How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing

Last updated on June 11th, 2018,

You are thinking about getting a new Video Editing Workstation / PC or want to upgrade your existing one.

You want to make sure you have the right amount of RAM for your video editing needs. Of course you will want to make it future proof, but don’t want to spend more than necessary.

If you get too little, your Projects could crawl to a halt, you might have to get another upgrade or exchange the RAM you already purchased for more.

Worst Case Scenario

Worst case scenario, you were sure when setting up your system, that you would only need X amount, and you bought a mainboard that does not allow for more RAM to be installed.

If you get too much RAM you are spending more than necessary, especially with current RAM-Prices being through the roof, and a large portion of the Memory might just sit there doing nothing for you most of the time.

You have probably seen it already, but take a look at how Prices have come up over the past year.

RAM Prices

Because it depends so much on what type of projects you are editing, there is no definite answer to the question of how much RAM you need for general video editing. But let me narrow it down a bit:

Our Ultimate Video Editing RAM Goal

Our ultimate goal is to have enough RAM for our Video Editing Software to run smoothly, be it Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Vegas Pro, Avid Media Composer / Symphony, DaVinci Resolve or similar.

Additionally, any other typically needed Application running simultaneously should have enough Memory to not slow down your editing process.

Your work should also always be able to fit into your memory, because if it doesn’t, the Operating System will start swapping data that doesn’t fit into your RAM, to your hard disk or SSD, and these two are a multitude slower than your RAM.

Take a look at this comparison of Read/Write Speeds of HDD vs SSD vs RAM. The RAM is still about 10x faster than an SSD.

RAM Speed

A typical use case of an average Video Editor

Now lets look at a typical use case scenario:

I have Win 10 running, recently browsed the Internet with Google Chrome in about 10 Open Tabs and am listening to Music on Youtube, have Photoshop running in the background for some Images I want to use in my Video, Outlook or Thunderbird is running for my Email, and I am actively Editing a 1080p Project in Adobe Premiere Pro.

Win 10 uses about 3GB RAM just to start up, and will use more if it is allowed to, Chrome is using ~2GB with all the opened Tabs, Photoshop is using 1,5GB and Outlook or Thunderbird is chewing on some 200MB of RAM.

RAM Video Editing

I am actually using 6,7GB of RAM without even having my Video Editing Software running.

So, yes, I can close all those down and switch to a different OS and only open up one program at a time, but let’s face it. It’s about ease of use and how motivated and unhindered you are when working on your projects.

Closing your Video Editing Software when you want to adjust an image in Photoshop, doesn’t sound like something that will make your work more efficient.

So let’s set 6GB of System RAM usage as a baseline.

With that said, will Adobe Premiere Pro work with 8GB of System RAM? Well, it depends!

It depends on your footage

What footage resolution and bit depth are you working with, and what is your project set to?

Why is this important?

Because the main use case for RAM in a Video Editing Software (apart from making the program run) is caching preview files, meaning pre-processing/calculating effects and layers, basically everything you input into your timeline, to a rendered preview, that resides in the RAM, to be played back in realtime, when required.

Now a 720p 8bit preview will take up considerably less amount of RAM than a 4K 10bit video. Think about the difference in colour information.

A single 720p 8bit Frame consists of about 2,7MB of RAW uncompressed Data, while a 4K10bit Frame will need about 47MB.

Resolution8bpc10bpc12bpc16bpc32bpc
1280x7202,7 MByte3,4 MByte4,1 MByte5,5 MByte11,0 MByte
1920x10806,2 MByte7,7 MByte9,3 MByte12,4 MByte14,8 MByte
4096x307237,7 MByte47,2 MByte56,6 MByte75,5 MByte151,0 MByte
8192x6144150,9 MByte188,7 MByte226,5 MByte302,0 MByte604,0 MByte

Of course there are quite sophisticated compression algorithms, that allow the various Video Editing Programs to use compressed data, but the difference is still huge.

Also, the more you compress your Data, the more your CPU will have to work to compress/uncompress the Data for fast viewing.

Keep all of the above in mind when reading the following: The recommended amount of RAM you should target, when building a new system / upgrade for specific Video Editing projects and use cases:

How much RAM

  • 8GB of RAM: Only if you are editing smaller than 1080p projects or are ok with closing down other Programs that are using up lots of your RAM in the background.
  • 16GB of RAM: Good for editing 1080p – 4K 8bit Projects, with minor usage of background Programs
  • 32GB of RAM: Good for any type of editing with heavy use of background hogs, such as editing large images in photoshop.
  • 64GB or more: This is recommended if you are editing 8K footage in 10bit or more and rely heavily on having several RAM-hogging Programs open at once such as After Effects or Cinema 4D.

Now, you can usually make ends meet with less than recommended, but again, it’s all about ease of use and not having to worry about your RAM all the time, right? So give it a good buffer zone there and make sure you have a bit more than minimally needed.

Since RAM is unfortunately quite expensive currently, you might want to settle for less, but be ready to upgrade in the future when prices come down. I’ll get into Future-Proofness down below.

Video Editing Rendering Speed

A word on speed: RAM doesn’t really affect the Rendering speed of your Projects all that much, unless you don’t have enough and the OS has to use swap to disk.

Your CPU and GPU are responsible for calculating your effects, color adjustments, layer blends and video output compression and mainly responsible for your Video-Editing-Speed, Program-responsiveness and Rendering-Speeds.

Having RAM run in single, dual, quad channel configurations and the like is sometimes discussed as means of improving overall speed, but differences usually are within the margin of error, around 1 – 3%.

One thing you should keep in mind though, are future upgrading possibilities:

Future Proof

If you buy just enough RAM for your current projects (maybe because prices are so high at the moment), but you know you will switch to some bigger footage in the future, make sure your mainboard supports the amount of RAM you are targeting.

Although in the past, upgrading your RAM was as easy as adding in more modules to the ones you already have, it does not always seem to be that easy nowadays:

As has been pointed out in the comments, there might be issues with stability when mixing RAM Kits even if they are of the same type, brand and speed / timings. So, to be on the safe side,  if you are thinking about upgrading to more RAM, see if you can sell your old Kit on eBay for example, and get a new complete RAM Kit in the desired amount.

Check out this Link on the ASUS Forums for more Info.

 

Thats pretty much it. Did I miss anything? Let me know in the comments!

Alex - post author

Hi, I am Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist / Motion Designer and Compositor.

I have built a multitude of Workstations and Renderfarms for all kinds of 3D related use cases and love to optimize them as much as possible.

After working in the 3D/VFX Industry on-staff for several years, I have recently gone freelance and am having a blast!

Feel free to comment and ask for suggestions on your PC-Build or 3D-related Problem, I'll do my best to help out!

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Modern memory including the very RAM pictured in the article header (Gskill Tridentz RGB) does NOT support mixing memory kits even if they are precisely the same speed. Here’s the Gskill FAQ: https://www.gskill.com/en/faq/DRAM_Memory

Soooo.. you can’t “just add more”, you need to buy a whole new kit (entire set of however much total memory you want in the computer).

Mixing memory kits is a primary source of instability, see this post from an ASUS representative: https://rog.asus.com/forum/showthread.php?57038-Don%92t-combine-memory-kits!-The-meat-and-potatoes-overview

In the good old days we could mix memory kits but that is simply no longer the case. Please update the article so nobody loses hundreds of dollars to this costly mistake!