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How Much Do VFX/Video Editing Computers Cost?

How Much Do VFX/Video Editing Computers Cost?

We're going over budget-friendly, mid-range, and high-end computers, including creating your own. Which option is best for you?

One of the most common questions people ask about video production is, “how much does an editing computer cost?”

There are a lot of factors that can drive the price up for a solid editing workstation, but the good news is we've reached the point where video editing/VFX-capable computers are cheaper (and more powerful) than ever, and their specs are even a bit less confusing than in years past.

Here are a few considerations worth keeping in mind when researching and choosing your next computer!
Glowing keyboard from a VFX and video editing computer

Should I Get a Mac or PC for Video Editing and VFX?

Ah, the classic quandary that has plagued video editors since the beginning of time. While there was once a time that Macs really did have a considerable technical advantage when it came to video editing and visual effects, that's simply not the case anymore.

Part of the equation was user preference for Mac-only software (like Final Cut), but most of the industry-leading editing and VFX programs now support both platforms, making the choice between Mac or PC a lot easier.

Apple’s exclusive video codecs were another reason for sticking to their hardware, but ever since Adobe added support for exporting ProRes files on Windows 10, there’s even more freedom available when choosing your machine.
Macs typically still cost more than PCs. While some people may prefer macOS' snappy responsiveness and virtually hassle-free user-experience when compared to Windows 10 on the PC, there's really not much of a technical reason to choose a Mac over a PC when it comes to editing and creating visual effects.

PCs tend to offer the highest level of customization, upgradability, and interoperability with VFX software. On the flip side, you'll also find that Windows 10's frequent software updates can be annoying, and you may have driver and plugin updates more frequently.

Macs are a good solution for video and VFX professionals who want more of a simplified, turn-key solution (albeit at a slightly higher cost), whereas PCs are still preferred by those who are a bit more technical and hands-on when it comes to hardware upgrades, or who simply don't want to pay the notorious Mac premium.

If you are a Mac user, you can always opt for an external GPU to harness the power of the latest graphics cards on your Mac.

Budget-Friendly Video Editing Options

If you're just getting into video production and really only need basic editing, here are a couple great options to get you started.

iPad/iPad Pro ($320-$1,000+)

Mobile hardware on iOS devices has always been something special. While not technically a traditional computer, most iOS devices in recent years have enough power to allow for fluid video editing in the iMovie app, complete with the ability to do basic green screen keying.

If you’re on an iPad Pro, you can even edit 4K footage from a mirrorless camera (like the GH5), which is pretty incredible!

Apps like Premiere Rush are a bit limited, but LumaFusion is a surprisingly robust solution for editing on an iPad. Check it out in action below!
An Apple Pencil is a great addition for precise editing on an iPad. You do have to deal with the inconvenience of copying your footage to the iPad while you’re editing, but for beginners or editors that want a very flexible mobile solution (or you’ve just got an iPad lying around), it’s great to know this is a completely viable option.

The A13 bionic chip powering the recent iOS devices proves that Apple is stepping up their hardware innovation, and their upcoming A14 bionic chip will only further push the boundaries of mobile processing power.

Build Your Own Video Editing PC ($650-$1,400+)

One of the best budget options for growing editors and VFX artists is to build their own machine. This allows you to only pay for what you need to get started, with the option to easily upgrade as you go.

For some, the prospect of building your own PC is intimidating, but Matt Johnson does a good job of explaining what you need (with links to how-to videos) for building a 4K-capable editing PC for around $650.
If you’ve got a little more to spend, you can have massive performance gains. Matt also has a video showing how to build a higher-end PC for $1,400 capable of editing up to 6K and 8K raw video, which would also be much more suited for VFX work as well.

Mid-Range Video Editing/VFX Computers ($1,500+)

If you aren’t feeling up to building your own machine, you still have a ton of options that offer great value. Most of the cheaper Macs fall in this mid-range category, but you’ll still be looking at a higher price for a machine that can be vastly outperformed by a PC spec-wise (unless you want to go with a higher-end Mac).

Desktop PCs offer the most bang for your buck, but gaming laptops are becoming surprisingly great for video production and VFX as well, and you can find a ton of choices to meet your needs.  

The video below demonstrates the VFX performance you can expect from a Razer Blade with an RTX 2080.
For further research, you can see a list of some of the best gaming laptops of 2020 and also a list of the best gaming PCs of 2020.

It’s worth noting that Nvdia just officially announced their Ampere RTX 3000 series graphics cards, which will be truly revolutionary in the VFX industry. You might even want to wait a bit and keep an eye out for new computers that will include these new GPUs.

If you’re an existing PC user, a future upgrade to the 3000 series will provide a tremendous advantage over the previous generation.

High-End Video Editing/VFX Computers

For the most capable pre-built VFX machines, you can go with a company like Boxx Technologies to custom-build your dream rig. You can select the software you’ll be using the most, and they can direct you to the best options for that workflow.

Check out our custom Boxx PC!
If you’re looking to get into the world of on-set virtual production and bleeding-edge VFX workstations, On-Set Facilities provides advanced solutions to meet your studio’s needs. Not only can they help you find the right hardware, but they also have the expertise to support your long-term production goals from years of hands-on virtual production experience.

You can find a computer capable of video editing and light VFX compositing in almost any budget. It really boils down to what's important to your specific needs, and what you're able to sacrifice on if you need a more economical option. 

If you're going to regularly be working with 4K footage, you'll want to make sure you've got a machine that can handle that. If you're planning on a more VFX-focused computer, a lot of RAM and a top-notch GPU will go a long way in getting you where you need to be.  

We’d love to hear about your editing/VFX setup in the comments below!

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