Installing the SSD was much more hassle and can't say I notice any difference.[/I]
    Do you not find general Windows tasks are faster? Loading programs quicker? What SSD did you purchase if I may ask? I know there are some which are cheaper than others, but you sacrifice read/write speeds.

    @Stripe, It's not so much legendary speeds that you get with USB 3.0 when reading/writing, But the huge performance increase over usb 2.0
    With this product
    [url=http://www.blackmagic-design.com/uk/products/ultrastudiosdi/]Blackmagic Design: UltraStudio SDI[/url]
    I can capture 1080p footage via SDI into my editing system quite happily. This is where I think USB 3.0 truly shines.
  6. Marc Peters's Avatar
    The OS boot quickly, but not noticeably quicker. I bought a Samsung 830 128GB.
  7. CR213 Productions's Avatar
    Marc, thanks for telling me to read this. Helped a good bit! I'm not very techy yet when it comes to computers, but take that as a compliment... Lol! :)

    The thing about not using laptops: for me, a laptop would be absolutely necessary to get quicker results with my videos. We drive to our races (varying times of 2 to almost 5 hours) the day before a race. After we race and finish around 5:00 PM we get something to eat and drive home. What do I do otw home? Listen to my ipod, thinking of how to do the video for that race. For me, it'd be better to have the laptop so that otw home I can at least get the files onto the computer, if not go ahead and start editing it. That would give me a HUGE head-start compared to using our home PC... I could get buddies' footage more easily at the track, instead of taking their SD card home with me, or even their whole camera... Lol! (I'd definately have that 'out in the field' kinda thing going, because at our races that's where we are: in the middle of an open field near some woods... Lol!) Not to mention, this computer is not only used for my video editing, but everything else for everyone in the house... I'd love to not have my projects 'interrupted', or interrupt someone's web surfing because I'm rendering a video... Anyway, I'm starting to ramble... hahaha... Thanks again! Peace out!

    BJ
  8. miwhel's Avatar
    Since moving to the Momentus XT for a system drive the performance of my laptop has certainly increased. Am now seriously thinking about losing the DVD drive and fitting a second 7200 HDD in it's place. USB DVD Drives are cheap enough should I need one.

    My only thought is this, loading programs from the XT is much quicker and once loaded they do seem to run smoother and perform well, this is no doubt because they are loaded on the ssd and ready to go. However due to the size of video files the XT is probably wasted as a media drive as there's not enough room on the ssd section of the disk to load a projects worth of video files, so the plates are doing the work?

    So thinking a fast 7200 1Tb would do the job just as well...

    Anyone have any thoughts on this or any experience of the XT as a media drive..?
  9. TomLimb's Avatar
    THANKS Dear Marc.
    It helped me.i also juged performance of my PC , andd i hate boot time
    in my system. i must be upgrade my PC ,thanks a lot.
  10. zenithcinematography's Avatar
    Thank And Explain valuable information for increasing speed of PC by using these factor like RAM.