Sign in with
Sign up | Sign in
Your question

3D Animation Rig - From Scratch

Tags:
  • CPUs
  • 3D
  • Product
Last response: in CPUs
Share
July 29, 2006 10:41:42 PM

I'm a 3D Animation grad student getting ready to start work on my thesis - a 3 minute animated short. I'm looking to build a new machine for the sole purpose of working on my project over the next year. I've built a few computers, but have never overclocked any of them. I need everything except a keyboard and mouse. Some questions / things to consider:

- Dual Monitors (at least 19") or a single large monitor
- Probobly don't need / care about SLI. I won't be playing any games.
- Conroe looks good, but I'm a little sketchy about it & mobos for it being so new. This machine MUST be stable. I can't waste time working out glitches & worrying about BIOS updates. I need it to work.
- I'll working in Photoshop, After Effects, Maya, and possibly Lightwave
- I need it to be the absolute best it can be, all for less than $2000

Sooooo, thoughts? Suggestions? Questions? Thanks ahead of time for all your help.

More about : animation rig scratch

July 29, 2006 11:05:11 PM

If u chk the past THG articles Intel always seems 2 whip AMD when it comes to DCC. What school r u going 2?
July 29, 2006 11:59:47 PM

Well, for stability you should get OCZ Titanium series RAM. Core 2 seems pretty stable but we don't know yet.

For my 3D renders I find two moniter great, you can preview in one and make changes in the other, but a TV would be great as well

about graphics you shold get a Quadro or FireGL
Related resources
July 30, 2006 12:15:15 AM

such a system could be built easily for under $2000. (minus video card)

good 19 inch LCD's will run right around $250-300 now. (hyndai and viewsonic have great 19 inchers). a core 2 duo E6600 will set ya back around $320... good mobo will set ya back another $150-200, and PC2 8000/8500 memory (2GB) will run ya about $400.

the most expensive piece of hardware will be a fireGL or quadro card. a good one will set ya back at least $800 if not closer to $1000.

this is what the CAD guys at work use:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.asp?Item=N82E1681...

i do a bit of CAD myself, but i'm not involved in creation. I mostly do viewing of models. i've got some POS quadro FX in my P4 box @ work. does the job though.
July 30, 2006 12:42:26 AM

Quote:
the most expensive piece of hardware will be a fireGL or quadro card. a good one will set ya back at least $800 if not closer to $1000.

Anymore, the fireGL is almost the exact same card as the x1800 retail card. The big difference is that the fireGL V5200 and above, support 2 dual-link monitors. At his budget, he doesn't need to worry about a dual-link display, so I would recommend just an x1800xt. Maybe a 512MB card if his rendering software is GPU optimized.
July 30, 2006 12:59:07 AM

Just "Googled" for a site to explain the difference between the x1800 and the fireGL series.
http://www.sudhian.com/index.php?/articles/show/ati_firegl_v7350_review/

Even though this card has 1MB of RAM, the card alone costs $2,000. Just one dual-link capable monitor such as the 30" Dell costs over $2000. I doubt you'll be needing:
Quote:
support for Stereo 3D glasses for those that work with molecular dynamic applications.

(but that does sound fascinating.)

Don't have a link about the differences between Nvidia QuadroFX and 7800 boards, but I'd bet it's the same as with ATI.
July 30, 2006 3:47:41 AM

Quote:
Well, for stability you should get OCZ Titanium series RAM. Core 2 seems pretty stable but we don't know yet.

For my 3D renders I find two moniter great, you can preview in one and make changes in the other, but a TV would be great as well

about graphics you shold get a Quadro or FireGL


I'm a Digital animator and 3D modeling artist myself. For his price, i would NOT recommend a FireGL or Quadro for the simple reason that he will see little to no improvement from it vs. a high end gaming card, and a high end gaming card is 50% cheaper, plus u can pull it out when u're done and use it in another computer or sell it.

Pro workstation cards like the firegl and quadro only offer SIGNIFICANT performance boosts to CAD programs that use complex vector algorithms. MOST commercial 3D animation programs make little use of them. MAX and Maya are the 2 that come to mind that you may see a gain from, BUT that gain would be less than 10%.

