If you want to build a video editing machine for any budget, this guide will provide useful information and insight on which component to purchase, all the way to other equipment necessary to set up a standard video editing studio. Video Editing places a heavy demand on PC hardware. Some major video editing apps such as Adobe Premiere Pro, Avid Media Composer, Da-Vince Resolve Studio and Sony Vegas always provide updated versions of their editing suites. These latest versions are always tuned to take advantage of the latest advances in hardware.
For instance, Premiere Pro CC 2018 is designed to take advantage of multi-threaded CPUs, as such if you are serious with your video editing work, you should consciously get a powerful processor that can handle your video processing workflow with ease. Please follow along as we dissect all the information you need to build a video editing machine, set up your studio, and be profitable. See the reasons why you should build a custom PC instead of buying a pre-built PC.
- Recommended Video Editing Builds – AMD & Intel
- AMD VIDEO EDITING PC BUILDS
- INTEL VIDEO EDITING PC BUILDS
- Hardware Priority Chart for Video Editing Machine Build
- Most important components for Video Editing PC
- Do I need a high-end GPU to build a Video Editing Machine?
- What about the Monitor?
- Just how much storage should I get?
- The need to invest in the best available hardware, then upgrade
- Video Production & Editing Equipment
- Video Editing Software
- Paid Video Editing Apps
- Free Video Editing Software
- Free Web Based Video Editing Apps
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Recommended Video Editing Builds – AMD & Intel
The following section holds recommendations for different budgets, both for AMD and Intel platforms. All components have been selected to work together without compatibility issues. Please note that qualifying purchases earn us a small commission. This is to support our work.
AMD VIDEO EDITING PC BUILDS
AMD BUILDS PRESENT VALUE AND PERFORMANCE. Take your pick from 3 options – Budget, Mid-range and High-end builds
BUDGET AMD VIDEO EDITING PC BUILD
MID-RANGE AMD VIDEO EDITING PC BUILD
HIGH-END AMD VIDEO EDITING PC BUILD
INTEL VIDEO EDITING PC BUILDS
INTEL BUILDS ARE STILL RELEVANT, OFFER VALUE AND PERFORMANCE. HOWEVER, THERE IS STILL ROOM FOR IMPROVEMENT. Take your pick from 3 options – Budget, Mid-range and High-end builds
BUDGET INTEL VIDEO EDITING PC BUILD
MID-RANGE INTEL VIDEO EDITING PC BUILD
HIGH-END INTEL VIDEO EDITING PC BUILD
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Hardware Priority Chart for Video Editing Machine Build
The hardware priority chart is a visual presentation of the most crucial components that you should devote a major chunk of your budget to if you intend to build a video editing machine. The components are rated on a scale of 1-10. If the components score a 10, then it means you should devote the highest budget priority to that component. If possible, get a high-end component instead of a low-end or mid-range version.
For instance, if the graphics card scores 10 on the chart, then you should devote between 20-30% of your budget to getting the graphics card. This means that if your budget is $1500, then your graphics card should take at least 400-$500. For this guide on building a Video Editing Machine, the processor and graphics card have the same level of budget priority. This means that if your budget is 1500, then your processor and graphics card should take between 800 – $1000.
Now these are the reasons for this: you need the best processor your money can buy because the processor plays a vital role in video rendering. The CPU is almost always responsible for rendering your edited video. The rendering speed is a function of how many cores and threads the processor has, and the clock speed.
Likewise, the graphics card also plays a vital role. Most editors today support GPU accelerated effects and even GPU rendering. This is most important if you want to maintain the smoothest workflow, as the CPU is freed to do normal computations in the video editing workflow.
Next in order of importance is the RAM and SSD. They both rank 9 on the scale. These two are the next most important components, though with lesser budget priority. You can scale down on the RAM quantity, like instead of buying 32GB, you can still function with 16GB. Same with the SSD. The storage hard drive has a still lesser budget priority. This means you can just make do with 1TB, instead of getting an 8TB or 12TB drive. You can use an external HDD to back up your video clips and assets.
