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The best 3D machine money can buy

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July 21, 2009 9:06:26 PM

Hi there.

I am about to embark on a massive job.
My deadline is tight and I need to create crazy 3D animation, VFX and comping for the project.
I need the best machine possibly that money can buy for this.
Ill be working with scenes with millions of particles and massive polygon count scenes with dynamics.
My budget on the machine is £10 000 which I hope is more then enough for a half decent machine.

Please PLEASE help me find the BEAST I need to achieve this.
I need something that will also be quick in rendertimes, but the big one I need is that particle simulations run quick.

What I do know.
I am going with 2xquadro 5800,s
Over 30 gigs of Ram

Now for the question.
yup
i7 or Xeon?

What do I go for or is there anything better?

Please can someone tell me the best of the best and why?

Thank you.

More about : machine money buy

a b à CPUs
July 21, 2009 9:19:24 PM

Only go for the Quadros if the software you use supports GPU rendering. Otherwise, you'll want to wait just a bit if possible to get a quad socket Nehalem machine.
July 21, 2009 9:22:48 PM

Ahhh mate what a quick reply.
Thanks Ill do some reseach on the quad socket Nehalem machine. I do need it in the next few weeks so lets see when it comes out:) 
Thanks
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a b à CPUs
July 21, 2009 9:36:44 PM

no you will need IBM roadrunner operating at 1 petaflop or 1.000 trillion calcutions per second.
a b à CPUs
July 21, 2009 9:45:58 PM

Heh.

I'm not sure quad socket Nehalem will be out in time for you then. The best you'll be able to do is a dual socket Nehalem, consisting of a dual LGA 1366 board and a pair of Xeon W5580 CPUs. You could go for a quad socket Opteron setup, but that isn't a whole lot faster than a dual Nehalem, to be perfectly honest, and is quite a bit more expensive and power hungry.
July 21, 2009 11:26:31 PM

Hey thanks.
So this machine you think will do the trick?
is there a big difference from dual to quad? do you think its worth while?

Thanks mate
a b à CPUs
July 21, 2009 11:47:42 PM

There is a difference, but the Nehalem CPUs are significantly faster than any AMD offering right now, so that makes up a decent chunk of the difference. I'd say the dual socket Nehalem is the right way to go for you.
July 22, 2009 12:12:53 AM

Thanks buddy this is much appreciated:) 
a c 117 à CPUs
July 22, 2009 12:59:37 AM

What software? Applications not supported will have poor execution on NUMA hardware.

I would ease very carefully into 2P. You will not be overclocking. You will need ECC RAMs. Without optimization you will most likely be in NUMA Hell. Page faults will be through the roof.

If you are running 3DSM I would suggest Backburner and as many fast (inexpensive) dual core nodes as you can afford.
a b à CPUs
July 22, 2009 2:12:38 AM

What a about a quad socket istambul (6-core opteron) machine?
July 22, 2009 7:39:12 AM

Hi there.
I will be using maya.

I must be honest Im really out of date with Machine terminology. Yeah I know its terrible but man I really didnt know that there were so many different options out there.
SO the Nehalem is the dual and the Istambul is the quad?
Yeah the quad does sound great. I looked up benchmarks and this little puppy was cracking great scores.

Backburner is a good idea thanks, I must just see if it runs with Maya.
So it looks like its leaning towards the dual or quad core Xeon.
Does this really knock the i7 chip..well I did see that the Dual socket nehalm is based on i7 or is i7 and the istambul is the AMD version but found out the Xeon was rated higher because it works off DDR 3 and the intambul works off DDR 2.

