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Resolve 11: DIY Windows PC build for 4K video, Update #9

My shopping list is now up to revision _9_ (plus more; see below). A work in progress!

Click here to read a related discussion in BMD’s Resolve forum, and click here to read the discussion in the BMCuser forum.

In addition, there’s a detailed thread on BMD’s forum about building higher-end Win PC systems for editing 4K or higher resolutions for a 4K finish. This is different from the info I present below which concerns building a PC for editing 4K footage for a 1080p finish.

Click image below to enlarge, or click here for a PDF. Here’s my shopping list for a Resolve 11 “4K-capable” DIY Windows PC:

Resolve 4K Win PC build v9

Items marked with a checkmark (√) are components I need to buy. Items marked “Already own” I don’t need to buy because, well, I already have them. :-)

I’m considering editing 4K video in Davinci Resolve 11 running on a DIY Windows PC, instead of in FCPX on a new Mac.

The shopping list above is for a relatively powerful system which I hope will be appropriate for working with 4K RAW or 4K ProRes HQ in a 1080p timeline in Resolve 11. Alternatively, a less-capable and less-expensive “starter” version appears at the end of this blog post (scroll down).

The full version of Resolve (worth $995) came bundled with my BMPC-4K camera. It would be good to be able to use the software! My old Mac laptop can’t run Resolve 11 at all, or even run FCPX effectively, so I need to buy a new computer.

The cost of building a DIY Windows PC appropriate to support Davinci Resolve 11 and 4K video — specifically, 4K RAW or 4K ProRes HQ in a 1080p timeline for a 1080p finish — isn’t as expensive as I first thought. The system would be for editing small freelance and personal projects, and typically not with a client in the room. Most of what I shoot is edited by someone else using other computers.

I haven’t built a PC in years, but wouldn’t mind doing it again if I can save hundreds or thousands of dollars (with as good or better performance and expandability) compared to FCPX or Resolve 11 running on a new iMac Retina 5K or new Mac Pro. Concerning editing and grading 4K video in Resolve 11 on a new Mac Pro, this report is a bit worrisome.

As noted on my shopping list, I already own a few hardware items that will help keep my costs down.

The basic editing UI in Resolve 11 looks infinitely more sane and rational to me compared to FCPX, as discussed in my FCPX rant in a previous post. Watch BMD’s video demos of Resolve 11’s new edit features here & here. Refer also to the Resolve 11 user manual and Resolve 11 Windows Configuration Guide (PDFs). It seems likely that BMD will add to Resolve’s editing capabilities in future releases of the software.

Since I’m not a fan of FCPX, and a Mac up to the task of editing and grading 4K (especially 4K RAW) in Resolve 11 is far beyond my budget, building a Windows PC might be in my future. As a Mac user since 1984, it’s a daunting prospect, but, um, “exciting”. We’ll see.

Update 1/21/15:

There’s debate about whether 4GB of GPU memory is adequate for working with 4K video in Resolve 11. With that in mind, 8GB versions of the popular GeForce GTX 970 or 980 GPU cards are expected “soon”, but there’s no way to know when, or how much they’ll cost compared to the current 4GB versions. Instead of waiting for what may be a relatively expensive card, my shopping list now features two Sapphire Radeon Vapor-X R9 8GB cards for use as Resolve 11 GPUs. The Vapor-X R9 is reportedly very fast with Resolve 11 (see here & here), and its 8GB memory apparently a good match for 4K in Resolve 11, too.

Ideally I’d like to start with two Vapor-X R9 cards now rather than add the 2nd card later. Certainly one card is less-expensive than two. However, if I only get one Vapor-X R9 card at first, and then I later determine I definitely need 2 cards for better performance in my intended use, there’s a risk: Depending how long I wait to get the 2nd GPU, the identical model card may no longer be available. It’s OK to use different make/model cards (with certain limitations), but I’d prefer to avoid dealing with two different video card device drivers and potential software conflicts. Note: Each Vapor-X R9 card requires “2.5 slots” of space.

Originally I had a “ASRock X99 Extreme4 LGA 2011-v3” 6-slot motherboard on my list, but if two “2.5 slot” Vapor-X GPUs are installed, there’d be no room for any additional cards. So, in revision 9 of my list I replaced the ASRock MB with the slightly more expensive “GIGABYTE GA-X99-UD4 LGA 2011-v3” 7-slot MB.

