While I'm on the subject of hardware upgrades, will it make a difference to get more RAM? I don't care about like a 5% difference...I mean will it really really make any difference to have more than 6 GB for anything in CS5.5 Production Premium?
In order of priority:
1. Get another 7200 SATA disk and lose the partition on your boot disk. Adobe Forums: Generic Guideline for Disk Setup
2. Increase memory to 12 GB or more. See http://ppbm5.com/Background.html
3. Get a GTX 460+
To keep you reading for some time, press the overview tab at the top of the hardware forum and start with any article that seems interesting.
That chart on what to do with each number of disks is awesome! Every other source on the net assumes a certain number of disks, which is crazy. I'm surprised both the drive and RAM would be more important than the parallel CUDA processing. I'll look into trying to do all 3. If I do all 3, what kind of rendering time would I see from that same 10-minute iPhone video with effects, and how much more useful will the preview become?
Also, how important is it that the pagefile be on C? I have it on D: right now because of the recommendations from Microsoft.
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The cost of an extra disk is pretty low, a 1 TB extra drive would set you back around € 40 and you would benefit from the performance gain with all operations. The cost of adding memory is a bit higher, but you would surely benefit on almost all operations, but most notably with MPEG exports. The GTX video card is likely the most expensive of the three options and will benefit you mostly when you need to render timelines or during exports where scaling, blending and render quality are important. However, it will not help with the encoding, because that is a CPU matter.
Rendering time would probably decrease to around 10% of what you now have if you add the GTX card. Just make sure it has at least 1 GB of VRAM. Versions with 768 MB VRAM are not suitable for hardware acceleration. In your example rendering would likely fall from 30 minutes to around 3 minutes or even less.
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This video incorporates much of the information from Harm's posts on this subject:
If you want video versions of a lot of the information that Harm has pointed you to, check out the other videos in that series.
Ended up doing all 3 things. The improvement in output rendering time is about 2x and some timeline bars that would normally be red are now yellow. A little bit more pleasant to work with...haha. Also, I found out that the issue with pixelated previews is because they WERE pixelated. Apparently the default is 50% resolution which just makes each pixel into a block of 4 identical pixels (or perhaps does a low-quality interpolation....I didn't look that closely). Once I realized that and changed it to 100% resolution, the previews looked great. haha