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We even copied all the files to our local 7200 RPM sata internal disc just in case the problem was due to a slow NAS device, but that didn't help it at all.
That and the fact that CPU usage is low, indicates your disk setup is lacking. At least 3 physical internal disks are deemed necessary. Second, the initial guesstimate may be inaccurate. How long did it really take?
Still waiting to find out how long it took, but thanks for the response. This will be helpful. We will have to see what we can do about keeping the CPU fed with plenty of data.
OK, here is an update. The original estimate for the single-disk setup was up to 75 hrs before we halted it. This is way slower than my laptop doing the same thing, so I think something is wrong.
We put in four separate 7200 RPM internal sata disks now: one for scratch files, one for video source #1, one for video source #2 (we have a sort of picture-in-picture thing going on on this video), and one for Premiere Pro to run from. Yet we're still seeing low CPU utilization and high time estimates.
That disk setup is very good, but the rendering time is ridiculous. Unfortunately, I'm a PC guy and besides, MAC's don't have problems I'm always told by MAC lovers, so now I can't help you.
On a PC I would say kill all superfluous processes, turn off anti-virus, anti-spyware, etc. Turn off indexing and compression and disk optimization and things like that, but really, on a MAC I just don't know.