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AE Mac/PC/HACK!?!?

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Jonathan LutjensAE Mac/PC/HACK!?!?
by on Dec 2, 2015 at 7:44:45 pm

Long time listener, first time caller. Sort of.
So, I've been working as a "motion designer" for about 15 years now. I cut my teeth on After Effects, Maya, and Final Cut, but these days I spend most of my time in AE, C4D, and Premiere, with some Illustrator and Photoshop thrown in for good measure.
I've tried to keep up to date and informed on current and pertinent hardware knowledge, but at the end of the day I'm just not a gear head. I know enough to troubleshoot some problems and I'm pretty sure I won't melt down my machine by sticking something where it doesn't belong, but I prioritize my free time for exercising the creative muscle and getting more familiar with software.
So, (this is dragging on) I have a couple of questions.

1-Where can one find some serious and comprehensive (yet layman friendly) testing data for hardware setups and the corresponding performance with particular software? At best, I seem to find mostly testing that relates to specific components (graphics cards or processors) rather than systems. This may not exist, but I thought it likely that someone on here would know if it does.

2-Does anyone know of some small to mid-size operations that are building custom machines, either PC or Hackintosh? I currently run a Hackintosh which I'm pretty happy with. I've got a friend who knows way more about machines than me, but he doesn't have much knowledge of post-production software. As we put these machines together, we find ourselves kind of lost as to how to get the best performance. I would gladly pay some money for the expertise of someone who understands how certain software utilizes hardware and how to build a computer for optimal performance.

3-How do folks feel about the current state of After Effects? I've seen a lot of negativity on the Adobe forums. I'm on the fence right now. AE is a dirt cheap tool given what it can do. It also has some major problems in my view. Over the last 3 years or so, I've been surprised at how little the rendering seems to have improved. It also seems to really struggle with moderately complex comps/projects that are in the above-1080 size category. While finding a new tool after 15 years sounds terrible, (I really don't want to be a jack-of-all-trades and master of none) I have a growing sense that in order to progress in the area of higher definition, more sophisticated visuals that might be necessary.

Thanks for reading!


Jon


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Walter SoykaRe: AE Mac/PC/HACK!?!?
by on Dec 2, 2015 at 8:20:19 pm

[Jonathan Lutjens] "1-Where can one find some serious and comprehensive (yet layman friendly) testing data for hardware setups and the corresponding performance with particular software?"

This is actually enormously challenging. Think of all the things Ae can be used for: motion design, compositing, VFX. Think of all the variation within each of those major disciplines. This is next to impossible to distill to a single meaningful number.

In general, I recommend balance. For example, there's no sense loading up with a zillion-core CPU unless you have enough RAM to keep all those cores productively working.

I'd always suggest maxing out your RAM for Ae, and adding a dedicated SSD for the disk cache.


[Jonathan Lutjens] "2-Does anyone know of some small to mid-size operations that are building custom machines, either PC or Hackintosh?"

I like HP workstations quite a bit (they sent me one to test a few years ago and I've bought several more since), but there are a number of other vendors, too. Bigger ones like HP, Dell and Lenovo, and smaller ones BOXX, ADK, Puget Systems, and Falcon Northwest.




[Jonathan Lutjens] "3-How do folks feel about the current state of After Effects? I've seen a lot of negativity on the Adobe forums. I'm on the fence right now. AE is a dirt cheap tool given what it can do. It also has some major problems in my view. Over the last 3 years or so, I've been surprised at how little the rendering seems to have improved."

After Effects is in transition right now.

In Ae CC 2014 and prior, Ae's performance was seriously limited by its underlying design.

Ae CC 2015 is a major re-architecture, separating the renderer from the UI for the first time in Ae's 20+ year history. This is a huge amount of work, and it's clearly still in progress, but it's a necessary step for improving After Effects performance. This is exactly the work the Ae team needs to be doing in order to address the criticism you cite and keep Ae relevant in the years to come.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Michael SzalapskiRe: AE Mac/PC/HACK!?!?
by on Dec 2, 2015 at 8:23:35 pm

[Jonathan Lutjens] "Where can one find some serious and comprehensive (yet layman friendly) testing data for hardware setups and the corresponding performance with particular software?"

No idea. I think the issue is that there are such an infinitely variable amount of systems out there. That being said, it'd be neat to have some benchmarks of a few at least!


[Jonathan Lutjens] " I would gladly pay some money for the expertise of someone who understands how certain software utilizes hardware and how to build a computer for optimal performance."
AE uses the CPU and RAM mostly. Having a fast SSD for the cache is also beneficial.
As far as the CPU goes, AE is still fairly single-core heavy. So err on the side of faster clock speed vs. more cores. In the future, as the AE team builds the new renderer for AE, that might change.
The GPU doesn't matter for stock AE. Some third-party plugins rely on one though, so check their requirements. Also, Premiere uses the GPU too, so check its requirements as well.
GPU doesn't matter for C4D unless you're using a third-party GPU-based renderer.

