The main factors in Render/Export time are:
2.) CPU speed
3.) Export settings
Each can contribute to an increase in time.
I assume with a username like that you have an engineering background - good start.
IMO I should consider waiting for Windows SP1 before embarking on Release Candidate products from Windows - you should know better
I know you might think there are cool bonus points to say you are running Windows 7, but what's the point if you run into issues with OE software. You might love it, but you have issues - yes? Okay my little rant over.
But the principal question is what is your target media? What is your final cut aimed at? What is it you are trying to achieve? You have already told us what is not working, perhaps you could tell us what you're trying to achieve, without telling us how Windows RC is bleeding edge, and bleeding all over your desktop. I seem to think that the recommended OS for Pr CS4 is Windows XP SP2/3 etc and Vista SP1 32 & 64 bit certified.
You have to decide whether you have a system issue (including the use of Win 7) or whether you have a media issue. Does this sound rational? So don't first assume you have a PR CS4 problem as it's possible PR CS4 doesn't like the burning wall of death with the dare-devil acrobatic stunt formation team riding pillion on a 100cc Honda mo-ped.
OK, well... where to start...
First, as to Windows 7, I appreciate your admonishment, but I have had no problems yet that I attribute to the OS. The main reason I switched to W7 is not for bonus points, but because Explorer will natively show thumbnails of the AVCHD files from my cameras. Vista would not do that. I am sure you'd agree that this is an important and very helpful feature. No other add-in program for Vista have I found would do that for me. It may be out there, but we haven't crossed paths yet.
Secondly, I have had no other problem encoding video before this particular one. Most of the videos I produce are for our company website (http://www.topographic.com) to be viewed as a FLV or F4V file, and there have been no problems with that. I did create a video that was over 1-1/2 hours long that was written to DVD, but that took, without surprise, over 4 hours to complete, including the transcoding and DVD writing in Encore. (This one that was giving me problems is only 1-1/2 minutes in length, and is not being written to a DVD.)
This particular video I tried first in F4V, but when it seemed to be drawing out so long, I canceled and restarted it as an AVI. And that one went on for well over an hour before it finished. The main thing that is different from this video, as I explained in my original post, is that the raw video was 17 minutes long, sped up by PPro x10 for fast action (you can see it here: http://www.topographic.com/video/booth_setup.html - I am the guy in the dark blue shirt).
As a comparison, I exported another video that is not yet completed, just as a test. That video is 44 seconds long and it took only 5 minutes to encode. All things being equal, this video would have taken at least 30 minutes to encode if conditions were the same as the video I was having trouble with. I have to believe that the problem would be the compressed timeline for speeding up the action.
As further comparison, I created a test video with the raw clips for the troublesome video and exported it to an AVI file. It was a 17-minute video which took 31 minutes to encode. This seems to be consistent with my previous test.
In all other aspects I have had no serious problems with my videos and PPro CS4. A few little niggling problems here and there, but mostly due to my inexperience with the system (as my previous postings seem to adequately bear out).
As for my being an engineer: make that former engineer. I am now an IT and communications guy. But you can see what kind of stuff I designed by looking here: http://www.geocities.com/wanorman2000/gallery.htm.
Thanks for all your help!