Tag Archives: PC Build

matt-withoutaplan

Part 2 – The Man Without a Plan

matt-withoutaplan

First up, thank you all for your help. The response has been far greater than I expected and whether it’s directly here on the blog, across Twitter and Facebook, even the barren social plains of Google+, I’ve read every comment and it’s all fuelling my knowledge on the subject and slowly guiding me towards my first build.

Amongst all the comments there were 2 constants (if you ignore the references to Robert Pattinson!!) that clearly have to be my next steps. If I’m ever going to finish, or even start, this thing I need to decide what the PC is for and how much I want to spend?

As the build’s final resting place will be in one of your bedrooms I don’t really have a planned use for it. What I’m going to aim for is something down the middle, a desktop that a family can use for homework, watching YouTube videos and browsing Facebook, but also a PC that, in the hands of one of you guys, is easily upgradeable to something far more powerful.

As for cost, well that depends on a) What Dunc’s got lying around that I can get my grubby mitts on. b) What bits and bobs I can scrounge from the lovely, lovely manufacturers we deal with and c) What I can talk my boss into letting me take from stock.

One thing this whole experiment has proven to me is the gap between what I need to know to put a build together and understanding the whole inner workings of a PC is pretty big.
Using your help, the colour coding of ports and a few ‘How to…’ guides I’m going to be able to knock together a PC without necessarily having to know what individual parts are doing.

By the end of the week we should have something resembling the start of a build or a small smouldering pile of plastic and metal. Either way, I’ll be few steps closer to building my first PC.

matt the n00b

Part 1: A n00b In Need

matt the n00b
Matt calls on the friendly masses to help his PC build

 

For 6 long years I’ve sat here helping to shift boxes of things I don’t really understand. Don’t get me wrong, I know DDR5 memory is an improvement on DDR3 and that Intel’s Core i7 processor is a step up from their Core i5, but I don’t really know why. (Apparently, “cos it’s 2 more“ isn’t a sufficient answer!)

So to try and expand my limited knowledge, and to keep me busy for the next few weeks, I’m going to roll up my shirt sleeves, do a bit of research and build a desktop PC from scratch.

I could make this easy for myself – I can throw an antistatic wristband in any direction from my desk and it would hit someone who’s built more PCs than this laptop has had Java updates – but I like a challenge and I thought you guys might want to lend a hand.

Lost in a sea of components

So where do I start? Where do YOU start?

Is budget the prime decider for your build? Do you see what spare components you’ve got laying around and use them as a base? Do you go for the best value setup or aim for the ultimate in performance? Or do you think through what the PC is for and then spec to your needs?

So with a little help from you, and if the self-build Gods are looking favourably on us all, maybe, just maybe, I’ll manage to get a working PC out of the other end with only minimal harm to my physical and mental well-being.

Keep checking back as I’ll be updating this regularly with progress reports and a live count of how often I’ve electrocuted myself, and if you all behave yourselves and don’t troll me into making a timebomb, we may even run a competition for one of you lucky people to be the proud owner of the very first Matt Berry PC.

Soooo, who fancies pointing this n00b in the right direction??

Alex Amelines

Building the ultimate video editing PC: Part 2

In the second of our posts looking at building the ultimate video editing PC, animation designer Alex Amelines provides additional advice on choosing the best component for building the ultimate video editing PC. This post looks at the best software to use, and discusses how much storage and memory you need to get the best experience.

Storage

As with the other components, speed is important. While size might be the only thing people think about when it comes to storage, the longer it takes to write data to a hard drive, the longer it will take to perform tasks such as graphic rendering. The key is ensuring that whatever video software you are using, it has access to dedicated storage for reading and writing data. Using an SSD for the OS and traditional HDDs for standard read/write operations means that you can take advantage of SSD speeds to boost start-up times, while using HDD for its low cost to storage space ratio. If you decide to do this, you’ve got a couple of options. You could set up two fast internal HDD drives (7200 RPM) using RAID, which would further increase the drives’ speed (although you would only be able to use half of the combined storage – you can read more on this here), or using three drives could use RAID 5, which gives you speed and protection against HDD failure (but only two thirds of the combined storage). Alternatively, you could use an external RAID storage box over FireWire or USB 3.0. A final option, which is especially good if you’re rendering graphics, is to use one drive as your main scratch disk, and another one for rendering to, as it is faster to read from one disc and write to another one. It almost goes without saying, but having a backup plan in place will ensure that you won’t lose your latest masterpiece in a freak accident. Speed is less important here, so a standard external USB drive can fulfil your needs.

Software

The type of software you need will depend entirely on the type of videos you’re making. For 2D animation, a great place to start is Adobe PhotoShop and After Effects. From there you can move to 3D, and while there are many options, the most user friendly is probably Cinema 4D. However, a more pocket-friendly alternative is Blender as it is free to download. There are also programs such as Lightwave, Modo, 3D Max and Maya, although whether you will need these depends on how much 3D you will be doing, and whether it will be VFX or character animation. However, they all have PLE versions available, allowing you to judge what’s more suitable for you. If you’re interested in editing software, Adobe Premiere is a good choice, especially as it comes in the Adobe Creative Suite, which also includes Photoshop and After Effects.