Most important components for Video Editing PC
For the best performance in video editing, your processor must be a multi-core processor, preferably from 4 or 6 cores to as many cores as you can afford. This is because of the nature of video editing, which places a huge demand on raw processing power.
At the budget level, you should get at least a six-core processor. You should also go for a processor with multi-threading, which effectively multiplies the number of cores you have on the processor. This way, you cut down the time it would take to process jobs, such as rendering your edited videos or transcoding.
With a six-core processor, you can comfortably edit 4K videos with effects and transitions thrown in. If you are going to be editing 8K videos, you should go for probably a ten-core processor or something higher.
Right now, the AMD Ryzen 9 3900X is the best-rated processor for video editing, with its 12-core/24 thread and higher frequency offering and lower pricing, it hands-down beats its Intel competitor, the i9 9700K in video encode tests (see link in the table below).
- BOOT DRIVE
You should go for a speedy SSD, or better still go for an M.2 SSD. M.2s are much faster than traditional SSDs. A budget video editing build should go for an SSD, while a high-end build should go for M.2 storage.
Additionally, it is advisable to use a separate SSD for caching file data, apart from the boot SSD or M.2 drive. For example, Premiere Pro creates a cache anytime you add media files to the project. For the best performance, get two SSDs or M.2 drives – one for the boot drive, the other for file caching.
- STORAGE DRIVE
Video editing involves large amounts of files, especially if you are editing ultra-high-definition footage, such as 4K or even 8K. You need as much storage as you can afford to get.
You need lots of RAM. Video editing apps are RAM hungry, due to the fact that you will be handling large video files, working with effects-heavy compositions, rendering, and transcoding.
Well, you need as much RAM as your motherboard can take. For budget builds, at least 16GB of DDR4 RAM is adequate. High-end builds should take up to 64 or 128GB of RAM.
- GRAPHICS CARD
For the best performance, you need a high-end graphics card on your video editing PC. Graphics cards are playing an increasingly prominent role in video editing. For instance, Premiere Pro supports GPU-acceleration for rendering some effects.
Graphics cards also come in useful in video rendering/transcoding. Most of the applications support GPU rendering, which speeds up your workflow considerably.
As a video editor, you need a monitor that is capable of reproducing colors accurately. You shouldn’t just go for that fancy 4K 32-inch monitor. Not all monitors deliver the best in color accuracy.
For budget builds, we recommend the BenQ 24 Inch IPS Monitor for media professionals. If you are going to build a high-end video editing PC, then the BenQ 32-Inch 32″ IPS, Post-Production Monitor is for you.
We have an article for the best 4K Video Editing PC build, featuring a Threadripper, with our choice of components carefully selected by our technical department. Click here to move to the step-by-step guide on how to build your own PC.
Do I need a high-end GPU to build a Video Editing Machine?
Short answer. Yes, and No.
The major reason is that when you are editing video, your graphics card is responsible for rendering some effects, called GPU accelerated effects. The thing is, if your card is incapable of performing this function, your system simply shifts the work to the CPU.
This can tell on the CPU if it’s a low-budget chip, leading to hang-ups and seriously degraded performance. Also, transcoding utilizes the GPU to a large extent. This is based on the rendering engine utilizing the inbuilt proprietary computation libraries, such as the NVidia CUDA and the AMD Open CL. There’s also Intel Quick Sync for Intel processors. These libraries help to accelerate GPU transcoding substantially in video editing and transcoding apps. To cut a long story short, your budget determines whether you should get a high-end GPU. However, if you can, then get a high-end GPU by all means.
Now if your budget is between $600-800, you may not be able to get a high-end card. You are limited to a low-budget card of between $200-300. If your budget is up to 2K to $3K, then you can be able to afford high-end cards that your editing software will love. At the end of the day, this decision saves you money and also makes you money. This is due to the fact that time is money in this industry.
