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64-bit OS benefits Adobe editors

For years, computers have used 32-bit operating systems, meaning that the largest number the system memory could address would be 2^32, or 4GB. In reality, users could expect just over 3GB actually available for use by applications other than the OS. Data pathways inside the computer would also be limited to 32-bit.

For standard-definition video editing, 3GB might have got the job done for most Premiere users, but many editors are now commonly dealing with HD video resolutions of 1920×1080 and beyond, with 2K and 4K cinema resolutions being popularized by the RED camera. An HD video frame has about 6x as much data as an SD frame, and 4K video is about 5x larger than HD, so you can appreciate the need for speed when working with these video formats.

64-bit addressing provides additional RAM capacity and makes it easier for the computer to deal with these large amounts of data more efficiently. With a 64-bit OS like Windows 7, Mac OS X, or Snow Leopard, the 2^64 addressing capability allows for the theoretical use of a ridiculous amount of RAM – 16 billion GB! Of course, your particular system’s hardware design will determine how much RAM can be physically installed and utilized.

Both Mac and PC have offered a 64-bit OS option for a while, but most software was not optimized to fully utilize the benefits. While Photoshop already supports 64-bit, Adobe Premiere and After Effects are being completely rewritten as 64-bit applications, and these new versions will no longer run under a 32-bit OS. Being 64-bit native will allow Premiere and After Effects to each use up to 16GB of RAM, which will greatly improve performance.

4GB of system RAM will provide baseline Adobe performance, while 8GB would keep most editors satisfied. So-called “Power Users” may opt for 16GB to 32GB to meet their needs. Adobe recommends 12GB for “optimum performance”, and since many new motherboards take RAM modules in threes rather than pairs, 6GB and 12GB PC configurations would replace 4GB or 8GB options.

Benefits for Adobe users will include improved Dynamic Linking, longer RAM previews in After Effects, less re-rendering, and better overall performance and reliability. Working on HDR still images with 32-bit floating-point color will be a much better experience with a 64-bit system.

The overall performance gains of a 64-bit OS and more RAM, along with new 6-core processors and GPU-supported effects promise unprecedented HD editing power with the 64-bit Adobe applications, and I for one am really looking forward to it! Watch for a review of the Safe Harbor Tsunami 64-bit PC running the new Adobe products, coming soon.

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64-bit OS benefits Adobe editors