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Techniques to economise on RAM

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Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby garrettendi » Thu Jan 24, 2019 12:40 pm

As some of you already know, I got given a free older PC from work for my studio, which is great because with my recent marriage and future plans (like buying a house), I can't really afford to buy a new PC.

It currently has 6GB of RAM, which I know is going to be really pushing things, but I'm not sure I even can upgrade the RAM on this, let alone afford the cost. So I need to make do with what I have.

I can't remember the full specs to my memory but as a rough idea, it's a 3.something GHz dual core x64 AMD CPU, 6 GB of RAM, a 1 GB Dedicated AMD Radeon GPU and Windows 7. The model is the HP Z400 but it appears it was upgraded at some point as the specs on the web are much lower.

With this in mind, what techniques do people suggest to try and make the most of my less-than-optimal RAM when recording, mixing or composing? Just to tide me over til I can do something better?

As an idea of what I'm doing, I use Harrison Mixbus 4, a Behinger UMC204HD, and I normally have about 4 tracks at most, sometimes the drum VST is output to 8 tracks though, although only one track has the VSTi. I use pretty much only Melda effects (I love 'em), MDrummer or MT Power Drumkit 2 for drums, Spitfire Labs VSTis, and a small handful of guitar amp sims and impulses.

I'm thinking one way would be to imprint VSTIs to a track then unassign the VSTI track once I'm happy with it.

Finally, I do plan to do some video recording of the mixing screen in OBS for YouTube videos etc, but that's not really something I'm hugely fussed over.

Cheers chaps!

EDIT: I also use softsynths, specifically Air Vacuum Pro and u-he Beatzille
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:13 pm

By chance I actually checked the specs on my machine the other night and it turns out I'm only running 6GB of RAM as well. I'm running Reaper and don't generally start hitting any issues until I'm hitting about 60-odd channels. At which point I unplug the internet cable switch on quiet hours and that seems to give me a little more headroom.
Any issues beyond that I start freezing tracks. Not sure how Mixbus handles this but on Reaper it's very easy and instantly reversible. The performance meter on Reaper gives you a track-by-track count so you can see what's eating CPU (which tends to be my problem, rather than memory), again, not sure if Mixbus does the same?
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby garrettendi » Thu Jan 24, 2019 3:22 pm

DISCLAIMER: The below might read like sarcasm, but it isn't!

That's really helpful Drew thanks! I'm glad I know of at least one person with the same or similar specs to mine and find it actually works.

I've recorded a two track song (the awful Emeli Sande cover last month) and I had no issues at all, and I've played around with drum VSTIs also without issue. It was only when I turned on the OBS video software while mixing that I got the little bubble in the lower right "Switching to basic Windows 7 theme" (or something like that) and my Aero interface went to the opaque look to save on resources. This got me wondering whether I have a pitifully poor PC. Google suggested I need 16 GB!

After reading your reply, I wonder if it's more an issue for recording the screen in OBS that is the issue. I've done some hefty Youtubing during my lunch break and found a video that like you, suggests most DAWs can handly 60, 80, or more tracks and only use about 4 gigs of RAM.

As for freezing tracks, I've never needed to do it on my laptop (that has 12 GB of RAM but it's knackered to the point of teetering on dying and actually runs slower than my 6 GB desktop). in the past, but I know it can be done in Mixbus. Not sure it's "reversible" in the same way as Reaper, but I hear it's pretty much the same but in a different workflow so to speak.

TL:DR - Thanks for the reply, I'm glad I'm not the only one who works on that level of hardware!

