How to Build Your Own Video Editing Computer Workstations
written by: Shane Burley•edited by: Rhonda Callow•updated: 1/31/2011
Here is a look at what is needed to build your own video editing computer workstations.
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Home Video Editing
In the days of linear editing, the systems used for editing film were often large, expensive, and required specially constructed areas. This was because you dealt with physical film stock and were forced to have a much more direct integration with your footage. Non-linear video editing programs instead treat video editing as a media management project with digital files, and all of this operates simply as a piece of software on a computer. As these programs have been made to run easier on standard computers, the ability to create a full video editing computer workstation has been transferred to most everyday people with a little bit of money to spend. Here is a look at how to build your own video editing computer workstation at your home.
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The primary focus of the video editing workstation is going to be your computer. When you are going to build your own video editing computer workstation, you have to select the machine that is going to meet the needs of your post-production work. In general, you have a choice between Apple's Mac computers or Windows-based PCs, unless you know a lot about working with Linux.
Though many of the industry standard video editing programs are available on Windows-based PCs, the Final Cut Studio is only available on Mac computers. Final Cut Pro - and its associated programs - is quickly becoming the top used video editing package and you will find that running a computer that cannot employ it will be unnecessarily limiting your options. Since After Effects, Photoshop, Avid, and Pro Tools can run on both types of computers, there is no reason to go with a Windows computer when you are looking to build your own video editing computer workstation.
Even if you select a Mac computer, you may not get everything you need to run your programs. In general, large video editing projects will take a lot out of your processor. Color grading programs can take a lot of power, not to mention motion graphics and animation programs. All of these are going to need to be in play in a full video editing computer workstation, and so you need a computer that will bring enough power for this. On top of this, you will also need a computer that will support media inputs and outside storage media. This means you will want to have a computer that can read and write DVDs and Blu-Ray discs, have USB and FireWire ports in a relatively large number, and a storage size that is considerable.
To meet all of these needs you may want to go with the Mac Pro system where you will purchase a monitor separately. This is going to end up costing you quite a bit more than an iMac, so if you want to build your own video editing computer workstation at this level then you will want to know that you need these kind of features.
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A full service video editing station will actually spurt out from the computer into peripherals, though you can usually have a full digital station without any peripherals. Software like Avid and Pro Tools have traditionally been associated with hardware that will allow more control, and this is also true of high end color correction software. For audio mixing and color grading at a professional level, the computers that are used are employed strictly for that use and have facilities built specifically for that.
You cannot have every type of peripheral equipment on your editing workstation, but you may want to decide if you want some. It is not unrealistic to have a software specific keyboard or joyballs used for color grading, but you are still going to want to keep it fairly simple.
At the same time, you are often going to need an adequate video capture card if you intend on capturing footage from a variety of formats. An investment in a mini DV tape deck may be a good idea, but since digital video is heading into tapeless formats you should determine ahead of time how much tape-based filming you will actually approach.
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Monitor and Speakers
You are going to need appropriate image and sound representation for playback at all times, so good speakers and a quality monitor should be a top priority when you are going to build your own video editing computer workstation. A high quality LCD monitor that is correctly color balanced will be useful, and find speakers that will give you reasonable nearfield monitoring. This will end up costing you several hundred dollars more, but without this you will not be able to make correct aesthetic choices during post-production.