If you can be able to render your videos in seconds, you’ll get more done in less time, saving you money. This also translates to more jobs getting done in less time, making you money in the long run.
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What about the Monitor?
If you are building a video editing PC, the monitor is equally important in the equation. Why is this so? The monitor shows you how the finished job will look like on a regular TV. Now this is super important. If you are doing lots of color grading and look development, then your monitor must be super-accurate in its representation of color. You want to accurately match colors, and ensure that the output is consistent with your vision, or your customer’s specifications.
There are professional monitors designed for this purpose and more. These monitors are designed to accurately reproduce consistent color in production scenarios. They are able to achieve this by special LUTs hardwired into the monitor electronics. Also, most consumer monitors are rated at 8-bit depth. This bit depth may not be able to accurately match the whole RGB gamut.
Professional monitors are able to output 10-bit images for deeper and more balanced output. When getting a monitor, ensure it is a 10-bit monitor. The only downside is that 10-bit monitors are pricier, compared to their 8-bit counterparts.
Just how much storage should I get?
This is simply a function of the size of videos you shoot and work with. If you are shooting with your smartphone, chances are your footage will probably be 1080p, and you might need like 2-3TB hard drive.
On the other hand, if you are shooting with professional 4K or 8K capable cameras, and are going to be editing those videos, then you need terabytes of storage for your footage. Video consumes lots of storage space. Therefore, there’s no amount of storage that is too big, because eventually it will get filled up. Of course, one of the ways to keep your storage freed up is by deleting old jobs lying around on the drive.
If you want to take it further, you can invest in a simple raid array for storing your footage. This ensures your data is safe and secure, mitigating any eventual crashes or data corruption. You are far better off investing in enterprise-class RAID storage, utilizing NAS hard drives than just using a single or double regular hard drives. NAS drives have better reliability and performance quotient than regular hard drives.
The need to invest in the best available hardware, then upgrade
One of the challenges that video editors and content creators face is the fact that hardware that is considered the latest today will eventually become obsolete in a few years’ time. Also, software developers are constantly coding much more powerful applications which in most cases, the previous generation hardware does not have the capability to handle.
What usually happens is in 10–15 years’ time, technologies have advanced so much that computers made now will be too slow to handle them. It’s always wise to build a brand new PC with the latest components and make sure they are high-end. This is because video editing apps are always evolving, getting more powerful. So if your PC parts are brand new today and high-end, then it will probably take up to 10 years before they become totally obsolete.
This is called future-proofing. However, there are arguments for and against future proofing your video editing PC build. Some of the arguments include the following:
- Future-proofing isn’t for everyone – the only segment that would really benefit from future-proofing are those that use their PCs for light work including typing, movie watching, and browsing. That way, the PC can remain relevant and useful for a very long time, all things being equal.
- Warranties don’t last that long – warranties for major PC components are quite shorter than the 5 years in most cases. This kind of defeats the purpose of future-proofing. If the parts start failing after the warranty period, then you may be forced to upgrade.
- PC technology isn’t improving by leaps and bounds – technology has kind of peaked in recent years, and users don’t see a huge amount of improvement in performance, compared to previous years. In addition, manufacturers are making parts more energy efficient, which improves their longevity. What this means is that even if you get the best hardware now, you are not going to see vast performance improvements when compared to the previous generation. This has been largely true with processors.
- Future-proofing is only viable if you overclock – if you are not going to overclock your processor, then future-proofing is not viable. This is because, in a few years, your processor power is going to struggle with new rendering technologies yet to be released. A good point is the ray-tracing feature of Adobe After Effects which previous generation hardware wasn’t designed to handle, but overclocked processors still performed better than non-overclocked ones.