Memory

Memory is relatively cheap, and you’ll notice if you don’t have enough. To ensure smooth performance, you’ll want to go for at least 8GB, although 12GB will mean you won’t have to worry about upgrading for a while. As with the other components, speed is very important. This Corsair memory is designed to keep up with fast processors such as the Intel i7 series, so it shouldn’t cause any system slowdown.

In the first part of this series, Alex looked at motherboards and processors for a video editing PC, and in the third and final post he will look at graphics cards and peripherals. Alex will also recommend the other components you’ll need, such as cases and power supplies, to put you ultimate video editing PC together.

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Building the ultimate video editing PC: Part One

If you’ve been reading our blog recently, you’d have seen that we’ve just put together a guide to making the ultimate photo editing PC. Not wanting those of you who prefer moving images to feel left out, we’ve got a guide to building a video editing PC. The guide has been put together by talented animation designer Alex Amelines, and you can see more of his work over on his website at www.studiotinto.com. We’ve split the guide into the main components you’ll need, and Alex has chosen the parts for their compatibility with each other. Of course, once you’ve got the parts you’ll need to put them together, but there are plenty of guides out there to show you how to do this. This is the first in a series of posts which will cover all the components you need, from the motherboard and processor to peripherals and memory.

If any of you have tried editing a video on an average, mid-range PC, you’ll know that it can be a frustrating task. The average PC simply doesn’t have the speed in any of its components to be able to deal with the vast amount of data that needs to be processed and stored. Even if one component is too slow, it can hold everything else up, and can cause the computer to become unstable if you try to make it do more than it can handle.

For the kind of non-linear editing that is standard when editing videos, many people recommend off-the-shelf workstations, such as those provided by HP or Dell, or even a Mac Pro. Although these simplify the process of finding a system, they can end up costing a lot of money – at least £2000. Building your own workstation means you can be much more specific in your choice of components, and ensures that you only pay for the things you want. The components I’ve listed are the ones that make the most difference in a video editing system. Everything else is a matter of personal choice, although I’ve made a couple of recommendations to make the process even easier for you.

Motherboard

The key thing when choosing a motherboard is to ensure that it is capable of keeping up with the speeds of all your other components, and that it has enough room for all the components you want to use. For example, the Asus motherboard has room for up to 64GB of memory, as well as support for the latest USB specification, USB 3.0.

CPU

This will be one of the most important components in your machine, and it is worth spending as much as you can afford on it. Many of the programs that you’ll be using (which we’ll discuss below), use multi-threading to speed up processes on machines that have multiple CPUs. Multi-core processors support multi-threading, which will give you a significant speed boost in many video and graphics programs. The Intel S1366 Xeon E5520 Quad Core 2.26GHz 8MB will be exactly what you need. It would also be worth investing in a processor fan to keep things running smoothly, as the longer you use the machine, the hotter the processor will get, and excessive heat can cause stability problems.

We’ll be uploading the next post soon, and it will look at the storage requirements for a video editing PC, as well as the software and memory you’ll need to get the most out of it. If you’ve got any questions in the meantime, why not drop us a line?

richard_peters_alligator

Building the perfect photo editing PC: part 3

If you’ve already read part one and part two of these posts, you’ll know that professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters has been sharing his knowledge on the components you need in a photo editing PC. In his final post for us, Richard looks at monitors, accessories and photo editing software.

Accessories

A memory card reader can make life easier, especially if you’ve got multiple memory cards for one camera, as it saves you having to swap cards within the camera itself in order to transfer photos. Depending on your set-up, you can either go for aninternal card reader that goes in a spare slot in your computer case, or a USB card reader, with USB 3.0 card readers being the fastest.

Monitor

While any monitor will do the job, as all the actual work is done on the PC, a quality monitor will guarantee better colour reproduction, and a larger monitor will make it easier to see what you’re doing. If you’ve got the budget, a pair of monitors, such as the ViewSonic VA2248-LED 22” will give you all the space you need to edit your photos and keep an eye on your emails! For those that just want one monitor, the larger the screen the better when it comes to photo editing. As well as giving you more space for all your tool palettes, it will also enable you to clearly see the images you’re working on.

Software

The most commonly used photo editing software is Adobe Photoshop, currently in version CS5.5, with version CS6 just around the corner. While it is expensive, its power and flexibility is unrivalled, and once you’ve bought it, it will last you for years. You can also upgrade it when new versions come out, for a fraction of the cost. If your budget is especially tight, try GIMP, which is free to download and offers a range of powerful image editing features.

If you have gone down the route of buying a separate hard drive for backup, you can use software to automate your backups, taking the hassle out of the process and ensuring you never forget to do it yourself. FBackup is free and highly customisable, and many external hard drives also come with their own backup software.

While I’ve pointed out the components that will make the biggest difference in a photo editing PC, you’ll still need to buy a couple more components before you can start building your ultimate photo PC. You’ll need a case to put everything in, an optical disk drive, a keyboard and mouse, not forgetting an operating system. The components I’ve chosen are all designed to work together, and you can buy the whole thing for as little as £900.