Thanks guys for your help.
July 22, 2009 7:40:35 AM

Wait there is a quad Xeon right?
Wouldnt that be the ultimate choice here???
July 22, 2009 9:32:29 AM

^ there is but it isn't out yet, quad or octo socket istanbul is the best at the moment for apps which can use those 24 or 48 cores. but if they can only use 16 cores then dual nehalem would be the best route.
July 22, 2009 9:55:31 AM

Thanks mate. all this really helps a lot:) 
July 22, 2009 10:44:18 AM

SO it looks like the nehalem or insanbul are the ones to go for.
There is nothing better for the job im doing then thes two?
July 22, 2009 10:49:49 AM

Well if your into animation then the link I have included should be helpful. A cluster of quad core nodes might be the best bang for your buck and you could use a dual or quad socket opteron as your primary workstation and server. The Tyan dual and quad socket opteron boards are very easy to pick up and come with four pci-e slots and support up to 64gig of ram. With the four pci-e slots you could run a graphics card, areca 12 channel raid card and two intel quad port lan cards. This will give you a total of 10 gigabit lan connections which you could use to connect directly to each core 2 quad node. Then run six ssd boot drives and six 1tb storage drives in raid 5. That should give you a transfer rate of 1gig/sec on the boot and 800mb/sec on the storage drives.

Each node with a q8400, gigabyte board, 8gig ram, antec case and hard drive will set you back about 400 pounds which means you will be way under budget. It might pay to include an nvidia gtx 260+ with each node if the software supports cuda. Anyway it's just a suggestion. Have a look at the link and see what you think.

http://helmer.sfe.se/

July 22, 2009 11:21:34 AM

hey thanks for this Malcomk.
Sounds amazing but I would have no clue how to set this all up.
Im completely useless at building my own machine.
But yeah sound incredible:) 

THanks
July 22, 2009 12:05:07 PM

That's ok. The thing to do would be to find someone in your area with experience in building clusters. There was also an article on Toms about building a render farm and they used xp as the os for the nodes and showed different software for managing the nodes. Maybe start with an i7 with a raid card and try a standard gtx 285 2gb graphics card to see if there is much difference between the standard card and the quadro. From there you could always experiment by adding one or two nodes and seeing how much time it saves you. It's a small cost compared to your budget and could pay off. It's safe to say all animation these days is done with render farms. I remember Terminator 2 was done by linking hundreds of 100mz intel pc's. Mmmm high tech.
July 22, 2009 12:17:35 PM

Ahhhhh T2. Gotta love them.
Well thanks mate. this is really great information.
Ill definately get someone on it right away.
I just cant wait to boot this puppy up when I get it.
I have to achieve Massive VFX with armies falling into dust etc.
Thanks again and I do think the whole render mahine is the way to go now.
Keep well:) 
July 22, 2009 12:42:57 PM

Well it's all about experimenting with different setups to see what works best for you. Run the tast manager in the background and you will see if your using lots of ram or cpu power and if the drives are working there ass off you will hear the heads going crazy. Maybe with Nvidia CUDA the graphics card will do all the work but I can't say for certain. I only use my opteron workstation for Photoshop which isn't very intensive although the 64bit version does chew a lot of ram. Ram capacity might be the biggest restriction for the i7. Best of luck with it and let me know how it all goes.

July 22, 2009 12:47:00 PM

I will do.
Thanks so much Malcom.
you really have been a huge help as so have all the others:) 

Keep well mate.
a c 117 à CPUs
July 22, 2009 3:54:44 PM

malachi333 said:
Hi there.
I will be using maya.

I must be honest Im really out of date with Machine terminology. Yeah I know its terrible but man I really didnt know that there were so many different options out there.
SO the Nehalem is the dual and the Istambul is the quad?
Yeah the quad does sound great. I looked up benchmarks and this little puppy was cracking great scores.

Backburner is a good idea thanks, I must just see if it runs with Maya.
So it looks like its leaning towards the dual or quad core Xeon.
Does this really knock the i7 chip..well I did see that the Dual socket nehalm is based on i7 or is i7 and the istambul is the AMD version but found out the Xeon was rated higher because it works off DDR 3 and the intambul works off DDR 2.

Thanks guys for your help.



