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Advice needed: System for 3D and Video

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May 8, 2010 2:55:52 PM

G'day!

My first post here on the forum, I am gearing up to make my first ever PC Purchase, and am in need of some advice!

I am after a system primarily for use with Video Editing, Compositing, 3D Modelling and Rendering. Gaming is not a priority for this machine. Because of this, I have been considering some Workstations, but the price for these is understandably huge, Particularly the video Cards, and so I am hoping to custom make a machine and save a bit of dosh.


Here is the System i am ideally aiming for:


Multicore Processor (I know that Programs like After Effects and 3D renders will use as many Cores as you have, so I am considering the Core i7-980X)
16GB Ram (Would appreciate any advice on the best way to achieve this (4x4GB sticks, etc)
Fast Consumer Video Card (The ATI 5970 is sounding awesome, but I think for use in programs like 3DS max and Maya, it won't perfrom much better than older cards. I was thinking a 5850 with 2GB of memory?)
1 SSD Drive (OS and Programs) (Does anyone have a model they could recommend? Have budgeted for about $300 on this drive)
2x 1TB Drives (For edit files)

I realise that this is not very concrete. My maximum budget for this machine will be about $3,000 AUD. If anyone has any advice or opinions, it would be greatly appreciated!

Cheers,

Mike

Best solution

May 8, 2010 4:33:27 PM

If you are very serious about multi-core, I recommend a server motherboard that takes two server CPUs.
For $600, you can get 16 CPU cores. Much less powerful per core than the 980x, but if your programs can take advantage of that many cores then they may be your answer.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
If you would prefer to stick with intel, they offer two 4 core i7-based server processors for $470 at 2.13GHz.
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...
The i7 980x is the most powerful desktop CPU on the market but currently the less powerful phenom II x6 is a 6 core processor in the $300 pricerange that performs well for it's price. The 980x is much better, but I certainly don't think it is worth $700 more.

Cost-effective on a server board, you might be better off with 8x2GB sticks. As for a desktop, with socket AM3 or 1156, you don't have much choice but 4x4GB. For 1366, you don't really have a more cost effective method than 3x4GB and then either 3x1GB to get 15GB or 3x2GB to get 18GB.
For upgrade-ability though, get as high capacity ram sticks as you can find. I think the best you can get is 4GB now.

I don't know anything about 3DS or Maya, but I doubt they will be able to take advantage of a dual setup anyway. So you are better off with a more powerful, single chip card. The 5850 is one of the best price/performance GPUs at the high end right now. You might want to do some research though and find out if your programs work better with an Nvidia card or ATI card.

I am hesitant on SSDs right now but if I were to get one, I would get the western digital models. The WD siliconedge Blue. From my brief research, it seems they place more value on the longevity of the SSD than other companies. Of course though, I have nothing solid to back this up. At the $200 price, you will be stuck at 64GB.

As for the 2x1TB drives, why not just get one 2TB drive?
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May 8, 2010 5:24:33 PM



Cost-effective on a server board, you might be better off with 8x2GB sticks. As for a desktop, with socket AM3 or 1156, you don't have much choice but 4x4GB. For 1366, you don't really have a more cost effective method than 3x4GB and then either 3x1GB to get 15GB or 3x2GB to get 18GB.
For upgrade-ability though, get as high capacity ram sticks as you can find. I think the best you can get is 4GB now.

I don't know anything about 3DS or Maya, but I doubt they will be able to take advantage of a dual setup anyway. So you are better off with a more powerful, single chip card. The 5850 is one of the best price/performance GPUs at the high end right now. You might want to do some research though and find out if your programs work better with an Nvidia card or ATI card.

I am hesitant on SSDs right now but if I were to get one, I would get the western digital models. The WD siliconedge Blue. From my brief research, it seems they place more value on the longevity of the SSD than other companies. Of course though, I have nothing solid to back this up. At the $200 price, you will be stuck at 64GB.

As for the 2x1TB drives, why not just get one 2TB drive?