Ideally I’d like to have two relatively small (approx. 21″, 1920 x 1080) monitors for the Resolve and Windows GUI to keep the text size relatively big compared to using only one GUI monitor approx. 27″ 2560 x 1440. I already own a 21″ 1080p HDTV monitor, and adding a 2nd one can be inexpensive. However, initially I’ll make do with only one 1080p monitor connected to one of the Vapor-X R9 cards, and select the Resolve Video I/O and GPU preference setting, “Use Display GPU For Compute”.

I’ve put two “SanDisk Extreme Pro 960GB SSD SATA 6GB/s 2.5-in. 7mm[H] #SDSSDXPS-960G-G25″ on my shopping list configured as a RAID-0 array for maximum speed and a total capacity of ~2TB. Why this SanDisk SSDs instead of a different brand/model? The SanDisk Extreme Pro 960GB is the least-expensive ~1TB SSD that BMD currently recommends for shooting 4K RAW in my BMPC-4K. So, eventually these disks could be used in my camera after bigger/cheaper SSDs inevitably replace the ones in the PC.

As with any RAID array regardless of type, it’ll be critical that I properly backup my active edit project files frequently. I’ll use bare >2TB HDDs via the external Voyager-Q USB-3 drive dock to make backups.

My list also includes a 3TB HDD for storage of misc. non-active Resolve 11 project and other data. Windows 8.1 Pro and a small number of applications (including Resolve 11) will be installed on a 240GB SSD that I already own.

This configuration includes 16GB of system RAM to start. I’ll add more RAM at some point later, probably by removing the 16GB RAM and replacing it with 32GB RAM.

To be on the safe side with two power-hungry Vapor-X R9 GPU cards plus disk drives, etc., my shopping list includes a 1,300-watt power supply.

It’ll be interesting to see workflow/performance results using the above hardware when working with BMPC-4K RAW 4K, ProRes HQ UHD, and ProRes HQ HD at 24p & 30p.

Update 1/21/15 (“Starter” build):

Below is a less-capable and less-expensive “starter” version of my DIY Windows PC build for Resolve 11. This version simplifies my initial build and lowers its cost.

This starter system includes the same motherboard, CPU, power supply, and case, but only one GPU card and SSD drive instead of two of each.

Starting with fewer components will make it easier for me to figure out how to assemble it properly, simplify inevitable initial hardware and software troubleshooting, and help me decide ASAP which components (if any) need to be immediately returned/exchanged for a different make/model or added-on — such as a 2nd GPU, and the quantity and type of additional disk storage, and so forth.

The CPU has 40 lane support if I decide to add a 2nd GPU card later. Likewise the 1,300w PS should be able to handle later expansion.

For testing purposes I can use the 1TB SSD to shoot a few minutes of 4K RAW footage, put the 1TB SSD in the trayless drive bay in the PC, make 2 backups of the footage to HDDs in the external USB-3 drive dock, and then edit a project directly from the 1TB SSD in the trayless bay (@ SATA-3 speed). I’d frequently backup project & related files to external HDDs as I’d go along, eventually transferring everything off the 1TB SSD to HHDs so I can reformat the SSD to shoot more footage. In addition, I already own a few smaller-capacity SSDs I can use for shooting 1080p & 4K ProRes HQ.

After this starter system is up and running smoothly, it should soon become obvious if I need a 2nd GPU or not. Over time I can test real-world performance differences using a single SSD for project data vs. using a SSD based RAID-0 array.

Click image below to enlarge, or click here for a PDF.

Resolve Win PC STARTER vS9

Items marked with a checkmark (√) are components I need to buy. Items marked “Already own” I don’t need to buy because, well, I already have them. :-)

Update 1/29/15:

Sapphire has announced a new 8GB GPU, “Tri-X R9 290X 8GB GDDR5 OC(UEFI)”, that will supposedly sell for somewhat less than their “VAPOR-X R9 290X 8GB GDDR5 PCI-E TRI-X (UEFI)”. The new card has similar specs, and yet is slightly thinner (“2.2 slot” instead of “2.5 slot” width) compared to the previous card. See brief article and product info. Here it is listed on NewEgg.

And this rumor about a Radeon R9 390X GPU looks interesting if true.

Meanwhile, I haven’t decided to pull the trigger on my PC build yet. Research continues!

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

FCPX: My brain damage (Updated)


In a recent article, Charlie Austin writes about how wonderful the Final Cut Pro X user interface is.

Sure. Whatever you say, bub.

Apologies in advance while I vent (and yes, I know, complaining about FCPX is old news) …

I understand only about 1% of what Charlie’s talking about, and that’s after I’ve spent days trying to figure out the free, fully-functional, trial version of FCPX. I’ve actually tried to learn FCPX several times over the past several months, and each time I’ve given up after a few days. I might give up again soon.

