How much RAM do I need to edit video?


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When talking to video editors who are looking to get into editing for the first time, one of the questions I’m asked most is, “how much RAM should I have?”

First of all let me explain what RAM is and what is does.

RAM (or Random Access Memory) provides space for your computer to read and write data to be accessed by the CPU (central processing unit). If you add more RAM to your computer, you reduce the number of times your computer must read data from your hard disk. This usually allows your computer to work considerably faster, really increasing the speed at which you can render video projects or test out effects and plugins. RAM is many times faster than a hard disk.

So it makes sense just to add as much RAM as your computer can handle… right?

Well no, not always. Many people don’t realize that many of the editing programs out there which run in 32-bit mode, such as Final Cut Pro 7 and earlier versions of Avid, Edius and Premiere can only handle 4GB of RAM, so whether you had 8GB or 16GB of RAM, it really wouldn’t enhance the speed of your project at all.

Newer 64-bit versions of these programs such as Final Cut Pro X and Premiere Pro CS5 can handle an ‘unlimited’ amount of RAM, which can really speed up the editing process. However it’s worth noting you can only run 64-bit applications if you have Windows 7 64-bit, or Mac OSX Snow Leopard or higher. (Final Cut Pro X now recommends a minimum of 4GB of RAM to run well, so it really is worth investing a bit into RAM.)

Once you’ve upgraded to the latest operating system, upgraded your RAM and brought the 64-bit versions of your favorite editing programs, you’ll notice several advantages:
You can render much larger projects and effects—for preview and for final output—with larger frame sizes and larger source files.
RAM previews can be much longer.
You can work with higher colour bit depths without encountering memory limitations.
Exporting and compiling video is much faster.

I’m not sure how much RAM my computer can handle?
Fear not, a company I often recommend are Crucial. (http://www.crucial.com/uk/) They not only offer low cost RAM upgrades, but also have detection software, which can tell you not only how much RAM you have installed in your computer, but also how much your computer can handle. (Most hardware will have some kind of limit, so it’s worth checking out before upgrading.)

What’s your experience been like with RAM upgrades, and what ever things have you done to speed up your editing process? Tweet me at @editorskeys


Tags: ram | editing | iss062 | final cut pro | premiere | N/A
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