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What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?

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Kim Taylor
What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 29, 2012 at 5:12:52 pm

Hi everyone
I'm trying to buy a new computer and I am really interested to know what other guys on here are using. As pros I'd be interested if you could list a brief overview of what you're using:

• Mac / PC
• No. Cores, RAM, CPU speed?
• Custom / All-in-one?
• How do you find it performance wise? Would you recommend it?

Thanks. Right now for me the biggest dilemma is between a Mac Pro (2+ year old model) or a custom built PC, however I do really hate PCs and so it will be a tough decision!

FYI I'm currently using a Dual core 3.06 GHz iMac with 4GB RAM. As you might imagine this is now proving far too slow for serious AE and C4D work.

Thanks all.


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Tom Daigon
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 29, 2012 at 7:04:14 pm

I just switched from my 2008 Mac Pro to an HP Z820 powerhouse

• No. Cores 16 (32 Hyper-threaded)
• RAM 64 GB
• CPU The fastest Sandy Bridge Xeons available 2- 2687w 3.1 + Turbo
• Custom HP configuration
•Dulce Pro DQg2 16 TB raid array

Like I said, its an editorial powerhouse with PrP and AE. After a 27% discount I feel got my moneys worth.

Tom Daigon
PrP / After Effects Editor
http://www.hdshotsandcuts.com





HP Z820 Dual 2687
64GB ram
Dulce DQg2 16TB raid


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Steven L. Gotz
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 29, 2012 at 7:44:34 pm

I am extremely pleased with my new PC. I had it built by ADK in Kentucky. I made a few decisions as to what I wanted after spending a lot of time researching and reading forum messages. Eric at ADK proceeded to question about half of my assumptions. Which was fine with me. We ended up building a PC that is remarkably fast at a price less than the USD $5,000.00 budget I set aside for this project.

I spent a bit extra to get a second SSD to clone the first one - for use during beta testing of software. I splurged a bit on extra quiet fans. I can now sit next to the PC while doing voiceovers and not have to clean in up in Audition later.

The basics are as follows:

ADK - Core i7 SB-E Motherboard: 4 PCIex16, 2 PCIe, up to 64Gig Ram
Intel - Core i7 3930K Processor: Overclocked to 4.5GHz w/12M cache
DDR3 4G 1600 memory 1.65v 9-9-9-24 (32G total)
GeForce - GTX670 4GB 256-bit PCI Express video card
Intel - 240GB 520 Series SSD Hard Drive: 550 read/520 write (OS)
WD 2TB Sata HDD 64meg cache sata 600 - 2 in RAID 0 (Media)
WD 2TB Sata HDD 64meg cache sata 600 - 2 in RAID 0 (Cache)
WD 2TB Sata HDD 64meg cache sata 600 - 1 (Finished Product)

The CPU has 6 physical cores (12 Hyper-threaded). Not the monster that Tom has, but pretty darn good for the price.

The GTX670 is considerably less expensive than the GTX680 and isn't much slower. I went for the biggest bang for the buck when I could without sacrificing much speed. I was not going to overclock, but Eric assured me it would be OK since I was using liquid cooling and decent fans. They seem to have good luck doing this and apparently the system is designed to deal with it... AE is optimized to use the GTX6xx cards for Ray Tracing. Very cool.

As for speed, I put together my first title for a short project using After Effects. Wow! I used to have to wait for things to happen. Now, they play back so fast I can try many different things that I would never have attempted on my last system.

Also, due to the SSD, my system takes less than 60 seconds from the time I press the "On" button to the time all tasks have been completed (included virus software) and it is ready to start loading After Effects.

So, if you have a lot of money you can spend to get what you really want, Tom has shown you the way. If your budget is more like mine, I think you will find a system like mine quite satisfactory.

If the budget is closer to USD $2000, then take a look at the budget system Videoguys recommends. The screen I am looking at as I write this has an advertisement for Videoguys offering a 5% discount. Select "Guides" and scroll down to the section about "DIY9".

Good luck with your new system and let us know how it works out.

Steven


http://www.stevengotz.com



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Kim Taylor
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 29, 2012 at 10:27:33 pm

Thank you both for replying

@Tom, wow that sure is a powerhouse. I'm sure that set you back a fair bit but I imagine it's fast enough to make it more than worthwhile! I have a feeling this is a bit out of my league in terms of budget, although I'd love such a system.

@Steven, this sounds a bit more in my range. The 6-core i7 3930 seems to be a good choice. I'd be interested to know how much of a difference the number of cores makes over the general performance of the processor.

