Building My (Almost) Dream Editing Machine

Long story short, I’m impatient. I don’t like it when I have to wait a long time for my computer to do things. That’s why I set out to build a computer this past December. In this post, I’ll share:

  • What my goals in building this computer were.
  • How I selected the parts I used.
  • What parts I actually ended up using.
  • A few snags I ran into during the actual building process.

The Goals

I had three goals in mind while building this computer:

  1. To be able to edit (and export) video pretty quickly using Adobe Premiere Pro CS6
  2. Be able to play current video games at high graphics settings in 1080p
  3. To not have to buy Adobe CS6 again.

That third one was what created the biggest problem: I owned CS6 for Mac. That meant one thing: I needed to build a Hackintosh.

Goals 1 and 2 work pretty well together: the venn diagram of things that make a good video editing machine and a good gaming rig has a pretty good cross section. That meant the starting point was to start with the hardest part (Hackintosh), and then get the others to work within the restraints presented by Hackintoshing.

One more thing: my goal was to stay right around the $1000 mark. The good news: I was buying the parts in November, which has some of the steepest discounts on computer parts all year.

Selecting the Parts

Knowing that I’d have to work within the constraints of building a Hackintosh, I set out to find parts that work best with that. One of the most trusted and comprehensive sources of information on Hackintoshing is TonyMacX86. The best part is that they publish guides to the most compatible parts every month. The great thing is that Hackintoshing has come a long way and there’s a wide variety of parts you can use. That would be enough, except that those same parts are the best ones for video editing!

Long story short, I just selected the best parts within my budget limitations from the Tonymac list.

The Actual Parts

I used PC Part Picker to price out and plan the parts.

  • CPU: Intel Core i7-4770K 3.5GHz Quad-Core Processor
  • Motherboard: Gigabyte GA-Z87X-D3H ATX LGA1150 Motherboard
  • Memory: Crucial Ballistix Sport 16GB (2 x 8GB) DDR3-1600 Memory
  • Storage: Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk
  • Storage: Kingston HyperX 3K 120GB 2.5″ Solid State Disk
  • Storage: Seagate Barracuda 1TB 3.5″ 7200RPM Internal Hard Drive
  • Video Card: Gigabyte GeForce GTX 660 2GB Video Card
  • Wireless Network Adapter: TP-Link TL-WDN4800 802.11a/b/g/n PCI-Express x1 Wi-Fi Adapter
  • Case: Corsair 500R Black ATX Mid Tower Case
  • Power Supply: Thermaltake Tough Power 750W 80+ Gold Certified ATX Power Supply
  • OSes: OS X Mavericks & Windows 8.1

The Snags

This was my first time building a computer, and it was a little scary. I was going very slowly when building it because I was so afraid of messing up. The number one thing I’d recommend to people building a computer for the first time is to prepare. Watch tutorials online. Read the manuals (seriously, they are necessary). Preparation is going to make your life much, much easier.

A Collection of Dark Premises

Image from Ready.gov

Image from Ready.gov

It’s time for an update on the short film I’m working on. I figure it’s time to share the premise.

“A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.”

I’ll elaborate a little.

Tim’s a college student who just wants to be left alone. He doesn’t really have a good reason to hate his roommates; he just really hates living with them. He’d rather be on his own. He doesn’t want to talk to them. I imagine in the kitchen he probably has a cabinet that the others aren’t even allowed to open up.

This post isn’t about that though. This is about the inspiration for the other part of that.

When I was 12, my family moved to Southeast Washington. Part of the TV market in that area was Umatilla, OR. Once in a while, there would be a little PSA on the local channels about what they should do in case of emergency. You see, Umatilla was home to one of the US’s stockpiles of chemical agents. There was a plan to incinerate them, but until that was completed just a few years ago, there was some serious danger.

If there was an incident, they would have had to shelter in place (quickly, I might add) and seal off the outside air coming in. So that was the inspiration for the premise. In fact, the characters largely follow the instructions given on Ready.gov for sheltering in place (though in reality they probably would have evacuated; sheltering in place like that is only good for a couple of hours).

Now I’m at college in Rexburg, Idaho. And wouldn’t you know it, I’m close to another place. Idaho National Laboratory in nearby Idaho Falls doesn’t pose the same kinds of danger (they mainly focus on energy research), but they’ve had incidents too. In fact, they were the site of a fatal nuclear accident in 1961 (the ones killed were personnel working on the reactor).

So put my college experience and the chemical accident premise together and you get this story!

Starting is the Hardest Part

blank-page

That image above is a good summary of the hardest part of making a short film (which is just one of the things I’m doing in the next few months). Seeing a blinking cursor on screen is just so intimidating. Even though my ideas are always brewing in my head for a while before I actually start typing things out, that doesn’t make it much easier.

The weird thing is that once I start, things open up. The words just start flowing out of my fingertips when I actually start typing. But it takes a massive amount of effort to just get those first words onto the page. I’ve started though. I’ve got the draft of my short film’s script written, though there’s some stuff I’m not happy with yet about it.

Until I get it refined a little more, I’ll just leave the logline here:

A student who hates his roommates must spend 6 hours trapped in a room with them during an emergency.

Building and Fixing: Working on PCs

Some people build computers. Other people fix them. We all use them.

I recently built my first computer and was inspired to share my experience and also see what it’s like to fix a laptop. I visited with Michael of The PC Penguin and watched as he fixed a broken power port on a laptop, and we talked about what it takes to keep up with the changing computer repair industry. In this short documentary, I also share a brief overview of what I went through to build my first computer. Looking back, I make it sound a little scarier than it was, but it’s really not that hard. If you’re interested, you should give it a shot sometime!

My original idea for this documentary fell through, so I only had about a week and a half to put this one together. I had just finished building my first computer a day or two before and it was such a great experience that I decided to make that the subject of this documentary! I emailed Michael and he was perfectly willing to participate and it was really interesting watching him work. I wish I had known I would be doing this before I built my computer so I could have recorded myself as I put it together. Instead, I had to go back after the fact and recreate a couple of shots. Also, since the inside of my case is painted black, it’s really hard to get good shots in there, but I did my best.

Michael Fixing a Laptop's Power Port

Title Screen

Getting Started HTML

Time for a senior project! I’m synthesizing all my interests together by creating “Getting Started HTML,” a guide to learning the very basics of HTML and CSS for people who aren’t even aware what HTML or CSS are.

This arises out of my campus job from the last several semesters. I tutor for a class called “Creating Online Media,” which is a class to teach HTML and CSS to communication majors. These are people who are more familiar with Photoshop than a text editor. HTML may seem relatively simple to those of us with a background in technology, but it’s extremely hard to get into the correct mindset when you have never had to use anything but WYSIWYG tools. HTML and CSS are pretty abstract ways to create things: you’re turning text into design.

Basically, I want to make these things easier to understand. That will not be an easy task, but you can help if you want. I’ll be building text and video content over the next two months. I would love feedback along the way. Particularly, the written content is available online as I write it. So get in there and give me feedback!

Black Friday Photography Deals 2012

It’s almost Black Friday (which has kind of spilled over onto Thanksgiving night now), and that means there are tons of great deals out there on cameras and accessories! Here’s a breakdown of (mostly) in-store deals from various national retailers on photography gear. I’ve divided it into individual products and categories rather than by store, because many retailers have the same things on sale.

This information is based on the in-store deal circulars. Some of these deals may be available online, but most aren’t. You’ll have to do your own research on that. All information is provided as-is. I may have made mistakes. Some of these might not even be very good deals; I simply didn’t check to compare against normal prices. (more…)