How to choose a graphics card for a Video Editing PC

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How To Guide

CPU vs GPU in video editing

The processor on a high-performance graphics card is called the GPU. Its design is fundamentally different to the kind of processor used to run a computers central functions known as your CPU. In a regular CPU, there are relatively few processor cores, usually between 4 and 16, with each processor core operating at a high clock frequency. In a graphics card, the GPU will have a very high core count, often as high as 3500 or more cores but each core operates at a far lower clock frequency. It is these large number of cores that is significant about choosing a graphics card for a video editing PC.

Does Adobe Premiere Pro utilise a graphics card?

Adobe Premiere Pro uses GPU acceleration for many of its more complex and compute-intensive tasks; this is the most efficient way to handle such functions because most image/video processing tasks can easily be broken down. The CPU has the role of marshalling these jobs to the GPU and deciphering the output. Think of it like this, if you wanted to load a removals van with the contents of a house as quickly as possible, would you rather have the “worlds strongest man” (CPU) or a team of 100 ordinary people (GPU)? Adobe Premiere Pro video editing software would have the job broken down by the group of 100 to get it done quicker.

 

It’s essential to maintain a balance between GPU and CPU performance as a bottleneck can occur if one is more powerful than the other. If you over specify the CPU, then not all of its power will be used, as the GPU will be working at maximum and won’t be able to pass enough work to the CPU. Careful system design regarding the CPU / GPU balance will reward with the best price/performance system.

Adobe Premiere pro

Turn raw footage into flawless productions with Premiere Pro CC, the industry-leading video editing software. Whether you’re just starting out or a seasoned pro, you can edit, adjust colour, refine audio and more — all in one seamless, integrated workflow.

4K Video Editing

A system must have certain pre-requisites for efficient 4K video editing.  It should have a minimum of 32GB of memory.  Any less than this will cause a big drop in system performance.  The system should have a high performance CPU.  At the time of writing (April 2022) the Intel 12th generation processors are best for video editing.  For 4K we suggest the i7-12700K or i9-12900K.

 

A high performance graphics card is also required for good results when editing 4k footage.  Its a good idea to have a card with a high amount of video memory.  While 4GB of VRAM is plenty for editing 1080p footage, it is best to choose a GPU with at least 6GB of VRAM for 4K footage and our ideal would be at least 8GB.  Our current favourite is the RTX 3060 as it has 12GB of VRAM and the performance is good.  12GB of VRAM would be good for editing 8K footage!

4K Video Editing with layers

As complexity increases, more memory is beneficial.  This is true of both the PC system memory and the GPU VRAM memory.  While you can get away with editing 4K with a 6GB VRAM graphics card, more complex layered 4K would benefit from 8GB and if possible a higher specification GPU such as the RTX 3070.  Couple this with 64GB of system memory if possible.

8K Video Editing

Use of multiple GPU in a high-performance video editing system will increase performance in Premiere Pro but it doesn’t scale well.  Usually more performance can be gained from install just one top of the range GPU rather than two lesser specification GPUs of the same value.

Which graphics cards does Adobe Premiere support?

For Adobe Premiere Pro to be able to make use of the graphics card, it must support either Cuda or OpenCL. Nvidia cards support Cuda, and AMD cards support OpenCL. Cuda comes out as the clear winner in straight up performance tests with a variety of codecs. We would recommend users choose a Nvidia based GPU.

Can I mix and match graphics cards in a video editing PC?

Any graphics card will help improve performance. Ideally, if you install more than one GPU in your PC, you should try to keep to the same model, but system performance can be boosted even with different cards as long as they are both using the same vendor’s chipset, i.e. both Nvidia running Cuda.

Does VRAM matter to video editing?

Aim to use graphics cards with high quantities of onboard video memory (VRAM). If your GPU has insufficient video memory, then your PC will be forced to use the computers CPU to process even when you have switched on GPU acceleration, this can happen partway through a job. For this reason, we recommend cards with a minimum of 6GB but ideally aim for 8GB or higher.

Do graphics cards for video editing need linking via an SLI bridge?

Systems utilising more than one graphics card don’t need to have the cards linked with an SLI bridge. Don’t install more than two cards if you are using Nvidia GTX cards. Nvidia hasn’t designed the latest 10xx series GTX cards to be used in 3-way or 4-way configurations, and although some users have reported success, we have experienced system instability with these configurations.

NVIDIA Quadro professional graphics for video editing

For high-performance systems, consider using Nvidia Quadro cards. The cards are designed to be used as Cuda GPU, so the cards and drivers have been optimised along these lines. The cards are also equipped with far more substantial quantities of video memory and can be used in 3-way and 4-way configurations. Quadro cards also support 10-bit colour which can be beneficial for those working in studio quality settings. GTX cards only support 8-bit colour.

Our GPU / CPU recommendations for a balanced system

CPU Motherboard Chipset Minimum GPU Maximum GPU
Intel Core i5-9600k Intel Z370 GTX1070 / Quadro P4000 RTX2080 / Quadro RTX5000
AMD Ryzen 7 2700X AMD X470 RTX2070 / Quadro P5000 RTX2080Ti / Quadro RTX6000
Intel Core i7-9700K Intel Z390 RTX2070 / Quadro P5000 RTX2080Ti / Quadro RTX6000
Intel Core i9-9900K Intel Z390 RTX2080 / Quadro RTX5000 RTX2080Ti / Quadro RTX6000
Intel Core i9-9920X Intel X299 RTX2080Ti / Quadro RTX6000 2 x RTX2080 / 2 x Quadro RTX5000
Intel Core i9-9960X Intel X299 RTX2080Ti / Quadro RTX6000 2 x RTX2080Ti / 2 x Quadro RTX6000
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