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

January 4, 2015

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

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!

UPDATE 8/5/15: New blog post about the PC I actually built.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved.

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