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Thread: What spec do I need?

  1. #1

    Default What spec do I need?

    I'll give you some background first. I'm an actor that has finally got fed up of waiting for other people to do production and editing so I'm going to have a bash myself.
    It will be HDV editing.
    The computer will be used for other stuff aswell: admin, internet, a bit of gaming.
    My budget is approx £700-£800.
    After a bit of reading these things seem to be important.
    Quad core 64 bit processor. Which one?
    64bit windows vista home premium.
    If I get ms works, will I be able to use ms word, coz office pro is quite expensive.
    Is windows movie maker good enough to start with?
    2 x 250 gb hard drives.
    2 gb ram.
    firewire port? Do these come as part of or with something else?
    Video card?
    Sound card?
    TV in and out?
    I would like to be able to watch and record digital TV through it.
    19" flat monitor.
    Speakers ?
    Keyboard and mouse.

    There are probably plenty of blanks here. Any advice would be gratefully appreciated.

    I'm in Manchester so have emailed Aria with this type of spec for a quote. If anybody knows of any good PC builders let me know.

    Thanks, Nathan.

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Aug 2005
    Western Europe


    Your hoping to get into HDV with an £800 budget? Do you already have a HDV camcorder?

  3. #3


    Hi Nathan.

    I am a young, inexperienced film-maker, but I have been scouring forums like these for a year, absorbing as much wisdom as possible as I too, am building a budget HDV editing system that will be used for admin and internet. So take all that I say here with a pinch of salt, as it is information I have gleaned from other people's opinions...

    Here is a good spec that should be under £1000:

    INTEL (without question) Processor:
    Either a Q6600 - 2.4GHz - slower (not slow by any means) but quad-core, therefore great at multi-tasking and simple number crunching is fast, e.g. encoding video. If you like opening several programs at once, get this.
    PS look for the 'Energy-efficient G0 stepping version' (ask your builder/supplier) - it produces less heat


    A E6850 - Dual core, but much faster (3GHz), so if you are video-editing at one time, then using the internet at another time, get this.

    These processors are similarly priced at under £200. They are both 64-bit, which means they can handle any operating system you throw at them, but read on to find out what one you should use.


    The two processors need slightly different motherboards, as the Q6600 has a 1066MHz FSB (speed at which the processor communicates with the rest of the PC); and the E6850 has a slightly faster 1333MHz FSB.
    You can run a Q6600 on a motherboard with 1333MHz FSB, but not a E6850 on a slower 1066MHz FSB motherboard.

    Here are some great review sites:

    Toms Hardware

    And some good cheap sellers:

    Go to the seller sites, look under P35 chipset motherboards, for example the Abit IP35-E, as these have the newest components, and 1333MHz FSBs. Check out a price, see if it has FireWire directly on the motherboard, 4 or more SATA ports and LAN, and then search the motherboards on the review sites. Anything over £60 is probably pretty good, I am going with a Gigabyte P35C-DSR3, but this has no FireWire, which is a pain, and another component you have to buy.


    A contentious area. Basically get 667MHz ram with the lowest CAS timings, i.e. the numbers in the RAM description should be either CAS5 or CAS4, or look like this:
    5-5-5-12 or 4-4-4-12. If you are unsure what I am talking about, Wikipedia, Google and your seller will have the answers.

    If you go for the Q6600, it may be better to get 800MHz RAM, but it will only make a tiny difference. Just make sure it is CAS4.

    Get either two 1GB sticks or
    two 1GB sticks and two 512MB sticks to make 3GB of RAM. No more than three is necessary IF you go for 32-bit Windows. This leads me neatly onto...

    Operating System.

    Leave Vista alone. It has kinks, bugs and compatibility issues which are not worth the hassle this early on in its development.

    Windows XP PRO 32-bit is perfect. You can get 64-bit, but you will need to update all of your software and hardware drivers. Not worth the hassle unless you are serious about messing about with your PC. Remember to get Pro, not Home.

    With XP PRO 32-bit, 3GB-4GB is the maximum RAM it can ever use. 2GB should be enough, I am getting 3GB.

    TV Card

    Get a cheap DVB (digital) tuner, easier to get a USB one from Hauppage or someone, slightly cheaper to get a PCI internal one. They are essentially the same, if you dont want to get into the guts of your PC, get the USB one, and you can use it on your laptop, other people's PCs etc. Connect it to a real rooftop aerial for best results, the bundled aerials are crap.

    Remember to pay your TV licence!

    Hard Drives

    You need as many 7200rpm 16MB cache SATA hard drives as you can, as they fill up very quickly with footage. Depends on how much footage of course.