I hadn't even suggested a server board. I am going to look a lot into Server Motherboards tomorrow. From what you posted, It seems that Server Motherboards will allow more cores, but require specific processors and RAM to work with them. Apart from that, will you be able to use normal components, operating system, programs etc?

I will also look into the ATI/nVidia Compatibility with Maya/3ds max, etc. There is not much info I have found, as most people will use a workstation version of the cards (ATI FirePro/Nvidia Quadro), and these workstation cards cost about 5 times as much, but the chipset is pretty much the same. The extra cost is justified in optimised drivers. I think a good consumer card will do me fine!


I'll check out the WD Drive you suggested. I definitely want to use one SSD for the OS and programs. I was thinking of using 2x 1TB Drives so I could split my data up, and have, for example, Audio on one drive, Video on the other, so when The software is trying to access it, it can spool from 2 drives instead of one. Would this be better? or Should i Just get a single 2TB drive?

Thanks for your reply!
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May 8, 2010 6:17:58 PM

MICKFX said:
I hadn't even suggested a server board. I am going to look a lot into Server Motherboards tomorrow. From what you posted, It seems that Server Motherboards will allow more cores, but require specific processors and RAM to work with them. Apart from that, will you be able to use normal components, operating system, programs etc?

Yep. All software will work since the CPUs are basically the same.

MICKFX said:
I'll check out the WD Drive you suggested. I definitely want to use one SSD for the OS and programs. I was thinking of using 2x 1TB Drives so I could split my data up, and have, for example, Audio on one drive, Video on the other, so when The software is trying to access it, it can spool from 2 drives instead of one. Would this be better? or Should i Just get a single 2TB drive?


Hmm. Interesting thought. If they are accessing the data at the same time, accessing the audio from one drive and the video from another might be beneficial. Not to mention that last I checked, 2 1TB drives are less expensive than one 2TB drive. So yeah, that sounds good then.
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May 9, 2010 12:05:15 AM

Are you about to start your career in this field or are you a seasoned pro.?? If its the first case (which i think is) then you are making some real irrelevant choices..
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May 9, 2010 12:06:16 AM

Are you about to start your career in this field or are you a seasoned pro.?? If its the first case (which i think is) then you are making some real irrelevant choices..
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May 9, 2010 5:57:02 AM

Emperus said:
Are you about to start your career in this field or are you a seasoned pro.?? If its the first case (which i think is) then you are making some real irrelevant choices..



Well, I'm buying the computer to do freelance work with at home. For the last 3 years I have been using laptops, mainly while I study. Now I am working full time in a studio doing 3D work, but need a computer at home to do Motion Graphics/Print.

I'm interested to know what you think for this machine is irrelivant, I would assume the video card? I know for 3D modelling, Texturing and Lighting I will need a pretty good videocard with OpenGL and a lot of memory. For Rendering and sculpting, I will need as many CPU cores as I can budget for, and for Video Compositing I am gunning for 16GB RAM.





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May 9, 2010 9:51:30 AM

After a bit of research, seems 3DS max will only notice 1 core + Half memory in a Dual GPU card like the 5970. so looks like a single core card will do well!
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May 9, 2010 3:24:19 PM

To my knowledge, consumer-grade video cards don't help much for rendering in software like 3DS; for that you need workstation-line products like the FireGLs.

As for RAM, do you really need 16GB or a little less could be acceptable? I think there is a HUGE difference in price between 2GB modules and 4 GB modules; for example, 3X4GB would cost at least 600$, but 6x2GB can cost as low as 370$. Moreover, if you go Intel, you will want RAM config to be usable in a triple-channel setup.
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May 9, 2010 6:32:04 PM

First, you are quite correct about work stations. They are very expensive propositions. If you are just starting out as a "feelancer", then a traditional desktop would be more appropriate. If you become successful, then you can think about upgrading.

Second, the professional applications you mentioned are generally cpu and memory intensive rather than gpu intensive. In this respect the gpu and hard drive can take a back seat to the cpu and memory.

