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iMac hardware questions in relation to After Effects

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Sean OlesiukiMac hardware questions in relation to After Effects
by on Dec 23, 2015 at 10:54:59 pm
Last Edited By Sean Olesiuk on Dec 24, 2015 at 1:23:09 am

Hey everyone! I'm going to be receiving a new late 2015 iMac 27 inch soon and have a few questions about RAM and storage. I've done some research but there are various answers and I really value the opinions from members of this site.

Here are the for-sure specs:

4.0GHz quad-core Intel Core i7, Turbo Boost up to 4.2GHz
AMD Radeon R9 M395X with 4GB video memory

I am a video editor (I know, PCs are great and cheaper but I'm sticking with the iMac). I use Premiere, After Effects, Photoshop, and a little bit of Maya as well as Element 3D. Most films I'll be making will involve 4k shots (from Phantom 3 UAV and GH4), most of the time involving creations in After Effects and sometimes involving 3D models in real life scenes, and most will be around 2-10 minutes long.

Now to the questions:

1. I am planning on adding 32GB or 64GB of RAM to the iMac. I'd prefer to add the 64GB if it will help even a little in speeds, but will it even be noticeable for the type of work I'll be doing? I figured with After Effects, Photoshop, and premiere open at same time, or if I'm rendering in AE it may help, but just wanted to get some opions from you experts :)

2. 512GB internal SSD or 1TB internal SSD? I'm trying to decide how I'm going to go about this and here are my two lines of thinking:
A. Go with 512GB SSD internal for OS, applications, and media cache/go with RAID (something like OWC Thunderbay4 Raid 5 8TB) for media and renders.
B. Go with 1TB SSD internal for OS and applications, as well as currently-being-worked-on project, a cheaper/slower but large (say 12TB) external storage drive just to house older projects, and say a 256GB or 512GB external SSD for caches.
C. other

Is it bad to have an external SSD just for cache? Should it be on the internal?

I'm new to learning about caches, drives, hardware questions, etc. so don't be too hard on me if this stuff seems easy to you! Thanks, and I really appreciate your help!

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Kevin CampRe: iMac hardware questions in relation to After Effects
by on Dec 25, 2015 at 4:18:52 am

i will say all the option you list are good options, so i doubt you'll be disappointed with what you choose.

for ram, i think you are likely fine with 32gb, but with 4k frame sizes you might see some benefit in ae with 64gb. adobe is overhauling the way ae handles multiprocessing, so 64gb may help future proof your system, but i'd lean a little towards 32gb personally (i'd wait until i knew the extra money was really going to help...)

for your second question, i'd lean towards option A. i like having the data distributed on multiple drives and buses, rather than leaning hard on a single drive and bus. that being said, the ssd in the new imac is really fast and i think anyone would have a tough time hitting a data bottleneck working off just that drive.

the imac actually has 2 internal ssd slots (search ifixit and/or owc or others for a tear down, owc even mentions a possible future second ssd upgrade for them), however, getting to that slot is a complete tear down of the machine that would keep most users from even considering as an option, but it would be a nice cache location for ae.

an external option is not a bad option either, though i don't think there is an external thunderbolt or usb3 ssd that is as fast as the internal ssd at this point. however, the loss in speed of the external source may be surpassed by having a much larger cache in the long run.

Kevin Camp
Art Director

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Sean OlesiukRe: iMac hardware questions in relation to After Effects
by on Dec 26, 2015 at 9:51:04 pm

Thanks so much for the help Kevin!

Just curious: if I did go with 1TB internal and had cache and media on it, how much slower would it be than if I separated the disks a bit more and separated cache and media?

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Kevin CampRe: iMac hardware questions in relation to After Effects
by on Dec 30, 2015 at 12:59:55 am

I don't think you'd notice it, but I have not tested a setup like that...

the traditional model was to separate your data onto separate buses to avoid data bottlenecks. since disk caching can become a constant flow of data and reading and writing of media is another (video i/o and graphcis card are another), it was common to want to separate those onto separate data buses... so you'd have a media on one bus, os on one bus (the system defaults to using the os drive for disk caching as ram fills up, and in osx, i don;'t think you can re-assign that, so that bus will always handle that cache), and then if possible, you could have a third bus for the ae cache (though many used the os drive). this allowed data flow more freely on separate lanes. and it's a model that i feel more comfortable recomending...

however, the new SSDs and PCIe buses are much faster that the older setups, and I think for most projects a single SSD for the os disk caching, ae caches and media will likely not see much of a data bottleneck.

if you did start to see a data bottleneck, you could simply add a small thunderbolt or usb 3.0 ssd to your system and use it as an after effects cache (disk cache and/or media cache). the smaller ones aren;t too expensive, so having that as a safety net, going with a large SSD will likely be fine.

Kevin Camp
Art Director

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