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After Effects Workstation Advice

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Vasim Shaikh
After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 20, 2018 at 2:14:19 pm

Hello everyone,

First time poster, a long, long time follower. Honestly, I've never needed to post a topic and felt very reluctant to do so even now. This really is an amazing community, every question I've had over the years was always already answered without me having to post any requests.

Before I get to the heart of my dilemma, a big shout out to Walter Soyka for all his contributions to this thread and of course to many others. It would be immensely appreciated if he could please take a look at this one as well.

Continuing the discussion on the thread linked above, fast-fowarding to 2018, has the Adobe After Effects team made any headway in utilising the GPU and multi-core/multi-thread capabilities of current tech? From what I was able to dig up, Fractal Noise, Gaussian Blur, Fast Box Blur, Lumetri Color, Sharpen, Brightness and Contrast, Find Edges, Glow, Hue/Saturation, Invert, and Tint can be GPU-accelerated, which is great news.

Our team is looking into upgrading my current (semi)workstation to keep up with demands we've been facing as we've been growing as a company. We currently do not have any explicit budget limits in place, so anything goes really (I hope). Of course keeping in mind the financial resources of a rather small, individually financed, start up.

Our main priority is improving After Effects' viewport performance. We're not too concerned with render times as we believe our servers should do a good enough job.

My current system:
Macbook Pro, Retina, Mid 2015

Our options:
Macbook Pro, Retina, 2017 (the fully specd out version)
Mac Pro, 2017 (the fully specd out version, if it's worth it)

We're not considering the iMac Pro at all as I believe it does not offer the same bang for buck the Mac Pro would offer when it comes to performance. I'm also very reluctant to even bother with the Macbook Pro as I believe it would not change things at all, but thought I'd list it anyway as I would be delightfully surprised if someone could prove me wrong. Mobility is a big plus for us.

I've only listed Macs above as it is important for the company to keep me in the macOS environment. I did not give Hackintosh setups much thought as I'm not too sure of the legal implications.

Finally, I'm kind of doubting any upgrade to my current system would improve viewport performance at all, I would love for someone to prove me wrong on this.

Looking forward to hearing from you guys!


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Richard Garabedain
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 20, 2018 at 4:47:20 pm

For one person...macs are great. But for a team of people...macs get too pricy too fast...But sadly no one will really have much information for you...we all always trying to upgrade all the time and no one really knows what is best right now.


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Vasim Shaikh
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 20, 2018 at 9:40:10 pm

Thanks so much for the response Richard!

[Richard Garabedain] "For one person...macs are great. But for a team of people...macs get too pricy too fast"

Totally see how this can be the case, for now though, I'm the sole After Effects user. I do however understand that that isn't long term thinking.

[Richard Garabedain] "But sadly no one will really have much information for you...we all always trying to upgrade all the time and no one really knows what is best right now."

Very understandable. I did extensive research on this matter, and as things stand currently, everything just seemed so vague and muddy. Do you think just maxing out everything(CPU, GPU, RAM, SSD) as much as you can, would be the best way to go? My biggest fear is if it would all be worth it.


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Kevin Camp
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 20, 2018 at 6:07:32 pm

the iMac Pro will likely out perform a Mac Pro in most tasks (the *new* Mac Pros are from 2013).

For the price, I would consider an iMac (non 'pro', but get the upgraded Core i7 CPU and the SSD option). You get a pretty fast machine and a 5k display for one price... a good 27" 5k display can run over $1500. The new iMacs (non-pro versions) will outperform the Mac Pros in many tasks for less money and comes with a 5k display, so it's not a bad option at all.

The negative of all the macs (unless you go wth the really old, pre 2013 Mac Pro Tower), is that you can only get the AMD GPUs, so you don't get any of the benefits Adobe's optimizations for Nvidia's CUDA technology. Another negative of Macs, is as Adobe make further use of GPU acceleration, your'e stuck with the current GPU in your machine, so i a couple years, a $400 video card might be able to significantly enhance performance, but your stuck with the a built in GPU... only the GPUs on the pre 2013 Mac Pro tower can be upgraded -- technically the *new* Mac Pros can be upgraded, but there are no new cards available for it.

There are Thunderbolt external GPUs available for Thunderbolt Macs (probably TB2 and up, but you'd want to check on that). I don't have any experience with those, but that might allow the opportunity to upgrade the GPU in any Mac with a TB port to take advantage of GPU acceleration in Adobe software... but you should look into that more.

