In a nutshell
- To edit in 8K, you’ll need a robust CPU, GPU and at least 32 GB RAM, with top options like Intel Core i9 and Nvidia RTX series.
- Cooling systems and SSDs are critical, and hardware accelerator cards can offer extra support.
- Total costs range from $1,500 to $3,000, but prebuilt options like the Apple Mac Mini are available as an alternative.
8K video is here. With today’s 8K cameras from RED, Canon, Ikegami, Sony and others, as well as 8K TVs, it makes sense that many video content producers and filmmakers are taking a serious look at filming, editing and finishing in 8K. But before they dive into making 8K video, they first need to answer this important question: What kind of system do you need to handle this massive amount of data?
Let’s look at what it takes to build a computer that can handle 8K video editing requirements and what parts will be needed to manage large video files and rendering.
The central processing unit (CPU)
First, we’ll start with the CPU, the brain of the computer, and arguably the most important part. Why is it the most important? The CPUs you use will heavily influence how fast your system will be at video editing and rendering.
One powerful CPU option for 9K editing is the Intel Core I7-12700K processor, which has 12 cores and 20 threads of performance. This will cost you around $300. Another more powerful CPU core is the Intel Core i9-12900K processor, which has 16 cores and 24 threads of performance. It’s just a few hundred dollars more than the I7. Both cores above can easily handle 4K, 6K and 8K but will need aftermarket cooling to keep running since neither comes with a cooler.
The graphics processing unit (GPU)
The GPU, or Graphics processing unit, needs to handle a lot of the heavy workload when editing and playing back 8K video. A quality GPU can help offload that work from the CPU, helping to smooth out playback, especially when adding effects and filters to the footage.
The newest NVIDIA RTX series and AMD Radeon graphics cards are designed to take on heavy tasks, such as editing and playback of 8K video. By offloading much of the work from the CPU to the GPU, playback of full-resolution 8K video can be obtained without any dropped frames or, at the very least, very little. The right combination of hardware and software is key, so check for drivers and firmware updates.
A budget-friendly option for a cooler is the Noctua NH-U9, which costs around $50. The NH-U9 is capable of getting the job done for an economical price, but if you are willing to spend a few more bucks, the Noctua NH-D15 is regarded as the industry standard and will cost closer to $100. If you want an alternative option to fan cooling, you can water-cool your computer with the Z Kraken X 63, which will fit most computer cases.
The next piece of hardware needed is the motherboard. As the name suggests, this will interface all the important components needed to build your 8K editing system. The motherboard will connect your CPU, RAM and graphics card and make them all work together. The MSI Pro Z690-A is a great option at $240 and comes with some great features, like Wi-Fi capabilities, so you don’t need to purchase an external USB Wi-Fi adapter. This motherboard supports DDR4 memory, which is fast, but there is also another option for even faster editing and rendering capability, which is DDR5 memory.
DDR5 memory is only compatible with a motherboard that’s made for DDR5 memory, like an MSI Pro Z690; just make sure it doesn’t say DDR4 to ensure it’s the DDR5 version.
For RAM options, you will at least need to purchase 32 GB of memory at 3,200 megahertz. At 32 GB of RAM, you can edit 4K, 6K and 8K, but depending on how big your projects are, you may need more than this for high-resolution footage.
Choosing the right RAM
To give yourself some headroom when editing 8K footage, a much safer option would be to purchase 64 GB Corsair Vengeance with LPX RAM and 3200 megahertz, which will cost you around $300. One important note regarding RAM: If you go with the DDR5 motherboard, you need to purchase DDR5-compatible RAM. In this case, going with the Corsair Vengeance 32 GB RAM will do the job and is much faster, but it costs $315. Upgrading to 64 GB of DDR5 RAM is also an option but will cost you double the price, around $600 plus.