If you're on a budget, and he is, just stick a high end gaming card in and save your money for more processing power, THAT is what really makes a difference in render times and 3d previews (in most 3d DCC programs).

As a professional, i've used FireGL's, Quadro's, and high end gaming cards. And i JUST DON'T see any significant benefit from Pro Workstation cards unless you're working with CAD programs, need Dual link monitor support, or need to support Uber screen resolutions (i'm talking like 5120 x 4096).
July 30, 2006 4:12:26 AM

Quote:
Just "Googled" for a site to explain the difference between the x1800 and the fireGL series.
http://www.sudhian.com/index.php?/articles/show/ati_firegl_v7350_review/

Even though this card has 1MB of RAM, the card alone costs $2,000. Just one dual-link capable monitor such as the 30" Dell costs over $2000. I doubt you'll be needing:
support for Stereo 3D glasses for those that work with molecular dynamic applications.

(but that does sound fascinating.)

Don't have a link about the differences between Nvidia QuadroFX and 7800 boards, but I'd bet it's the same as with ATI.

There's almost no technical difference between FireGL/Quadro cards and their gaming counterparts. In most cases, there's no difference except the card's BIOS. Back in the day it was very easy to hack a GeForce FX into a Quadro FX. nVidia has since made it harder...

But the reasons why Quadro's and FireGL's cost so much money are 2:

1. Drivers are different
2. nVidia and ATI know that only enterprise buys these types of cards and can get away with charging an arm and a leg for them.

It's a bit like the difference between an Opteron and Athlon64 or a Pentium 4 and a Xeon. In most cases, there is no difference.

It's all about the drivers. ;-)
July 30, 2006 8:43:33 AM

Logisequence stated in another thread that his primary 3d work was in Lightwave, in that you certainly wouldn't see a great difference with a pro card.

With other 3d apps (particularly Maya) as he mentioned however you would, but as mpjesse pointed out the great difference is often made by drivers rather than hardware per se (thats particularly true of the ati cards).

I work full time 95% Maya and 5% (or less) Max and there is a real difference in working on a home built PC and a pro setup, not all of it is marketing mishmash. Its not just a 10% difference - a lot of the stuff people say to criticise expensive setups is done to justify not buying one. However I'd not buy what I work on for home use myself (I'd rather have a car or something.. else) but I don't underestimate the difference in speed and effective efficiency when I sit in front of it for 13-15 (exciting..) hours a day when we are close to deadline. But then it depends what you are working on.

In your budget you couldn't create a full standard pro PC (and it would be a of a waste of money anyway) and for what you need it for you don't need to flash out on a pro card unless you really want to - you'd be better of putting the cash into quality monitors and processing power. There's not much point in buying a low end pro card, the difference in that and a hobby card isn't great enough to justify the difference if you have other access.

If you are a student and your college has a decent setup and a render farm of some sort you don't need to replicate the setup at home. If you map out what you need to work on for your short you will find you can designate some of that to college time (useful if you have to rent the time anyway). Powerful processor, good level of memory and a good standard hobby 3d card will sort you out for now. The way things are going I'd say go towards Conroe as even at stock speeds it really looks like giving you lots of dual core power for the money.
July 30, 2006 10:58:01 AM

Quote:
I'm a 3D Animation grad student getting ready to start work on my thesis - a 3 minute animated short. I'm looking to build a new machine for the sole purpose of working on my project over the next year. I've built a few computers, but have never overclocked any of them. I need everything except a keyboard and mouse. Some questions / things to consider:

- Dual Monitors (at least 19") or a single large monitor
- Probobly don't need / care about SLI. I won't be playing any games.
- Conroe looks good, but I'm a little sketchy about it & mobos for it being so new. This machine MUST be stable. I can't waste time working out glitches & worrying about BIOS updates. I need it to work.
- I'll working in Photoshop, After Effects, Maya, and possibly Lightwave
- I need it to be the absolute best it can be, all for less than $2000

Sooooo, thoughts? Suggestions? Questions? Thanks ahead of time for all your help.


