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Brian BetzWorkstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 2:00:09 am

I am shopping for a workstation and any help would be most appreciated. First I will explain what I will be doing with the workstation. I will be running CS 5.5 After Effects, Premier, and Photoshop. I use After Effects quite a lot, but my final videos are usually rather short.. 5 to 6 mins. Nevertheless, my AE projects tend to have many layers and I work with HD. Thus, a system optimized for AE is very important. I do edit video in Premier and some of my projects can be longer, perhaps an hour, but I do not have multiple projects that I am working on at the same time.

I have heard the Z series by HP is particularly good for CS 5.5. I contacted HP and stated what I have above and also that it is my understanding that many workstations have 3 HDs…one for source media, one for programs, and one HD for output files. Here is what I got back from HP:

HP Z800 Workstation
Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64-bit
HP Z800 1110W 89% Efficient Chassis
HP Z800 Localization Kit
Intel® Xeon® E5645 2.40 12MB/1333 6C CPU-1 (LOWPWR)
HP Air Cooling Solution (Must order Heatsink with this item.)
HP 1x Standard Heatsink Thermal Kit (Required if Air Cooling Thermal Kit selected and processor is LOWPWR. Not supported with two processors.)
NVIDIA Quadro 4000 2.0GB Graphics
HP 24GB (6x4GB) DDR3-1333 ECC 1-CPU RegRAM (Supported only with Single Processor)
HP 160GB SATA 10K SFF 1st HDD
HP 500GB SATA 7200 2nd HDD
HP 500GB SATA 7200 3rd HDD (Second drive must be SATA)
HP SATA Blu-ray Writer 1st Drive
HP RAID 1 (Mirrored Array) Configuration

As I understand it I would not want RAID 1 as that would just be a redundant drive. I may go with a bit cheaper graphics card to save some money and ditch the blue ray writer for the same reason. Any comments would be most appreciated!

Brian


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David JohnsonRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 3:56:57 am

Those specs are very similar to the Z800 I use so I can tell you first-hand that it makes a stellar AE machine (and also handles PP, PS and everything else I run very well). I never thought I'd hear myself say something like that since I'd been dead set against using pre-fab machines (i.e., HP, Dell, Compaq) for most of my career (and for good reason), but I must admit that HP knocked it out the park with the Z series. Not only will you be thoroughly impressed with the performance, but take a look inside the box ... the workmanship has come a very long way.

And, you are correct that, as far as AE is concerned, the graphics card is indeed the right place to shave a little cost.

I'm just thinking out loud here so this is not a slight against the machine, but am I the only one who finds it weird that they market the chassis as "89% Efficient"? Maybe it's just the marketing guy in me, but it seems that encourages people to ask themselves why am I paying all this money for something that is 11% inefficient out of the gate!? lol


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Brian BetzRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 4:11:54 am

Thanks so much David. I have heard many people say great things about the Z800. The last workstation I bought was many years ago and I pretty much speced every last piece of it out and let the company know what I wanted down to the detail. There has been much in the way of change and improvement. Nevertheless, in some respects has gotten more complex.

I'm thinking that the hard drives will be better off without RAID and just have the three drives.

Thanks again!

Brian


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David JohnsonRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 1:14:37 pm

Glad to help, Brian.

[Brian Betz] "I'm thinking that the hard drives will be better off without RAID and just have the three drives."

From a performance standpoint, yes, you are correct that separate drives for system, read and write is best. That said, it depends on the rest of your setup ... keep in mind that it's best to also have a backup of some sort. That could be an external RAID or a series of regular drives with automated backup software or a backup tape system.

By the way, Walter makes a great point that, while GPU doesn't make much difference to AE itself, it does matter to the other stuff you may use or decide to use later.


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Brian BetzRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 2:34:35 pm

Thanks David! Yes I am really paranoid on back up, I plan on automated software to an external hard drive. The Quadro 4000 is tempting me, but I may have to cut costs somewhere. The sales person suggested possibly going with the Quadro 2000. Trying to keep the costs down a bit....and I could pop in a graphics card later on , if I decided to beef up a bit. I guess it is always a balancing act between cost and performance! Thanks again!
Brian


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Walter SoykaRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 4:32:13 am

Looks good, Brian.

