What Mac Post Pros Need To Know About Building A Custom PC

Building a PC Optimized for Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve

March 9, 2017

In Part 2, Eric Bowden of ADK Video highlights the importance of optimizing PC hardware to your specific workflows, codecs and software.


The post-production industry is starting to migrate from Apple workstations to PC workstations. Apple, traditionally the platform for many creative professionals, is slowing down development of its ‘workstation’ class hardware. Plus, their ‘workstation’ class hardware has become rigid, with very little ability to upgrade components and limiting the useable lifespan of that gear. This is causing many pros to buy a Windows PC optimized for Premiere Pro or DaVinci Resolve.

Migrating off the Mac: Part 2 – Building a PC Optimized for Premiere or Davinci Resolve

In Part 1, I interview Eric Bowen about the overall Mac and PC workstation landscape. Eric is a design consultant for ADK Video and works as an IT expert for Northern Kentucky University in their Fine Arts department. He helped us understand the history of Mac and PC workstation development and the how / why PC hardware has taken big strides forward (and why Apple has let the Mac Pro fall behind). We also talked generally about how RAM, CPU, GPU and BIOS all interact to determine system performance with digital media software apps.

We get specific now: Dual Xeon vs. i7, Clock Speed vs Cores, GeForce vs Quadro

In this Insight we discuss:

  • Why the first question you need to ask yourself is: What Codecs am I using?
  • 4K with h.264 (and h.265… Why is it such a dog to work with?
  • Does throwing more CPU Cores help with Long-GOP codecs?
  • Is RED footage CPU intensive?
  • The relationship between clock speed and GPU performance
  • The importance of fast hard drives for still image sequences
  • Why the performance of the same footage is different between software apps
  • Why you need to know which of your effects and filters are GPU-accelerated (or not)
  • The beauty of DaVinci Resolve’s Cache Management codec options
  • How the codec of your media has a huge impact on your ability to add effects and maintain real-time playback
  • The differences between DNxHR and ProRes (and why you might choose one over the other)
  • Robbie’s article that I mention: Moving From Mac to PC: Addressing Common Objections
  • The impact of Apple abandoning Quicktime for Windows
  • Xeon vs i7: What’s the difference?
  • Prioritizing Cores / Threads and Clock Speed
  • The relationship between Clock Speed and Realtime Performance
  • What is the lowest clock speed you want (and why) for realtime playback?
  • When does buying a Dual Xeon system make sense?
  • Can you mix and match different GPUs in the same workstation?
  • The one reason to buy a Quadro GPU
  • GeForce vs. Quadro Cards
  • The complexity of installing a GeForce and Quadro card in the same PC workstation

Coming up: Do you have a question for Eric? He’ll answer it.

After listening to Parts 1 & 2 of this interview, do you have a question for Eric? The comments are open for the next week or so. After that, I’ll close them down and record Part 3 with Eric.


– pi

Part 2: Audio Interview with Custom PC Builder Eric Bowen, ADKVideoEditing.com


19 thoughts on “Building a PC Optimized for Premiere Pro and DaVinci Resolve”

  1. I’m very excited about this. Coming from a heavy PC and After Effects background, I am curious about the i7 vs xeon (Speed vs Cores) argument in the color and premiere route.

  2. Hi guys, this was fantastic. Currently on a Mac, considering the switch to Windows. My company owns a Red 6K Dragon and 8K Epic-W, so of course I find myself grading that frequently, but I also get lots of client footage with long-GOP codecs – 4K H.264 from DJI cameras, etc. It seems like the added ~$4k that a dual-Xeon setup would cost me would be better allocated towards a single-core/higher-clock i7 with a Red Rocket-X. Thoughts on this?

    1. Red rocket is being phased out for gpu acceleration. Doesn’t work fully with 8k media. I’m in a similar situation to you, I always just re-render the DJI footage – it performs terribly in resolve even with an overclocked 5960x. Build for red, re-render dji footage to dnxhr etc.

