How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing

How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing

CG Director Author Alex  by Alex   ⋮   ⋮   91 comments
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Are you thinking about getting a new Video Editing Desktop PC or a Video Editing Laptop or want to upgrade your existing one?

Do you want to make sure your current Hardware is strong enough for the type of editing Projects you might have planned or are working on?

RAM is one of the most important Hardware parts for your video editing needs.

(Skip the theory and jump to RAM Size recommendations directly here). I will tell you exactly how much RAM you need for Video Editing. But first let’s look at some of the theory behind it:

RAM Prices

RAM is getting cheaper every day!

You have probably seen it already, but take a look at how Prices have come down over the last year:

video Editing Ram Prices

Image-Source: geizhals.de

A 32GB DDR4 Kit used to cost 399$ back in 2018, and costs only around 176$ now! There even seems to be a continuing downward trend in 2019.

You won’t want to spend too much, of course, but for that, we will need to know how much RAM exactly to get:

As so often, because it depends so much on what type of projects you are editing, there is, unfortunately, no definite answer to the question of how much RAM you need for general video editing.

But we can narrow it down a good bit:

Our Ultimate Video Editing RAM Goal

Our ultimate goal is to have enough RAM for our Video Editing Software to run smoothly.

Some popular Video Editing Softwares include Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, Vegas Pro, Avid Media Composer / Symphony, DaVinci Resolve and many more.

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

After Effects comes to mind here and maybe Photoshop. In fact, the best Computer for After Effects consists of very similar parts as a Video Editing Workstation.

Let me say this: Your active Projects should always be able to fit into your memory.

Why?

Because if they don’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 an HDD vs. SSD vs. RAM.

The RAM is about 10x faster than an SSD and 50x faster than an HDD.

RAM Speed

 

A typical use case of an average Video Editor

Now let’s look at my typical Video Editing use case scenario:

I have Win 10 running. I recently browsed the Internet with Google Chrome in about 10 Open Tabs and am listening to Music on YouTube.

I have Photoshop (that needs lots of RAM!) running in the background for some Images I want to use in my Video as well as Outlook or Thunderbird opened for my Email.

Let’s see how our RAM usage looks at the moment:

Win 10 uses about 3GB RAM just to start up and will use more if it is allowed to.

Chrome is using roughly 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.

Now, of course, I could close all those Programs down and switch to a different OS to use less RAM.

Then I could 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. Nothing should stand in the way of your creativity.

And a slow Computer and Video Editing Timeline is the opposite of enabling creativity.

Closing down my Video Editing Software every time I want to adjust an image in Photoshop, just isn’t something that will make me work more efficiently.

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

With that said, will Adobe Premiere Pro or similar Video Editing Softwares 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.

Caching means pre-processing/calculating effects and layers, basically everything you input into your timeline, to a rendered preview.

This preview resides in the RAM, to be played back in Realtime when required.

This usually happens automatically (in Premiere Pro 2018 for example) as soon as you play back or scrub through your timeline.

Now, a 720p 8bit preview will take up considerably less amount of RAM than a 4K 10bit video.

Think about the difference in color information:

A single 720p 8bit Frame consists of about 2,7MB of RAW uncompressed Data, while a 4K 10bit 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 & decompress the Data for fast viewing.

This means we are not really solving the Problem of a fast Timeline with low RAM usage by using a strong compression, we are just moving it over to a different Hardware Part (the CPU) to take care of it.

Keep all of the above in mind when reading the following:

The recommended amount of RAM you should target when building a new system or are upgrading for specific Video Editing projects and use cases:

 

How much RAM do you need for Video Editing

  • 8GB of RAM: Only if you are editing smaller than 1080p projects and 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.

Here are some RAM Modules that I have been able to test thoroughly and recommend for your Memory upgrading needs:

Now, you can usually make ends meet with less than recommended.

But 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 is 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-Proofing your Workstation 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 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 or quad channel configurations is sometimes discussed as means of improving overall speed, but differences usually are within the margin of error of around 1 – 3%.

Why is that? Shouldn’t Quad-Channel Memory be twice as fast as Dual-Channel?

Although the Memory Bandwidth theoretically doubles each time (single, dual, quad), the Software (Premiere Pro for example) won’t make use of it, as there is no need for higher bandwidth.

The RAM already has a transfer speed of 5GB/s. You don’t saturate this Bandwidth with normal 25FPS – 60FPS projects.

The bottleneck here would rather be the copying of the Footage to the RAM when previewing. But almost never the Playback of the Footage from RAM in Real-Time.

Let’s look at an example:

On a 25FPS Project, this would mean you have “5GB per second possible RAM speed / 25 Frames” = 200MB per Frame.

Your RAM is able to play back Footage at 25FPS when a single Frame is under 200MByte. Now I don’t know about your Footage, but my Footage (except maybe some EXRs in 8k) doesn’t usually reach this size. Far from it.

Doubling the Bandwidth will do nothing for you except give you even more bandwidth headroom.

The maximum number of Frames per Second you will ever need, to play back your Timeline in Realtime, is your Source Framerate. 25, 30, 60 FPS.

One thing you should keep in mind though is the possibility to upgrade your components in the future:

Future Proof

What if you want to 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:

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 with the desired amount of Gigabytes.

Custom PC-Builder Tool

Ready to get more RAM or new Hardware for your Computer? Head on over to the CGDirector Custom PC-Builder Tool that lets you configure your Computer at custom price points for all kinds of purposes.