For instance, I have been playing around with configurations on http://www.yoyotech.co.uk/ and my ideal system (with the 6-core, 32GB RAM) comes to about £1700, which is the sort of price I could pick up a second hand 8-core mac pro. Would the extra two cores not make the mac faster, or is it more complex than that?

Similarly, the AMD 8-core processors that some vendors offer are in my price range, but reading some other forum discussion makes me think the i7 CPUs are superior, even though they only go up to 6-core models as far as I can see.

I'm not very savvy about these kinds of things as you may be able to tell!

Last question: You talk about the graphics card, however I didn't think it was necessary to have a super powerful graphics card for AE. This adds a considerable premium to the machine, especially the one you talk about. Am I wrong?

Thanks again


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Tom Daigon
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 4:20:01 am

I strongly suggest you stay away from AMD CPUs.

And I even more strongly suggest you contact Eric at ADK. If you want to get the best possible system bank for buck, he really is a good place to start. He knows his stuff and will help guide you to the kind of system you will be happy with.

http://www.adkvideoediting.com/choose.asp

Tom Daigon
PrP / After Effects Editor
http://www.hdshotsandcuts.com





HP Z820 Dual 2687
64GB ram
Dulce DQg2 16TB raid


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Kim Taylor
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 6:36:21 am

Thanks Tom.
I'm in the UK unfortunately, however ADK's setups look ideal. I'll keep my eyes out for an equivalent vendor over here.


k


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Kim Taylor
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 8:37:12 am

One other thing...

You're using a couple of Xeons: I have read that in many cases i7s actually outperform Xeons because a lot of the Xeons cannot be overclocked.

And in many cases in comparison to an i7 that's overclocked to over 4GHz, the Xeon options available seem to be in the 2-3 GHz range.

Just curious if you factored this into your decision.

Thanks


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John Cuevas
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 12:54:08 pm

I'll jump in, it's really fast.
System Core
Motherboard - Asus Z9PE-D8 WS
CPU - 2 x Intel Xeon E5-2620 2.0GHz Six Core 15MB 95W
Ram - Kingston 64GB DDR3-1333 8GB ECC Reg (8x8GB)
Video Card - EVGA Geforce GTX 680 2GB

Hard Drive
Primary drive -2 x Intel 520 240GB SATA 6Gb/s 2.5inch SSD
Secondary drive - 2 x Intel 330 120GB SATA 6Gb/s 2.5inch SSD

Johnny Cuevas, Editor
Thinkck.com

"I have not failed 700 times. I have succeeded in proving that those 700 ways will not work. When I have eliminated the ways that will not work, I will find the way that will work."
---THOMAS EDISON on inventing the light bulb.


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Tom Daigon
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 1:11:44 pm

Xeons are crucial for working with large files like Red/Epic and alike.
I wanted a system that could handle a wide range of formats and codecs.
Overclocking seems to be implemented more by gamers and hobbyists. I know of no edit facilities or professionals that overclock. This is mostly due to the need for constant use (20 hours a day and 7 days a week).

If your workflow doesn't encompass any of the above concerns, then I would encourage you to get the l7-overclocked system. :D

Tom Daigon
PrP / After Effects Editor
http://www.hdshotsandcuts.com





HP Z820 Dual 2687
64GB ram
Dulce DQg2 16TB raid


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Walter Soyka
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 1:39:01 pm

[Kim Taylor] "You're using a couple of Xeons: I have read that in many cases i7s actually outperform Xeons because a lot of the Xeons cannot be overclocked. "

The Xeon allows multiple CPUs to be installed in the same system and the Core i7 does not; I doubt you can stably overclock an i7 high enough to catch up with a pair of Xeons.

If you do choose to overclock an i7, I'd suggest you make sure you have an outstanding cooling system.

I'll also second the recommendation to stay away from AMDs -- they are not competitive on high-end performance.

My current workstation is a 12-core Z800 with 48 GB of RAM that HP sent me to evaluate in cross-platform workflows. I am a long-time Mac guy, but Windows 7 on quality hardware has been a really good experience, and I don't see myself going back to Mac-only. If you want a performance computer, PCs offer you additional options that Macs don't.

In general, no matter which platform or which computer you get, I recommend 4 GB of RAM per core for an AE workstation, and I recommend a dedicated SSD for the disk cache. If you intend on using CS6's new ray-tracing renderer, get a high-spec GTX or Quadro card from NVIDIA. Finally, go over the Improve performance [link] page in the documentation.

Good luck with your new system!