P.S. Someone could say (and rightly so), "Why don't you just go back to the laptop?". But I really cannot stress how completely useless the laptop is now. It really is inches away from going to the great PC World in the sky....
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:22 pm

Are you sure you can't upgrade the memory? There's a short PDF on the memory specs of the HP Z400 series here:

http://h20331.www2.hp.com/Hpsub/downloa ... zation.pdf

The HP Z400 Workstation supports Unbuffered 1-GB single-rank and 2-GB and 4-GB dual-rank PC3-10600E 1333 MHZ ECC DIMMs

With 6 slots in the motherboard, that should mean a maximum of 24Gb - and indeed the chart on that PDF includes that configuration. With 6Gb installed, I'm guessing you have 3 x 2Gb or 6 x 1Gb in it already, so if you can source the correct DIMMs then it should be a simple upgrade.

If you have 3 x 2Gb you could double it to 12Gb by adding another 3 x 2Gb, and if you have 6 x 1Gb then you could replace some or all of them with higher capacity DIMMS, just bear in mind the recommendation about memory configuration:

Since the memory controller is based on a three-channel design, the following rules should be used for best performance:

• Configure memory in sets of three.
• Configuring the memory using the smallest

DIMM size will sometimes optimize memory performance, if it prevents single-channel configurations. As an example, for a 2 GB configuration, buy two 1 GB DIMMS, not one 2 GB DIMM.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby garrettendi » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:25 pm

That may well be true, and it's something I can look into, but it'll be months if not longer before I can justify it as an expense. We're moving home this year, and on top of that, furnishing our house now my wife has moved in is taking top priority.

As a bachelor I lived with minimal furnishings and spent my money on guitars and other studio gear.

Yeah, it's a shock to the system having to push that drive down somewhat!

EDIT: I'm not disregarding your suggestion, and I have researched the costs of RAM and paying someone to stick it in, but money is being used for more essential stuff for the next few months.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:41 pm

Anything video is far more resource intensive than audio manipulation. It's simply a matter of size of the data that need to be handled in real time. I wouldn't dream of running any video software while mixing :)
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby garrettendi » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:42 pm

CS70 wrote:Anything video is far more resource intensive than audio manipulation. It's simply a matter of size of the data that need to be handled in real time. I wouldn't dream of running any video software while mixing :)

Nerts. So I guess I might have to knock the whole YouTube series about Deaf studio work on the head :?

As an aside, it's not just the cost of the RAM, but I know nothing about installing it, and the cost of having someone insert it is probably going to be more than buying three sticks of 4GB!

Maybe I should think this over a little.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby Mike Stranks » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:55 pm

CS70 wrote:Anything video is far more resource intensive than audio manipulation. It's simply a matter of size of the data that need to be handled in real time. I wouldn't dream of running any video software while mixing :)

Yup! :thumbup:

My Scan machine which is now 6 years old and is on Win 10 has 8 gigs of RAM and still zips along when multitrack mixing. OTOH editing videos longer than about 10 mins can cause it to come over all unnecessary very easily.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby garrettendi » Thu Jan 24, 2019 4:57 pm

Well.... crap! I guess I really need to rethink the video thing.

Thankfully I still haven't bought that 1080p webcam yet!

I was all excited to make videos about being a Deaf musician too!
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:11 pm

garrettendi wrote:
CS70 wrote:As an aside, it's not just the cost of the RAM, but I know nothing about installing it, and the cost of having someone insert it is probably going to be more than buying three sticks of 4GB!

Changing the RAM in a PC is usually trivial, just take the old sticks out (if replacing any) and plug the new ones in. The sockets sometimes have a couple of little plastic or metal clips which you need to factor into the process depending on the motherboard but it's nothing to be afraid of and usually work in obvious ways.

Hardest part is finding that screwdriver (the one you have no idea where it is) to open the case :)
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby garrettendi » Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:13 pm

Never underestimate my ability to make a total hash of simple electronics tasks. An Electrical Engineer I know once talked me out of buying a multimeter when he found out how I planned to use it (turns out I would have blown the fuse box and possibly killed myself).

