Video editing, special effects, and animation work requires a high-performance PC so that everything happens smoothly and without wasting time encoding or rendering. That’s why it’s important to design a PC that can effectively handle these tasks, which are some of the most intensive that can be asked of conventional PCs.
This guide will give you all the information you need to build a PC powerful enough for your video editing work without spending money on trivia you won’t use. Building your PC for video editing rather than buying a ready-made one means you’ll have precisely the performance you need without breaking the bank.
How to choose PC Components for Video Editing
The CPU is the basis of an assembly PC. The number of cores and their speed determines how fast you can process editing tasks. If you try to edit on a PC that does not have a powerful processor, the process will be slow, regardless of the other components.
Modern video editing software like Adobe Premiere, Sony Vegas, and Final Cut Pro will greatly benefit from high core counts and hyperthreading, so investing in a good CPU is crucial when setting up your PC for editing. (If you’re using DaVinci Resolve, the CPU remains important but drops to second place behind the graphics card.)
Generally speaking, the CPU is where you should bet. For a decent machine, a 6-core CPU is a minimum. The higher the resolution you are working at, the more valuable a faster and more capable CPU will be.
Check out this article on choosing the CPU for video editing
It might sound counterintuitive, but the graphics card (or video card) is less important for video editing and other creative work in most software. It is generally better to direct the budget towards a more efficient CPU, even at the expense of the graphics card. The exception to this is if you are working on DaVinci Resolve. If you work with this software, you need a powerful graphics card since it mainly runs on the GPU and not on the CPU.
It’s unnecessary to have a dedicated graphics card on your PC to use most editing software. However, modern video editing software uses the graphics card via hardware acceleration for encoding and rendering and having a relatively powerful graphics card can make a big difference. If you invest in a high-end graphics card, you will still see diminishing returns.
When it comes to graphics cards for video editing, Nvidia originally had an edge with its CUDI acceleration. Today AMD’s OpenCL offers similar performance to the software that supports it. Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve work well with AMD and Nvidia, but Adobe tends to optimize its software more for Nvidia.
Note: Graphics cards are extremely important for a gaming PC. So if you also plan to play games with your editing PC, you should invest a bit more in a more capable graphics card.
Having enough RAM is essential for working on continuous video editing. If you’re doing 1080p video editing, we recommend 8GB as a bare minimum. For 4K, it’s recommended to be at least 16GB. More RAM is beneficial, although it’s less of a priority than buying a good CPU and a decent graphics card. Video editing is one of the few apps that benefit from more RAM, so invest in it. 32 GB, 64 GB, or even 128 GB are not crazy numbers for video editing.
Storage (SSD vs HDD)
When it comes to storage, you have two options: SSDs (flash memory) and HDDs (physical disks). A video editing system makes these options possible, but SSDs have many advantages.
We recommend that you turn to SSDs rather than HDDs as much as possible. Puget Systems offers an excellent comparison of different storage configurations. SSDs offer much better performance than HDDs when you engage in complex tasks with timelines involving simultaneous playbacks of several clips. When working on 4K, or even 1080p ProRes, HDDs can start to slow everything down, even with relatively few simultaneous clips. They also have a video explaining the best storage setups in a more digestible format.
According to the beneficial findings of Puget Systems and some other more recent data, here is a primary classification of storage configurations:
Again, your video editing PC doesn’t need an SSD. An HDD will do if you’re editing H.264 video at 1080p, and an HDD might suffice for a bit of 4K editing if you don’t mind dropping frames per second.
We recommend anyone building a PC buy at least a small SSD (240+ GB) to install the operating system and essential software for anyone who can afford it. This will make a massive difference in how quickly you can perform all tasks on your PC, not just when editing video.
Of course, HDDs are sometimes unavoidable because they are very cheap for large sizes. To store files for large projects where SSDs aren’t cost-effective, we recommend RAID configurations, which allow multiple HDDs to be grouped.
The motherboard is the central element that connects all the other components. So you need to make sure yours has everything you need for assembly.
Once you have chosen the CPU, you will need to find a motherboard with a compatible socket, so the motherboard socket must be the same as the chipset.
The motherboard’s specs won’t affect the PC’s performance when editing video, as long as it allows you to use the CPU, RAM, SSD, and other components you attach to it. But a few other criteria should be considered when choosing the motherboard, for example, the integration of a sound card and the number of USB and hard disk ports.
Modern motherboards often have an excellent quality sound card for sound. If you want quality sound for editing, take a look at the tests of the motherboards you are considering to make sure the audio quality is up to your expectations. If you need the best possible sound quality, the subject becomes more complex than what we want to cover here, but to simplify, a dedicated sound card could greatly help.
Power supply (PSU)
As with all the PCs we recommend, we will focus on the power quality of your brand new editing PC. It would be a shame if a voltage spike ruined all the components. It’s nearly impossible to tell if a power supply is good without an electrical engineer, so seek recommendations from reputable sources. We also recommend a minimum 80+ Bronze rating, ensuring that your PC uses electricity more efficiently and runs quieter while staying more relaxed.
A powerful PC for video editing is built around a powerful CPU. Having a graphics card is also very useful, but investing in the very high end is unnecessary. Remember not to be stingy on RAM, even if 8 to 16 GB will be sufficient for small projects. An SSD will not improve rendering speed but speed up virtually all other tasks and is very beneficial.