It’s amazing to me that years after FCPX’s release, its UI still sucks as hard as it does. It’s ridiculous!

Apparently, my using old FCP versions 1-7 for many years caused enough brain damage to impair my ability to “think different” anymore.

It’s really too bad, because FCPX does in fact have some really nice features. For example, FCPX’s “Stabilize” feature is truly amazing, as is FCPX’s built-in support for my BMPC-4K camera’s “Film” log ProRes videos. Not to mention the software costs only $300 to own outright — no subscription required. FCPX runs on almost any Mac, and even runs faster on my old MBP17 laptop than FCP7 does.

I don’t need top-of-the-line, industrial-strength video editing capability. I don’t work as an editor. However, I often need to work with — review, scope, slice, dice, process, demo, etc. — the video files I shoot, especially 4K ProRes. I need a semi-industrial-strength application, but it’s got to be designed for humans, preferably humans who’ve edited video before.

Unfortunately, the more I try to learn FCPX, the more I hate it. Really and truly hate it. Especially its UI and the way it handles and relates to files on disk and clips in the timeline. Not that files and timelines are important!!!

FCPX’s idiotic new names for almost every aspect of video editing are aggressively counter-intuitive and completely, totally, unnecessary. Examples include “Libraries”?! “Events”?! “Storylines”?! And UI windows that can’t be moved/relocated/resized the way I want?! WTF?!

Timeline video editing has been around for a long time. It wasn’t broken. It didn’t need to be “fixed”! Occasionally the underlying video rendering and other processing software code needs to be rewritten to take advantage of new computer hardware. But the entire fricking UI and most of the fundamental naming conventions certainly didn’t need the “fix” provided by FCPX!

I don’t store video files and other media in “libraries” (they’re on disk volumes and in folders). My video/media files and the productions I work on are not “events” (and unlike FCPX’s default, I rarely group video/media files by date, since a single production often spans multiple days). My rough and alternate edits aren’t “storylines” or whatever gibberish Apple wishes to call them. Unlike FCPX, old FCP7 made it super-easy to work on multiple edits (projects) at the same time. I don’t want to have to do a mental translation from real-world speak to FCPX-speak each and every time I touch, or work with, a video/media file within the app!

Here’s a simple example of FCPX’s insanity: In the Mac Finder you can color-code (tag) files on disk to make them easy to prioritize and find. This is a super-useful feature, and has existed for years. Ancient FCP 7 can see the color-coding in its open file dialog box when you import a file. FCPX’s import window does not! WTF!? This is only one small example; there are many more.

And don’t get me started on FCPX’s inability to easily do audio-only cross-fades without jumping through hoops or using additional software!

So far I haven’t found the FCPX documentation to be very helpful, but in fairness, docs aren’t tutorials. I obviously can’t ask the docs a question, and the doc’s search feature results in an endless spaghetti rabbit hole waste of time.

Likewise the tutorials I’ve seen online haven’t helped. As with the article above, I mostly find the online tutorials confusing more than anything else. Because I can’t say “Wait! Stop! WTF are you talking about?!” to an online tutorial. Well, I can, and I do, but it doesn’t help. :-)

Trying to learn FCPX the weirdest technology product experience I’ve ever had, except maybe Microsoft Word, another powerful software product I absolutely loathe and only use when absolutely necessary! It’s quite a dubious achievement that Apple has managed to create software with a worse UI than Word.

Unfortunately, FCPX may be the only alternative I have going forward. Understandably, Apple isn’t likely to support the old FCP 7 software on Mac OS “11” or whatever it ends up being called. And, if you don’t update your OS, pretty soon Apple stops making internet security updates available for the old OS. And FCP7 doesn’t support 4K video well, nor take advantage of modern computer hardware.

It’s really a drag contemplating spending $300 on software I already can’t stand using!!!

I can’t consider Adobe’s subscription model, even though I’d probably enjoy using the latest version of Premiere and it’s more conventional UI & powerful features. However, I want to own the software I use, forever. I have zero desire to lease or rent software. (Likewise, AVID is not an option for me.)

I’ve also been trying-out Lightworks, but have decided that even though it has a much more “conventional” UI than does FCPX, and like FCPX you can buy it outright if you want, it’s missing many features that its developers say they’re not interested in adding. For example, it doesn’t include a Stabilize feature — and may never.

