An old adage in the professional video system integration world still applies today: Pick your software first, and then the best hardware to power that software. For several reasons, many video editors have recently decided to migrate to Adobe Premiere Pro CS5. Some of them are able to use their prior computer workstation, while many others realize that they really need one that is fully optimized to give the best performance possible for Premiere Pro CS5, while looking for reliability and future expandability. Many have discovered that an ideal core for their new Premiere Pro CS5 studio is one of the Dell Precision Tower Workstations. This article will discuss why and how a Dell Precision Tower Workstation is ideal for this situation, how to custom configure it during purchase for best results, and how it is suited for the connection of third-party peripherals for Premiere Pro CS5.
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Why a Dell Precision Tower Workstation? Which one?
One of the ideal models you can choose for Premiere Pro CS5 is the Dell Precision T3500 Tower Workstation. Why the T3500? Well, the T3500 is powerful and scalable despite its compact size. It delivers the full processor and memory performance of the new Intel Xeon architecture. Core features for professional video systems include :
- Powerful dual-socket performance in a system that’s compact enough for smaller workspaces
- Serious performance in complex application environments, thanks to next-generation Intel Xeon architecture
- Massive memory scalability
- Available space and controller for an optional internal video disk array (RAID)
- eSATA connectivity for DAS external disk array (RAID) (optional)
- Factory option for iSCSI for video NAS/SAN
- Factory option for IEEE-1394 video capture
- Factory option for inboard Blu-ray burner
- Available PCIe slots for 3rd-party Pro Video interfaces
How to custom-configure your T3500 when purchasing it at Dell.com
If you have ever read Premiere Pro CS5’s system requirements, you already know that for best results, Adobe recommends a 64-bit operating system and multicore processor, 4GB or more of RAM, and an Adobe-certified GPU card for GPU-accelerated performance. Fortunately, all of these are available when you visit Dell.com to custom-configure your workstation. For example, when you begin customizing the Dell Precision T3500 Workstation at Dell.com, you’ll notice that you may choose one of the two 64-bit versions of Windows 7: Professional at no extra charge, or Ultimate for US$50 extra. [Choose Ultimate if you’d like to be able to display your Windows in some language other than English, and/or if you need to encrypt your data using Microsoft’s BitLocker technology.]
You get the choice of one of several quad-core or six-core Intel Xeon processors. That decision will be yours, depending upon your budget, since Premiere Pro CS5 will support any of these. Regarding RAM for Premiere Pro CS5, you can factory-order your T3500 with 4GB, 6GB, or 12GB. If you anticipate doing native capture from any or all of several DV tape formats (i.e. consumer DV25, JVC’s Professional DV, Panasonic’s DVCPRO25/DVCPRO50/DVCPRO HD, Sony’s DVCAM, or HDV from Canon, JVC or Sony), Dell offers you a US$30 option for a factory-installed OHCI-compliant IEEE-1394 port for that purpose. Keep in mind that this port will occupy one of your PCIe slots in the T3500. When you get to the video card selection page for your T3500, be sure to select the NVIDIA Quadro 4000 or 5000, since these two have been specifically approved by Adobe for Mercury Playback Engine support.
Sidebar: What is Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine, and what are the differences between the 4000 and 5000
In this video (9:57), Karl Soul© of Adobe demonstrates the wonders of the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine, using approved NVIDIA graphics.
