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building a pc for 3d animation use

Last response: in Systems
January 3, 2007 11:36:15 PM

I have been asked by a friend to build her a machine to use for her 3d animation and other graphical design needs. She uses apps like Photoshop CS2, Maya 8, and 3d Studio Max among others.

I have 2 price ranges that I want to give her options for. $1000-$1500 and $2500.
This would be a completely new build, everything would be needed including a monitor.

Cases and hard drives are pretty easy. So I'm looking for more suggestions on mobo, cpu, heatsink/fan, power supply, and graphics card. Also if you would suggest going with XP 64bit or not.

Many suggestions welcome. Thanks!

More about : building animation

January 5, 2007 1:47:22 PM

Ok what do you think about this build? What would you change? Keep in mind that no overclocking will be done and will be mainly used for Maya, 3d Studio Max, and other apps like that, but some gaming as well.

Lian-Li PC-G50B

Asus P5W DH Deluxe

Core 2 Duo E6600 Conroe

Arctic Cooling Freezer 7 Pro

Apevia Concord ATX MR500W

Evga Geforce 7950GT

Super Talent (2x1Gb) DDR2 800

2 x Seagate Barracuda 7200.10

Sceptre x22wg

Samsung 18x DVD burner w/ lightscribe

=$1800 plus shipping
January 5, 2007 9:30:13 PM

Nvidia makes a free rendering engine called Gelato. Gelato levereages the floating point processor capabilities of an Nividia GPU to accelerate render times in several 3D animation and imaging programs. Seeing the programs your friend is using I'd recommend the following setup:

HDD: Western Digital Caviar SE 160gb 8mb cache $60

CPU: AMD 64 X2 4200+ EE (65w) $169

Mobo: ASUS M2N32-SLI Deluxe $199

VGA: BFG 8800GTX $600

RAM: Corsair XMS2 2x1gb kits 2gb total $246

DVD Drive: Lite-on Dual Layer DVD Drive w/ Lightscribe $37

FDD: Samsung 1.44mb FDD Drive $7

Sound Card: Creative SBA 4 $76

Monitor: Samsung SyncMaster 940b 20.1" $350

OS: Windows XP Pro SP2 $280

Case: Antec P180 $120

PSU: PC Power & Cooling 610w PSU $170

Total Cost: $2314

No need for extra cooling unless she plans to OC.

Hope this helps! :D 
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January 5, 2007 10:11:49 PM

WHY would anyone recommend spending $280.00 for XP Pro???
January 5, 2007 11:06:42 PM

Definantly stick with a Intel based CPU, superior than AMD in programs like Photoshop and any graphic design based system.
January 6, 2007 1:07:04 AM

Hey I_Love_Tacos, for some reason, I can't see those wish lists. Can you put it in the public shared lists on new egg?

For this build, I think I will stick with Intel as they do seem to be best at this type of work, from what I've been reading. I've thought about the xeons, but I'm hoping that maybe I can bump this thing to a quad core if she'll hold off until April for the prices to drop.
January 6, 2007 1:38:52 AM

Hey.. I'm actually building something like this, I'll tell you this: GO WITH XEONS! Quad-channel memory is INCREDIBLE! I know, I know... people always talk about the latency and everything... but it isn't a big deal. Also... with what she's doing.... why not look at a mid-range Quadro FX GPU? You can get one that's cheaper than a Geforce card and will outperform it in apps like Maya and whatnot. Now... it's a bit hypocritical for me to say this... as I'm getting an 8800GTX (but I'm softmodding it)
January 6, 2007 2:55:07 AM

Looks like a pretty nice build. Only thing I think I would change is the video card to Nvidia. Everyone seems to say that they are best for Maya.

Is there a definite advantage to using the Xeons over the core2duos?

I'm meeting with my friend tomorrow night to show her a few options. I will get her definite budget then. I know she said that she could do $2500, but she seemed a bit timid about that much.

Thanks for the suggestions so far! Oh, any suggestions on a monitor? I've been looking at that Sceptre 22inch. Would there be a better one at that size? She's working on a 15 inch now, so anything is better.
January 6, 2007 3:12:56 AM

Why would you get a Xeon 3060 with FSB 1066 and not a regular E6600? It's $50 cheaper and they have the same specs. Also, if you don't get two video cards, there is no reason to go with such an expensive SLI motherboard. It's a very nice motherboard, but it's overkill and expensive. Get an ASUS P5B instead.

My 2 cents,
January 6, 2007 3:26:47 AM

Are you sure that heat sink will fit that case? See the customer review.

Also that is a funky ram choice, I think your spec is pretty good but I would spring for some modest Corsair or OZC ram sticks and get a better case.

Don't think Gelato is really an issue outside a major production pipeline.

BTW - I'm earning a living in 3DS Max on a 3Gig P4, so this new system will kick butt on my 'workstation' and should be plenty fast your friend.

64 Bit is a tough decision to make, I was all hyped on it until I read some of the disapointments others were experiencing, with 64 bit Max in particular (see the Max section of cgtalk). You could possibly go dual boot for both a 32 & 64 bit OS.

