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New Mac Pro After Effects Workstation Set Up?

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Reid Harrington
New Mac Pro After Effects Workstation Set Up?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 3:39:03 pm

Here is the configuration that we are looking into purchasing. This will mainly be used for After Effects CS6. Looking for something that works without any hacks or workarounds. We are looking for the best combination of currently available hardware to deal with the challenges of High Definition and 4K Post Production. Can anyone offer any advice or changes to this configuration or anything else you would add to it? Also, will an expansion chassis such as a sonnet thunderbolt one or Cubix PCIe one be necessary? We are looking to get the maximum potential out of every PCIe card being used.

Mac Pro 12 Core
Two 3.06GHz 6-Core Intel Xeon (12 cores)
64GB RAM (Aftermarket)
ATI Radeon HD 5770 1GB
512GB solid-state drive

OWC Mercury Accelsior PCI Express SSD 960GB
OWC Mercury Extreme Pro 6G SSD 480 GB

Not too sure about the best graphics configuration for this or which one would or would not work:

- 1 Quadro 4000 card
- 2 Quadro 4000 cards. 1 card drives monitors, 1 card on reserve for hardware rendering
- 2 Quadro 4000 cards. Each card drives 1 monitor.
- Keep stock ATI card to drive monitors, use 1 or 2 Quadro 4000 cards just for rendering

Lastly here is the list of the PCIe cards that we will need to be using with this configuration:

OWC Mercury Accelsior PCI Express SSD 960GB
Fibre Channel Card
Blackmagic video capture/playback card
nVidia Quadro 4000 for MAC
2nd nVidia Quadro 4000 for MAC ?
ATI Radeon HD 5870 ?

Any help on this one?

Thanks guys!

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Walter Soyka
Re: New Mac Pro After Effects Workstation Set Up?
on Aug 22, 2012 at 9:15:53 pm

If you really want top performance, you might consider your PC options, too. See this After Effects benchmark where a 16-core PC outperforms a 12-core Mac Pro by almost 2x:

What would render on that Mac in one hour would render on that PC in 32 minutes.

I was a long-time Mac guy (I have seven of them here in my office), but I started adding PCs for daily creative work last year. I have been very pleased with the results, and I've found the cross-platform workflow to be pretty smooth. I know it's not the right move for everyone, and there may be other reasons you'd want to stay Mac-only, but you should be aware of the current performance gap due to Apple's decision not to update the Mac Pro with the current generation of Intel technology.

You will need PCIe slots for the fibre channel HBA and the video I/O with a Mac Pro. You've also got as many as three GPUs and a PCIe SSD solution in the mix. What is it that you're looking to do with all the GPUs? If you can get away with one, then you can keep the PCIe SSD card. If you need two GPUs, then you either need to move away from PCIe SSDs to standard internal SATA SSDs or consider adding the expander.

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
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