Real-Time 4K Raw Video Editing and Color Grading on the HP Z640 18-Core Custom Built Workstation

Custom built PCs seem to be a viable solution for a myriad of creative professionals and enthusiasts alike working on a budget these days. But what about getting a dedicated video editing system built by professionals? Tom Antos had a chance to play around with the HP Z640 Custom 4K 18-Core video editing computer that was sent to him for testing lately by fellows from ZWorkstations – a company that customizes HP Z computer configurations for video, photo, and audio professionals. In the video below we’ll see how well this particular system handles editing and color grading 4K Raw footage in real-time as well as rendering those files afterward. A spoiler alert – some of the results may surprise you.

Speaking frankly, for $4,000 this configuration seems like overkill. You can currently build a similar system for almost half the price that would perform more or less in the same way or at least when it comes to video editing. Sure, it won’t offer the same horsepower and efficiency, but will indeed be a competitive alternative.

Meanwhile, the HP Z640 system can handle 4.6K Raw DNG files from the URSA Mini flawlessly but only if you edit them natively in DaVinci Resolve 12.5. Unfortunately, the latest Premiere Pro CC struggles to playback those huge files at full resolution. Moreover, it wasn’t able to cope with them even at 1/8 of the size. Apparently, the Adobe NLE isn’t fully optimized for handling RAW data (or at least not like DaVinci Resolve) even when utilizing such a powerful hardware.

For some reason, we can see that it maxes out the CPU of the system instead of the GPU, unlike DaVinci Resolve that in reality does the opposite. So, it seems that even if you spend thousands of dollars on a top-of-the-line video editing PC with Intel Xeon 18 core or more, odds are you still won’t be able to play back seamlessly 4K Raw footage in Premiere Pro CC if that is your primary goal – or at least not before Adobe addresses the issue and optimizes the software to handle those files.

As for the HP Z640 Custom 4K 18-Core video editing computer showcased in the Tom Antos’ video above, here are the main hardware components the system comes equipped with:

  • 18-Core 2.3GHz Intel Xeon Haswell E5-2696 v3 [18-cores / 36-threads]
  • 64GB (1x 64GB) of 2133MHz DDR4 ECC Registered RAM
  • 500GB PCIe Flash Storage (~1500MB/s)
  • GTX Titan X 12GB (Pascal) GPU
  • Windows 10 Professional 64-bit

You can also check out the custom built workstation US-based filmmaker has put together recently alongside its performance compared to this machine. All in all, if you don’t have the time to spend on building such a system on your own, you can contact the team of ZWorkstations who will offer you their professional expertise and opinion on building a similar workstation. Overall, their prices seem to be highly competitive and the option to get a custom built machine that sports quality, high-performing components tailored to your specific needs is certainly another great opportunity worth considering.

[source: Tom Antos]

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  • Legion1183

    Did someone forget to enable GPU acceleration in Premiere Pro…?

    • Vlady Radev

      Nope. The Mercury Playback Engine GPU Acceleration seems to be enabled. You can clearly see this in the video at 15:40.

      • Legion1183

        Oh ok, my bad, was away from WiFi on my phone so didn’t watch the video. But if that’s the case I wonder why it was maxxing out the CPU and not the GPU which is what it should be doing with Mercury enabled. A bug perhaps?

        In any case it’s a pretty sweet build with some insane specs!

  • Mr T

    4k editing in Premiere definitely seems to be going backwards in terms of performance. Going back several versions on slower hardware, I could edit GH4 4k files without a single dropped frame. Now I can’t even playback in Premiere without going the proxy route. Very bad indeed!

  • Austin Bridge

    Well #1 the build is $5,725 not $4,000.. so that’s wrong.
    #2 This isn’t really overkill for a 4k video editing workflow.
    You’re not going to get the same efficiency or performance. And most definitely not at “half the price”.. Please send me a link proving that, and I’ll sit down.

    I think it’s hilarious that you claim you can build “…a similar system for almost half the price that would perform more or less in the same way…” then your very next thought you claim the opposite “..it won’t offer the same horsepower and efficiency…”

    At the professional level $5-6k for a workstation is a very affordable price especially with quite literally the highest performing equipment on the market.