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How much RAM do you need for your Video Editing Projects?

Alex from CGDirector - post author

Hi, I'm Alex, a Freelance 3D Generalist, Motion Designer and Compositor.

I've built a multitude of Computers, Workstations and Renderfarms and love to optimize them as much as possible.

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

91
Comments

Josh

Hi Alex, I have an MSI X370 / Ryzen 1700x and 2x16Gb Ripjaws V 2400. AE could perform faster so I want to upgrade RAM. I can either spend $144 on 2 more 16s at 2400 or spend $350 on 4×16 3200s. Is the jump from 2400 to 3200 worth it? The 2400s are 15-15-15-38 which I’ve read is good, but RAM is so baffling to me.

Mucan Akpan

Is GPU rendering faster than cpu rendering

Mucan

Hi Alex’
Does having faster ram matter when dealing with 3d rendering and animation.
would a 3000mhz have noticeable performance over a 2400mhz?

Mark

What about A3 600 dpi.
Old mags and film reels with newspapers.
And some video making nothing too intense.

Ive got win 7, 8 MB, 64 bit 650 GB (half used)
Windows live photo runs out of memory and tells me to downsize

Thinking about a new laptop with 16 GB, current is a fairly used Toshiba L750 and thinking should I go to Win 10 till it eventually needs replacing or I do need a new laptop

Any thoughts

adriana

Hi Alex!
I am new to motion graphics and just started a class online. I am finding more and more that in After Effects, the playback becomes impossible (w the time line freezing, slowing, audio unable to playback correctly). The thing is, I just bought a new iMac that required financing hahah so I really don’t think/hope its a hardware issue… but since its an iMac I also can’t change out the RAM? Currently the specs are:
3.6GHz 8-core 9th-generation Intel Core i9 processor, Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
32GB 2666MHz DDR4 memory
Radeon Pro Vega 48 with 8GB of HBM2 memory
1TB SSD storage
I have tried amping up the RAM used by AE in Preferences, clearing the cache, and all that I could muster through tutorials at the moment, but the playback is forever giving me headaches. I don’t have much else on this computer, as its about 3 weeks now that I’ve had it… Do you think its a RAM issue?

Kaarlo

Hey Alex!

I’ve really enjoyed reading about all the different build possibilities for different use cases here, and I commend you for answering so many questions!

I’ve been working with a decent desktop build for 3 years now, graduating from simple 1080p projects in Premiere Pro to complex 4K edits and grades in DaVinci Resolve / After Effects. It seems like a time for an upgrade and I want to be future proof for another 3-5 years. I also game occasionally on a 1440p 144Hz monitor.

I was thinking of going for:
AMD 2950X
Some X399 mobo with 8 DIMMs
2080Ti 11Gb
64Gb of DDR4 3200Mhz
2Tb of m.2 SSD and some extra HDD storage

My thinking is that DaVinci Resolve is better at utilizing multiple cores than Premiere so I’ll want a 16 core CPU. Do you think this is so?

Do I need 64Gb of RAM?

I’m not in a hurry. Would you wait for the next gen AMD processors now? The 3000 series is supposed to come out soon.

All in all I just want a beefy system to carry me into the next decade of media work.

Nick

Hi Alex

I have a core 15 8400 with 16 gig ram ans gtx 1050

Im running resove and its crap right now, feezes, shuts down, screen flashing when I do any layering or greenscreen. (Is this normal? )

Is core i5 no good?

If I put in 32 gigs ram or 64 gigs with RTX 2060 and swap the OS over to SSD will this help. Will I be able to use fusion?

Thanks its all so damn confusing everyone has a dif. Opinion.

Julian

Hello Alex
I want a Pc for Video Editing and Gaming with the budged from 2500€

Right now i have an

Intel core i9 9900k

Msi RTX 2080ti gaming trio

And 2x8gb of 3200mHz G.skill Tridan Z RAM

My question is, do you think i will be fine if i upgrade later another 16gb kit of the ram i have already in?

Do you think all in all 32gb are enough? Because if i would add a 2x16gb RAM kit it would be more expensive and would go over my budged.

Thanks

Edo

Hi Alex,

Thanks for your amazing website. It was very very helpful to me in many ways. Here is a quick one – what is more important – a stronger CPU or double the RAM for video editing?
I’m building a computer out of leftovers I got from here and there… If you were to decide between the below, what will you select?

• CPU: AMD FX 8350 (8 Cores, 8 Threads @4.0GHz)
• RAM: 16GB (G.Skill, 1600)
• Motherboard: GIGABYTE 990XA-UD3 (ver 3.0)

Or:

• CPU: Intel i7-2600 (4 Cores, 8 Threads @3.4GHz)
• RAM: 32GB (same G.Skill as above, but double the amount)
• Motherboard: Asus P8Z68-V Pro/Gen3

I’m doing mainly video editing (FHD in Premiere Pro CC, but thinking of 4K) and not too much of After Effects. The computer will not be used for ANYTHING else but video editing (not even connected to the internet).

Thanks!

Edo

Nana

hey alex,thank you for this article^^
i’m trying to find a laptop to edit on after effects and i’m thinking to buy lenovo thinkpad x230 ( if you can,please suggest me any low budgets laptop hehe^^) , does 4gb ram just enough or do i need 8gb ram?oh, and the edit will be basic edits like transitions , velocity and all that stuff.so yeah
thank you^^