You're right that After Effects won't benefit from the Quadro 4000 -- but some GPU-accelerated third-party effects will.

Premiere Pro would also benefit -- if you'll be using it much, see Dennis Radeke's blog post about why you might want that Quadro 4000 [link] after all.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Brian BetzRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 12:19:11 pm

Thanks Walter for the input and link! I am now tempted by the Quadro 4000! I will have see how my budget works out on this, but overall the system does seem to be a the right on for my interests.

Just so I am clear on the drive configuration. With the three drives, as listed above, would it be best to leave as non RAID?

Thanks!
Brian


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Walter SoykaRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 4:24:01 pm

[Brian Betz] "Just so I am clear on the drive configuration. With the three drives, as listed above, would it be best to leave as non RAID?"

I think so. I have an HP Z800 in my office with three separate drives: one for the OS and applications, one for source media, and one for renders.

If you want a RAID, you might consider adding an external 4-, 6-, or 8-drive RAID 5 or RAID 6 system later. Just remember (as you noted above) that RAID is not backup.

Walter Soyka
Principal & Designer at Keen Live
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
RenderBreak Blog - What I'm thinking when my workstation's thinking
Creative Cow Forum Host: Live & Stage Events


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Brian BetzRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 4:39:33 pm

Thanks Walter...just trying to wrap my brain around all of this. Yes I might add external RAID later on... From all accounts I have heard the Z800 makes a really fantastic workstation and it appears the set-up I have is pretty balanced...I just have to give the Quadro 4000 some consideration...possibly downgrade to 2000 for the budget.

Brian


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Tudor "Ted" JelescuRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 7:29:51 pm

One more bit of advice- as Walter mentioned AE may not directly benefit from a better GPU, BUT, if you plan to use 3rd party plugins like FreeForm Pro and ShapeShifter AE, then I would highly recommend one. I would be dead if I tried some of my projects on a cheap card and having a better one will help. Plus CUDA technology for Premiere Pro makes editing a pleasure.

Tudor "Ted" Jelescu
Senior VFX Artist


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Brian BetzRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 23, 2011 at 7:42:55 pm

Thanks Ted....looks like there are some pretty good reasons to go with the better graphics card.

Brian


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Don HuckleberryRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 24, 2011 at 7:47:01 am

Hi,

Happy Thanksgiving!

If you are not comfortable with upgrading computers or don't know anyone who can do it for you - you might want to stop right reading right now...but if you are on a tight budget or want to get more for your money - please read on!!! Also, some people think it's not a big deal to pay extra for a "turnkey" system. If you think along those lines, then my recommendations are probably not for you -- but money talks.

I put your specs in the HP online configurator and pasted the numbers below with the current 20% discount for small biz. You might have been quoted a different number, so please take that into account on your own. I have worked for both a major university and a major media company and we would routinely get at least 40% off but I doubt you have that buying power - but it doesn't hurt to push your salesperson for a better deal anyway. You might even configure a workstation with Dell just to get comparable pricing and make them fight over your quotes, we did that all the time.

I build all my personal machines, but have worked with Apple, Dell and HP workstations professionally and there is something to be said about not having to troubleshoot individual parts when building a system. I should know, because I am trying to build a system because I just got CS5.5 on that crossgrade and took all my parts back to Frys because the system was unstable...very frustrating. You can save at least 1/2 if you do this, but there are support issues and headaches that go away if you buy a stable workstation from Dell/HP/Apple.

A hybrid solution can involve a "barebones" setup with the case, power supply, motherboard, CPU/heatsink, base ram and OS then upgrade the video card, memory and disc - all of which are very easy to do. If you aren't comfortable with doing it, you should be able to hire someone to just install the pieces and still save a lot of cash as you will see below. Your warranty on the base system will not be voided and you can run tests on your memory and disc to make sure the upgrades are not defective.

