Performance > Pageantry
Puget Systems doesn’t build their computers to ‘wow’ you at first glance. They aren’t covered in flashy RGB lights and encased in tempered glass. They are strictly business. These computers open up a new realm of possibilities for not only our workflow but our company as a whole.
A Little Bit of Background
Back when I was young and naive, before I had to edit any footage larger than 8-bit 1080p, my train of thought was “If it looks pretty and can play Skyrim on ultra settings, it has to be able to edit any footage you throw at it”. Obviously, I couldn’t have been more wrong.
While these rigs are excellent for 4K editing and gaming, they start to show their weakness when you throw 8K RED Helium footage at them without making any proxies; or even 6K Komodo footage. Some of our previous videos highlight the pitfalls of our old machines but we had no choice but to live with it at the time.
Now you may be thinking “Why should I listen to this guy? Does he even know what he’s talking about?” And the short answer to that is … sometimes.
The long answer: I’ve been editing videos for a little over six years and building PCs for a little under 10 years. Unfortunately, I’ve always had to budget and cut corners when it came to hardware and speccing my PC out.
My first editing computer was a Dell Inspiron Mini that my grandma got me for Skype and homework. So this is the first time in my life that I’ve ever been able to say “we have no budget. Just grab the best f****** editing computer you can find.”
With our collective tech experience here at Clockwork 9, we found that building computers, while fun, can be troublesome. If something goes wrong you end up spending all night scrolling through Reddit forums looking for people with the same issue.
We weren’t willing to take that chance this time and decided to look for pre-built workstations instead.
Before you roast us, hear me out, we were sick of compromising and spending so much time looking for answers. We don’t have the time like we used to, to experiment with our builds and toss caution to the wind. Hoping for the best doesn’t cut it when you have multiple high-budget projects due sooner than later.
Our livelihoods depend on our workstations. The last thing you want with a deadline looming is to make sacrifices in both time and energy wasting hours troubleshooting why a particular error is popping up; or why some driver isn’t playing nicely with a piece of hardware.
We love staying on the cutting edge of computer hardware. It’s enriching when tons of research and hard work results in a computer that runs well. But with our work getting more intense, clients demanding results and our creative bandwidth to think about — it just doesn’t make sense to dedicate so much time and effort when you can offload that workload on another source. One that is wholly committed to researching, building and perfecting exactly what we seek.
On top of everything, we’re a small company of seven people working full time. We all wear a lot of hats as you often do in a small business. Dedicating the time and resources to building a set of PCs and keeping them on track just doesn’t work as well as it may have just a year ago.
Another big factor in our decision to go prebuilt is the ongoing supply chain problems. Picking up high-end components isn’t as carefree as it was prior to 2020. Between shortages and the wait times involved in just ordering basic things like graphics cards, our feeling was that distributors of prebuilt PCs will have volume priority and get closest to MSRP.
High-end pre-built workstations are always going to be more pricey, no matter where you look, but we wanted that added security that if something goes wrong, we can call the company that built the computer instead of scouring Reddit for answers. This is why it’s so important to do your research and select not only a proven company but a company that isn’t too “corporate” to throw your concerns in a bin with thousands of others. This is when we turned to Puget Systems.
Enter Puget Systems
Puget is a proven and legit leader in the world of workstation building. They patiently walked us through their process and had a huge amount of benchmarking to back up their choices. There’s a very good reason their benchmarks are the gold standard for when it comes to both video and 3D work.
After a lot of discussion, we ended up ordering two absolute beasts from them.
Each fitted with an AMD Threadripper Pro 3975WX, 256GB of RAM, 2 RTX 3090’s each, 1TB Samsung 980 Pro NVMe boot drive and 2TB cache drive with Intel X520-DA2 Dual 10Gbe SPF+ network cards.
Absolutely no shortcuts taken. These systems were designed to be our primary editing workstations; built from the ground up to render and playback anything we throw at them.
Are These the Right Systems for You?
Your next question might be “Patrick, I’m just a freelance videographer/video editor. This is extreme overkill for me. Why are you making this video?” And my answer to that would be, yes in most instances, these are complete overkill. But we’re not building gaming computers and we’re always on the lookout to squeeze more speed and reliability anywhere we can into our workflow.
Our business thrives on speed and having flexible post-production workflows. Rather than waiting for proxies to render, or grabbing lunch while rendering out a big project, it’s always going to be preferable to dedicate as much creative potential to our work and not have to be stalled by a laggy interface or extended wait times on our renders.
We invest a lot of time and money into our collaborative post-production infrastructure. Any and all bottlenecks must be eradicated.
In the long run, the cost of the machine will pay itself back much sooner than in a non-professional environment. Ultimately these machines are designed to help us work better and faster.
Show me the Results!
We ran a quick test using Adobe After Effects’ new multi-thread rendering algorithm.
Our primary way to collaborate on video work is through Davinci Resolve which can take any hardware you throw at it. Using one of these computers in Resolve is nimble, agile and smooth. Everything happens blindingly fast and in real time. It’s a bit like stepping into the future where the only thing slowing you down is how quickly you can think and move your fingers.
Puget Go Brrrrrr but is it Worth it?
The speed on paper is great, but the question now is, how is a $15k computer more cost-efficient than a $2k computer?
Let’s factor in routine tasks we need to do on a daily basis: exporting, rendering, playback and editing without any hiccups to enable a more efficient process… All of that adds up. Anything you can drop into your workflow that can cut 10% to 20% of your time is not only fiscally responsible but also has the added benefit of slashing away many hurdles in the process.We end up creating a less stressful environment to work in while leveraging that flexibility into a workflow with more room for critical thinking and thought in general.
Afterall, creating work in any medium is not simply about the end product, but the journey; effortlessly following different lines of thought at a moment’s notice without something like After Effects playback getting so bogged down that you lose time just… waiting.
Is a system like this for everyone? No, but looking toward the future of filmmaking and even the future of your company, I don’t see why you’d ever want to settle for anything less, especially if you have the option.
There are plenty of benchmarking and PC build videos on YouTube. What I want you to take away from this is that investing in yourself or your business is one of the most important keys to success.
How do you Want to Spend your Time?
If you went back 10 years and told a younger Patrick that he’d be working at a Creative Agency, using his mind to make videos with the best equipment available at that time, he would think that you’re on hard drugs. But here we are.
If I never spent that $400 on my first camera, I wouldn’t be here. So am I saying you should drop $15K on a PC right now? No.
I’m not here to sell you on buying a system like we did. As with anything in life, it comes down to how you value your time and what kind of experience you want to have. For us, time is more valuable than anything else. Saving hours a day adds up. Our work is completed faster and with extra attention to detail. Things that might have otherwise been sacrificed due to time constraints and hardware causing undue stress and tension are a thing of the past.
Time doesn’t always mean money. For us, time is an exploration of ideas and knowing we have the room to explore those ideas and concepts.
We like not having to wait.
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