Build a Workstation Designed to Edit Digital Video

Intro 1 Intro 2 Hardware 1 Hardware 2 Linkage

Hardware Part 2

* The audio-/sound-editing portion of Premiere sux. We use Vegas Pro, by Sonic Foundry, and it's a wonderful program. Simply create an AVI in Premiere, and open the AVI in Vegas. Vegas even has a small video windows at the very top of the screen, which provide a virtually frame-accurate audio-editing environment. And the learning curve in Vegas is not bad. About as user-friendly as you can get with that kind power in an app. Highly recommended. Adds a whole 'nuther dimension to editing.

* Sound Forge, another audio-editing app by Sonic Foundry, is the Windows standard, and a powerful tool. Another highly recommended program. Sound Forge is more for working with (editing) the individual audio files themselves, and effecting them with stuff like reverb or eliminating electrical hum, while Vegas is the program where you build your audio project, adding track upon track. When you’re done, you simply import the new audio (wav) file into Premiere & output everything to tape. Voila!

*DV camcorders: We use the Canon GL1. It's a 3-chip camcorder and we couldn't be happier with it. We had a single-chip Sony TRV-9 before the Canon, and there's no comparison. Before the GL1 came out a few months ago, the 3-chip Sony TRV900 was the bang-for-the-buck king at the prosumer level. 

Each camera has it's own pro's and con's, but most who actually use both, prefer the GL1. Many places on the net do head-to-head comparisons of various camcorders, and point out the strengths & weaknesses of each. No camcorder is perfect, but the GL1 has a nice balance of features, performance and price. Lens quality & usability are two of the GL1's primary strengths.

* Cameraworld is a good place to buy camcorders from (Oregon). Even people that say extended-warrantees are a rip-off, say that you should opt for the extended warrantees on digital camcorders, cuz they can be so expensive to repair.

* We use the XLR-PRO by Studio1 with a Sennheiser MKE-300 shotgun mic to handle the audio on the GL1 in situations that warrant a shotgun.

* Adobe After Effects is the undisputed special effects king - referred to as a 'compositing' app. Premiere and After Effects are both made by Adobe, so they work well together.

* The upgrade that surprised us the most came in the form of a 13-inch Sony Trinitron NTCS monitor (TV). The editing window that Premiere gives you is rather small, and sometimes you don't notice certain things until your edited piece is seen on a full-size TV. For only $200, it made a huge difference in the editing experience. 

Anyone who edits seriously has some form of NTSC/TV monitor to watch their footage on. The good, professional, NTSC monitors go for about $1000. Typically the signal that goes to the TV monitors is routed through the Firewire cable via the camera. Some gfx card, like the G400 that comes with the RT2000, offer a 'dual-head' design, which sppts dual monitors with a single card (only takes up one slot).

* Besides the 13-inch Sony, we have a standard 19-inch monitor. We have been looking at setting up a dual-monitor system, but this would take another PCI slot for us to do this, and we only have one open, and it's not unusual to run into IRQ problems when all PCI slots are filled, especially if all cards require an IRQ. 

Motherboards that are supposed to support manual IRQ assignments rarely let you manually reassign IRQs without first making an offering to the digital gods. I have never been able to manually reassign an IRQ, not without changing ones that i didn't want changed.

* We have a Network card in PCI slot #1, which shares it's IRQ with the AGP slot, and we have to go into the device manager and disable the NIC before we can capture video. Don't ask me why, but the network card disturbs the capture process. Don't think it was easy figuring this out. {We have the 3Com 905C} 

* The longer your timeline grows, and the more effects and transitions you use, the more sluggish your computer will run. If Premiere or your editing app starts running sluggishly, you can close and restart the prgm, and that should make it run smoother. Sometimes you have to restart the computer. No other apps should be running when you're editing video.

* A good idea is to make smaller segments in Premiere, and then put them together later at the end - either as AVI’s, or out to tape. For example, make three 6-minute clips, instead of one 18-minute clip. 

* We use the Live Value sound card by SoundBlaster. It's probably the safest bet as far as compatibility goes.

