How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing

CG Director Author Alex  by Alex   ⋮   ⋮   111 comments
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How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing

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.

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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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PC-Builder Facebook Title Image

 

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!

111
Comments

Dirk

Would 16gb ddr4 be okay for an hour-long video? Or chopped up into three parts and then put together? It’s 1080p footage with a i5-7400 and gtx 1060 3gb.

Dirk

1920/822 24 fps
Most of the editing programs as you can think of.
Almost empty 250 gb ssd with only editing things on it.
As more info.

Hey Dirk,

Thanks for asking!

Based on the information you shared, I think 16GB of DDR4 RAM will suffice when editing an hour-long video. As long as you don’t have a lot of background programs open, 16GB should do just fine. Chopping the video into three parts and then putting it back together is also on option but there will not be much difference on that as you’re still working with the same amount of RAM and the space specs in your workstation.

Cheers,
Alex

Ana

Hi Alex,
First off, great article!
I need some help though. I need a new laptop and I usually use Photoshop, Illustrator and Lightroom, Premiere not that much, only simple videos. So, as I have a small budget to work with, do you think a Asus vivobook s15 with an intel i7-8565U, 12 gb ram, 512 GB SSD and NVIDIA GeForce MX250 2 GB good enough?
Or is hp envy x360 with an intel core i7-8550U, 16 gb ram, 256 gb ssd and NVIDIA GeForce MX150 4GB better? I’ve heard some bad things about hp so i’m not sure.
Thank you, hope you can help me

Hey Ana,

Thanks for asking and I’m glad you liked the article!

Both the Asus Vivobook S15 and the HP Envy x360 are good options for your use case. Not only that, both laptops have almost similar specs. The deciding factor here will be the price of each. On paper, I’m leaning more towards the HP Envy x360 because it has more RAM and the extra 4GB could help when you’re working on larger projects and complex scenes.

For me to make an informed decision, please let me know how much these laptops are. Also, please let me know how much you’re willing to spend as we might be able to find something better for you that’s within your budget.

Alternatively, you can check out the site’s PC Builder Tool at https://www.cgdirector.com/pc-builder/. Indicate your budget and choose the most appropriate use case and the tool will give the best laptop/desktop parts recommendations based on your choices.

Cheers,
Alex

Ana

The asus is around 1000€ and the hp is 1300€, so is the extra 300€ worth it?
All of the Pc Builder Tool suggestions are gaming laptops, and I know they are the best option but i’m not very fond of the design in them.
Thank you so much.

Hi Ana,

If the Asus Vivobook S15 is just around €1,000, I think it would be best if you go for that laptop. Paying €300 more for the HP Envy x360 for the extra 4GB of RAM is just not worth it, not to mention that the HP only has half the storage the Vivobook has.

Before you go and pull the trigger on the Asus Vivobook S15, check if there is an option to increase its RAM to at least 16GB. As you know, 16GB is the baseline nowadays but if such option isn’t available, 12GB of the Asus Vivobook S15 will still be enough.

Cheers,
Alex

Ana

Thank you so much, I will check that out!

Sam

Hi alex

Very good and detailed article.
I got a laptop with 32gb ram and 3rd gen i7 with 256gb ssd and it supports upgradable mxm type gpu, now it has an old k4000m.
Which mxm gpu card do yo recommend for upgrading for 4k video editing?
980m 8gb
1060 6gb
1070 8gb
Or should i wait to mxm types of 2060 and 2070 be available?

Hey Sam,

Thanks for dropping a line and thank you for the kind words!

Video editing is more of a CPU-bound task but a decent graphics card can contribute in some cases and make it faster. However, there is no point in getting a very expensive GPU for video editing since a mid-range model would be sufficient even for 4K video editing. That said, if you need to upgrade your laptop’s GPU now, a 1060 or a 1070 will do. However, if you want to wait for the MXM types of the 2060 and the 2070 to hit the market and make your upgrade morfuture-proof, that can also be an option.

Cheers,
Alex

Ben Carpenter

Hi Alex,

I have windows 10, with an i9-9900k, geforce rtx 2080 ti, and 32gb ram. the os and adobe is on a 1 tb ssd and my project files are on `my portable hdd. I just recently installed the cuda toolkit and it seems to be running correctly but have noticed no performance increase. Also memory is set to performance with 25gb allocated to premiere, and project settings renderer is set to cuda. Playback is set to 1/4.

I’ve been trying to edit with chopping up about an hours worth of 4k b-roll footage over top of my 1080p footage and have been getting massive slow down. If I scrub on the timeline, it takes about 10 seconds or more just to find it’s place and playback is super choppy.

I opened task manager as I played around in premiere. RAM usage varies from 6-8gb and overall 36%-50% usage (with other things open). When I scrub, the cpu jumps to 100% for about 10 seconds while it tries to find it’s place. Also during playback, as soon as it reaches the 4k footage cpu jumps to 100% but RAM never goes much past 50% and it starts choppin.

I was thinking of upping my RAM based on what you said about playback caching but if I’m not going over 50% will it make a difference? Also would you think that cuda should be making any sort of difference? Since installing it, I haven’t noticed any performance increases in playback at all and apparently you have to be a programmer to make any sense of the troubleshooting guides. I started this project on my crappy old laptop and it wasn’t much more choppy than this, except that it crashed a lot. I was just expecting no probs at all after putting it on a machine a billion times more powerfu lol.

Thanks for the article, I’m open to any additional tips. I might just have to switch out my 4k footage with 1080p at this point,

Jonathan

Hey Alex,

Thanks for all the information presented here!

I have a question regarding longevity. I purchased the following 16″ MacBook Pro recently due to a “free” upgrade from Apple due to issues with an older MacBook. Wondering if it should be enough for my needs, or if I should return it for an upgraded model.

2.4GHz 8-core ninth‑generation Intel Core i9 processor with Turbo Boost up to 5.0GHz
32GB of 2666MHz DDR4 memory
AMD Radeon Pro 5500M with 8GB of GDDR6 memory
1TB of SSD storage

Usage:

* Working mainly with BMPCC4K files using DaVinci but not much work with Fusion, timelines probably < 15-20 minutes. May end up with a 6K next year, but unlikely.
* Heavy work in Photoshop storyboarding 100+ 3MB images using dartboards
* Lots of Capture One work on location with 1,000's of images (former 512gb; 16GB ram was nearly at the limit often with storyboards open), with multiple backups going

1. I'm torn if 32GB RAM is more than enough, or if 64GB might be a step up (or useless for me?)
2. If 1TB is fine for small 4K video projects, assuming a clean computer per project.

Hey Jonathan,

Thanks for asking!

Your 16-inch MacBook Pro’s configuration should be enough for your use case for now. However, the 32GB RAM may not be enough as you work with more complex scenes and bigger projects. RAM is something you can never have enough of and when it comes to RAM, I always go by the maxim that “It’s better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.”

In terms of storage, I think 1TB should be fine for small 4K video projects, but if you plan on returning your MacBook Pro for an upgraded model and you have the means for it, you might as well go all in and go with 64GB of RAM and increase the storage to 2TB for that matter.

Cheers,
Alex

Loik

Hi Alex !

I’m building a super budget build for 4K editing in Resolve (10 bit pro res and 12 bit braw footage, will probably use proxy).

What I have for now:

i5 7500K
GTX 1050ti
24gb ram (1x 8gb crucial 2400, 1x 16gb crucial 2400)

Would have an internal 1TB 7200rpm drive and edit on an external samsung t5 2tb.

Do you think it’s good enough ?

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