As long as you give Avid Xpress DV or Pro enough horsepower you should get great results and have a VERY stable system. Sure, we’ve run into some hardware to avoid over time, but overall if you stick to an Intel chipset and a 2+ GHz machine, you’re going to get great results with Avid Xpress Pro. Here are some dos and don’ts.
1. Get a P4 hyper-threaded CPU (2.4GHz or faster). It’s much easier to build a powerful P4 box for NLE than an AMD. Why? We’ve found that chipsets for AMD machines require more tweaking and tuning than a P4. If you’re going to go with AMD make sure you load all the latest bios updates and patches first. These are not always easy to find, so do your research.
2. Get plenty of RAM, and get the fastest your chipset supports. RAM is still cheap. Get a gig of it.
3. For now, the OpenGL real-time 3D performance of Pro is only working with nVidia based graphics cards. Get a dual head one with 128 Megs of RAM. So far we haven’t seen enough of a performance boost to recommend 256, but this will change as prices fall.
4. FireWire. Make sure it’s a TI based chipset. The ADS Pyro is a great choice here. If you are going to use Mojo and an external FireWire drive you’ll need to have two FireWire ports in your system – NOT on the same card. So get two Pyro cards. Install them at least 2 slots away from each other. This should get them on different PCI buses and eliminate and bottlenecks. Should you run into issues, try moving one of the FireWire cards to a different slot.
5. Storage. SATA (Serial ATA) is cool for your dedicated video drive. We have not had the chance to test any SATA RAID controllers. In the past we have found that some EIDE RAID controllers hit the PCI bus pretty hard, so they may create bottlenecks with uncompressed video from Mojo. This may be the same for SATA RAID controllers. A single dedicated internal 7200RPM EIDE or SATA drive is adequate for real-time DV editing with Mojo. It will also allow you to use uncompressed video. With uncompressed you will find that you eventually reach a clip length that starts to choke your system. If you plan on using uncompressed w/ Mojo often, go with SCSI. SCSI controllers are really good at what they do, and they have minimal impact on your PCI bus.
6. Xpress Pro and Mojo are scalable, so give them the most powerful system you can afford for best results. The more powerful your computer the more layers of video you’ll be able to handle in real-time. With dual P4 3Ghz+ hyper-threaded CPUs and a GB of RAM you are going to get results that will blow you away!! That said; on a single P4 1.8 with 512 Megs of RAM you’ll still have a pretty good system. You wont get as much real-time performance, but your editing may not require it. If you push beyond the real-time capabilities, Xpress Pro & XDV have intelligent rendering that will only render those segments of your timeline that require it.
7. Laptops. This is where we change our tune. Make sure you use an Avid recommended configuration or it’s equivalent. Many laptops involve custom hardware that can interfere with throughput. Note: Sometimes the same laptop is sold under different brand names. If this is the case and you can save some bucks – go for it – just make sure it is the same core hardware.