Adobe software seems to be having issues with the newer Mac things, so I'd suggest getting Windows 7 for right now. It's rock solid.

That'll be $500 ;)


[Jonathan Lutjens] "How do folks feel about the current state of After Effects?"

It's great! The forums are often full of complaints, but that's what forums are for! People aren't going to hop in there and go, "Things are great; just thought you should know."

Here's the deal with AE...

A while back, the Adobe AE team asked the public for input: would we rather they keep going with how they usually develop or would we like them to take a year off from developing new features and focus only on improving the speed of AE. We overwhelmingly responded that we wanted speed.

So, for over a year now, the majority of the (very small) AE team has been focused on building a new core architecture for AE. The intent is to make it perform better on modern hardware. You can notice the first fruits of this labor in CC 2015. No longer do you have to wait for something to render to your screen for you to keep interacting.

Now, such a major change is not without some bumpiness. Remember when we went from CS4 to CS5? That was merely porting 32-bit software to 64-bit. This is much, much, much more complicated!

As I said in a recent post here, the AE team at Adobe has been quite clear that CC 2015 is a work in progress as they build AE's brand new architecture. Even if corporate Adobe seems to be ignoring it and pushing on like everything is normal, it isn't! Treat CC 2015 like a beta version where you can try some of the new bits of architecture, but keep CC 2014 on hand in case something goes awry.

The biggest new bit that you'll notice if you poke around with CC 2015 is that the renderer and the UI are now running on separate processing threads. I actually smiled the other day as I was playing with Trapcode Tao (or was it Mir?). I was swinging the camera position around in the scene and the interactivity was buttery smooth. I could see where things were because of my lights and layer controls visible in the comp window, but I didn't have to wait for Tao/Mir to render for me to keep pushing things around!

For me, I love CC 2015. It works well on my system. I can work faster with it and do more in less time. I almost exclusively use AE CC 2015 in my home studio.

One of the great things about the Creative Cloud is that you can install any or all of CS6, CC, CC 2014, and CC 2015! (I have AE in all of those versions plus CS5 installed on my home PC right now). In the past, you had to decide whether or not to risk buying a new version because, if it didn't work for you, you were crap out of luck! Now, you're not paying for anything when a new version comes out. You can try it and, if it isn't working, just keep on using what works!

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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Jonathan LutjensRe: AE Mac/PC/HACK!?!?
by on Dec 2, 2015 at 10:27:08 pm

Thanks so much for the replies, guys!
It's going to take a lot for me to switch from AE, and I certainly hope that with new changes behind the scenes, the software will make a big step forward in serious post production competitiveness. Even with the things I don't like the price is really unbeatable. I've learned enough smoke and mirrors over the years to be able to get great looking stuff out of AE.

As for switching over to Windows: I may consider resurrecting my last hackintosh and running windows on there. With years of archived projects and assets from a Mac OS, I'm not excited about migrating my whole workflow over to Windows.

Here's my setup. Can't wait till all those cores are fully employed by AE!



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Walter SoykaRe: AE Mac/PC/HACK!?!?
by on Dec 2, 2015 at 10:33:47 pm

[Jonathan Lutjens] "As for switching over to Windows: I may consider resurrecting my last hackintosh and running windows on there. With years of archived projects and assets from a Mac OS, I'm not excited about migrating my whole workflow over to Windows."

I switched my daily driver from a Mac Pro running OS X to an HP running Windows four years ago. I was a bit frightened of the change, but it was actually really easy, and now there's quite a lot about Windows I've come to prefer over Mac.

My little studio is bi-platform. We use cross-platform apps like Creative Cloud and C4D, and we have little to no trouble exchanging projects between Macs and PCs on a daily basis.

Walter Soyka
Designer & Mad Scientist at Keen Live [link]
Motion Graphics, Widescreen Events, Presentation Design, and Consulting
@keenlive [twitter]   |   RenderBreak [blog]   |   Profile [LinkedIn]


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Michael SzalapskiRe: AE Mac/PC/HACK!?!?
by on Dec 2, 2015 at 10:34:11 pm

[Jonathan Lutjens] "With years of archived projects and assets from a Mac OS, I'm not excited about migrating my whole workflow over to Windows."

It wouldn't take much effort actually. All you'd need to do is copy everything from one hard drive to another. AE doesn't particularly care if a project file was created with Mac or Windows. Ignoring the issues folks have been having with new Macs and just considering Apple's recent attitude towards professionals in general, I'm glad our shop uses Windows!

- The Great Szalam
(The 'Great' stands for 'Not So Great, in fact, Extremely Humble')

No trees were harmed in the creation of this message, but several thousand electrons were mildly inconvenienced.


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