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Resolve 12: My Windows PC build (done!)

July 30, 2015

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UPDATE 10/5/15: In a new post I describe how & why I re-installed my PC components into a new, larger case.

UPDATE 8/5/15: Assembly and completed build photos are posted below.

As detailed in my previous blog post, I’ve spent the past few months researching the idea of building a custom PC — for the first time in a l-o-n-g time — which I’ll primarily use to edit HD and 4K BMPC-4K camera video in the latest version of Blackmagic Design’s Davinci Resolve 12 software.

Thanks to helpful suggestions and explanations from folks on the Blackmagic user forum and the BMCuser user forumI finally decided what to buy (see list below), and now parts have started arriving.

Not coincidentally, this week the first public beta version of Resolve 12 just became available for download from Blackmagic’s website. One of the reasons I’ve held off buying parts for my new computer was to wait until Resolve 12 was close to being “ready”, and my guess is the final release version will be available within a few weeks or so.

Meanwhile, I still have a lot to learn about PC building, Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit, Windows 10 Pro 64-bit … and inevitable hardware & software troubleshooting. As a longterm Mac user/nerd, this new project has already been an adventure, and I’m a long way from done.

Here’s a list of the hardware and software I bought:

Total out-of-pocket cost minus discounts & rebates, plus a small amount for shipping: Approx. $1,800.

I’ll also install inside the case a few hardware items that I already own: A 240GB SSD as the Windows & applications disk, and two 3TB 7200rpm HDDs that I’ll configure as a 6TB RAID-0 array for Resolve data.

Later I might add a $50 Gigabyte Thunderbolt-2 card (my BMPC-4K camera has a TB port for use with its included UltraScope software, and eventually for use with super-fast TB2 external drives), and/or a $145 Blackmagic Decklink Mini Monitor card for full-screen, color-accurate monitoring on an external display while editing in Resolve.

Refer to my previous post for details about why I decided to use this particular combination of components, including relative capabilities and limitations.

IMPORTANT: Blackmagic Design considers a computer like the one I’m building to be a relatively basic entry-level configuration for Davinci Resolve 12. In the new (beta) version of Blackmagic’s hardware configuration guide for Davinci Resolve 12, especially for UHD and higher resolution workflows they “recommend”: One or more CPUs with at least 8-cores each, one or more GPU video cards with at least 8GB VRAM each, >16GB system RAM, a supported video I/O card in addition to the compute GPU(s), a calibrated high resolution video program monitor, one or more hi-res GUI monitors, a very fast and large disk storage system, and so forth. The software will run on less-powerful hardware — such as my new build, and even on many recent-vintage laptops — but more slowly and/or with limitations on project complexity. For example, using Resolve features such as noise reduction and >4K editing can require considerably more hardware horsepower. My new computer build is designed to at least meet Blackmagic’s minimum recommendations — and to to fit within my budget — but might not be appropriate for many professional-level post-production workflows. Refer to Blackmagic’s Resolve 12 hardware config guide for details. YMMV!

Following are snapshots of my new PC in various stages of assembly …

Below: The front of the mostly-empty SilverStone GD09 HTPC-style case. The dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay will install in the upper-right front corner:

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Below: The rear of the case (PSU installs on the right):

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Below: On the right of this photo you can see the SSD for Windows & apps installed in the provided mounting position on the floor of the case. (Update: See later photo below showing where I moved this SSD to, and why.) One of a total of 3 identical PWM fans has been installed on the far right. On the left, one of two 3TB 7200rpm HDDs is installed below the external drive bay; the two 3TB HDDs will be configured as 6TB RAID-0 array for data:

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Below: Close-up of the OS/app SSD and one of the 3 case fans. All 3 fans will pull cool air through easily-cleaned dust filters and push it into the case, with warm air being pushed out vents on the back & top of the case. The black cables are for the 2 front panel USB-3 connectors & HD audio I/O:

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Below: CU of one of the two 3TB HDDs:

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Below: Shown upside-down, the other 3TB 7200rpm HDD mounted on the bottom of the bracket included with the case and which mounts behind the external drive bay. The dual 2.5″ removable trayless backplane unit (e.g.: for BMPC-4K camera media SSDs) installs on the other side (top side) of this bracket. (Refer to the photo near the end of this post to see how it all fits together):

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Next I’ll install the RAM on the motherboard, install the CPU and its cooler, and temporarily install the GPU so I can do an outside-the-case hardware system boot to test for basic hardware functionality. If there’s a problem, it’ll be easier to troubleshoot before installing these items inside the case, and makes returning/exchanging a defective item easier, too.

If the outside-the-case test goes well, I’ll install all the components inside the case, but only connect the OS/app SSD, and install Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit. Next I’ll update all the software & firmware (Windows, motherboard BIOS, GPU & other device driver software, etc.) And install up-to-date anti-virus/anti-malware software, too.

