For many video editors, rendering in Premiere Pro is synonymous with waiting – it’s one of the most demanding things your computer will ever do. But what makes the render wait worse is that it’s often accompanied by another time drain: Importing massive files from camera to computer. In these instances and others, Premiere Pro naturally presents a problem: How do you edit video faster?
The solution is not as difficult or expensive as you might think. By simply maxing out your system’s memory and ditching hard drives for SSDs, you can overcome Premiere Pro’s natural bottlenecks and speed up nearly every step in your daily workflow. The application and your system aren’t the problem. It’s your system’s components, and those are easy to upgrade. Don’t just take our word for it, though. Adobe recommends the same solution: here’s how and why.
Everyday actions that rely on storage: Rendering, previewing video, loading and reading source files, outputting and exporting video, transferring files from camera to computer, booting up, loading Premiere Pro and other applications
What Adobe says about the role of storage in Premiere Pro: “Adobe Premiere Pro is highly dependent on the speed of your storage media. You will enjoy better performance and fewer dropped frames if you use multiple drives to spread the work load. At a minimum, you should consider a two-drive system, with one drive containing your operating system, software, and media cache, while the other is used for your source files, previews, and final exported renders. Preferred is a four-drive system, with one dedicated to the operating system and software, the second for source media and project files, the third for the media cache, and the fourth for previews and exports.”1
Why an SSD is so important: SSDs deliver the fast speeds that are virtually a requirement for editing video without lag. Not only do SSDs help you import massive files with ease, but since all modern cameras store raw footage on flash memory chips, it doesn’t make sense to take video that’s already stored on flash memory (what’s in SSDs, phones, and camera memory cards) and transfer it to a hard disk drive, which operates at a fraction of the speed. Not only is the data transfer process painfully slow when going from flash to disk, but the delay never lets up since everything you do on disk is executed at a much slower pace. Slow storage doesn’t just mean you spend more time waiting for large files to render, save, and output. It also means jumpy playback and dropped frames. To get the best possible performance, RAID several 1TB SSDs together, which eliminates the disk bottleneck altogether. You’ll notice a big difference in how fast you’re able to work.
Everyday actions that rely on memory: Rendering, editing video, applying effects, running Premiere Pro and other applications
What Adobe says about the role of memory in Premiere Pro: “In general, to optimize a laptop or desktop all-in-one computer (such as an HP Z1 or Apple iMac) for digital video work, you should get the fastest CPU available, ... maximize the installed RAM, and consider adding a second drive—an SSD, if possible.”1
Why memory is so important: Like any demanding application, Premiere Pro requires a good chunk of memory to operate. Based on extensive testing, we’ve found that memory can have a big impact on render times. The reason for this is that according to Adobe, “Premiere Pro is as sensitive to the amount of GPU memory [VRAM] available as normal CPU memory [DRAM].” In other words, the application needs as much as possible of both. VRAM (which stands for video memory) is often the first resource the system will turn to when rendering, but as soon as it runs out of VRAM, it’ll use your system’s CPU to render. And since memory fuels the CPU that’s constantly running for rendering, it’s critical to max out the amount of DRAM and provide as much fuel as possible. When rendering big files, it’s easy to exhaust your RAM, meaning your system will begin dipping into “virtual memory,” where it treats your storage drive like memory. This is why using an SSD for video is even more important. When you dip into virtual memory (which typically happens on a regular basis), you don’t want your system to slow to a crawl and get bogged down by a hard drive’s rotational latency.
While it’s well known that more memory and faster storage speed up video editing, we wanted to put theory to the test and quantify the impact you might see. By testing four configurations of the same base system, we were able to isolate performance variables and assess how DRAM and SSDs impacted an everyday video editing activity: rendering a 1-minute clip with a color correction effect applied. Before opening Premiere Pro, though, and doing any rendering, we loaded six other applications because most video editors are constantly multitasking between project files and components, and we wanted to simulate a real-world scenario as closely as possible. While the system we tested was an older model that was only capable of installing 16GB of memory, it provided a good baseline to assess the role memory and storage plays in completing a sample workflow.
How we did the testing: With the exception of the 4GB hard drive system, each configuration was tested three times and the numbers reported above are averages. We only tested the 4GB hard drive configuration once because it was the base system configuration and had an unusually low amount of memory for design work – the test was for representational purposes only. All tests began with a fresh boot so that other factors and applications didn’t affect reported results. Only the files and applications that were used for testing were installed and stored on the drives. Testing conducted in February 2016.
*Programs we opened and had running in the background: After Effects®, Photoshop®, Illustrator®, Acrobat Reader®, Microsoft® Word®, Outlook®
The results speak for themselves, yet likely underestimate just how much of a speed gain you’ll likely see. The reason? We didn’t use caching and we only rendered a 1-minute clip. When working with bigger files, you’ll consume more memory and transfer in and out of storage more frequently, which is where more memory and the speed of an SSD will really kick in. While we didn’t test beyond 16GB of RAM, we know from Adobe that more memory means you can do more before dipping into virtual memory. And since virtual memory takes a big toll on performance, we recommend as much DRAM as possible – typically 32GB – though the amount you install should match the intensity of your workload.
No matter what type of computer you’re using or what your workload entails, more memory and an SSD is a proven way to help speed up your workflow – especially when it comes to multitasking.
Most video editors spend a lot of time multitasking between Premiere Pro and other applications. Usually, it’s a necessity. Most projects require referencing client emails, moving between clips, consulting scripts and storyboards, researching ideas online, and testing out background music to see how it enhances the video. If this sounds like you, you’ll really benefit from maxing out your memory, since RAM is what’s used to run all the applications you have open at once. It’s what makes multitasking possible. Keep in mind, though, that multitasking isn’t just about running multiple things at once. It’s also about getting into multiple things at once, and that’s why an SSD helps, too.
Software may enable digital design, but it’s your computer’s hardware that determines the speed of design. Max out your hardware’s performance by ensuring that every upgradeable component is performing as fast as possible. It’s not enough to just use a fast CPU. You need enough memory to continuously feed every processing core – and lots of SSD storage to instantly load and save everything you do. How fast you’re able to work hangs in the balance. Are you waiting on your system, or is it waiting on you?