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Recommendations for Current System

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Daniel Johnson
Recommendations for Current System
on Nov 4, 2010 at 4:27:40 pm

I will explain my setup and then ask some questions.

Here is my setup:

Running Adobe CS4 Production Premium (primarily ae)

Mac Pro
2 x 2.8 GHz Quad-Core Intel Xeon
10 GB 800 MHz DDR2 FB-DIMM
ATI Radeon HD 2600

Hard Drive 1: 320 GB, has my os on it with my project files (about half full)
Hard Drive 2: 1 TB, Keep large assets here, Render here, Media Cache here
Hard Drive 3: 250 GB, Scratch Disc
Hard Drive 4: 1 TB (just ordered, in transit)
External Hard Drive: Time Machine (mac file backup system)

AE preferences:
Ram to leave for other applications set to 3
Render multiple frame sim. - yes / Processors to leave for other applications set to 3 (i think)

What is the best way to increase the speed performance when working on projects inside of after effects (with a budget of $500 to start)?
1) Upgrade to cs5 (64 bit - so it can utilize more ram)
2) Add 8gb more ram
3) Fresh install of the os
4) Purchase a 10,000 rpm hard drive for os
5) Upgrade Video Card
6) Tweak AE settings
7) other?

Also, is there a better way to setup the hard drives to increase speed performance? I am not working with large video files for assets. My assets are typically measured in mb rather then gb. For example I work with illustrator files that sometimes have a lot of vector points, and lots of effects applied to them. So that makes me think that the hard drive speed isn't as important (and therefore a raid setup). Correct me if I'm wrong.

Let me know if you need more info, and thanks for the help!

Dan


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Walter Soyka
Re: Recommendations for Current System
on Nov 4, 2010 at 6:04:08 pm

[Daniel Johnson] "What is the best way to increase the speed performance when working on projects inside of after effects (with a budget of $500 to start)?"

The best way to increase your working speed in After Effects is free. Check out the improve performance page, and pay close attention to the sections on simplifying your project and modifying screen output. Adjust your workflow to take advantage of Shift-RAM preview options like decreased resolution and frame skipping. Use the region of interest. Use proxies.


[Daniel Johnson] "1) Upgrade to cs5 (64 bit - so it can utilize more ram)
2) Add 8gb more ram"


The best way to increase your render speed is multiprocessing, but using multiprocessing requires loads of RAM. I recommend a minimum 2 GB of RAM per core (plus some overhead for the OS and other apps), but AE CS4 can use up to 4GB per core. I'd look at upgrading your RAM first, because it will help you with CS4 now, and it will help you with CS5 whenever you choose to upgrade.

Don't forget that you will need 64-bit updates to all your plugins, and some developers charge for the upgrades. You should factor this into your budget when you update to CS5.


[Daniel Johnson] "3) Fresh install of the os"

Unless you have serious system problems, this is probably unnecessary.


[Daniel Johnson] "4) Purchase a 10,000 rpm hard drive for os"

If you're serious about going this route, get a solid-state startup disk instead of a faster mechanical disk. They are still very expensive, but it makes a big difference booting the system and launching applications. I've got a big SSD in my laptop, and I've been so impressed that I'm considering upgrading my workstation. It won't affect your render times much, but it will affect your day-to-day operation of your computer.


[Daniel Johnson] "5) Upgrade Video Card"

This is immaterial for After Effects. AE renders on the CPU -- it doesn't care about your video card. If you want to use Premiere Pro CS5 with the Mercury Playback Engine, though, getting a qualified card will give you a big performance boost.


[Daniel Johnson] "6) Tweak AE settings"

Yes. I suspect that you don't have enough RAM to use 5 cores at their peak. Depending on the kind of work you do, the effects that you use, etc., it may be faster for you to render with 3 or 4 cores (so they each have access to more than RAM) than rendering with 5 or 6 cores.


[Daniel Johnson] "7) other?"

With respect to your hard drive configuration, apps, OS, and project files are all ok on the first drive. Without a high-speed RAID, you might see some benefit from keeping your footage on your second drive, and putting your renders on your third drive. You could run some tests with your specific workflow to see if this will impact your render time.