So, when considering your motherboard and RAM options, the biggest decision you will face is whether you want to use DDR4 or DDR5. The pros and cons are pretty simple: DDR4 RAM is cheaper and can get the job done, but maybe not quite as fast as DDR5. DDR5 RAM is much faster but also double the price of DDR4. In conclusion, DDR5 RAM will allow for more seamless 8K edit and rendering capabilities. If you are working on an 8K feature film or series, you might want to consider the DDR5 option to handle the video demands for your computer.
Hardware accelerator cards can help take on even more of a workload from the CPU and GPU. The AJA KONA 5 card and the new Apple Afterburner card can significantly help ease the burden of 8K editing and playback.
The Afterburner will take on as much of the work as needed to process 8K video, up to three streams of ProRes RAW 8K and 12 streams of ProRes RAW 4K. Some editors have reported their CPU and GPU usage dropped considerably when the Afterburner card kicked in and took over processing the 8K footage.
Storage solutions: solid state drive (SSD)
Next, you have the Solid State Drive (SSD), which is responsible for storing the operating system and programs you want to use with your computer. The Sabrent 1TB Rocket internal SSD is a great option at $130. If you want a faster, more powerful SSD, check out the Western Digital Black SN 850, a super-fast SSD costing $170.
Something to keep in mind for an optimal 8K editing experience is to make sure your internal SSD is used only for operating your programs, while another external SSD should be used to store your video files. The video files will consume the most storage on the SSD; you want to keep them separate so the video editing software program can operate at optimal speed.
Graphics cards options
Graphics cards were in very high demand during the pandemic because many people stayed home and wanted to play video games. Because of the supply shortage during that time, many graphics cards were being resold for double or triple the price on eBay. While the scalping situation has improved, one surefire way to ensure you get a decent graphics card at a reasonable price is to purchase a prebuilt computer. Of course, if you are purchasing external parts to build your own 8K editing machine, here are some budget-friendly recommendations. Try purchasing a graphics card from reputable brands like Asus, MSI, EVGA, Gigabyte, Zotac or PNY. Some specific graphics card recommendations include the Nvidia RTX 3060 TI, RTX 3070 or the RTX 3070 TI, and range from $400 to $600. These all perform well for video editing.
High-end graphics card options
If you have a bigger budget and want more power, then try the Nvidia 3080, 3090 TI, RTX 3090, RX 6800XT or RX 6900XT. These cards will cost you $650 or more. Finding a card in stock might be challenging, so try online retailers like Amazon, B&H or Newegg. But also check physical locations like Best Buy. There is a good chance these locations will have the graphics cards you’re looking for.
Choosing the right PC Case
To complete your superpowered 8K editing computer, you will need housing for all the components mentioned above. A PC case from Corsair will do the job. Try the 4000D airflow case, which offers great airflow for around $100. If you need a case with a CD-DVD or Blu-Ray burner, try the Corsair 450D for $130.
Housing and power supply
To complete your 8K editing computer, you will need housing for all the components mentioned above. A PC case from Corsair will do the job; try the 4000D airflow case, which offers great airflow for around $100. If you need a case with a CD-DVD or Blu-Ray burner, try the Corsair 450D for $130. Lastly, you are going to need a power supply for the computer and to power the graphics cards. The EVGA SuperNOVA 850-watt G5 is fully modular and costs around $110.
What it will cost you and alternatives
Depending on the components you select, this PC video editing build will cost you somewhere between $1,500 and $3,000. Of course, you will need to plan for accessories, including important components like a monitor, keyboard, mouse and speakers, as well as software for your PC’s operating system. One other viable option if you want to avoid building out your PC is to purchase a prebuilt computer like an Apple Mac Mini, which has the M1 chip. A Mac Mini with an M1 chip and 32 GB of RAM will cost you around the same price: $1,000+. MacBook Pro laptops with M1 Mac chips are very capable of high-resolution video editing as well, and a customizable iMac Pro desktop is another option for 8K video editing.
Contributing writers to this article include Landon Dyksterhouse and Heath McKnight.