What about Davinci Resolve? After all, the full version of the $995 software was included with my BMPC-4K camera, and Resolve now includes video editing capabilities. Resolve fully supports 4K RAW and ProRes video. Chances are good that subsequent versions of Resolve will include even more editing features, and the upgrades might be free, too, so even better, right? Well, yeah, except that to run Resolve smoothly I’d need to buy a new computer system that costs $3,000-$5,000. Unfortunately, that’s not in the budget anytime soon. Remember: I don’t work as an editor for hire. I just want to be able to work with the footage I shoot.

Update 1/2/14: Maybe the cost of building a DIY Windows PC that can adequately support Davinci Resolve 11 and 4K video isn’t as expensive as I first thought, according to this thread on BMCuser (scroll down). I haven’t built a PC in years, but wouldn’t mind doing it again if I can save hundreds or thousands of dollars (with as good or better performance) compared to FCPX running on a new Mac Pro! (I’m also not a fan of the dead-end, all-in-one hardware design of iMacs, and even a top-of-the-line iMac “Retina 5K” doesn’t support Resolve 4K well at all). I just re-watched BMD’s video demos of Resolve 11’s new edit features here & here, and read the Resolve 11 user manual and Resolve 11 Windows Configuration Guide (PDFs). The basic editing UI in Resolve looks infinitely more sane and rational to me compared to FCPX! Hmm … I’ll have to give the idea of editing in Davinci Resolve 11 running on a DIY Windows PC some serious thought!

Update 1/4/15: New blog post!

I’ve put in a call to an editor friend who uses FCPX to see if either she or someone she knows can give me a brief, in-person tutorial so I can ask questions. Maybe if someone shows me how to get started with FCPX “the right way”, and I can ask questions in-person, then maybe I can make some progress. Maybe.

Again, apologies for venting … and for my brain damage.

©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

Martin Place: Flowers for Sydney


A year ago when I visited Sydney, Australia, our hotel was around the corner from the Lindt cafe in Martin Place.

In the background of many of the news photos showing the thousands of memorial bouquets, there’s an unusual mushroom-shaped building. This time of year it’s lit for the holidays with constantly-changing colored lights.

All of Martin Place’s multiple plazas are filled with holiday decorations, as seen in my snapshots below.

It’s very sad to think about that happy place right now.

On the other hand, the “I’ll ride with you” actions are a good thing, but it’s sad, too, that it’s necessary.




©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Like planes & rockets?

This past weekend I visited the Evergreen Aviation & Space Museum, home of Howard Hughes’ Spruce Goose and many other flying machines. I shot home movies with my BMPC-4K camera. Video isn’t ready to show yet, but attached are 3840 x 2160 frames grabbed from the 4K “ProRes 422″ 24p video (“Film” mode). Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 zoom lens. Shot handheld without a rig or tripod because the museum doesn’t allow it without prior arrangement. I did basic color correction on these frames using Mac Preview and compressed them to JPEG @ 50% for display here. There was something great to shoot anywhere I pointed my camera!





©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Like trains? (Updated)

Every winter, Portland’s Oregon Rail Heritage Foundation runs a “Holiday Express” train pulled by a steam locomotive.

It’s great to watch the train as it r-o-a-r-s by, billowing smoke and steam in the near-freezing cold air. If you make a reservation you can buy a ticket and ride the train for a few miles.

I shot the video footage above for fun last weekend with my BMPC-4K camera. It’s 4K ProRes 422 footage shot at 23.98fps, Film, ISO400, with a Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens @ f8.

Scaled to 1080p in FCP7 and exported as 1080p @ 10 megabits/sec H264 for Vimeo.

In previous years I’ve shot footage of these trains using a CMOS sensor camera with a rolling shutter. When positioned near the big heavy locomotive as it passes, it makes the ground (and tripod) shake, resulting in RS jello city. One more reason I love the BMPC-4K’s global shutter — no jello!

For the extreme wide shot I used 2 microphones and my SoundDevices MixPre to record stereo audio into my BMPC-4K camera. The last 30-seconds sound especially great. I also used a graduated ND filter to darken the sky slightly. The zoom and pan was created in FCP by scaling 4K video from 50% to 90% in a 1080p timeline.

Below is a 2.39:1 cropped (3840 x 1608) frame grabbed from the video:


UPDATE 12/13/14: The still image below is a 3840 x 1608 frame (2.39:1 cropped) from “4K” video I shot handheld at Portland’s Alpenrose Dairy today. (The video itself isn’t ready to show yet.) The dairy is a unique & complex location; check out their website! Every December Alpenrose has nice displays of holiday lights, farm animals, and model trains. They have 2 big toy train models set up. Really nicely done, and maintained by employees & volunteers. The guys running the train exhibit say I’m welcome to come back again with my camera & tripod — I’ll definitely try to take them up on their generous offer!