Third, an application's ability to use mutiple cores and threads definitely makes a difference, especially with rendering. Last December I built an Intel Core i7, 860, socket 1156, system with 8MB of DDR3, 1600 memory specifically for semi-professional digital image editing. I am currently experimenting with the newest Adobe products. Rendering for an individual photo process is instantaneous. I have not expermented with video rendering yet.

The Intel Core i7 980X is a six core gpu that happens to be Intel's fastest processor at the moment. In a recent comparison of high end cpu's Tom's Hardware tested five different encoding applications and posted benchmarks. The 980X was clearly the leader. Here is a link to the article:

http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/amd-phenom-ii-x6-10...

The article also lists other components in the test systems which should help you make an informed decision.

Unfortunately the 980X is an expensive cpu. The current price in the USA is about $1,049.00 US Dollars. It is definitely too expensive and definitely overkill for processing digital images. It may be worth it for professional video processing and 3D design work.


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May 10, 2010 12:40:18 AM

Quote:
To my knowledge, consumer-grade video cards don't help much for rendering in software like 3DS; for that you need workstation-line products like the FireGLs.

As for RAM, do you really need 16GB or a little less could be acceptable? I think there is a HUGE difference in price between 2GB modules and 4 GB modules; for example, 3X4GB would cost at least 600$, but 6x2GB can cost as low as 370$. Moreover, if you go Intel, you will want RAM config to be usable in a triple-channel setup.


I think you're right, Any recent card with openGL 3.2 and some decent memory will do great.

The reason I want 16GB Ram is because in After Effects you can split your memory evenly between each core. So if i got a Quadcore which had 8 threads, i could assign 2GB to each thread, and have the render speed up tremendously.

That's a very good point about the differences in price between 2GB and 4GB sticks. I think I will take Enzo Matrix's advice and get a server board, so I can use cheaper 2GB sticks.

Someone asked a similar question http://www.tomshardware.com/forum/272883-30-high-board-24gb and was pointed to this motherboard. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16813131373&nm_mc=AFC-C8Junction&cm_mmc=AFC-C8Junction-_-RSSDailyDeals-_-na-_-na&AID=10521304&PID=3463938&SID=

I think a board like that would be ideal as i could have 2 more affordable Quadcore processors and more 16 to even 24GB of ram, and the final cost would be very similar to most i7 gamer rigs!


Quote:
The Intel Core i7 980X is a six core gpu that happens to be Intel's fastest processor at the moment. In a recent comparison of high end cpu's Tom's Hardware tested five different encoding applications and posted benchmarks. The 980X was clearly the leader.


The i7 980x looks so insane. But you're right, in Australia the price for this CPU is even more rediculous. I think again, as enzo matrix suggested, something like the 6 core AMD phenom II x6 could be the way to go?
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May 10, 2010 1:00:34 AM

Did you read the article I linked to? Results for the new AMD 6 core were mixed. It's a shame they didn't test using the same applications you will be using. Sometimes and Intel Core i7 quad core outperformed the AMD 6 core.

Of particular interest to me were the Adobe Photoshop CS4 benchmarks. Several of the Intel Core i7 quad core cpu's outperformed the AMD 6 core. Based on the benchmarks in this comparison and other THG articles and benchmarks, my Intel Core i7 860 would have outperformed the AMD 6 core in Photoshop CS4 but only just barely by about 2/100th's of a second.
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May 10, 2010 1:02:50 AM

You've been working for a 3D studio so you should've got a fair idea by now of the critical and time saving requirements in this field.. For a seasoned professional like you, i'd definitely recommend to go for a pre built workstation.. The main reason is support as in this field, heavy downtime is non affordable.. I'd have recommended a mac pro but you use 3DS Max so it goes out of option..
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May 10, 2010 1:58:27 AM

JohnnyLucky said:
Did you read the article I linked to? Results for the new AMD 6 core were mixed. It's a shame they didn't test using the same applications you will be using. Sometimes and Intel Core i7 quad core outperformed the AMD 6 core.

Of particular interest to me were the Adobe Photoshop CS4 benchmarks. Several of the Intel Core i7 quad core cpu's outperformed the AMD 6 core. Based on the benchmarks in this comparison and other THG articles and benchmarks, my Intel Core i7 860 would have outperformed the AMD 6 core in Photoshop CS4 but only just barely by about 2/100th's of a second.