A lot of these guidelines I've mentioned are heavily dependent on your specific workflow. Doing some tests to see what makes the biggest difference in your render times may help you make your choice.

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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Daniel Johnson
Re: Recommendations for Current System
on Nov 4, 2010 at 6:33:12 pm

Thank you so much for responding Walter.

Couple more questions:

1) Do I need to update to CS5 before or after I buy more ram? I though cs4 capped out at 4gb of ram or something?

2) I have read through that adobe page in the past. Some info though caught my eye this time around:
"Ideally, use three fast local disk drives: one for source footage files, one from which the application runs, and one for rendered output." So does this mean I should keep my ae project file AND assets on a separate drive? I heard once that at least the project file should be on the same drive as the os. Could be wrong?

I was aware of the ram issue. I was planning on that upgrade, but wanted to make sure that was the best route. I have a heavy project I am working through and I am having to render some of the compositions separate and piece them together since it is bogging me down so much. Heres hoping I will make it through :)

Dan


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Dave LaRonde
Re: Recommendations for Current System
on Nov 4, 2010 at 6:49:50 pm

[Daniel Johnson] "Do I need to update to CS5 before or after I buy more ram? I though cs4 capped out at 4gb of ram or something?"

You need to have a 64-bit operating system before you get either more ram or AE 10. A 32-bit OS only sees 4GB, but a 64-bit OS can see gobs more. If you have one, you're set -- trick it out with RAM; AE 9 will see it, even if it's more than 4 GB.

[Daniel Johnson] "...does this mean I should keep my ae project file AND assets on a separate drive?"

That is correct: system and application files on one drive, and user files on the other.

Dave LaRonde
Sr. Promotion Producer
KCRG-TV (ABC) Cedar Rapids, IA


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Walter Soyka
Re: Recommendations for Current System
on Nov 4, 2010 at 6:52:14 pm

[Daniel Johnson] "1) Do I need to update to CS5 before or after I buy more ram? I though cs4 capped out at 4gb of ram or something?"

AE CS4 is a 32-bit application, so it can only address 4 GB of your system's total RAM. However, with multiprocessing turned on, AE launches multiple copies of its renderer in the background (up to one per core), and each one of those processes can address its own 4 GB.

For best performance, each one of these rendering processes needs 2-4 GB of RAM. If you don't give them enough RAM, they fight with each other over what system RAM is available, forcing your operating system to swap RAM back and forth to your hard disk, and grinding your render speed down.

To bring this back to your setup -- if you've got 8 cores, and you wanted to use 7 CPUs for multiprocessing, AE would launch 7 instances of the renderer. Each one needs its own RAM. After leaving some overhead for the operating system, your current 10 GB of RAM will only leave each process with about 1 GB of RAM, meaning they will fight over system resources and cause unnecessary hard disk accesses. If you had 24 GB of RAM, each process could grab around 3 GB of RAM, which will let AE cache much more in RAM as it renders.

AE CS5 is a 64-bit application, so any one instance of it can address all the RAM in your system. Practically speaking, the 2-4 GB rule of thumb is still a good guideline for background processes, though if your work is particularly memory-intensive, they could use more.

One of the huge benefits of going 64-bit is that since a single instance is not longer limited to 4 GB of RAM, your RAM preview length is limited only by available system RAM.

To get back to your RAM question, if you bought 32 GB of RAM today, AE CS4 could use it all when multiprocessing, but you'd only have about 3.5 GB available to your foreground process for RAM previews. AE CS5 can use it all, whether you're multiprocessing or not.



[Daniel Johnson] "2) I have read through that adobe page in the past. Some info though caught my eye this time around: "Ideally, use three fast local disk drives: one for source footage files, one from which the application runs, and one for rendered output." So does this mean I should keep my ae project file AND assets on a separate drive? I heard once that at least the project file should be on the same drive as the os. Could be wrong?"

I don't think that AE hits the hard disk to access the project file very often, so I don't think their location affects performance greatly. On the other hand, AE is constantly reading footage files and writing output files during a render. Putting them on separate disks means that the reads and writes can happen concurrently -- the system doesn't need to wait for the hard disk to finish a read before it can commit a write.

I use MenuMeters to keep on eye on my CPU, RAM, and disk usage during renders. It might help you identify the bottlenecks in your renders.

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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