Why do system designers/integrators ask for your budget?
People often think it’s so they can spend all that money for you. Not exactly.
Good designers are trying to make sure your budget is in line with your expectations and if not, they can offer less expensive alternatives. Many who are building their first non-linear editing computer system have unrealistic expectations. The demands of video editing and streaming can tax a computer system like nothing else (except high-end gaming/simulation). The average PC may seem quite speedy when using office software or surfing the net but working with video is a whole new monster. Fast CPU’s (the main processor), fast storage drives and fast video cards are all required to keep up with the needs of HD and UHD footage. 4k footage, especially, is a bandwidth hog and if you are trying to process multiple channels of 4k footage (live switching/streaming) you will need a top-end system. Fortunately, editing 4k video is a little easier due to proxy file technology, but even so, it is best to have a modern high-spec machine to make quick work of it.
So knowing your budget can help the designer decide what is the best option for you. If you cannot afford the system spec required to handle your initial desired needs, they can recommend alternatives but that typically involves lowering your demands (maybe using 4 cameras instead of 8, or working with 1080 files instead of 4k).
With computers, as with many other technologies, you truly do get what you pay for. If you can stretch that budget to the upper limit and buy the most powerful system available you will enjoy years and years of use. The typical useable lifespan of most mid-range PCs is 3-5 years. After that, they can seem a bit underpowered as software (and resolution) keep advancing. I have been getting by for a little over 5 years on a top-end system that is only now beginning to feel underpowered. It still does the job for me as I work exclusively with 1080p resolution but I would need to upgrade to move onto 4k editing.
Another point to consider is labor and installation costs. Many times people will consider only the equipment needed and not the cost to install it or integrate it with your existing equipment. Of course, this does not apply to those doing remote location work, but for many systems that are going to be permanently set up in churches, schools, boardrooms, gov’t chambers etc., the labor costs can add up to significant amounts. Portable systems require a good deal of forethought to make the system as flexible as possible for their intended use, so a good designer can help you avoid some of the pitfalls, that information can save untold amounts of time and money.
A good designer can pinpoint areas where you may be able to downgrade to lower-cost equipment that is still perfectly adequate for the task at hand. For instance, cameras can often be found for lesser amounts that do away with unnecessary features. Why pay for something you may never use? Streaming, in particular, is often done at lower than Full HD resolution due to bandwidth constraints so why pay for full 1080p or even 4k cameras if that resolution is not needed? Granted it may be needed in the future and is never a bad thing to have available but when you are looking to trim some costs it is often the first place to look.
Sometimes the designer can opt to reduce the total camera count from 4 to 3 to save an extra $1500-2000 and bring a system in under budget, knowing that it is often still adequate to start with. Then, when more money becomes available down the road, the client can pick up that extra camera to add to the system.
Another budget buster is the accessories and necessities that are often forgotten: namely cabling, power supplies, audio interfaces etc. Good quality video cables can be expensive, especially with long runs that may require booster amps or signal converters along the way. These may seem like trifling matters but they are often overlooked until it is too late and then where does the extra money come from to complete the system? Good designers take all of this into account from the start.
So do not be offended when a designer asks what your budget is, next to your expectations on what a system will need to do for you, your budget is the most important information you can provide. Reputable System designer/Integrators have your best interests at heart and want to deliver a COMPLETE package that will satisfy your demands for years to come.