Lastly, think of memory as the soft drink at a restaurant - the highest profit margin item. The cup cost more than the drink if I remember and it's like 1000% markup or something. So that's where you will save most of your money - and the ram I specd is direct replacement from Kingston - not a "generic" brand - but ram is weird anyway, coming from all kinds of sources with re-branding and all - there really isn't a "generic" ram at this level. Also, with the flooding in Thailand - HD pricing is wierd but the sweet spot for a 2TB 7200 rpm drive with 32MB cache should be around $100 so you should be able to get 4x the space for ~70% the price (the numbers below are still just 500GB but I highly recommend against them because the cost/MB is bad). I would get 4x2TB drives and make 2 RAID 0 software striped arrays for your read/write drives (all internal). Of course the RAID 0 doubles the chance of failure, but it increases overall throughput and render times will decrease because the I/O on the disk will be better. You could add an external RAID later and then re-stripe the 4 internal as a RAID 0 or even RAID 5 for redundancy so you can worry a little less. Also BD burners have dropped sooooo low - that HP price is ridiculous.

With the savings, you could buy an external RAID, nicer video card, additional monitor, or upgrade your CPU - doing AE, you might want to get 2x4core (for 16 threads) - of course, that modifies all the numbers too.

----------
Your Configuration

HP Z800 Workstation (case, power supply, motherboard, CPU+heatsink, windows 7 pro $2,845.00
Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64-bit $0.00
HP Z800 1110W 89% Efficient Chassis $0.00
HP Z800 Localization Kit $0.00
Intel® Xeon® E5645 2.40 12MB/1333 6C CPU-1 (LOWPWR) $0.00
HP Air Cooling Solution (Must order Heatsink with this item.) $0.00
HP 1x Standard Heatsink Thermal Kit (Required if Air Cooling Thermal Kit selected and processor is LOWPWR. Not supported with two processors.) $0.00
NVIDIA Quadro 4000 2.0GB Graphics $999.00
HP 24GB (6x4GB) DDR3-1333 ECC 1-CPU RegRAM (Supported only with Single Processor) $1,560.00
HP 160GB SATA 10K SFF 1st HDD $0.00
HP 500GB SATA 7200 2nd HDD $140.00
HP 500GB SATA 7200 3rd HDD (Second drive must be SATA) $140.00
HP SATA Blu-ray Writer 1st Drive $399.00
HP RAID 1 (Mirrored Array) Configuration
Total before discount $6,083.00
Total with 20% disc. $4,866.40


Base HP with 3rd party upgrades
HP Z800 Workstation $2,845.00
Genuine Windows 7 Professional 64-bit $0.00
HP Z800 1110W 89% Efficient Chassis $0.00
HP Z800 Localization Kit $0.00
Intel® Xeon® E5645 2.40 12MB/1333 6C CPU-1 (LOWPWR) $0.00
HP Air Cooling Solution (Must order Heatsink with this item.) $0.00
HP 1x Standard Heatsink Thermal Kit (Required if Air Cooling Thermal Kit selected and processor is LOWPWR. Not supported with two processors.) $0.00
NVIDIA Quadro 600 $170.00
Kingston 24GB (6x4GB ECC) KTH-PL313K3/24G $314.00
HP 160GB SATA 10K SFF 1st HDD $0.00
500GB SATA 7200 2nd HDD $100.00
500GB SATA 7200 3rd HDD $100.00
SATA Blu-ray Writer 1st Drive $60.00


HP total $2,845.00
with 20% disc $2,276.00

upgrades $744.00

total $3,020.00

savings $1,846.40


Hope this makes sense. Sorry, but I would have done a Dell myself for comparison, but it's getting late!!! I threw this in an excel spreadsheet, so I hope the numbers are right - it is late and I might have grabbed the wrong cells in my calculations. Please ask for clarification if something doesn't make sense.

Or just buy the system, it's all good!!!

Don


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Brian BetzRe: Workstation for After Effects
by on Nov 24, 2011 at 4:22:57 pm

Wow Don! Thanks for all the info and a Happy Thanksgiving to you! Your raise some great points and I am going to be thinking the all over the next few days. I probably would not build my own, but I was thinking of buying less now and doing some upgrading later. I also think you had an excellent suggestion to contact Dell and see what a
equivalent system might run. Thanks again!

Brian


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