Picking the Right Hardware

Posted on by Larry

[ This article was first published in the December, 2007, issue of
Larry’s Final Cut Pro Newsletter. Click here to subscribe. ]

Probably the question I get asked the most is “what hardware should I buy,” or its close cousin, “What’s the best hardware.”

For instance, Dave Johnston wrote:

I am in a position right now to very possibly set-up my long dreamed of professional editing & production suite. This will be pretty much of a one-person operation.


Two questions.

1. With limited funding, what would be the components of your ideal production set-up? [specific software, hardware, etc.]


2. If you had unlimited funding, what would you want to have?
[components of core system and possible future expansion as skills improve]


I am hoping to work primarily with MiniDV and move into some HDV. Your courses and EDIT WELL have been quite useful as I study the whole scene, and now I may actually be ready to “launch.” I have become disabled and now have a lot more time at home, I hope to make that time productive!

Larry replies: There is no perfect video solution. It depends upon the market you want to serve, how you intend to distribute, the size of your final image (projected images require higher quality than images that end up on the web), and your demands for editing speed, turn-around time, and system cost.

You also didn’t indicate if you wanted an HD or SD solution – choices are far more varied with HD.

Given all these different parameters, if you want absolute low-cost, HDV is the choice, however, the quality is not particularly high, and you have lots of issues in timecode and color accuracy. As well, it takes a long-time to output.

The DVCPRO HD (Panasonic P2) system is good, more expensive than HDV, but faster and higher image quality.

Unlimited funding, without an understanding of your plans for distribution, is impossible to answer. If you are shooting the next George Lucas feature film, you need a Sony F23 1080p camera – or a Red camera. That would require two striped RAID-50’s, and probably a fully-loaded Mac Pro.

My suspicion is that your needs are a bit more modest.

The key is to determine WHY you are getting in HD in the first place. Then, look at how you want to distribute your HD material. Is it being projected to an 80-foot screen or only displayed on the web? How important is image quality versus camera size? Are their requirements from your distributor?

In general, when you are working in HD, you work backwards. The distribution media determines what format you need to output. Output format generally determines the format of your sequence. And your sequence format determines what format you’ll convert all your footage into. In other words, distribution determines the workflow.


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