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Hardware solutions - I'm clueless!

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Rob Nield
Hardware solutions - I'm clueless!
on Sep 28, 2009 at 7:47:13 am

I've just started a new job and I'm starting to feel a little out of my depth with regards to the hardware I've been given. I need some help.

At the moment I'm having a lot of problems with After Effects crashing all the time, and generally being very slow. These problems normally occur when working with Trapcode plugins Particular and Form, and sometimes with Photoshop 3D layers, and sometimes the render takes way too long in general. Not only do I want to solve these issues but I also want to get the best performance possible from the mac.

Specs:

Model Name: Mac Pro
Model Identifier: MacPro4,1
Processor Name: Quad-Core Intel Xeon
Processor Speed: 2.26 GHz
Number Of Processors: 2
Total Number Of Cores: 8
L2 Cache (per core): 256 KB
L3 Cache (per processor): 8 MB
Memory: 14 GB

I have a Decklink HD Extreme 2 capture card and a NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card (total VRAM: 512mb).

I'm also using two monitors. One's a Cinema HD screen, the other an LED Cinema Display (could this be an issue?).

I know absolutely nothing, not one iota, about graphics cards and hardware and compatibility with AE (all I know is OpenGL doesn't really work, right?). The boss doesn't have an issue with throwing money around. Any advice would be very much appreciated.


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Todd Kopriva
Re: Hardware solutions - I'm clueless!
on Sep 28, 2009 at 3:35:47 pm

> At the moment I'm having a lot of problems with After Effects crashing all the time, and generally being very slow.


You didn't say what version of After Effects you're using. If you're running After Effects CS4, and you haven't updated to After Effects CS4 (9.0.2), that needs to be your first step. That update fixed a lot of crashing and performance problems.

> I also want to get the best performance possible from the mac


Be sure to set RAM To Leave For Other Applications to a high enough value so that you're not starving the other software that you're running. Swapping to disk is a real performance killer. I have mine set to 4GB on a machine with 12GB of RAM.

There are a bunch of other performance tips in the "Improve performance" section of After Effects Help.



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Todd Kopriva, Adobe Systems Incorporated
putting the 'T' back in 'RTFM' : After Effects Help on the Web
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If a page of After Effects Help answers your question, please consider rating it. If you have a tip, technique, or link to share---or if there is something that you'd like to see added or improved---please leave a comment.


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Rob Nield
Re: Hardware solutions - I'm clueless!
on Sep 28, 2009 at 6:33:17 pm

Thanks for the advice! I had my RAM for other apps set to 2GB - it's now at 4GB. I'll see if things are better once I've updated AE (I am using CS4), and let you know.


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Kevin Camp
Re: Hardware solutions - I'm clueless!
on Sep 28, 2009 at 3:46:10 pm

it would also help to know which version of ae you are using (as seen in the splash/about ae screen, like 8.0.2) and the versions of the third-party effects that are giving you trouble...

but for starters, quit ae, then hold down shift-option-command while restarting ae. this should reset the main preference file to the default settings. then go to preferences>previews and disable opengl (uncheck the opengl option) and set preview acceleration to adaptive resolution. then see if you can make it crash.

if the problem seem to only be with third-party effects, look for updates to those effects (trapcode updates can be found at redgiantsoftware.com) and maybe compatibility information for those effects and the version of ae that you are using.

a bad ram configuration can also effect stability. since you have 14gb of ram that means you have some ram of different sizes. to make sure you have the correct configuration you can use the memory slot utilitiy (found in /System/Library/Core Services), it should give you the recommended config for your ram modules.

Kevin Camp
Senior Designer
KCPQ, KMYQ & KRCW


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Rob Nield
Re: Hardware solutions - I'm clueless!
on Sep 28, 2009 at 6:46:12 pm

Thank you for the help. OpenGL is now unchecked but I'm unsure what the 1/2, 1/4, 1/8 adaptive res options are about. I set it to 1/2 just to try things out.

I have one last question with regards to the graphics and capture cards. I'm aware the NVIDIA GeForce GT 120 graphics card I have isn't the best out there. If I were to get the boss to fork out for something with more power (a NVIDIA QUADRO would be nice) would it conflict with the Decklink HD Extreme/make it redundant?

Thanks again for the help.


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Kevin Camp
Re: Hardware solutions - I'm clueless!
on Sep 28, 2009 at 7:10:23 pm

i'm not a big fan of opengl in after effects (that's kind of a disclaimer, so you know where i'm coming from)... so, i would recommend upgrading a graphics card just for use in ae. i just don't think you'll get the kind of performance boost per cost, especially for a quardro (heck you could buy another mac). at best, opengl acceleration will just help you for previews. for the money you'd be better off getting more ram (up to 4bgb per core), more ram can allow more processors to be used for rendering and preview rendering.

that being said 14gb isn't too bad and i don't think that the amount of ram is the problem here.

as for your adaptive resolution -- you can set the adaptive resolution limit to as low as you want... it just effects the 'down sampling' of the preview window as you scrub thru the timeline, it doesn't effect anything else. the lower the setting, the more responsive the scrubbing can be, but at the sacrifice of preview resolution (just temporarily as you scrub, once you stop scrubbing, it goes back to normal). i think mine is set to 1/4...

as for the decklink card... i don't think there should be any problem with it and the display card, but you could check with decklink (blackmagic) for recommended slot configuration, but i believe it will work best in pci-e slot 2 -- the late 09 macs have two 16 lane slots (slots 1 & 2) and two 4 lane slots (3 & 4). you'd usually like to have your graphics card and hd i/o card in the faster (x16) slots.

as for leaving ram for other apps, if you are troubleshooting crashes, i would recommend reseting the preference file. this will disable multiprocessing (which i would recommend until you get the system stable), so ae will be limited to only 3gb of your 14gb -- there will be plenty of ram for other applications at that point.

once you get the system stable, then you can start tweaking the setting to get better performance. then you can enable multiprocessing and taylor those settings.


Kevin Camp
Senior Designer
KCPQ, KMYQ & KRCW


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