OPTIMIZE YOUR PC
When I refer to “Computer” I am referring to a desktop computer. However, most
of the information here will apply to laptops as well. Weather you are using a PC
or Mac, there are some things that can be done to insure that you will have a
reliable system for day-in, day-out use. The first important step is to make sure
you have a separate, dedicated, hard drive for recording audio and video and
adequate memory (RAM).
A dedicated hard drive for recording
Nearly all audio/video software manufacturers recommend using a separate
drive for recording and editing. Using a dedicated record drive goes beyond
desirable…it’s absolutely essential!
Your boot drive, which contains your Operating System and installed software,
has plenty to do without the added burden of trying to record audio or video files.
Using your boot drive to record and playback media files is asking for disaster. If
the drive can’t keep up with the audio or video data rates while performing the
regular call-ups from the OS and editing software, the result will be dropped
frames. Frame drops will sound like ticks or snaps where the file was joined at
the missing frame(s). Partitioning your boot drive doesn’t change anything; the
drive will still be just as busy working with the operating system and software in
For recording and playing audio, the type of internal drive interface really doesn’t
matter. It can be IDE, SATA or SCSI, whichever is most convenient to connect to
the computer’s motherboard. SATA drives have the fastest data rates but any of
the interfaces are fast enough for audio production. If you are recording and
playing high definition video, then I would recommend using a SATA drive.
Laptop owners may need to use an external drive as very few laptops allow for
more than one internal drive. If you are thinking about using an external drive,
then select one that connects to your computer via an eSATA, Firewire, or USB
3.0 interface if at all possible. USB 2.0 or earlier would not be my first choice for
this application because of the way data is transmitted over a USB interface. It
can result in possible data loss.
RAM (Random Access Memory) is used by some editing software for buffering
the audio or video in use. Higher audio
and high track counts require plenty of available RAM to work seamlessly with
audio files. This is especially important for recording. A good rule of thumb for the
minimum amount of RAM needed is to find out the basic requirements of the
operating system and the audio/video software you are using, add them up, and
Even better is to install the maximum amount of RAM that the operating system
(or hardware) will recognize. It’s best to use the same brand and type for all of
the RAM in your computer to insure that the operating parameters are the same.
I would also recommend the use of a dedicated video card with, at least, 256MB
of on-board video RAM. Using the video processor that is installed on your
motherboard means sharing system RAM, and thus, less will be available for
recording and processing.
It is especially important to
be running your editing software while digitizing
audio or video. All other software should be closed down. The one exception to
this may be anti-virus software but, it depends on the brand. Some anti-virus
software is intrusive and can slow your system down.
If you are unsure about your anti-virus software, disable it while working (and
don’t connect to the Internet!).
Make sure that the only task at hand is the digitization process. Your computer
should be doing nothing else while you are ingesting audio or video and
manipulating the files in any manner. This includes routine file saves “save as”,
editing, or rendering. Having your computer do multi-tasking operations while
ingesting or manipulating audio or video files is asking for dropped frames and
the resulting snaps that occur. Dropped frames with video files simply look like a
bad splice or “a jump cut.” If there is audio associated with the video file, there
will be the obvious audible snap.
© Corey Bailey Audio Engineering
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