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The eternal question - optimal GPU configuration for Animation workstations

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Nicholas Rubin
The eternal question - optimal GPU configuration for Animation workstations
on Mar 7, 2016 at 4:24:46 pm

The perennial question, how best to arrange GPU's for our animation work.

Excited to get some answers here. Invested money into gear over the years and want to optimize our setup.

I have a content design studio and we do all sorts of stuff, from VFX for indie films to tour visuals for bands (big LED walls, projections etc). I have several workstations that I have available for artists and myself. I'm trying to figure out how to optimally configure the available hardware for our pipeline.

Our main boxes are the ones getting the big GPU's. We have a handful of other machines

One Xeon dual 8-core and one i7 6-core. Both machines have Sata III SSD's, separated for system and scratch drives and have a ton of RAM.

We are a generalists studio so we try to make it flexible to our freelancers who use 3D platforms like Maya, Cinema 4D, Modo, Zbrush, Substance and 2D compositing software such as After Effects and Nuke. These days we assemble in Premiere CC with Media Encoder at the end of our projects. Most things are HD1080 although every now and then we get 4K+ projects. We don't do a ton of editing, mostly basic assembly so I'm not as concerned about accelerating Premiere.

We have a pile of GPU's that I'm pretty sure we are under-utilizing and I'm perpetually wondering if there's a better config.

Currently installed (on a per machine basis):

- 2 x Quadro k4200's (inside the Xeon)
- two Titan Black SC's in SLI (inside the i7)

Lying around we have a GTX 570, GTX 690, GTX 770 and a Quadro 4000. We will probably sell them soon unless they can be combined with the above better.

What's the best config? I originally thought I'd just double them up in each machine it occurred to me I could maybe combine the Quadros and the Titans.

Alternately I could put the Quadro and SLI the titans in the Xeon machine (it is a Asus Z9PE-D8 and has a ton of PCIE lanes).

Then the other question is how do you best configure them best in the NVIDIA control panel and within the respective software?

I've combed the forums and hilariously I am still confused. It's always bugging me that I'm not squeezing the most performance out of the setup and would love to hear some feedback.

Thank you in advance,


Dirt Empire
Animation and Post-Production
Williamsburg, Brooklyn

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Walter Soyka
Re: The eternal question - optimal GPU configuration for Animation workstations
on Mar 7, 2016 at 9:22:27 pm

Speaking generally:

1) Digital content creation apps don't use SLI. Support for acceleration via multiple GPUs is generally limited to GPGPU (currently CUDA or OpenCL) and really product-specific.

2) Don't mix Quadros and Geforce cards. They use different drivers and using both at the same time is an unsupported configuration.

3) Use a Quadro if you need one of the specific features of the card, like 10-bit output or the faster image buffer readback. Otherwise, consider a Geforce as they have much better price/performance ratios.

4) A lot of stuff is still CPU-bound, including decoding compressed video in Premiere, default ray-tracing with most 3D apps, and most compositing operations in Ae or NUKE. You are smart to build systems with SSDs and lots of RAM, because balance is critical in a general-purpose workstation.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]

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