    You may want to create a RAID 0 array, where you link two drives together to act as one big faster drive, especially for HDV capturing and editing. All P35 motherboards will come with a RAID controller, which is software to help you do this. Its quite simple, but remember that if one drive fails, you ose ALL data across both drives. Its fast, but doubles your (very low) risk of data loss. Get an external drive to make sure all of your files are backed up safely (Maplin do 320GB ones for £60 now)

    Hitachi DeskStars are cheap and cheerful, fast too. Bit noisy.
    Seagate 7200.10 are quieter and faster but dearer
    WesternDigital Caviars are cheap and quiet
    Samsung SpinPoints are the quietest, but not quite as fast.

    The differences between all of these aspects is very small, as long as it is new it will be good value, fast and not too loud. Again refer to review websites. 250Gb - 320Gb seems to be a good balance between price and capacity.

    DVD Drive

    Get any brand of DVD-RW drive - Samsung or LiteOn are good and cheap - with at least 16x speed on DVD-Rs. IDE drives plug into an older-style socket on your motherboard, which may only have one or two of these sockets, whilst SATA drives plug into your SATA sockets (of which you may only have four, bear in mind how many Hard Drives and DVD drives you want)

    If you will burning a lot of DVDs, or copying a lot you may want two DVD-RW drives to make copying a DVD very quick and easy. They are all under £20, so may be worth it.

    Video/Graphics Card

    Not my strong point, as I do no gaming at all. I am going with a Sapphire (great brand for ATI cards) HD 2600XT. Great for video, including High-Def, not great at gaming. Nvidia seems to be better at making gaming cards for good prices, make sure the number begins with 8xxx. GT8600 seems to be a good price point for the muscle, but refer to review websites for this.
    Video cards dont really come into film-editing unless you use a LOT of graphic effects. If you dont, get a good gaming card and forget about its video capabilities.
    Make sure it has dual DVI outputs though. This is pretty much standard now.


    LG l194wt - 19" is a cheap widescreen monitor, good for editing due to the wide large space for timelines, but beware - it has a colour palette of 16.2 million colours, not 16.7 million. This is no small difference, as it refers to the type of panel it uses to create the picture, and it means it is not a great one. If you are not colour correcting loads, the it should not be a problem, but if you need to be able to sense how the film will look aesthetically, you may need to spend more money.

    The LG l204wt - 20" HAS got a 16.7mill panel. Its £150 from - bargain.

    With HDV you may want a larger panel (24") to view true HD content, but to be honest they are out of your price range. The cheaper 16.2mill panels are £250.
    Wait til the £450 panels are affordable, then buy one.

    Samsungs new BW range looks great and isnt too expensive, again do your research!

    Two screens is very good for editing, as it gives you loads of space for working. Im getting two 20" panels, but for you this may be overkill, and will eat up over a third of you budget.

    Sound Card

    Get one. Kicks the arse of motherboard sound capabilities. New X-Fi range from Creative is great and good sound quality - go for he second cheapest in nthe range, I think it is the Xtreme Gamer.


    I am getting Creatives 5.1 surround sound system for £50 off Amazon. Good punch and great to have surround sound when editing and watching films (and TV). Never get cheaper speakers, they are crap.

    Keyboard and Mouse

    I am going with Logitechs EX110 Wireless Desktop (about £20). Wireless is very cheap and convenient nowadays, and gives you an oversized remote for films and TV! Microsoft are good too. A cheap wired keyboard would be fine, but you get what you pay for - better build quality and comfort levels, plus buttons you can program to launch stuff.


    Windows Movie Maker in XP cannot handle HDV, and it is very simple anyway. Unless you are making conference videos for corporate functions, you will need something better.

    Adobe Premiere Elements is about £100, and sounds like a great package. Consult review websites and this site's forums.

    Pinnacle programs sound like they give more trouble than they are worth, my advice - stay away.

    Avid Free DV may be able to handle HDV, and it is free (

    Software is not my strong point Im afraid, however you are posting among giants in the software knowledge world. Ask them.

    As for MS Works, I have used it and the limitations irritate me. I suggest looking at, a free set of Office programs that are fully functional and sound pretty good, Consult review websites, or just try it out yourself now. Google Apps is another free option.

    Software wise, uTorrent gives you a less-than-legal way of getting what you want. I do not condone it, nor am I admitting to using it to get free pirated software. I am merely mentioning its existence. What you do with his information is up to you!

    Good Luck, remember there is a world of people out there connected by the wonderful Internet willing to give their knowledge up for free. I have merely recycled it here.


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