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AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration

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Andy Kreutzberg
AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Apr 3, 2013 at 11:18:58 am

Hi guys,

there is a question that bugged me for a while, but has received a whole new importance recently. What is the best possible hardware configuration to accelerate After Effects, especially the ram preview? I know some of the basics, like lots of ram obviously is a must because especially with multi-core rendering enabled, the ram gets split up and assigned to the cores of the cpu, so any shortage of that will slow down the outcome.

But does the graphics card come into play as well or is this just mainly the cpu doing the job? I am not just wondering about after effects' ram preview but rendering performance of the adobe package in general. Like rendering after effects comps with the media encoder. Under certain circumstances, i found rendering AE comps with Media Encoder to be faster (might also be related to ram organisation). Does a super-expensive quadro or tesla system actually make sense for AE and Media Encoder or is that just a waste of money because the programs don't make use of the card(s)?

In other words: If you had to built just one workstation with recent components featuring the most optimal rendering and preview performance for both after effects and media encoder, what would that consist of and why? And is there maybe some software or driver tweaks to boost ram preview performance?

Here is the reason why i am asking: My workstation currently consists of a 3930k, 24 Gigs of ram and two 7970 cards. I feel the performance could be improved in some scenarios and i heard the gaming cards of AMD are not the best when it comes to adobe support. OpenGL loves to crash and also multi-core rendering is not so reliable (using CS5.5 currently). I want to improve on this with more professional setups. Money is not an issue but still should be used efficiently. A company i work for is currently facing the same problem with their workstations, which just consist of consumer imacs for a whole production line. A less than optimal setup for sure, so they also look for advice.

The options are many and plenty, and research quickly leads to the same re-occuring questions that are hard to answer, so i sumarized it in the one question above.

Hope you guys can point me to articles, give some advice or even recommend your own setups. Apologies if this question has been asked a dozen times before. But it would be nice to get some perspective on recent developments in this.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Apr 3, 2013 at 2:00:52 pm

See this page for information about hardware for After Effects (and Premiere Pro and Photoshop): http://adobe.ly/pRYOuk

If you're just concerned about After Effects, then CPU, RAM, and fast disks/buses are all more important that a high-end GPU.

Regarding OpenGL: The OpenGL renderer in After Effects CS5.5 was garbage. We threw it out for After Effects CS6.

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Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
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Walter Soyka
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Apr 3, 2013 at 5:38:48 pm

[Andy Kreutzberg] "Hope you guys can point me to articles, give some advice or even recommend your own setups. Apologies if this question has been asked a dozen times before. But it would be nice to get some perspective on recent developments in this."

There's a lot of great information in the link that Todd posted.

If you do Ae full-time, I recommend the highest-spec, best-balanced workstation you can afford.

Balance is all about purchasing intelligently so you don't build a resource-wasting bottleneck into your system. For example, a 16-core workstation with only 24 GB of RAM would be very unbalanced: your CPUs would sit idle most of the time because they wouldn't have enough RAM to work in. A 16-core workstation with 64 GB of RAM and only a single hard disk may become disk-bound, unable to read or write to the hard disk as fast as the rest of the system can work, wasting CPU and RAM.

I recommend buying a workstation with the fastest and most CPUs you can afford, with 4 GB of RAM per core, one hard drive for the OS (possibly SSD), a dedicated SSD for Ae's new disk cache, and a fast disk or RAID system for media.

If you are interested in CS6's new ray-tracing renderer, I do recommend buying an NVIDIA card -- but no need for Quadro, a decent GTX card will do. There are a few other effects that can also exploit the GPU (GenArts Sapphire uses CUDA specifically, other effects like Element, ShapeShifter, MB Colorista/Looks can use any decent modern OpenGL card).

For a specific recommendation based on my own setup -- I was a long-time Mac user, but HP provided me a Z800 for evaluation a while back, and I've been so happy with it that I've since bought additional HP systems for daily use alongside my Macs.