Next I’ll connect the two 3TB 7200rpm HDDs and configure them as a 6TB RAID-0 array. And also other odds & ends, such as connecting & testing the dual 2.5″ trayless backplane, the dual eSATA slot connectors, etc.

As noted above, I’ll probably wait for the final release (not beta) of Davinci Resolve 12 before installing the software. Likewise, I may wait for version “10.1” (or whatever Microsoft calls the inevitable first bug-fix release) of Windows 10 Pro before installing it, too.

That’s the plan anyway.   🙂

UPDATE 8/5/15:

My new PC build is complete, and appears to be working great. Following are additional snapshots taken during assembly, and the completed build.

Below: A 2nd batch of parts arrived late last week (CPU & cooler, motherboard, GPU, PSU, RAM, fans, etc.):

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Below: CPU & cooler, RAM, PSU, 1 SSD, 3 fans, and 1 HDD installed:

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Below: The 240GB SSD for OS & apps custom-installed flat up against inside of the case’s front panel. I moved it from its original “official” location on floor of case to make more room for cables & 1 of the fans. A red SATA data cable is connected to the SSD, which is mounted using a 2.5″/3.5″ drive adapter plate & one of the screws securing the case’s front trim:

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Below: The i7-5820K CPU is installed below the low-profile heatsink and blue AR02 cooler fan. The fan is mounted in a “pull” configuration, blowing warm air out the case’s rear vent opening at the left of the photo. Because of where the special drive bracket is installed (see below) there isn’t room to install the CPU fan in a “push” configuration:

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Below: CU of 2 of the four 8GB memory sticks (total of 32GB DDR4 SDRAM):

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Below: The mass of cables in the middle the photo is the reason why I moved the OS/app SSD from its original mounting location on the floor of that corner of the case. After I finished installing everything I was able to tidy-up this corner quite a bit so that the case fan is able to blow cool air into the case with minimal obstruction:

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Below: It’s alive! But not done yet. Installing Windows 8.1 Pro 64-bit using an external DVD drive, and testing before final assembly (2nd 3TB HDD and dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay not installed yet), and cable wrangling is incomplete:

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Below: Two views of the special drive bracket which holds the dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay on top and the 2nd 3TB HDD below:

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And here are photos of the final completed system:

Below: Front view of my completed HTPC-style case configuration. The dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay is in the front right corner instead of an optical drive. 2 of the 3 case fan vents (intake) can be seen on the right:

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Below: 2 USB-3 ports are located at the case’s front lower-left corner, along with the HD audio I/O. Power & reset buttons are located at the lower-right. 1 of the case’s warm air vents is located on top:

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Below: The rear of the case showing the GTX 980 Ti GPU installed in the left-most 2 slots. The case’s other large warm air vent is visible on the upper-left above the motherboard’s I/O panel. I/O includes several USB-3 ports, Ethernet, USB-2, audio I/O, etc.:

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Below: Cable “mis-management”? Although it looks like a complete mess, the cables are actually positioned so they don’t block air flow very much — or as little as this small case allows. I may revisit the cable routing/bundling after using the machine for a few weeks. In the 1st photo below, 2 case fans blow cool air in from the left towards the CPU and disk drives, and another fan blows in from the right towards the GPU’s built-in intake fan. Warm air is pushed out the case’s rear vents and top vent, and also from the GPU’s rear vent. The CPU fan pulls air through the heatsink and pushes it out the case rear vent. The PSU has its own air in/out vents which don’t affect the case ventilation. The bracket holding the dual 2.5″ trayless drive bay, and 1 of two 3TB HDDs, is visible in the upper-left of the 1st photo:

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The PC runs great, although I haven’t stress-tested it yet. It’s extremely quiet at idle considering it has a total of 6 variable-speed PWM fans inside (3 case fans, CPU fan, GPU fan, and PSU fan) plus 2 HDDs. Since this is the first PC I’ve built in many years, I’m pleasantly surprised it works at all.

I’ll know soon enough how it performs when doing real work, such as editing 4K ProRes video and rendering-out h.264 files, etc.

P.S.: I could’t resist … I installed the 2nd beta release of Davinci Resolve 12!   🙂  Reportedly it still has some minor bugs (it IS a beta release after all), but it’s running fast & smooth on my new machine. I look forward to the final release of the software!

P.P.S.: In a day or two I’ll post Blackmagic disk speed test results for my PC’s two internal RAIDs (6TB RAID-0 using dual 3TB 7200 rpm HDDs, and 500GB RAID-0 using dual 240GB SSDs in the trayless bay). I’ll also post Resolve 12 frame rate and render time results. Stay tuned.

©2015 Peter J. DeCrescenzo. All rights reserved. http://www.peterdv.com

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