No, I'm not exaggerating!
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby MOF » Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:19 pm

Installing ram isn’t difficult, it can only go into the slot one way, make sure the computer is switched off and when handling the memory discharge any static on yourself through CH copper piping for instance or buy an earth wrist band.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby blinddrew » Thu Jan 24, 2019 5:55 pm

Ah yes, sorry, I'd missed the video bit of your requirements. Funnily enough my machine also runs as a complete dog for anything more than the most basic of video manipulation. Fortunately I current have *ahem* access to another machine for my video tweakery.
I think you should keep the idea for video podcast as it's a novel and intriguing viewpoint, but you may have delay the implementation until you can spring for a few sticks of RAM.
As has been mentioned, fitting it is very straightforward (there are youtube videos aplenty) so I'm sure you'd be fine.
Just remember the bit about unplugging it first. :D
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby garrettendi » Thu Jan 24, 2019 6:00 pm

blinddrew wrote:Just remember the bit about unplugging it first. :D

I'm happy to state that while I am useless at all things electronic, I do at least know this :headbang:
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby wireman » Thu Jan 24, 2019 6:59 pm

One thing you could do to get some information is to run the Resource Monitor (type resource into the start menu search to find it) and you will get a display showing how much memory you are using.
Note however that memory requirements can change faster than you can see them.

Installing RAM is not too difficult but you can get caught out by not knowing the pairing rules, having a cramped PC, missing the clip(s), not expecting how hard to press or being aware of anti-static precautions.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby The Bunk » Thu Jan 24, 2019 7:10 pm

garrettendi wrote:Well.... crap! I guess I really need to rethink the video thing.

Thankfully I still haven't bought that 1080p webcam yet!

I was all excited to make videos about being a Deaf musician too!

I'm not sure what your intentions were or are as regards the video thing so this may be utterly useless as a suggestion, but...I also make "tongue-in-cheek" type videos to put on Youtube. Almost self-deprecating. And one of my angles is that I haven't got the best technology available - just a basic Handycam type thing (and an even crappier webcam), and some several-versions-old-now video software (Adobe elements). So I don't attempt to hide or disguise that, in fact it's more like I exaggerate it to make the point. But you can still see what's going on. Depends what your objective is ultimately but for me it's a case of doing the best (or worst!) with what you've got and not trying to cover it up any differently. So maybe rethink (or, er..."get creative") that way you want to do the video?

That may be of absolutely no use to you at all.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby Eddy Deegan » Thu Jan 24, 2019 7:24 pm

The Bunk wrote:I also make "tongue-in-cheek" type videos to put on Youtube. Almost self-deprecating. And one of my angles is that I haven't got the best technology available - just a basic Handycam type thing

A random temporary diversion from the thread topic, but I very much like your videos, love the little funny gags and props and always good for raising the mood (great sounds too!) :thumbup:
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby Wonks » Thu Jan 24, 2019 8:01 pm

I agree, The Bunk's videos and music are both great.
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:02 pm

Eddy Deegan wrote:
garrettendi wrote:
CS70 wrote:As an aside, it's not just the cost of the RAM, but I know nothing about installing it, and the cost of having someone insert it is probably going to be more than buying three sticks of 4GB!


Hei, I didn't write that! :D :D :D
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Re: Techniques to economise on RAM

Postby CS70 » Thu Jan 24, 2019 9:06 pm

garrettendi wrote:Well.... crap! I guess I really need to rethink the video thing.

Thankfully I still haven't bought that 1080p webcam yet!

I was all excited to make videos about being a Deaf musician too!

You still can - use your phone as a camera.. the quality is actually not too bad at all, and like in music, performance, lighting and framing does far more than the equipment. Then for example if you have an iPhone, with iMovie you can actually do some decent editing, bit limited in merge-fades last time I checked but it may well be that I haven't found how to do them.

You can cut documentary-like videos with very little kid nowadays, totally up to youtube standards. Creativity and skills beat expensive kit any time of the day.

Now if all you have is a Nokia 3310 on the other side you're out of luck. :)
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