Seeing as this is work and no play, you will want the most luscious working environment. Go for either an Antec P180 Advanced Super Midi Tower Case, or an Antec Titan 550 Tower Case - 550w. They are expensive, but help cut down the noise levels, a lot, especialy the P180.

For PSU's, I've been convinced Seasonic is the way to go. It's debatable which is best, but it's sure got quietness, power and a decent enough price value.

Ram and work in 3D dev and Photoshop = the more the better. 2GB of ram no less, but super high speeds probably won't make too much difference to you. Some DDR2-5300 should be fine and not overly expensive.

If you're going for an X1k ATi card, get a HIS version, or something with a non-standard heatsink and fan, because those can be very noisy. Once again, you'll appreciate working in a quiet environment.

Now the big question, to Conroe or not to Conroe. Actually, it's a no brainer, get a Conroe! An E6600 should fit your budget nicely, and see you through your assignment with considerable ease. There is no alternative when working with these sorts of applications, Intel have always been good here, even more so now. Actually, they weren't that great when considering the X2's, in fact, Intel were getting there butt's handed to them. Just look at the red bar's and you will be fine :lol: 

For motherboards, its a question of whatever suits: A good guide here

Get anything that suits that isn't a 975X board as compatability can't be ensured. Otherwise, you won't have any problems.

There's some suggestions anyway, others may disagree but if you want the best bang for your $2,000 - I really think you should consider the things I have suggested and at least get Conroe if nothing else.
July 30, 2006 7:16:24 PM

I'm at the Academy of Art in San Francisco.
July 30, 2006 7:20:28 PM

Yeah, as much as I wish I could swing that 30" Dell, I don't see it happening until it drops to about $1000 or so. I was considering maybe getting the Dell 24", but I can probobly get two 19' for a better price.
July 30, 2006 7:24:39 PM

Thanks for the advice on the video cards from a DCC user standpoint. I have been looking at some of the other links that were posted here and was really wondering about the performance gain you get with a workstation card. I just can't see paying that much for a card unless it's an absolute requirement.
July 30, 2006 7:27:15 PM

I have read that it's possible to hack some of the older cards to make them work like a workstation card. Is that still possible with the newer cards? Probobly doesn't matter, I'd be too chicken to try it on an expensive card anyway! :lol: 
July 30, 2006 7:31:54 PM

Weeble thanks for the advice. What do you do at work? Or more to the point... Where specifically (what tasks) do you see the performance gain in the workstation cards vs your home setup? I know for sure at this point that I won't be buying a pro level card, but I'm curious.
July 30, 2006 8:02:32 PM

Quote:
I have read that it's possible to hack some of the older cards to make them work like a workstation card. Is that still possible with the newer cards? Probobly doesn't matter, I'd be too chicken to try it on an expensive card anyway! :lol: 


This procedure is called a "SoftMod" as it only implies software changes at the driver level, the hardware is completely safe.

Radeon 9x00 to FireGL Z1/X1

GeForce 6800 to Quadro400

I didn't came up with any info on the "moddeability"(sp?) of GeForce 7x00 and Radeon X1x00 to the corresponding Quadro and FireGL models.
July 30, 2006 8:23:05 PM

I agree with the above comments about FireGL and Quadro FX being overkill. A high-end gaming card with RivaTuner or tricking the card and installing the Quadro drivers works well. There is the odd missing feature in the gaming cards (overlays), but for non-professional use it isn't worth 2x the price.

Maya + XSI + Max + Lightwave don't fully utilize the GPUs either, but with a faster card rotating/dolly/zooming is smoother. I'm an ex-developer of one of four listed apps.

Traditionally AMD kicked Intel's arse in rendering - see GamePC - but now the Conroe/Woodcrest is king. 3 minute short @ 10 minutes a frame @ 24 fps is 30 days of rendering. Eventually you'll need a second box for rendering. On average, each frame gets tweaked 5 times until it's perfect. So you'll have up 150 days of rendering in a 3 minute short.

Dell's 24" LCD is a good deal. Co-workers have them at home and I've never heard any complaints.

Fast CPU is the most important component of your system and so is 2+GB of RAM.
July 30, 2006 9:12:03 PM

As noted in some theinquirer.net articles the past few days, LCD is not appropriate for media work. Especially cheap, 6-bit ones! Only a 10-bit panel would work and those are rare.