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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Marc Lindeman
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Sep 7, 2015 at 10:39:01 pm

I like this answer, but having trouble looking for an updated list of best practices when buying an HP workstation for AE CC2015

And Are we not now into an HP Z820 for best performances and up-gradable builds


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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Apr 3, 2013 at 10:28:17 pm

[Andy Kreutzberg] "Does a super-expensive quadro or tesla system actually make sense for AE and Media Encoder or is that just a waste of money because the programs don't make use of the card(s)?"

They do make use of the cards (in certain tasks - follow Todd's links for more info) - however purely on BFTB ratio GeForce cards win (GTX-660 Ti, 670, etc.). In other words, no need to get Teslas or Quadros for CS purposes.

i7 systems wins on BFTB as well, over Xeon-based ones. It's when you're hitting the performance ceiling, memory and PCIe lanes limitations inherent with i7, and/or need enterprise class support, you'd want to consider Xeon-based single or dual socket systems, be it DIY, customs (Boxx, Promax) or Tier 1 (HP, Dell).

Alex Gerulaitis
Systems Engineer
DV411 - Los Angeles, CA


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Jordan Westhoff
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Apr 4, 2013 at 4:53:01 pm

I would prize CPU power and your disk speed above all else. These two factors are the most critical in power rendering with After Effects or Premiere

-Jordan Westhoff

Rochester Institute of Technology
BS Digital Cinema/Motion Picture Science 2015



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Walter Soyka
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Apr 4, 2013 at 4:55:57 pm

[Jordan Westhoff] "I would prize CPU power and your disk speed above all else. These two factors are the most critical in power rendering with After Effects or Premiere"

And RAM. If you don't have enough RAM, you can't make effective use of the CPUs.

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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Alex Gerulaitis
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Apr 4, 2013 at 10:06:36 pm

[Walter Soyka] "And RAM"

It shall be cheap RAM at that, please, if I could add my wish to the pile. (Thanks heavens we moved away from FB and Rambus memory, or we'd still think 4GB was plenty, and there'd be no SSDs.)


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Bill Lake
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Mar 26, 2014 at 3:03:27 am

Ae previews footage fastest when you have fast I/o (buss and disks) so put source media on raid zero. Never use caviar disks - you need fast disks with fast seek/read times.
Ae previews of effects requires fast CPU, large/balanced memory (2g per core min)
Never render from ae. Use AME.
Ame uses cuda to dramatically increase render speed. It also has better encoders. For this you must use an nvidia you. The more cores the better. This really only impacts renders.
Disk setup is critical: read source media from raid zero. Render to separate disk raid zero, apps/ O's on dedicated drive, as well. Then read up on where to place page file, caches, etc. Hsrm Millard is an expert on this.


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Walter Soyka
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Mar 26, 2014 at 11:26:51 pm

[Bill Lake] "Never render from ae. Use AME. Ame uses cuda to dramatically increase render speed. It also has better encoders. For this you must use an nvidia you. The more cores the better. This really only impacts renders."

AME does not render Ae comps faster than Ae does. It actually calls a background Ae process to render the frames. The CUDA acceleration in AME does not accelerate the actual rendering of an Ae frame (though I suppose it may accelerate scaling of frames, post-render,depending on compression settings)

AME can in fact render Ae comps more slowly than Ae does, because it cannot exploit multiprocessing.

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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Todd Kopriva
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Mar 26, 2014 at 11:31:02 pm

AME is faster at the encoding phase; the main ("headed") After Effects is faster at the rendering phase.

That's why I render a losslessly encoded master from After Effects to an AME watch folder and use AME to grab those master files and transcode them into various compressed delivery formats.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Bill Lake
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:02:46 pm
Last Edited By Bill Lake on Mar 27, 2014 at 1:06:22 pm

I thought I read (somewhere) that when you render a comp from AME, it called AE in the background, and AE rendered the frames, and then AME did final encoding. If AE is called, then why wouldn't AE use it's typical resourcing (i.e. multi-thread) to render?
-Bill


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Todd Kopriva
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Mar 27, 2014 at 4:59:18 pm

> If AE is called, then why wouldn't AE use it's typical resourcing (i.e. multi-thread) to render?