  3. It would be nice if he could give a minimum recommended resolve build for realtime 4k playback of 8k red footage and DNG.
    Also are 40 lane CPU a must?
    What about hackintoshes? Has he had any success with them?

  4. I remember reading here: http://www.liftgammagain.com/forum/index.php?threads/gtx-980-ti.4863/ that Quadro cards have an advantage of faster readback to the cpu/memory.

    So for example at high resolutions, high frame rates you will get worse playback with a Geforce card when it has to pipe the image through an i/o sdi card. Would Eric be able to comment on this? And if there is an issue are there Geforce cards (such as the titan or new gtx 1080ti) that dont have this problem?

  5. Can the be a download option on this so i can listen while doing other things?
    First thought is that no professional would put a limit on what media, and often what software to use, as it varies from job to job. I could be rendering 3d one day, on set DIT the next, editing RED the next, and i can only own one workstation. Even just a colourist would want flexibility so they don’t have to get the client to convert media, as they will usually do that wrong!

    1. Downloads are available to paid members, when they’re logged in.

      RE: Codecs – As a configurator, Eric has many clients who have very specific workflows; they use one camera, one codec, day after day. In Part 3 I’ll ask Eric to address specifically how to approach building a rig if over the course of a month you see every codec on the planet.

      1. I’d be interested in this question. As a DIT I have seen Red r3d 6K from a RED Weapon, ProRes 4444QX from a ARRI Mini, XAVC 4K from a SONY F-55, JPEG-2000 from Canon 1DC and MP4s from a GoPro all from the same shoot. All needing to be transcoded. (Think of a big theme park in Orlando)

  6. Thank you for this interview! It was extremely useful, especially in a time where we both see BM releasing Resolve Studio on Linux for current dongle owners as well as the release of the 1080ti from Nvidia. I have a few questions, I hear sometimes about read-back speeds (as Tim asked as well), how this is different between the GTX cards (let’s say a 1080ti) and Quadro M/P6000, what impact does it have and what is important to consider here? And out of curiosity, what is a recommended system for DaVinci Resolve grading, using a mixed bag of 4K CinemaDNG and 5K R3D (HD/2K monitoring) to get good enough performance with enough space to push the machine? (CPU/GPU/OS SSD/Media SSD/Ram combo?) Switching from Mac has not been straightforward, so any help on the way is massively useful! Thanks Patrick & Eric!

  7. Dual xeon will also give you more pcie lanes, and when nvme storage is more and more important that is important. Io card, raid card, thunderbolt card, that’s quite important. More gpus. So i think we need to MSI out the limitations properly. How many GPUs on one chip at what speed? At what sacrifice to pcie storage and IO throughput? Eg. I have Z820 with 4 iofx card raid. That needs two processors. But i get a performance hit because the raid is split across the processors. Wyatt about ECC vs non ecc? And do you have to have unregistered ram over 32 bit? Cooling is important. Or is it? What do we need that gamers do not? Power supply important as well for bigger gpus etc. Lots missing from this, which is why resolve and avid config guides are vital as well.

    1. Yes, this interview is not a replacement to reading official configuration guides. If anything, it’s designed to help you better understand the configuration guides and the recommendations they contain.

      For us Mac-heads, the discussion of which Mac to buy was literally a 5-minute thought. With the move to PC workstations I’ve had a 90-minute conversation and there’s still more to go!

      Thanks for sharing your questions! I’ve noted them and will ask Eric when he and I chat again. Which will be soon.

    2. Tristan – your right about the PCIe lanes with Xeon’s but as I’m sure Patrick will discuss with Eric in the next part PLX chips can play a big roll in managing PCI lane bandwidth.

      You might also be interested in an article I did a few months ago talking about some of these hardware details that Patrick is now exploring with Eric as well.


  8. I would love to get Eric’s take on the new AMD Ryzen processors and how he thinks they will stack up against Intel for apps like Premiere and Resolve.

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