For whatever reason a 'cluster' of inexpensive networked computers using dual (or maybe those fancy quads!) cores whips the arse of a fancy multi-socket quad box on a 'core to core' or 'thread to thread' basis. One would think Backburner would run with Maya but I don't believe it's happening yet.

The place to start would be with a nice gigaLAN router/managed switch (24-port? Think BIG :D  ) and a nice KVM switch (the price seems to rise significantly from 8 ---> 16 ports).

As Malcom noted some blokes take great pride in salvaging old rigs 'on the cheap' - 'old' these days could be dual core AM2 and s775 rigs - LOL. Drop in a gigaLAN NIC and off yah go. I would tend toward Asus and AMD because you could pop-in ECC RAMs on most of their stuff (but I'm a cautious guy). For new stuff q8400s would be great - the q9450s start getting a little pricey. Lookee here:

Asus 760G: £45.18 Inc VAT
AMD Phenom II 940: £132.81 Inc VAT
2GB Kingston DDR2 800MHz, ECC, Unbuffered, CAS 5: £31.04 Inc VAT

That file cabinet cluster was slick - needs some type of vents on the front, though. All you really need to start are a couple of sturdy shelves on a wall or a long table or two. Extra credit is given and suggested for custom cluster designs but that's optional - LOL.

Build the least-expensive i7 workstation you can (don't go overboard). It's nice because you may continue to work on various projects while your cluster just chugs along. I'm not really sure where Maya stands with GPU processing at the moment so I can't help yah there.

The woods are full of management software ranging from free to 'get-the-flock-outa-here'. Spend some time with Google finding what will work best for you with Maya distributed rendering. You should find a wealth of information.


July 22, 2009 4:42:55 PM

Awww wicked man. Jeez I have to start learning the lingo ha ha I have to google every word ha ha.
Well you guys definately know your stuff and I really appreciate all this help.

Someone suggested this motherboard.

http://www.supermicro.com/products/motherboard/QPI/5500...

What do you think about it?

Thanks guys.
July 22, 2009 8:54:49 PM

Very nice. It makes me want to build a xeon and it has heaps of pcie slots. You can never have too many. I think it would be best to start with a good i7, opteron or Xeon and then look at adding a cluster of four or eight nodes later on. I suggested using the pci-e lan cards so you can maintain a fast connection between all the nodes and the server. If your going to run more than 8 or 10 nodes then you will have to use a switch. Also make sure you spend the money on a 12 or 16 channel Areca raid card. A lot of people will say that raid cards arn't worth the money but that's only because they haven't used one before. Hard drives are the slowest and most unreliable part of any computer and the Areca raid card will help change this. I picked mine up second hand off ebay and it's the best piece of hardware I have ever paid for.
July 23, 2009 7:36:52 AM

Hey MalcolmK I will definataly get a nice raid card.
Does it also help with these drives?
Im getting a couple of ocz Vertex series Sata II 2.5" SSD
Apparently these are pretty good.
What exactly does raid do?

THanks mate:)  as always
July 23, 2009 10:24:28 AM

Well the Areca raid card is a hardware based sata controller that connects to your mainboard just like a graphics card and is a similar size to a top end card. It has it's own Intel processor and a stick of DDR2 ECC ram as cache. It's like comparing onboard sound or graphics to an aftermarket card. With 7200rpm drives you will see a %50 improvement in drive performance compared to the onboard controller.

RAID refers to linking your hard drives together so your system will see them as one drive. For example four 1tb drives in a raid 0 will have a capacity of 4tb and four times the drive speed of a single drive but no redundency. If one drive fails all your data is lost. Raid 1 is a mirroring raid. Four drives with the speed and capacity of two and double redundancy. The only problem is it's more costly and slower. The best of both worlds is raid 5. Raid 5 is like having four drives with the capacity and speed of three drives and redundancy. If one drive fails you replace it, the raid rebuilds that drive and away you go again. To give you an example my system runs 6 x 320gb (1.5tb) boot drives in raid 5 and 4 x 1tb (2.9tb) storage drives in raid 5. The boot drives are two years old but the raid is still good for 500mb/s read speed.