Just read that article, that was great. Yeah those benchmark results were strange. It seemed particularly for gaming, that AMD core was all over the shop.


Perhaps a 4 core would be a good way to go. I was impressed how the AMD 6 core performed in the media transcoding and 3ds max benchmarks though. and the price for it is pretty good!

This is a pretty noob question, but I understand that the new Intel CPUs can enable hyperthreading to create virtual threads, so a 4 core Intel CPU can have 8 threads accessible, is this correct?

Does AMD have an equivalent technology? is this what their 'Hypertransport' they were talking about in that article was?


Quote:
You've been working for a 3D studio so you should've got a fair idea by now of the critical and time saving requirements in this field.. For a seasoned professional like you, i'd definitely recommend to go for a pre built workstation.. The main reason is support as in this field, heavy downtime is non affordable.. I'd have recommended a mac pro but you use 3DS Max so it goes out of option..


At my studio we do a lot of modelling and animation, which relies on the GPU. there is no way i am going to buy a Workstation GPU now, so i mainly need a computer at home that will be able to render what i want on time. for the last 3 years I have been relying on a laptop to get it done, and sometimes it gets so pushed while rendering the actual laptop shakes!
I am also no professional at the moment, just starting freelance work this last 6 months or so, but things are going well! You can see the kind of work I do at my website: http://www.mickfx.net (All work created and rendered on my HP pavilion DV-5 laptop)
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May 10, 2010 6:32:28 AM

Now very much considering the 'server' route.

Since the 6 core AMD has had such varying performance, i am currently considering these 3 processors:

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Productcompare.aspx?Submi...|19-117-207^19-117-207-S01,19-117-146^19-117-146-S01,19-117-184^19-117-184-S01

On numbers alone the Intel Xeon X3380 seems to be fasted, but the Intel Xeon E5530 is newer? is the X3380 a good deal here?
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May 10, 2010 7:03:07 AM

It seems the E5530 is the only processor of the 3 to Support hyper threading...so it will allow 8 threads per CPU, and the other 2 wont?
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May 10, 2010 2:20:43 PM

The i7's look like fantastic value for money. I have, however been spending a lot of the evening doing a bit more research on server boards to create workstations. I really want to future proof this pc as much as possible, so i'm considering a Dual Socket approach, to maximise the amount of threads i can have, and allow me to easily chuck more RAM into it when needed down the track.



Here is what i've got so far for a workstation:


CPU: Intel Xeon E5630 Westmere 2.53GHz X2
Found in Australia for $660 each. This is the same price over here as the E5530s, but the E5630 is 32nm and higher clock speed


Motherboard: ASUS Z8PE-D12X
In australia it costs $600, i have been searching for ages this evening and this seems the best option for these CPUs, plus ram options and GPU.


RAM: At a loss here. It seems with this motherboard i need to install RAM in sets of 3, for each CPU? in that case I dont know how i would get 8GB for each CPU, so am considering:

2 of these 6 GB Kits (3x2GB) ($500 for 12GB, and 6/12 slots used)

or, buying 6 of these 4GB sticks(3 for each CPU, making a total of 24GB! ($900 for 24GB, and 6/12 slots used)

GPU: Still not sure on the best value/performance card for me. Currently considering the Gigabyte HD 8550 1GB (~$385 in AUS)


Cooling and case: No idea for this type of workstation! I think these CPUs come without any heatsinks, and reviews of the ASUS motherboard have highlighted that there's not much room in there when you add everything together, so could get tricky!





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May 11, 2010 5:01:37 AM

Best answer selected by MICKFX.
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May 11, 2010 6:26:24 AM

Thanks everyone for all the help. I have ended up using the Online System Builder at the aussie site www.scorptec.com.

I was able to choose the right components that will work together, and get them the easiest way for the best price down under.

Think I will purchase it towards the end of financial year, very excited.

Thanks again everyone for chipping in, first time building a system, and found these forums the most helpful!
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