Don't forget $3,500.00 for the Max license, etc... and the responsibility of maintaining and repairing the box down the road. Something I don't even like doing for myself let alone a friend.

Good Luck!

January 6, 2007 3:28:21 AM

As "I love tacos" said, this particular 1950xt is a super sweet card and a very good deal, however if her work skews towards Maya versus Photoshop and 3dsmax, I would consider a NVIDIA GeForce 7950GT for about $50 more than the ATI deal...Why? Because NVIDIA implements OpenGL better than ATI. It's faster and more stable in professional apps than ATI's. If she's doing editing on complex scenes, you may want to consider a Quadro as they are about 3 times faster than either ATI or NVIDIA consumer level cards. But they are prohibitively expensive.

January 6, 2007 3:10:01 PM

Well... why get the xeons? Lower power consumption, lower voltage, and thus they run slightly cooler than their desktop counterparts. Now... the TDP is the same... but believe me... xeons run just a little bit cooler.

@ I_Love_Tacos...

I was actually referring to the cheaper DP xeons... because those have quad-channel RAM whereas the Xeon 30xx series only run dual-channel, although they are compatible with desktop boards as opposed to DP boards.
January 6, 2007 5:41:37 PM

I will tell you that for video editing you, all that say the xeon is a bad choice, you want a server cpu. They are far more durable and last londer than the regular conroes, and are worth the extra money. As for the dual channel memory, I wouldn't worry about the difference between the two too much, but that is something to consider. But if you get an older xeon, then amd is the way to go with opteron, those far outperform any older xeons without the core 2 arch

And as for the 7950, I guess nvidia might be the better choice for video editing, but the xt is a far more powerful card, and the quadros are way too expensive to be worth it. You might as well get sli gtxs instead for the dx10 support, or crossfire r600, because there is no way in hell I will recommend a quadro because of the price and how weak the cards are for anything but editing. Plus, the difference between the xt and the gt for editing isn't too much, so I'd go with the better, cheaper card on this one. Otherwise I'd say 7600gt all the way, cheap card that is powerful, and will allow for a nice dx10 upgrade in the future

I was actually referring to the like Xeon 5130s or something... two of those with 2GB of RAM (4x512) isn't a bad setup with a cheap Supermicro mobo.
January 6, 2007 6:57:10 PM

I've replaced lots of components in my computers I've built over time because they broke: hard disks, cdrom units, memory, heck...even the motherboard once, but never the cpu. They don't brake. I still think the arguments for durability and running cooler don't account for much, especially when you have to pay a $50 premium. E6600 run very cool anyway and they are durable.

And about 1950xt versus 7950gt. "Far" is not what I would call the difference in performance between these two. "Slight" might be a better word. Yes, physically 1950xt is better than 7950gt, and the price difference should stop the argument. Although, I would venture in pointing to a couple of facts. 1950xt is faster in new games whith heavy pixel shading. But in OpenGL apps, I wouldn't be surprised if 7950gt is actually faster than 1950xt. People just don't run Specviewperf when doing reviews for consumer/gaming video cards...But you can still get a feel for OpenGL performance if you look at the scores for OpenGL games versus DirectX ones, like Quake versus Oblivion for example. Still, the tests are heavily skewed because of shader operations.

Furthermore, is the robustness of OpenGL implementation on NVIDIA platform and drivers. I've seen an article that cited a spokesman for a group of small companies that were working in 3D graphics and he pretty much said that ATI consumer/gaming video cards are simply not suitable for running professional OpenGL applications. This is due to bugs and bad implementation. Lately I've seen them improving the OpenGL drivers, but they need to prove themselves, as opposed to more stable NVIDIA.

Maya is "THE" OpenGL application. To run it at full potential with complex scene editing, you need a professional card: Quadro or FireGL. When you are a professional and you need to do repeated and interactive tasks, the speed difference is profoundly noticeable. As opposed to rendering that is a process that is more "batch" and people are inclined to wait for, editing is very interactive and frustrating if it's slow. The OpenGL performance ratio for a Quadro card versus a gaming one is about 3. That would put a linear price scale to about $700 for a Quadro. But they are around $1500. If your earnings depend on it, you'll cough up the money. If not, then gaming cards are ok.

January 6, 2007 7:30:12 PM

Thanks for all the input everyone. I'm not sure if it made the decision any easier really. :D 

But I'll see what my friend says tonight and figure it out from there. If we go with the gaming card, I think we'll go for the 7950 or an 8800 if the price drops early Q2, just for the fact that Maya is her main app and they are better with OpenGL.

I'm still border line on the processor, but again, I'll see what prices do early Q2 and maybe we can go quad core then.

I'm not too worried about OC'ing anything. She'll most likely run everything at stock. She's not too bright when it comes to computers really. So a cheapy mobo and tons of RAM will be good. Maybe I can sneak her up to 4Gb even.

Thanks again.