- Future-proofing isn’t cost-efficient, compared to rolling upgrades – there is always the tendency of your spanking new hardware failing in the next couple of years. When that happens, you have no choice but to upgrade. In terms of cost, it’s better to save some of that money, instead of buying top of the line hardware. In a few years, you can fall back on your savings for upgrades.
However, despite all these reasons, it is better, in our opinion, to get the best hardware you can get for your money, and still prepare for upgrades in the future. This is because video editing needs the best hardware for the best results. It is simply a matter of time you spend rendering and transcoding video. The less time you spend, the more money you are making, and the more money you get to save in energy bills. So what’s our verdict? Buy the best now, prepare for upgrades.
Video Production & Editing Equipment
If you are going to create video for YouTube or for customers, you are going to need some basic equipment to get started. Video content matters, as well as quality. YouTube accommodates up to 2K video resolution, while normal broadcast video can range from 1080p to 4K.
Even though broadcast TV hasn’t gone up to 4K, right now you can find 4K content in many places. Most of the major streaming services, like Netflix, Amazon, iTunes, and Vudu all have 4K available. So, it would be wise to be able to produce 4K content because most TVs right now are 4K resolution capable.
Video Production Hardware – Cameras
Definitely, you need a camera best suited for your purposes. There are lots of options out there, but it would be wise to invest in a quality DSLR camera. GoPro also makes good action cameras. Some of the best DSLR brands include Sony, Panasonic, Fujifilm, Nikon, Olympus, and Blackmagic.
For purposes of clarity, we’ve grouped the different types of video cameras into these categories:
- DSLR Cameras
- Mirrorless DSLR Cameras
- Action Cameras
- Digital Camcorders
- Professional Cameras
Digital single-lens reflex cameras, or DSLR cameras, have evolved over the years. Most photographers actually opt for this piece of equipment because of its major advantage of portability and versatility. Another advantage is the option to choose from a variety of interchangeable lenses, which give this camera type more versatility and better performance, coupled with better image reproduction, thanks to its sensors. This way one is able to extend the functionality of these cameras and produce better images.
We’ve rounded up some you might be interested in below.
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Mirrorless DSLR Cameras
Mirrorless cameras offer more portability than DSLR cameras, and you also get similar image production, thanks to its sensors. There’s also autofocus and stabilization to compensate for light conditions and camera shake.
These cameras also have a high-speed shutter system, which also helps you capture more frames per second (fps) courtesy of its electronic shutters. Hence, they are able to detect and see light quicker than a camera with a mirror, which requires the reflection of the light before seeing the image in its entirety. Though they are both smaller and lighter than DSLRs, they still don’t sacrifice image quality since the sensor is more advanced.
Here are some options you might consider below.
Action/sports cameras are designed to capture outdoor activity in its entirety, particularly extreme sports and related activity. These cameras are portable, and are handheld. They lend themselves to being conveniently strapped onto helmets or other physical objects to record through the moment with the person shooting the footage.
Additionally, the image stabilization included in these cameras helps to maintain clarity even in the most extreme shake due to these sports activities, making it easy to relive the action. One of its downsides is the quality of the audio, which may not be of high quality. However, this is improving in recent years.
We’ve listed some below you might want to check out.
Digital camcorders offer flexibility and super-portability. Mostly used by amateurs and hobbyists, this little piece of equipment can be used to record home videos or even YouTube videos by beginners. If your production is leaning towards family-oriented shoots such as traveling with friends, attending festivals, trips to the beach, and smaller non-professional uses, this may be the perfect fit.
Some of its pros include being able to record your footage to a variety of media including flash drives, memory cards, and hard drives. There’s also the big display to help you record subjects correctly, and the ability to playback to a connected TV. What’s more, the quality of the video keeps getting better as better models are released.
The camcorder is an inexpensive option for beginners and hobbyists. Here are select options you may consider.
These class of cameras is for those who produce video for a living, such as filmmakers and small production studios. We may not be accurate to label these cameras as professional (since most professionals also use DSLR cameras), but the differences are obvious.