©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Shooting indoors, in lowlight, with a long lens.

I shot footage for a documentary this week using my “Blackmagic Production Camera 4K” camera, including using a rented Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II zoom lens. The photo below shows the two positions where my BMPC-4K was located this past Sunday during two morning religious services, one after the other. Note the multiple sources of dim, very different color-temperature ambient light: Daylight through windows, and incandescent & florescent ceiling lights.

church interior

Below are frames grabbed from the “ProRes 422″ 1080p29.97 video. Shot @ f2.8, ISO 800, with shutter angle at 270 to increase exposure. “Video” (Rec.709) mode per client request. The medium shot is from the position in the back pews @ 200mm. The close-up is from the front row @ 200mm. The lens was fitted with a 77mm Hoya IR-UV cut filter. Camera is running firmware 1.9.7. These frames have basic color correction applied in post, but more and better correction is possible working with the 10-bit 4:2:2 “ProRes 422″ files.

rev brooks andrews 2 ms

rev brooks andrews 3 cu

Below are some cutaway b-roll shots of the congregation (same settings as above):

hearing aid

woman 01


During a breakout session between services, the featured speakers were seated with their backs against a bright window. Lighting is a mix of ambient daylight and ceiling incandescents. The wide shot is @ 70mm, and the close-up is @ 200mm. F2.8, ISO 800, shutter angle 180, “Video” (Rec.709) mode.

yosh and herb 3 ws

yosh and herb 2 cu

Below are frames from interviews I shot yesterday using the lens set at about 100mm, f2.8, ISO 800, shutter angle 180, “Video” mode, WB 3600K, hot tungsten lights (650w key, 250w backlight), Hoya IR-UV cut filter.

yosh int cu

interview 03

I also shot a lecture in a classroom setting using my Sigma 18-35mm f1.8 lens, again under mixed lighting. Here’s a cutaway shot of some of the students @ f1.8 ISO800 4800K:


I really like the results I get with my BMPC-4K and this rented lens. Perfect for event work and  interviews. Here’s a photo of the rig I used. Related info here and here.


Century/Vocas matte box, Canon 70-200mm f2.8L IS II lens, Hoya IR-UV cut filter 77mm, Sennheiser ME66 shotgun mic, Rycote Softie, MixPre, EW100 wireless, Monoprice XLR-to-1/4″-TRS-balanced-mono cables, custom top plate, Wooden Camera baseplate, Ikan rods & AB battery plate, AB Dionic 90 batt., AB Multitap, and Hoodman HRT5.

See also:

BMPC-4K: Shooting tips from early users

For my words only ©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.

BMPC-4K: Additional shutter angles in firmware 1.9.5

P1080347 cmp

Blackmagic Design announced release of yet another new version of their Camera firmware, v.1.9.5 available for download from their Support page.

Firmware 1.9.5 adds several new features to their Production Camera 4K, including a new menu “dashboard” design (see above), the ability to format an SSD in-camera without use of a computer, and also additional shutter angle and white balance Kelvin settings.

The new shutter angle and WB settings were added to the original BMCC and BMPCC pocket cams in a previous firmware release. Blackmagic Design says the new in-cam media formatting features will be available for these cameras “soon”.

NOTE: To use the new firmware’s in-camera formatting feature to format a SSD disk as HFS+, the camera’s “Reel” metadata field must contain at least one character (can’t be blank). The exFAT format option doesn’t appear to have the same requirement (“Reel” can be blank.) Just a heads-up. UPDATE: This issue appears to be fixed in subsequent firmware update 1.9.7.

Click here to see all the current shutter angles, and their shutter speed equivalents, in a PDF table. I calculated the equivalent shutter speed values using an online tool.

The current white balance color temperature Kelvin values are: 2500K, 2800K, 3000K, 3200K, 3400K, 3600K, 4000K, 4500K, 4800K, 5000K, 5200K, 5400K, 5600K, 6000K, 6500K, 7000K, 7500K and 8000K.

On a related note, I found this handy color temp chart online years ago:

color temperature kelvin chart

See also:

BMPC-4K: Shooting tips from early users

For my words only ©2014 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

Note: I don’t receive income or remuneration for this blog, or for products seen or mentioned here. Advertisements on the page have nothing to do with me. The ads support WordPress, the publisher.


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