Because that would defeat the purpose of using AME as a background rendering application.

When you use Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously multiprocessing, you are telling After Effects to start many instances of itself in the background to render frames. This will take over your machine, and that is a good thing. You do _not_ want that to happen when you are rendering something in the background and continuing work on another composition, which is the workflow that rendering directly through AME is intended for.

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Bill Lake
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Mar 27, 2014 at 6:26:49 pm

Todd- Can you point me to some documentation on this? I'd like to understand the technology on this better.

My goal is often to render to final file as quickly as possible, once the comp, or a set of comps is completed. I find that if I generate a series of comps in AE (without rendering) and then drag them all to the AME queue, that I complete the entire render phase more quickly than if I first rendered to an uncompressed file in AE and then re-encode with AME. The AME final render's always are a higher quality (2 pass encoding) and much smaller file size. Now, my comps are not very complicated, so maybe that's the reason. Most of mine are 2d motion graphics, character animation compositions, logo openers (3d and effects) and such.

Where can I find out exactly how this works, software-wise.

-BL


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Todd Kopriva
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Mar 27, 2014 at 6:37:25 pm

> I find that if I generate a series of comps in AE (without rendering) and then drag them all to the AME queue, that I complete the entire render phase more quickly than if I first rendered to an uncompressed file in AE and then re-encode with AME.


Then you're probably not using Render Multiple Frames Simultaneously multiprocessing.

Documentation on that feature is in After Effects Help:
http://helpx.adobe.com/after-effects/using/memory-storage1.html

See this page for resources about making After Effects work faster: http://adobe.ly/eV2zE7

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
After Effects quality engineering
After Effects team blog
---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------


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Wallace Adrian D'Alessio
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Aug 13, 2016 at 3:55:48 am

It is now 2016 and this issue is muddier than ever. Adobe lists and nVidia lists don't match.

The Cards on the Adobe list for GTX are all obsolete ( as are many of the others listed)

But they are available on Amazon used. (!?)

There is a lot of change and conflicting info on AE use of any card. What was simple a few years ago is now a mine field.

DON'T buy a Quadro K2200 for After Effects in any case.
.

Adrian D'Alessio aka; Fluxstringer

fluxstringer@gmail.com
http://www.facebook.com/FluxStringer
http://www.linkedin.com/in/fluxstreamcommunications

http://twitter.com/FluxStringer
http://mog.com/FluxMuse


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Jay Budzilowski
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Sep 14, 2016 at 4:44:12 pm

I would also like an answer for 2016...preferably the best workstation/gpu (PC or Mac) for strictly encoding/transcoding with AME.


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Michael Trenton
Re: AE/Media Encoder: The best Workstation Configuration
on Sep 14, 2016 at 6:19:39 pm

[Wallace Adrian D'Alessio] "It is now 2016 and this issue is muddier than ever. Adobe lists and nVidia lists don't match.

The Cards on the Adobe list for GTX are all obsolete ( as are many of the others listed)

But they are available on Amazon used. (!?)

There is a lot of change and conflicting info on AE use of any card. What was simple a few years ago is now a mine field.

DON'T buy a Quadro K2200 for After Effects in any case."





I'd also like to add DON'T buy Geforce GTX 1070 as this card is not supported in After Effects.
I made the mistake of buying a brand new GTX 1070 a couple of months ago to replace my five year old GTX 580 and speed up work in After Effects and Premiere Pro. Unfortunately the card is unsupported in AE and using it leads to error messages and causes AE to crash. In Premiere the card performs no better than my old GTX 580 (rendering speeds being virtually identical). Seems I'd be better off keeping my old graphics card instead, but I'm hoping Adobe will address this and add support for newer Geforce GTX cards soon.


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