RedShark Summer Replay: One man's quest to put together a smooth, responsive system to run DaVinci Resolve on a budget (and how to get round some of the problems that will trip you up when you try) - first published January 2015.
Back in mid 2014, I decided to bite the bullet and build my own PC-based workstation around the affordable and seemingly ‘most for the least’ Asus z87 ‘Expert’ motherboard. Having not commissioned a new PC since the early 90s when we built a Pentium-based workstation to integrate Autodesk 3D Studio into a component Betacam SP television commercial production facility, this new build was planned to address my current NLE requirements with perhaps a ‘toe in the water’ experiment with DaVinci Resolve as Blackmagic Design had recently released a ‘lite’ version as a free download. Consequently, I chose a range of modern components which would offer high performance, low power consumption and all for a modest financial outlay.
Of course everybody you meet, from carpenter to rocket scientist, will be pleased to tell you unsolicited that “you should have bought such and such” or that “you have not made a good decision here” and that your system will bog down at the earliest opportunity. You can buy the cheapest hammer, the mid-priced hammer or the most expensive hammer but your decision to purchase one or the other will largely be based around a choice which offers the sort of performance your budget and clients expect but at a price that can be justified by your potential return. This is called a ‘business plan’ and whether we like it or not, having one makes good sense no matter whether we’re building a garden shed or a Saturn 5 space rocket.
My eventual PC build included 16GB of 1800Mhz RAM, a socket 1150 i7 8 core processor (hyperthreaded) running at around 4Ghz, a 128GB SSD for Win7 64bit OS and software, a second 256GB SSD for short-form productions plus a pair of 3TB WD Reds running in Raid 0 under Win 7 to offer around 4Tb of storage at access speeds approaching that of the SSDs. Total cost, including tower case with 600 watt PSU, an internal USB 3.0 card reader and 6G SATA optical drive was around A$1,500 or US$1100.
I’m pleased to report that after six months of regular NLE use, my build has proven remarkably quiet, very cool but blisteringly fast and ultra reliable. I also have an X-Keys USB Jog/Shuttle controller connected with 68 programmable buttons and editing ProRes HD material on Lightworks, my system is as smooth and responsive as a quarter of a million dollars of dedicated Sony BVE VTRs.