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Workstation Requirements for DLSR Filmmaking

Not all computers are useful when it comes to DSLR filmmaking. Some workstations are clearly better suited to the task than others. For example, Macintosh computers using OS 10.4 are not compatible for making HD movies with Premiere Elements. The same applies to PC models that don't meet the application specifications.

Here’s what you need to make movies with your computer:

  • Use a relatively new model: Some computers are clearly more replaceable than upgradable. Although older computers still may be up for the task, some may lack certain functions or not include some important components.

  • Fast processor speed: Measured in hertz, processor speed is the brains of the operation.

  • Large monitor: When it comes to video editing, what you can get away with and what you need are two different things. Get as much real estate as possible on your desktop with the biggest screen you can afford.

  • Sufficient RAM: Sometimes you can’t have enough of the stuff. It’s what lets you run your processor-hungry video-editing software while toning a picture in Photoshop and updating your Facebook status. Quite simple, the more, the better, and because HD movie files require a lot of memory, buy as much as you can afford.

Minimum speed for filmmaking

Processing a continuous video signal is an arduous task for a computer processor. As a result, not every computer is suitable.

Consider the minimum speeds for using Adobe Premiere.

Windows:

  • 2GHz or faster processor with SSE2 support; dual-core processor required for HDV or AVCHD editing and Blu-ray or AVCHD export

  • Microsoft Windows XP with Service Pack 2, Windows Media Center, Windows Vista, Windows 7

  • 2 GB of RAM

  • 4 GB of available hard-drive space to install applications; additional 5 GB to install content

  • Graphics card with latest updated drivers

  • Color monitor with 16-bit color video card

  • 1024×768 display resolution

  • Microsoft DirectX 9- or 10-compatible sound and display driver

  • DVD-ROM drive

  • DV/iLINK/FireWire/IEEE 1394 interface to connect a Digital 8 DV or HDV camcorder, or a USB2 interface to connect a DV-via-USB compatible DV camcorder

  • QuickTime 7 software

  • Internet connection required for Internet-based services

Mac OS:

  • Multicore Intel processor

  • Mac OS X v10.5.8 through v10.7

  • 2 GB of RAM

  • 4 GB of available hard-drive space to install applications; additional 5 GB to install content

  • Graphics card with latest updated drivers

  • 1024×768 display resolution

  • DVD-ROM drive

  • DV/i.LINK/FireWire/IEEE 1394 interface to connect a Digital 8 DV or HDV camcorder, or a USB2 interface to connect a DV-via-USB compatible DV camcorder

  • QuickTime 7 software

  • Internet connection required for Internet-based services

Processors for filmmaking

Both Macintosh and Windows computers share the Intel Core processor. These things thrive under the pressure of video editing. AMD has the Athlon, Phenom, and Fusion series exclusively for Windows-based computers. As for the Intel Core processors, the latest version is available in three basic types:

  • Intel Core i3: The most basic model plays nice with video. Using four-way multitasking, it lets each core of the processor work on two tasks simultaneously. Video editing benefits significantly from this functionality.

  • Intel Core i5: This slightly more enhanced version includes Turbo Boost, activated by the processor when the OS has more information to process.

  • Intel Core i7: Core i7 is the most sophisticated of the Core line, and ideal for video. It offers the best performance and includes more cache to more quickly execute instructions.

Graphic cards for filmmaking

This translator between the computer and the monitor generates images on the screen. Think of the graphics card as a private contractor hired by the processor to build, rasterize, and redraw the screen. In the case of video, it accomplishes this task at a rate of 30 frames per second. Although most newer graphics cards suffice, you should either add a second card to increase performance and to connect multiple monitors, or see if the computer you’re about to purchase offers the luxury of connecting multiple monitors.

Random access memory (RAM) for filmmaking

RAM is the kind of thing you can’t have enough of. The more RAM you have, the smoother your computer runs, especially when editing video. Premiere Elements requires a minimum of 2 GB, but it’s better to have 4 GB or more. And because RAM is relatively cheap, you can buy as much as you can afford.

Cache for filmmaking

Cache perhaps is the most overlooked component in high-speed computing. Every time you do something on your computer, the CPU gathers instructions to honor the request. Cache makes the processor faster when executing an action than the RAM; the processor uses three levels of cache to accomplish the task. The first is L1 cache, which is relatively small, but fast at anticipating the need.

Next comes Level 2, which has a little more memory, but is slightly slower. Rounding out the processing efficiency is Level 3 cache. It has more memory than the others combined and, although slower at processing than Level 1 and Level 2, it’s significantly faster than the RAM. A processor with adequate cache, especially at Level 3, is significantly faster at executing instructions than a computer with more RAM.

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