Adobe’s Mercury Playback Engine is the completely redesigned playback engine in Premiere Pro CS5, and delivers dramatic performance and stability improvements. The Mercury Playback Engine is native 64-bit, multicore, and GPU-accelerated to provide an amazingly fluid, real-time editing experience. With the Mercury Playback Engine, you can be creative without worrying about the ramifications of additional effects and high-resolution content. Say goodbye to costly delays waiting for intermediate renders. Combine multiple types of footage on the timeline; play with the look and flow at full frame rate; and view in real time on an external HD monitor. With configurations capable of supporting more than nine simultaneous layers and dozens of effects, the Mercury Playback Engine makes every production more creative and efficient. With the Mercury Playback Engine, you can even put two-hour, thousand-clip projects together as easily as a high-impact trailer:
- Work in real time on complex timelines and long-form projects with thousands of clips – whether your project is SD, HD, 2K, 4K, or beyond
- Open up to ten times faster on very large projects
- Mix and match multiple formats freely in the timeline, without rendering
- Experiment with multiple color corrections and effects and see results in real time, even on complex timelines
- Use real-time keying on multiple clips at all resolutions using the new Ultra Keyer
- Real-time effects with GPU acceleration
The Quadro 4000 and Quadro 5000 are both made by NVIDIA. NVIDIA classifies the 5000 as “Ultra High End” and the 4000 as “High End”. In terms of performance, the 4000 has 256 CUDA cores, can do 486.4 MegaFLOPS (FLoating point OPerations per Second) with single precision, or 243.2 MegaFLOPS with double precision. In terms of VRAM, the 4000 has 2GB and its memory bandwidth is 89.6 GB/s. On the other hand, the 5000 has 352 CUDA cores, can perform 718.08 MegaFLOPS with single precision or 359.04 MegaFLOPS with dual precision. In terms of VRAM, the 5000 has 2.5GB and its memory bandwidth is 120 GB/s. Beyond noting that the 5000 is indeed “Ultra High End”, and the difference in price you’ll see when you configure your T3500 for one or the othercard, also keep in mind that while the 4000 only takes up one of your PCIe slots, the 5000 takes two of them. That’s important to keep in mind when you think about the whole picture, as you’ll read ahead.
For your internal storage, you may choose any combination of up to four of the currently offered high-performance internal magnetic or SSD (solid state) drives. If you decide to order your T3500 with more than two (and up to four) internal drives, they can be factory configured in either traditional mode or in a RAID mode. That means that for a video workstation, you could assign one drive for your operating system and applications, and the others for a video RAID5 configuration. For those who require more capacity and flexibility in their video disk array (RAID), feel comfortable knowing that the T3500’s eSATA port will connect to external video drives or arrays which have their own hardware RAID controller (more about that later). If you are planning to use an external video array, then you can take advantage of the internal space to order drives for other purposes, including one or more drives for audio, and another one as a graphics scratch disk. Then you may choose among two possible DVD burners, or even choose a Blu-ray burner instead, since it can also burn DVDs and CDs. After that, consider having Dell install their US$25 Card Reader, which can read up to 19 different types of media, including Compact Flash type I and II, SD, SDHC, and several types of Memory Stick. If you plan to do graphic work involving drawing or painting, consider having Dell ship your workstation with a Wacom tablet.
Connectivity with external video arrays
One of the best and fastest way to connect your external video array to your T3500 is via eSATA. Although some popular competitors lack it, fortunately, the Precision T3500 Tower Workstation from Dell comes with an eSATA port standard! Whatever brand of external video RAID you purchase, just make sure that it has its own inboard hardware-based RAID controller. This will simplify the connection while it saves you one of your valuable PCIe slots in your T3500. Keep reading to see how you may use one of those slots.
Connectivity with professional i/o video interfaces
If you need to capture from (or output to) SDI, HD-SDI, or 3G-SDI video, or from/to analog video, like composite video, Y/C (“S-Video”), or component analog, then you’ll need a professional video interface from a company like AJA, Blackmagic, or Matrox. Any of these interfaces also handle synchronized audio, and most of them connect to your studio workstation via a PCIe slot. You can feel comfortable knowing that your T3500 comes with a total of four PCIe slots. One (or two) of these slots will be occupied by your graphic card, and one may be occupied by an IEEE-1394 card if you choose to order one, but you’ll still have one available to install or connect a professional video i/o interface, if you need one now or in the future.
Your T3500 is ready for your Premiere Pro CS5 studio today, and tomorrow
As you have learned, your T3500 is ready for your Premiere Pro CS5 studio today, and to expand for tomorrow. What are you waiting for? Visit Dell.com now to configure and budget your Precision T3500 Tower Workstation.