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Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?

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Jeff Russell
Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?
on Jul 24, 2013 at 9:00:55 pm

Hello.

I've heard that upgrading the graphics card can really increase performance in After Effects CC. But is it really like getting a new machine or does it only provide performance increases for certain operations. Specifically, rendering the final file. Is this done with a GPU or is this still dependent on the CPU and ram? I don't do a lot of work with Ray Tracing so what would be the point?

I currently have a ATI Radeon HD 4870 with 512 MB.
I'm working on an old Mac Pro 3.1 dual quad core with 16 gigs of ram.

Jeff


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Greg Neumayer
(...just following thread as well...)
on Jul 24, 2013 at 9:38:43 pm

(...just following this thread as well. I have the same specs and am trying to keep the life in my mac until the big upgrade this fall...)


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Walter Soyka
Re: Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?
on Jul 24, 2013 at 10:28:03 pm

[Jeff Russell] "I've heard that upgrading the graphics card can really increase performance in After Effects CC. But is it really like getting a new machine or does it only provide performance increases for certain operations. Specifically, rendering the final file. Is this done with a GPU or is this still dependent on the CPU and ram? I don't do a lot of work with Ray Tracing so what would be the point? "

A supported GPU pays huge dividends with the ray-tracing renderer.

The Classic 3D renderer and most effects are still CPU-bound, so a GPU won't help. Some third-party effects use the GPU for rendering in the Classic 3D renderer, including Optical Flares, Element 3D, FreeForm, ShapeShifter, Magic Bullet Looks, and GenArts Sapphire.


[Jeff Russell] "I currently have a ATI Radeon HD 4870 with 512 MB. I'm working on an old Mac Pro 3.1 dual quad core with 16 gigs of ram."

Your Mac Pro is 5 years old. That's like a zillion in computer years :) A current iMac runs Total Benchmark faster.

If you're not doing ray-tracing, I'd skip the GPU for now. Instead, I'd look at more RAM and an SSD.

I generally recommend 4 GB per core, so 32 GB would suit you nicely. It should be a pretty cheap upgrade. Watch Activity Monitor during a render and see how close you come to maxing out your CPUs. If you have CPUs sitting idle but RAM full, then you are leaving some speed on the table. If your CPUs are generally maxed out, then your RAM is probably sufficient for your rendering needs (though more system RAM can still give you a more pleasant experience by allowing the system to keep more stuff in the RAM cache).

An SSD for the disk cache with Ae CS6 and CC can also give you a nice performance boost by reducing the amount of time your system wastes rendering and re-rendering the same frames or layers over and over as you work. You could move this SSD to another machine in the future when you upgrade.

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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Chris Bobotis
Re: Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?
on Jul 24, 2013 at 10:51:55 pm

Walter makes some excellent points.

AE developer hat off and AE user hat on.
Strong GPU(s) will be a must moving forward. Once you get a chance to work at that speed then there is really no turning back. Speed = more time to create and less time waiting. More and more apps will take advantage of the GPU espcially now that it looks the next Apple OS may finally catch up to WIN in openGL support.

I would plan robust GPU(s) into your buying mix.

HTH

Cheers,
Chris
mettle.com


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Walter Soyka
Re: Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?
on Jul 25, 2013 at 1:58:03 am

[Chris Bobotis] "I would plan robust GPU(s) into your buying mix. "

What Chris said!

I don't mean to suggest that you should not worry about the GPU at all -- just that assuming a limited budget, I'd prioritize the GPU lower than RAM/SSD in the specific case above. Unless you are really relying on GPU-heavy effects, you won't get as much bang for your buck today in the scenario you're describing with the GPU as you would with RAM/SSD. None of these upgrades will make your current computer feel "new." The 2008 Mac Pro is just not the speed demon it used to be.

I agree 100% with Chris's forward-looking statements about the increasing significance of the GPU. Even if you don't want one today, you will want a good GPU in your next machine.

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 Udell
Re: Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?
on Jul 25, 2013 at 12:07:08 am

Hey Walter....

moving our group to AE CC and spec'ing some SSD drives.
I've read about and watched videos demonstrating GPC in AE, and am quite excited about it.

How much do artists have to think about it in using AE? Obviously if they can really get in a groove with its benefits and its philosophy it can be a huge time saver. But right out of the gate for the typical sloppy artist who's not paying attention to efficient design techniques...how beneficial is it?

Alex Udell
Editing, Motion Graphics, and Visual FX


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Walter Soyka
Re: Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?
on Jul 25, 2013 at 2:15:03 am

[Alex Udell] "I've read about and watched videos demonstrating GPC in AE, and am quite excited about it."

The global performance cache (of which the persistent disk cache is just a part) is so cool. It's a great set of engineering, and while they might not be the sexiest features to demo, I've found they make a big difference while working.


[Alex Udell] "How much do artists have to think about it in using AE? Obviously if they can really get in a groove with its benefits and its philosophy it can be a huge time saver. But right out of the gate for the typical sloppy artist who's not paying attention to efficient design techniques...how beneficial is it?"

Artists don't have to think about it at all. You can manually queue comps for background render, but you'll benefit from the persistent disk cache even if you don't. It'll just plug away in the background, automatically dumping rendered frames from RAM previews to disk as it can.

In fact, I almost never cache in the background, because cache management is a black box that is not exposed to the user. Instead, I sometimes use Lloyd Alvarez's BG Render script to make pre-renders or full-res proxies in the background, saving the output to the SSD. That allows me to actively manage my own little "cache" on my fastest disk. Your more organized artists might consider a similar technique.

The only time your artists will need to think about the cache is if they need to clear it because a frame is somehow not updating. For example, I've seen people get plugin trial X's burned into their cache that don't automatically clear when they purchase the license for the plugin; in this case, the only remedy is to clear the entire cache (done through preferences). Also, make sure you're running up-to-date plugins; there were a few cache bugs with earlier versions of Particular.

Hope this helps,

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 Udell
Re: Graphics card upgrade question: Does is really make your computer feel new or is it only on certain tasks?
on Jul 25, 2013 at 3:11:30 am

thanks for the great walk through! very helpful!


[Walter Soyka] "In fact, I almost never cache in the background, because cache management is a black box that is not exposed to the user. Instead, I sometimes use Lloyd Alvarez's BG Render script to make pre-renders or full-res proxies in the background, saving the output to the SSD. That allows me to actively manage my own little "cache" on my fastest disk. Your more organized artists might consider a similar technique."


we are big fans of BG render script here. I do need to get my artists rendering pre-comps more, though.....they don't always approach heavy things smart....and versions of things could be done faster.....

Alex Udell
Editing, Motion Graphics, and Visual FX


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