* If you wanna get spunky and record and edit in 24-bit, 96KHz, DVD-quality audio, the people at Digital Audio Labs make a killer card called the CardDeluxe. It's worth drooling over - sppts two analog and two digital tracks.

* If you need an audio mixer for your system, the folks at Mackie have the best reputation. Check out their VLZ-Pro line. Sppts 24-bit, 192KHz sampling. Yummy.

* If you need/want studio, reference-grade monitors (high-quality speakers), the boys at Event make nice stuff .. both powered and non-powered.

* For studio-quality audio recording, you generally want a microphone that uses phantom power. I like the large condenser mics by AudioTechnica, but I'm only now learning about the audio recording aspect. With a mixer, you can record one channel to the DV tape in the camcorder, and another to the hard drive thru the mixer. Sennheiser also has a great name for mics.

* We heard that MPEG-2 editing is 'TNBT' (the next big thing) in the world of video editing. The RT2000 by Matrox is one of the few cards that'll edit either DV or MPEG-2 in realtime, or near RT, and leave you with a few bucks left over to buy a hotdog. =D

* The DV500 by Pinnacle/Miro is also a great realtime-editing card. It doesn't edit MPEG-2 in RT, but it's the first and only DV realtime-editing card for less than $1000, and therefore deserves a look.

* Monitors - I like flat-screen monitors, especially ones that have BNC connectors. There's the Iiyama Vision Master Pro 450 (note that the non-Pro 450 is a totally different monitor, and it's not flat), and the Mitsubishi Diamond Pro 900u. Both are based on the Mitsubishi Naturally Flat picture tube - an aperture grille tube. 

Aperture grille tubes excel at colors, while shadow mask tubes excel at *text*. If you absolutely have to have to very best monitor, i hear that Sony makes the best .. but they’re generally quite expensive in comparison. Some complain about the dampening lines in aperture grille monitors. In the Mits tube, this is a non-issue in my opinion, and i can't comment on the Sonys. 

* Headphones - heard Sennheiser makes the best headphones. We have a pair that feels like slippers on your ears. Enjoyable to wear. Their latest model is the HD600, I think. Not cheap, and don't drop 'em.

* Networks - if you need to network your computer to others in the house, make sure you get 100Base cards and equipment. We often will x-fer large AVI files from one computer to the other to make room here and there as necessary. 10Base cards take forever to x-fer a large AVI files (like 2-gigs). 

I heard that 3Com makes the best network stuff. We have 3Com 905C NICs, and a 3Com 8-port 10/100 auto-sensing *hub* to connect the two comps in our home LAN (local area network). I've also heard good things about LinkSys and Netgear, but have no experience with them.

* CD-ROMs & CD burners - we use a Plextor burner and Plextor CD-ROMs. Plextors are excellent at DAE (digital audio extraction .. or, the process of 'ripping' music off a CD and putting it on your hard drive, so you can use it in your video). Plextor makes nice stuff. Highly recommended. I also heard good things about burners from Teac, Yamaha & Ricoh. We burn our encoded movies (MPEG-1) to CDs, and send them to friends & relatives around the country.

* We also fire up an FTP server to let our broadband friends download movie shorts (3-8 minutes) that we've done. Lotsa fun. We use FTP Serv-U. BTW - if you don't have a broadband connection (Cable, DSL), get one. It'll change your life.

* Some folks like a separate, dedicated DV deck to connect to their Firewire cards, instead of using the camera all the time. They feel that using the camcorder all the time will wear out the motor, bands, moving parts, etc. We have the same concern, but the cheapest dedicated DV decks are near $1000, and this is a bit rich for us. 

Sony makes the decks we looked at - the DV Walkmans, GV-D300 & the GV-D900 (about $1500). We heard that spring should bring some new DV decks that are priced more reasonably. We'll see.  

* RAID I've never actually configured a raid array, so take this with a grain of salt (but I have done my homework). There are 2 basic ways to create RAID ‘stripes’ .. one is done/created by the OS – called  ‘software’. Win98 doesn’t do this, only WinNT, and I presume, therefore, W2K. But NT won't let you boot from a (software) stripe. 