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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Kim Taylor
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 7:04:47 pm

Hmmm I was considering an overclocked 6-core i7. The comments on how overclocking is more for gamers and hobbyists is interesting. Surely the extra speed would be much appreciated when you need stuff to render fast?

If you had the option to buy a bespoke built i7 would you choose not to overclock if there was the option?

Also what prompts me to ask this is Steven Gotz in the third post of this thread cites an overclocked i7, from ADK- the company mentioned by Tom for being a reliable hardware supplier for motion graphics purposes.

I've also been looking more at the Xeons. I doubt that they are really in my price range though :(

I can always count on Creative Cow for insightful advice
Thanks guys the help is appreciated.


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Darby Edelen
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 8:52:43 pm

Core i7s are a fine buy if you cannot afford a pair of Xeons.

The Xeon is better for those who can afford it and use applications that take full advantage of multi-threading like After Effects and most 3D renderers.

For example, I chose to go with 2x 8-core Xeons for my next system because Cinema 4D will be able to render 32 buckets simultaneously instead of the 12 buckets that you would get out of your Core i7. So while the overclocked Core i7 may render a single bucket faster than a Xeon, it would have to render almost 3 times as fast to keep pace with the wealth of threads that the Xeons can handle.

In my experience Cinema 4D handles multiple threads much more effectively than AE. In the end the Xeon to i7 comparison in After Effects might favor the Xeon less, but it's still going to be damn hard for the i7 to beat out a pair of Xeons.

Ultimately it comes down to what you can afford though. Xeons are very expensive.

Darby Edelen


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Kim Taylor
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 30, 2012 at 10:05:42 pm

Yep, that makes sense. I suppose by that logic it's only really worth going the Xeon way if you're going to have two CPUs. 1 x 8 core Xeon running at 2.6 GHz might not offer much advantage over a 6-core i7 running at 3.4 GHz.

I am condsidering this system http://3xs.scan.co.uk/ShowSystem.asp?SystemID=1092
Which pitches itself as a Video Editing workstation.

Intel Core i7 3930K, 3.2GHz, 12MB Cache, overclocked to 4.2Ghz
Asus P9X79 Motherboard - X79 Chipset
16GB RAM DDR3 1600MHz (will upgrade to 32GB)
1GB EVGA GTX 550 Ti

It is overclocked (still not sure if this is a good idea following posts earlier, however given the system has been built and tuned for purpose as a NLE system I'd hope it is stable)

Thoughts?


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Roland R. Kahlenberg
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 31, 2012 at 5:47:50 am

Just so that you don't forget, an SSD for AE or PPros cache/preview files are crucial if you want to leverage on the speed prowess of the apps. Also, ensure that 3-4GB per core is available.

HTH
RoRK

Intensive AE & Mocha Training in Singapore and Malaysia
Adobe ACE/ACI (version 7) & Imagineer Systems Inc Approved Mocha Trainer


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Martin Tew
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 31, 2012 at 8:28:26 am

Hello, I am in a similar situation looking for a new computer for AfterEffects. But I have always used mac.

I would like to ask: Wouldn't an 8-core mac pro be better than the 6-core PC that you are considering? Or is there more to it than the number of cores?


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Walter Soyka
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:39:45 pm

[Martin Tew] "Wouldn't an 8-core mac pro be better than the 6-core PC that you are considering? Or is there more to it than the number of cores?"

There is no current 8-core Mac Pro (and arguably there is not current Mac Pro at all), and in terms of raw computation, a stock 6-core i7 matches the fastest stock 8-core Mac Pro from 2010.

If you overclock the 6-core i7 3930k, you can get a CINEBENCH score of 14.23 [link] that very nearly matches the CINEBENCH performance of a stock 2012 12-core Mac Pro at 15.1 [link].

CINEBENCH is not a perfect proxy for After Effects performance, but it's very good for estimating C4D performance and it's a pretty good measure of overall computational power.

The Mac Pro is running on a dated system architecture and I wouldn't rate it a good buy right now.

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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Walter Soyka
Re: What computer set up are you using for AE / VFX / 3D ?
on Jul 31, 2012 at 2:18:17 pm

[Kim Taylor] "It is overclocked (still not sure if this is a good idea following posts earlier, however given the system has been built and tuned for purpose as a NLE system I'd hope it is stable)"

As long as the cooling system and power supply is adequate, this should be fine. If you cannot keep the CPU cool enough, overclocking will lead to overheating, which leads to crashes and possibly shortened CPU life. If you can keep the temperature of the CPU down, it should be fine.

If your vendor offers a good warranty for your system, I'd consider it a viable option.

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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