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NVME vs SATA3 SSD, upgrade strategy, Premiere Pro cache files, enthusiast home user

New Here ,
Jun 12, 2020 Jun 12, 2020

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Hi gals and guys, I will attempt to give one pragmatic answer to the ever going debate on whether Premiere Pro cache/source files should be on NVME SSD or SATA3 SSD etc. This is NOT a lab benchmark but a real world home user’s hands-on observation. The point here is to figure out simply and quickly the best strategy according to various scenarii.


This being said, NVME drives being no longer expensive and using a variety of slots (M.2 and PCIe), the “very best” strategy is 3 NVME drives dedicated to Premiere Pro. Basta! End of the discussion and you can focus on creative things. I will not cover RAID arrays. If your budget allows RAID technology, this input is not for you.


But! if you are like me and your platform and budget doesn’t (yet) allow such wholesomeness, source+cache files on a single dedicated NVME is the next better choice. Followed by source+cache on a single dedicated SATA3 SSD. Mixing both NVME and SATA3 SSD also works nicely and spreads the volume. In this case, the source files should be on the fastest of both drives (most likely the NVME).


So, the background: my son produces a variety of video clips on extreme sports mainly wakeboard using a SONY VG20. He generates 10 to 20 minutes-long 1080p/50fps AVCHD 28 Mbit/s files on SDcard. His PC has an overclocked 4-cores/8-threads i7 6700 CPU on an older PCIe 3.0 mainboard with a variety of dedicated drives and GPUs (details further down). His workflow is optimized (details further down) and the PC is working surprisingly fine even with complex Premiere Pro timelines and large files. The problem was that he is now adding 4K sources, the timelines becoming more and more sophisticated with advanced and creative effects, the playback suffered consequently. Not mentioning the handling of multiple 20-30GB files. Before investing in an optimized new platform, I decided to add a dedicated NVME drive just for the hell of it. To see how and if it improves anything with Premiere Pro. That’s 150 EUR vs ca. 2500 EUR for a new top-notch PC.


The outcome: after multiple tests using a pre-existing Premiere Pro project, all things being equal, what worked best is source+cache files on the dedicated NVME. Second best is source files on the dedicated NVME, cache files on the dedicated SATA3 SSD. Third best is source+cache files on the dedicated SATA3 SSD. And we are talking a visible improvement in playback. Not a handful of miliseconds gained here and there on a synthetic benchmark. That’s it folks!


Drive usage monitoring shows that the NVME hardly shows any queuing, whatever the work done. The SATA3 SSD at times shows some limited queuing when hitting it with either NVENC or QuickSinc H264 or some lengthy CINEFORM Masterfile (and I mean BIG and LONG).


Intel i7 6700 @4.3Ghz CPU usage monitoring shows that Premiere Pro happily uses all 8 threads for playback and production. During playback, the load is commonly about 40-80%, occasionally over 90%. Rarely have we seen the CPU maxed to 100% on all-threads with some sophisticated effects on multiple layers. For production, Premiere Pro fully takes advantage of the i7 CPU and loads is to 95-99% on all threads. Unless using NVENC H264 or QuickSinc H264. In which case the CPU remains around 50-60% and either GTX 750 or Intel 560 GPU is loaded up to 90-100%.


Interestingly, despite the computing power, the type of drive has no decisive impact on the production whether to the NVME, SATA3 SSD or SATA3 7200rpm HDD. At least with our 4-cores/8-threads i7 6700 CPU. A top-notch 8/10/12-cores CPU on testosterone might have an impact on this.


With the current Premiere Pro and my son’s practice, usage monitoring shows that GPUs have a marginal impact whether on playback or production. The GTX 750 and Intel 560 are amply sufficient.  Interestingly we have observed simultaneous usage of both GTX 750 and Intel 560 GPU during playback by Premiere Pro. I didn’t expect that. I’m so glad I didn’t follow the mainstream advice to invest in a 1080 or 2060 GPU. Unless producing to NVENC H264 or QuickSinc H264 in which case GPUs have a decisive impact. However, this introduces the slippery discussion about respective image quality…


The platform:

MB: Maximus VII Gene with 2x PCIe 3.0 slots, 8x SATA3 ports and 1x M.2 PCIe 2.0 slot

CPU: Intel i7 6700 4-core/8-thread 3.4/4Ghz overclocked @4.3Ghz

RAM: 16Mb 2600

GPU: 1x GTX 750 on the first PCIe 3.0 slot; 1x Intel 560 in the i7 CPU


1x SATA3 SSD 250GB for the OS+apps

1x NVME SSD 1TB on the second PCIe 3.0 slot (M.2 adapter)

1x SATA3 SSD 500GB for the production output

1x SATA3 HDD 7200rpm 1TB for storage

1x SATA3 HDD 5200rpm 2TB, compressed to 3TB as archive

1x USB 3.0 SDcard reader


The workflow:

Original AVCHD 1080p/50fps 28 Mbit/s files from the VG20 are transcoded to CINEFORM level 3 directly from the SDcard to the dedicated NVME scratch drive via a USB 3.0 connection and Media Encoder. After editing and montage with Premiere Pro, a CINEFORM Masterfile is produced to the dedicated SSD. Various customized distribution files are subsequently created via Handbrake.


Thought: In the best world with unlimited budget I’ll have 4x 1TB NVME drives (1 for OS, 3 dedicated), an 8 or 12-cores CPU and multiple 3TB HDDs in RAID 0. And a 2060 or better GPU for bragging.


I hope this helps








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