Advantages include better image and video quality, thanks to the huge image sensors, processors, lenses, bigger ISO and aperture range, and more. There’s also provision for microphones via XLR inputs, ability to record HD formats including AVCHD, MP4, and even “raw”, uncompressed video clips which gives more versatility when it comes to post-production in video editing software.
Furthermore, you also have a lot more control when it comes to the video itself, such as manual focus instead of relying on the auto-focus system. The major downside to these class of cameras is the price, as some of them cost thousands of dollars. However, go this route if you’re serious about what you’re doing. The investment usually pays off handsomely.
We’ve assembled some brands you should check out below.
Lighting is indispensable in video production, and as such, you need to make the right choices. The thing is, if you’re just starting out, you may not have the funds to invest in expensive lighting kits. But you can still get good results by getting a basic kit.
If you are a beginner, you can use reflectors to maximize ambient light, of which Neewer is a good brand. An entry-level reflector is an affordable way to start lighting your videos better. You can get a 5-in-1 reflector with translucent, white, black, gold, and silver surfaces.
A soft-box is a better and more versatile lighting solution. These are large cloth boxes that cover bright bulbs to give you a soft fill light. You can also opt for LED lights because for video because they run for a long time off battery power while providing good levels of lighting and low heat levels. Some models also offer different color temperatures for matching the color of different light sources.
Here are our recommendations below.
A good memory card is indispensable for video recording, with sizes up to 256GB or more. The best high-speed memory cards should have the following ratings: 10MB/s (Class 10, UHS Class 1, V10); 30MB/s is better (UHS Class 3, V30) and 60MB/s is ideal. Lexar, SanDisk, Transcend, PNY, etc are some good brands.
If you are going to be shooting 1080p videos, then you should get at least a 64GB card. Also, if you are going to be doing 4K shots, then you should look at 256 to 512GB.
Check out these options below.
You should also pay great attention to the sound and audio recording. Most of the pro cameras may have great video quality, but fail in the sound department. Investing in a good external mic is a good investment.
You might want to get external mics for attaching to the camera, or lavalier mics that could be attached to the subjects’ shirt. These mics are powerful, cut out background noise, and capture clean audio that you can sync with the video in your editing software.
Here are some options below.
Tripods & Gimbals
A dedicated video tripod is also needed for extra stability and vibration reduction. It will also provide much smoother camera movements during your shoots. You need a tripod if you are going to be doing a lot of steady shooting.
On the other hand, a gimbal does the work of a tripod for a handheld camera. A gimbal stabilizes the camera during a hand-held shot. You will find different sizes and brands, some as small as smartphones, whereas some are as big as professional-level video cameras. When your camera is still, a tripod will work. If you’re moving around, you’ll need a gimbal.
Check out the options below.
The display monitor helps you see things “the way they should appear” on a regular TV, all things being equal. If you are producing movies, look is everything for video editors. You don’t want to grade your videos and the final output isn’t what you were seeing on your monitor.
So what should you look for in a suitable monitor? There are a couple of factors among other things. These include color accuracy, the monitor LUT, gamma (black level) and bit depth. You should also choose a monitor that is mountable on the wall.
We have selected the best you should check out below.
Drones have truly evolved into indispensable tools for the serious video producer, though cranes and camera rigs are still relevant. However, shooting with a drone gives your shots a unique perspective which will be impossible to achieve with complicated rigs and cranes.
A good drone should be able to capture up to 4K video footage, with good battery life. Here is a list you should consider.
You should get good and high quality speakers for optimal audio monitoring in your editing (in addition to getting the best headphones possible). Your audio monitors must be able to reproduce the sound faithfully, and also last you a long time.
As you already know, you shouldn’t rely on your video monitor speakers, or your headphones, when playing back video for a customer. See the below list for some of the best speakers you should get.