We hope you’ve enjoyed these posts, and that they’ve inspired you to build your own machine. There are lots of guides out there for building a PC, and if you’ve got the patience to be a photographer then building a PC should present no problems. Let us know how you get on with the project in the comments. Once you’ve edited your first batch of photos, and wowed your friends and family, you’ll wonder how you ever got on without it!

summit-pano-1

Building the perfect photo editing PC: part two

In the second of our posts on building a great PC for editing photos, professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters discusses memory, video cards and storage options. If you have any questions on Richard’s recommendations, or just need some buying advice, get in touch with us. 

Memory

Random Access Memory (RAM) is a form of computer storage used by programs on a computer. Rather than things like photos and music on your hard drive, data on RAM is only stored temporarily by whatever programmes you are using. The more RAM a computer has, the easier it is for it to run multiple programs and carry out complex tasks. As this is what you’ll be doing when editing photos, a good amount of RAM is very important. At the moment, RAM is relatively cheap, so I’d recommend getting as much as you can afford. 8GB is a comfortable minimum for this kind of computer and the tasks that it will have to do, but adding another 8GB will help future proof the machine and won’t add much to the total overall cost.

Video Card

The video card is responsible for displaying everything on the computer, sending the signal directly to the monitor. While some motherboards come with built-in video cards they’re not quite enough for the needs of modern photographer. While you don’t need something quite as powerful as a dedicated gaming graphics card, a standalone card will improve performance and allow you to take advantage of multiple monitors. I’d recommend Asus GeForce GTS 450, as it is half the price of other cards, but will still meet your needs for photography. With many DLSRs now supporting HD video recording, you may want to move in to video editing, in which case a more powerful card would be worthwhile, if you’re prepared to pay the additional cost.

Storage

Not a component to be over looked, storage is vital. As with memory, storage is now quite cheap, and you should get as much as you can afford. Photo files are getting bigger as camera technology improves, so you can never have enough storage. Internal hard drives like this Seagate 2TB drive are more than big enough for your needs. However, it shouldn’t stop there, as hard drives do fail. A serious failure can mean the loss of all your photos, flushing years of work down the drain. To guard against this, you can use external drives, networked attached storage, or even online storage (or all three if you’re really paranoid) to back up your data.

In the third and final post of the series, Richard will look at accessories, software and monitors, giving his advice on each component. He’ll also cover the basic components you’ll need, including the computer case and power supply. You can view the previous post in the series here.

New York Rockefeller pano

Building the perfect photo editing PC: part one

With so many of the readers of our blog keen photographers, we wanted to provide some help and advice on how to create the perfect machine for editing photos. Rather than doing it ourselves, professional wildlife photographer Richard Peters has very kindly written a blog running through everything that a budding photographer needs in their ideal rig. So without further ado, we’ll let Richard tell us what we need.

Since the advent of digital photography, as well as the massive increase in computer users, many amateur photographers simply take their shots, upload to their computer, and then share them with friends and family. Obviously there’s nothing wrong with this, but to really make the most of the time and effort that goes into taking these photos, a bit of editing can go a long way. While photographers originally needed a darkroom to develop their photos, the modern photographer can get themselves set up for processing their images with a desktop PC.

However, without the right type of PC, photo editing can go from being a pleasure to a teeth-grinding chore as the computer struggles to do the tasks you’ve asked of it. With this in mind, I want to discuss the key components that a photographer needs in their PC for photo editing, so that they can make the most of the money they are investing.

Whilst I have been a Mac user for some time now, not everyone wants to go this route. If you shop around you can actually build a Windows-based PC with more than enough power for a fraction of the cost of a Mac. While the thought may scare some people, building the machine from scratch can save money, and allow a much greater degree of customisation. Of course, pre-built machines are available, and offer a great solution for those without the time and inclination for tinkering with a computer. All of these components have been chosen to ensure that processing, saving and editing large image files is as quick as possible.

A fantastic monochrome image of a red deer by Richard Peters

Processor

The CPU is the brains of the computer. While high-end gaming and video editing machines place a high reliance on a powerful graphics card (which we’ll come to in a minute), the processor is the key component for an image editing PC. When doing anything in Photoshop, for example, the processor has to do a lot of number crunching. That’s why certain actions in Photoshop can seem to take ages on an older or less powerful PC. The Intel Core i7-3820 is well worth looking at as it offers the best combination of power and cost, and will make it much easier to manipulate large RAW images.

Motherboard

The motherboard is one of the key components for ensuring that your computer will remain up to date as long as possible, and also dictates the components that you can use with it. A good motherboard, such as the Asus P9X79 PRO, will reduce the need for adding extra components. For example, if it already contains USB 3.0 ports and a soundcard, then there is no need to buy these extra components, cutting down on cost and additional hassle when building. An advanced mother board will also mean that you have the space to add extra RAM, PCI cards and hard drives should you need them in the future.

In the next post, Richard will be looking at the video card, memory and storage requirements for a photo editing PC. In the meantime, why not take a look at some of the guides out there for building a PC, and don’t forget to keep taking lots of photos!