Cuz if the stripe is created by the OS, and you have trouble booting, then you’ll have trouble accessing data contained in/on the stripe (very bad). But a *hardware* stripe (e.g. Mylex card mentioned below) is a different story .. it *will* let u boot from a stripe, cuz, to the OS, the stripe looks just like any another (logical) drive. You can even partition it as you wish.

One note of caution = that 3 drives give you 3 times the chance that a drive will fail .. and if any drive in a RAID_0 stripe fails, then you lose everything in the stripe (very bad). The solution to this problem is to frequently *image* your boot drive (ala Norton Ghost, see below). You can both image & restore from/to a stripe if the card has a *bios* (which the Mylex card does have). 

Operating systems don’t have this luxury, and therefore lack both hardware’s performance, nor do they let you configure the OS to boot from a stripe. {Of course, hardware RAID_0 perf will cost you $, whereas a software RAID_0 stripe comes free with your OS}

I've also heard that a (2-drive) software (NT) RAID_0 stripe provides about 15-35% performance increase - at the expense of some CPU clock cycles, mind you .. while a *hardware* stripe provides roughly 65-80% perf increase .. (performance with the addition of the 2nd drive does not double, cuz the controller has additional 'housekeeping' functions to perform with the addition of each drive to the stripe .. or so says Mylex sppt).

So, if u can set up a hardware RAID_0 stripe, and if you know how to use Ghost (i do), you can boot from a RAID_0 stripe & reap the associated perf benefits.

I like a hardware SCSI RAID_0 stripe to run my OS and apps, not the capture drive. DV is only 3.6MB/s, so u won’t need an LVD RAID array to capture DV (LVD RAID_0 should realistically be able to handle about 60MB/s).

You will have the best chance of success with RAID if you use identical hard drives, with the same firmware revisions. I like this RAID card HERE.

* Watch out for DirectX drivers – Ask around before upgrading your DirectX drivers. Even the MS certified ones. They affect things like DirectDraw and overlay functions. And you can’t uninstall them! There are a few 3rd-party uninstallers, but I’ve heard more stories of horror than success. Microsoft’s approved method is to reformat your hard drive and reinstall your operating system. DirectX drivers are written primarily for games, but they affect video too. 

* Re: initial capture card installs -> if u have probs w/ capturing, or printing back to tape, try moving cards around. This solve one prob for me. Moving cards reassigns IRQs. IRQs are designed to share, but sometimes two devices won’t play nice together. A move to another slot might do the trick. Device drivers should already be there, and hopefully u won’t have to find the drivers upon reboot.

* If still having probs, try disabling devices u don’t need to edit or capture - that take an IRQ. For example, I sometimes disable the following devices:

Creative SB16 emulation (DOS sound)
Network card
Secondary IDE hard disk controller (only if no devices on the controller)>br>Printer port
Serial ports

*Current drivers & hardware devices always help, but not brand new stuff, as initial-release products typically have bugs that need to be worked out .. 3 months after initial is much safer. The ‘early-adopter’ requires a special disposition which is painful to me. I don’t like to work the bugs outta new products.

* My experience has been that the world of NLE doesn’t get many driver or app upgrades. When we were still using the DV300 (Pinnacle) they latest drivers were over a year old – that’s not good, cuz technology marches on. The OS gets upgraded, DirectX drivers get updated - next thing you know, you’re having weird problems with a pink screen in your preview window in Premiere. 

Everybody says it’s everybody else’s fault. Pinnacle tells you to turn off stuff like DirectDraw, but  you notice when you do that, your PC runs like crap & you start having weird, seemingly-random probs. You need a way to go back one step without having to go all the way back to the beginning (reformat) .. cuz you can’t expect everything in the world of NLE to work the way it should - at least not without a little radified help. =D

Have I mentioned Ghost? Cuz that’s one of the tricks to keeping your (video-editing) beast working, once you get it there.

The end, except for -> Linkage

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