Kevin Camp
Art Director
KCPQ, KZJO & KRCW


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Vasim Shaikh
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 20, 2018 at 11:40:17 pm

Thanks so much for the insight Kevin.

[Kevin Camp] "the *new* Mac Pros are from 2013"

That's amazing, not in a good way of course.

[Kevin Camp] "Another negative of Macs, is as Adobe make further use of GPU acceleration, your'e stuck with the current GPU in your machine, so i a couple years, a $400 video card might be able to significantly enhance performance, but your stuck with the a built in GPU... only the GPUs on the pre 2013 Mac Pro tower can be upgraded -- technically the *new* Mac Pros can be upgraded, but there are no new cards available for it."

Another big surprise. I always expected modularity to be a standard for any workstation class machine.

I was wrongfully quick to dismiss the iMac Pro based on the GPU they listed, a Radeon Pro Vega GPU, which I'm familiar with as a gaming GPU. The iMac pro does look really good otherwise. Honestly however, I felt that the difference in price was not worth it, it felt over glorified with it's 5k display which I felt is not something that's crucial to us.

I guess I did not do a thorough enough job researching this as I thought I did. Thank you so much for the insight.

As things stand now, I guess Macs are not an option at all.

With that sorted, Do you think just maxing out everything(CPU, GPU, RAM, SSD) as much as you can, would be the best way to go?

Also, I'm kind of doubting any upgrade to my current system would improve viewport performance at all, I would love for someone to prove me wrong on this. Do you have any experience with After Effects on Macbooks or other standard consumer grade laptops? Do you think I would see significant enough improvement in viewport performance once I've upgraded?

Thanks again so much for your input.


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Manish Chaudhary
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 21, 2018 at 3:48:46 pm

Imac is still a good choice if your main work on after effects only fully spec. imac is a great choice but if you also do video editing and any plan to upgrade in future then you have to go with windows i recently purchased a dell's workstation for very heavy video editing work and also assembled a workstation for after effects with these specs.

Main reason to go with windows is you can add nvidia's powerful GPU that you can't add in imac or on any mac and AMD is not a good GPU at all.


After effects system:-

Processor :-
8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-8700K 6-Core Processor (12M Cache, up to 4.7 GHz)

Ram :-
64GB, 2666MHz, DDR4 16x4


Storage :-
1. 256GB M.2 Samsung 960Pro PCIe x4 SSD (For OS)
2. 1TB M.2 Samsung 960Pro PCIe x4 SSD (For Running Projects & Cache Memory)

Graphic Card :-
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1080ti Founders Edition with 11GB GDDR5 Graphics Memory

Data Drive :-
2x6 TB Seagate Ironwolf Pro in RAID 0 (For Data)


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Manish Chaudhary
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 21, 2018 at 4:11:16 pm

Imac is still a good choice if your main work on after effects only fully spec. imac is a great choice but if you also do video editing and any plan to upgrade in future then you have to go with windows i recently purchased a dell's workstation for very heavy video editing work and also assembled a workstation for after effects with these specs.

Main reason to go with windows is you can add nvidia's powerful GPU that you can't add in imac or on any mac and AMD is not a good GPU at all.


After effects system:-

Processor :-
8th Generation Intel® Core™ i7-8700K 6-Core Processor (12M Cache, up to 4.7 GHz)

Motherboard:-
ASUS ROG Strix Z-370-E

Ram :-
64GB, 2666MHz, DDR4 16x4


Storage :-
1. 256GB M.2 Samsung 960Pro PCIe x4 SSD (For OS)
2. 1TB M.2 Samsung 960Pro PCIe x4 SSD (For Running Projects & Cache Memory)

Graphic Card :-
NVIDIA® GeForce® GTX 1080ti Founders Edition with 11GB GDDR5 Graphics Memory

Data Drive :-
2x6 TB Seagate Ironwolf Pro in RAID 0 (For Data)

Chasis (any you want)


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Vasim Shaikh
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 23, 2018 at 11:58:07 am

Thanks Manish!

That looks like a really good system. Have you worked on a lower spec machine before? Did you see viewport performance gains after upgrading?


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Manish Chaudhary
Re: After Effects Workstation Advice
on Apr 23, 2018 at 6:05:31 pm

i worked on 2013 mac pro that have 32gigs of ram and dual amd cards
i really feel so much advantages in this upgrade and having no problem in switching between mac to windows..


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