Get a used 21" Trinitron monitor and a color calibration unit. What's the use of all that labor and processing power if you can't even see the colors in a 24-bit palette? Also consider using calibrated lighting and backround behind the monitor.
July 30, 2006 10:20:10 PM

It seems that this thread has moved to, "What video card?" For your question regarding what to get for 3D, Photoshop & Premiere. You will want an SMP Opteron based system. You will need as much RAM as possible, several large hard drives (an SCSI array is best) in a RAID and for your video adapter a ATI X1900 card will be great. The cards mentioned are mainly for CAD though the top end cards for 3D are 3D Labs cards like the Wildcat. A Wildcat will set you back (way back).
3-D Labs Wildcat Realizm 800
July 30, 2006 10:24:02 PM

If stability is your concern then dont get an aTI card. They just seem to be quite flakey with Maya.

The quadro card will give you more stability. But I wouldn't say its a neccesity. Common glitches with Geforce cards in Maya are things like all the wrtiing dissapearing in the Hypershade window. Which is really annoying but fixed by a restart of maya.

Though softquadroing your card should fix this as you will be using the quadro drivers.

You dont need to spend a million dollars on a graphics card. I use maya every day and I'm running a Quadro FX500 which is really a crappy card in gaming terms. (and is almost the lowest rung of all the quadro cards) But its totally fine. Most of the people at my work run Quadro4s which are even worse. Basically graphics cards became suffcient for the vast majority of 3d animation work a few years ago.

Its a different story if you work in CAD as you have to deal with models about 5 billion times more complicated than in 3D animation.

Most of the time if your fps tanks while your rotating around a model then you've done some bad modelling.

just get a mid-range geforce and you will be fine. just stay right on that price/performance line.

Oh and your're not paying the premium for performance on a quadro card, your paying the premium for a bit more stability but also for support. If a quadro breaks you usually can get it replaced straight away no quesitons asked.

Gamepc.com (oddly enough given the url) typically does really good CPU reviews for anyone interested in 3D animation as they post benchmarks of Maya and 3DMax on all their cpu reviews. As well as after fx and photoshop

http://www.gamepc.com/labs/index.asp

Basically just work out which cpu gives the best bang for buck in 3d rendering. Conroe does indeed look good but with the AMD price drops a stable dual core Athlon wont do you wrong either.

Get as much ram as you can put in. If dropping down a little bit on CPU speed will allow you to put in an extra gig of ram then do it. Photoshop and After Effects will eat ram for breakfast, Maya likes it too but can be a bit better behaved. You'll need lots of ram, especially if you want to run them all at once. This isn't to say you can't get by with 1gb, because you can, but the more the merrier. Though of course you may alreayd know this.

You should just go for LCD, if you're outputting to TV as your final result then you can just plug a tv through a firewire card and a camcorder and look at that as you composite in AE. The colour fideltiy of your monitor wont matter much as long as you run some general calibration on it. It's not like in print where you have to send your files off to a printer who will call you up and get really angry at you if your colours are wrong. You will ahve control from start to finish.
July 30, 2006 11:13:41 PM

I do character creation and setup (and some non 3d package sculpture which is how I got into this in the first place oddly enough). I see a difference when working in multiple scans, some of the high res scans I work on to start with (before they come down in size) would bring my poor home PC to a standstill :) 

The difference for me is mostly about smoother transitions as was mentioned already (though once a model is correctly scaled its not as much of an issue). Some of the other areas of work which I am not involved in see a much greater difference again (shading, lighting, effects, editing, composition, render etc). The main difference in our work setup is not just the card but the overall 'grunt' of the machine (at a cost so prohibitive you'd have to be mad as a hatter to splash out on it for home use).

I don't think you'd see a particular gain if you are modelling from scratch for a short (if you are efficient) and if you can access a render farm at college. If you map out what you will do in your short, most of it can be done on a PC with a decent home spec and the rest you can do in lab. Good luck with the grad project..its the one time you will have every role in a production so enjoy the autonomy!
!