As for the SSD drives I think they are getting better and the new OCZ Summit series looks very good. The only problem is the price. You could run two 120gb OCZ Summit drives as a boot and then buy more drives when the price comes down. For the storage drives go for six Samsung F1 1tb drives. They won't cost much more than one SSD drive, will give you 4.8tb of storage and a read speed of 800mb/s. That should be enough for now.

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Other hardware suggestions:

Lian li V2010B case: It's big, beautiful and about the most perfect case ever made. It also takes extended ATX, has room for dual power supplies and eight hard drives at the bottom. You could also run a drive cage in the 5.25 drive bays for your boot drives.

Enermax 1250w power supply: It's very good quality, has enough power to run a dual xeon and modular cables. It also has two EPS connectors and 16 sata. About as good as it gets.

I think the most important thing is to get you primary workstation up and running before you play around with nodes and render clusters. Either an overclocked i7, dual opteron or xeon depending on how much you want to spend. The i7 and dual opteron are the best value. You can pick up a dual socket Tyan board, two 2378 opterons and 16gig of reg ecc ram for about $750 pounds or less. It will have a small performance lead over the i7 975, use less power and be more reliable. The xeon is the fastest but you pay for it and it burns twice as much power. My Opteron is the same setup listed plus the raid card, 8800gt graphics card and ten hard drives and it uses 330 watts DC under full load. Pretty good considering the i7 975 uses 200 watts by itself. Anyway it's just some information for you to think about. Maybe start by getting the case, power supply, drives and raid card together while your finding the best deal on a motherboard and cpu's. Anyway that's enough for one night.

Regards, Malcolm
August 6, 2009 4:11:51 PM

First off, excuse my English.
I used to work on realflow Vr.2 ... So my knowledge is VERY outdated but from what I recall not every feature can use multithreading. Especially particle simulations which are incremental (each step needs to be finished in order that the next one can be started) and interdependent (any particle effects any other so it's impossible to simply split the space into sub calculations). Recently I checked about multithreading in Realflow(Vr.4) - On the Features List It can use multithreading BUT much of the calculation power is taken by the splitting itself (starts on one thread and only than multithreading). In such a case you should go with at least one fast Nehalem CPU (overclocked?), and whatever the knowledgeable guys here recommend on top, ie a small farm. :sol: 
You should really check it in Maya forums to see how well the Maya particles feature utilizes multithreading.
August 6, 2009 4:56:43 PM

Ahh coolll..here is what I went with....

1 X Thermaltake Xaser VI VG400LBWS Water-cooled EATX Case
2 X Intel Xeon W5580 CPUs
1 X Supermicro X8DAH+ Motherboard
2 X Nvidia Quadro FX 5800 4GB
9 X 4 GB Supermicro DDR3 PC3-10600 (1333MHz) ECC Registered Memory (Totalling 36GB)
2 X OCZ Vertex 250 GD SSD
1 X LG 8X Blu-Ray Writer BH08LS20.AUAU
1 X Silverstone All-in-one Card Reader interface
October 1, 2009 12:42:48 PM

malachi333 said:
Ahh coolll..here is what I went with....

1 X Thermaltake Xaser VI VG400LBWS Water-cooled EATX Case
2 X Intel Xeon W5580 CPUs
1 X Supermicro X8DAH+ Motherboard
2 X Nvidia Quadro FX 5800 4GB
9 X 4 GB Supermicro DDR3 PC3-10600 (1333MHz) ECC Registered Memory (Totalling 36GB)
2 X OCZ Vertex 250 GD SSD
1 X LG 8X Blu-Ray Writer BH08LS20.AUAU
1 X Silverstone All-in-one Card Reader interface


Hi Malachi333,

how much did you get the supermicro board for? Any chance you can OC with it?

Thank You
Lawrence
!