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How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing?

By November 8, 2021No Comments

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How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing?

How Much RAM Do You Need For Video Editing

Video editing is a demanding process for both you and your computer, but it’s your computer’s RAM facilities in particular that really shoulder the burden.

If you don’t have enough RAM, your editing is going to take a long, long time, which means you’re a busy person, so I’ll cut right to the chase and elaborate later in the article.

Video Editing – How Much RAM Do You Need?

Unfortunately, there is no one clear-cut answer to this question, as the amount of RAM you’ll need to edit your videos efficiently depends on a few variables. 

Resolution

The resolution of your footage, of course, refers to its clarity.

All the individual images that thread together to form the illusion of a moving picture have a uniform resolution, and the more detailed these images are, the heavier the burden on your poor RAM.

A piece of footage with a 2080×720 resolution, for example, won’t hog anywhere near as much RAM as the same footage shot in 8192×6144.

Bit Depth

Bit depth refers to the color levels of your footage. The higher the bit depth, the more organic the colors in the footage seem, and the lower it is, the stranger everything will look.

Let’s think about 8-bit video for a moment. It’s composed of 256 levels of color per channel, amounting to a total of 16.7 million colors.

In comparison, 10-bit footage consists of 1024 levels per channel, which amounts to 1.07 billion colors overall.

Higher bit rate footage contains a lot more data than the lower bit rates, which, again, affects the amount of RAM you’ll need to edit video in a seamless fashion.

Video Editing Software And Other Programs

Before you even load up your video files for editing, you’re already using a whole bunch of RAM.

The video editing software you use requires a certain amount just to launch, those tabs you’ve been hoarding don’t come for free, and those soothing tunes you’ve got playing only exacerbate the strain on your RAM.

The more applications you run simultaneously, the more RAM will be allocated before you even make your first edit.

In response to this, the logicians out there will likely say…just use fewer programs during the editing process…and while that will help iron out a few kinks, you really don’t want to be limiting yourself as you work. 

RAM For Video Editing Based On Variables

Now let’s take a look at some cold, hard figures, so you can assess how much RAM you’re going to need based on the footage you work with.

1280×720

720 isn’t a very taxing resolution at all, so as long as you keep multitasking to an absolute minimum and the footage has no more than, say, 10 bits per channel, you’ll be able to get by with 8GB of RAM.

But ideally, you’ll want at least 16GB, so you’re not pushing your system to the max each time you need to make a few edits.

1920×1080

1080p is still a pretty chill resolution, which means 16GB of RAM should suffice at lower bit rates and with minimal multitasking.

In fact, as long as you stick to 8-bit and cut out all other applications, you may – at a push – be able to engage in some 4K editing.

If that sounds perfect to you, I highly recommend these Corsair Vengeance LPX 16GB sticks as an upgrade.

1080p +

If you’re venturing beyond the 1080p zone, you’re going to need 32GB of RAM at the very least.

This will be enough to handle most edits while simultaneously supporting some other RAM-heavy applications such as Photoshop.

These Corsair Vengeance LPX 32GB sticks are just the ticket for this level of editing.

4K and Beyond

If you’re working with super high-resolution footage in either 8 or 10 bit, it’ll be worth your while to fork out for 64GB of RAM or more.

It will keep your editing process silky smooth, even if you’re streaming some tunes, using Photoshop, and checking out a few YouTube videos.

To attain this godlike level of RAM, I recommend these Corsair Vengeance LPX 64GB sticks. I know, I know…Corsair again, but they’re the best, and that, my friend, is exactly what you deserve.

Why Does Video Editing Require So Much RAM

As you refine your footage, loads of preview files are stored momentarily, so they’re available to you as and when you need them for playback. It’s the only way you can see the results of your edits.

With RAM being your computer’s short-term, fast access memory, it provides the perfect accommodation for all these preview files, but they can quickly overload the capacity.

Once your RAM is maxed out, it will delegate some of the overflow to your long-term storage, the SSD or HDD. This is when things get laggy!

It helps to personify your computer as a handyman (or woman) to understand why the dreaded lag occurs. You can think of RAM like your computer’s tool belt. It’s quick and easy to access.

But your SSD/HDD is the equivalent of the tools stored in the van, so they take longer to get to and use. That’s basically it.

RAM Prices – When To Buy

Here’s something a lot of people don’t know. The cost of discrete aftermarket RAM fluctuates wildly, rising and falling by roughly $100-$300 over the course of a few years.

So, if you’re in the market for some RAM, but it all seems a little steep, that’s probably because it’s on a peak of this RAM rollercoaster.

The fluctuations are based on availability and demand. Sometimes, the shortage of RAM will drive prices up, and likewise, a surplus of RAM will bring prices down.

If you’re interested in saving a few bucks, it might be worth being patient and just observing the market for a while. 

Summing Up

If you’ve been dreaming of a buttery smooth editorial process, RAM is essential.

You can get by with 8-16GB if the footage has a lower bit-depth and resolution, but I personally would opt for 32GB of RAM as a minimum.

That way, you’ll have the capacity to edit quality footage and run a few RAM-hungry programs simultaneously!

Camden Taylor

Author Camden Taylor

Camden is ARTURTH's Chief Editor, Senior Graphic Designer, and artist from the Pacific Northwest.

More posts by Camden Taylor