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Maximizing Your 4K Editing Efficiency

If you improve your editing efficiencies and leverage the strengths of your existing system, editing 4K camera-original footage on a modestly equipped $1,000 PC should prove more than manageable.

When it comes to maximizing your editing efficiencies, especially when it comes to 4K footage, you have to look at two key factors: the recorded size of the footage you’re gathering (compact camera-original or much higher “production-level” data rates) and the specific processes you use when editing. By carefully choosing or adjusting how you do things, you can save thousands upon thousands of dollars, while also avoiding bottlenecks in your edit workflow.

4K Is NOT Too Big

Your ability to edit 4K footage really depends on the camera you use and how you intend to edit it. For instance, I have the Panasonic DMC-GH4 (Figure 1, below). It shoots 4K footage. But the data stream for 4K is about 10 MB/sec (megabytes per second). Compared to 4K cameras that shoot at bitrates of 100MB/sec or higher, this is quite modest. If you don't have a hard drive system that can handle 10 MB/sec you definitely need a new computer.

Figure 1. My 4K-capable Panasonic DMC-GH4.

Realistically, almost any computer these days can handle a 10 MB/sec stream. If you're taking your 4K footage and you're expanding it into ProRes or DNxHD or some other editing codec, your data rate will be higher and other constraints will come into play. In this article, we’re going to focus on editing 4K footage in a camera-original format. In this case, with the GH4, it’s an H.264 codec with a max of 100 Mbps (megabits per second). It actually averages only about 80 Mbps, which is 10 MB/sec.

Editing on a high-bitrate, or all I-Frame codec such as the Cineframe codec that became popular in the early days of HD video, enables older systems to handle the footage more easily. Today’s systems are much more capable–especially when you leverage the GPU. In this article, I’ll discuss using Adobe Premiere Pro Creative Cloud to edit GH4 4K footage natively. In my timeline with 4K footage, I’ll be applying a lot of filters and doing different things that you’ll see in the accompanying video. I want you to see what you can do with camera-original images on a run-of-the-mill editing system, and demonstrate that you don't have to invest in the latest and greatest. The system I’ll describe and test in this article is available for under $1,000. Let’s see what it can do.

Under $1,000? Yes

Let me tell you little bit about the system I'm editing with here in my studio. I have a dual-screen setup on a dedicated desk. I have an Nvidia GTX 760-based Alienware X51 “gaming” computer (Figure 2, below). The video card was the key component of this system because I'm going to be editing with Adobe Premiere Pro. Premiere Pro is going to leverage the GPU, the video card for video editing. It's an 8-core i7 CPU processor. It has a Blu-ray player, and UBS 3.0 on the front and back.

Figure 2. The Alienware X51 Desktop Computer can be configured for tower use, or laid down and put into a rack of professional gear.

It's a small-form-factor PC in that there's no extra room inside. So I can't put another expansion card of any type in the case. It is the way it is when it comes from Alienware. I went with a pre-configured system because this was my first Windows PC purchase. I don't have the background or the knowledge to know what motherboards work well with what RAM, what CPUs, what GPUs, the Bios and all that. But I knew the Nvidia GeForce GTX 760 GPU would be critical to my work in Premiere Pro.

Figure 3. This Nvidia GPU is the heart of my editing system.