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Building an Editing/rendering rig (NLE and After Effects, 3D)

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April 10, 2010 11:08:33 PM

What do I need to consider when building an awesome editing rig? (Hardware-wise, besides price)

I know I want LGA1366 socket, as many cores as possible (i7?), as much RAM as possible (is DDR3 the way I want to go?)

What else do I want to consider to do heavy After Effects and probably 3D work as well?

I hear about things like CUDA, OpenGL, Crossfire, SLI (I think), Dual Video Cards... what do I need to consider there?


a b B Homebuilt system
April 10, 2010 11:42:05 PM


Video Acquisition and Post can (easily) be an endless money hole ...

It pays to let the project(s) dictate the expendiatures. It is very easy to purchase tools and gear that will be obsolete before it is ever put to productive use.

The bit density of the codecs you choose to work with will govern requirements and, therefor, costs. It is really important with cameras and NLEs (hw & sw ! ) to get only what you need to have to satisfy your project requirements and to acheive your ultimate venues of distribution and audiences and customers (pro event videography, etc.),

Above 27Mbits/sec is a WHOLE other world than your top end consumer codecs, which top out at 25Mbits/sec (I think there is one 27Mbit codec).

You are either looking at a camera that costs $700 to $5000 and a computer and NLE sw that costs $3K~$4k . . . or . . . You are looking at a camera that costs from $3,500 to $27K and a computer/workstation that starts at $5K~20K (including toolsets). That is just the small-fry ... A smallish production can run in the millions.

What are you doing?

= Alvin =
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April 11, 2010 12:58:47 AM

Well, I have the camera already (Panasonic HVX-200) and Have been editing for a few years with Adobe Premiere (upgraded last year to Adobe Master CS4 collection)

I currently have an Asus P5B Deluxe MB with lg775 Intel Core 2 Duo, and 6Gb RAM and Win7 64bit.

I am not so concerned with Codecs, I seem to have all that I need currently, but I was working on my Motion Graphics reel, and previews are taking a long time (yes, I tweaked my settings/preferences to maximize performance, but it's not enough), rendering is taking hours, I want to cut both of those times down as much as possible - I haven't even begun to get into too much complicated effects/compositions.

My current Hardware build is over 3 years old and is time for an upgrade - I need something that won't go obsolete to quickly, but alot of bang for the buck.

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a b B Homebuilt system
April 11, 2010 1:41:15 AM

current graphics engine ?
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April 12, 2010 9:08:09 PM

Current Graphics is an Nvidia GeForce 7900GT (BFG)
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 12, 2010 9:54:27 PM

Well ... in that case, there is nowhere to go but up ... good for you .. bad for me ..

So ... It is kinda like building a new wood-shop. First. you have to consider what tools you intend to keep and use within the lifetime of the facility. How many hours per week do you intend to inhabit it? Are you the only person using it? What volume of output do you intend? How many tools at once? Any other concurrent ops? Finishing room? Curing space? Storacge of how much stock lumber? How close are you to the nearest hardware store?


Really, almost the exact same list of questions applies. Starting with budget and associated cash-flow ... which leads to "volume of work" vs. revenue = justification.

Then, CLEARLY the toolset and the space and power those tools need are the most important governing set of factors, after "justified budget".

So, you must include ALL TOOLS (by order of frequency of use) and all envisionned operations as a guide to how large the system will be and what types and amounts of compute power are required (or preferred).

You can start by quantifying the system budget as a percent of your total tools budget. You are building a virtual tools suite.

In most A/V and graphics and design disciplines, one can ALWAYS use more power ... so costs (budget) must be estimated/calculated/planned for the entire suite, including any hardware which may be used to run your sessions ... as a percent, of the total cost of the studio/suite.

How valuable is your time? ... your client's time? Can you/they afford to wait for long renders? Hollywood has render-farms with 100s of fast computers doing networked CG rendering, for feature films.

So, until you define exactly what, how much, you will be doing and with which tools and at what cost, we really cannot move forward with this build.

= Alvin =
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April 12, 2010 10:13:33 PM

Thanks Alvin! Well, I guess I phrased my question incorrectly.... what I was trying to get at was a very brief explanation/qulaification of the items I listed - such as CUDA- is that related to OpenGL and is it something I want to consider when putting together an editing rig, or is it more for gamers and wouldn't benefit Motion Graphics much. Is core i7 where I want to look for processing? Is DDR3 a great improvement over DDR2, and something I would want to go with on a system I want to keep from going obsolete too quickly, and is a DDR3 board backward compatible with DDR2?

I definitely appreciate your answer above, that's why I don't want to really mention a budget per se, due to the fact that I could throw out a number like $1500, but for $2000 I could get most everything I personally would want, or $1500 might barely scratch the surface of entry level, and I need to consider saving up more dough. I am trying to see how all these other pieces fit into what I want to do, and then research boards/hardware based upon what I can garner from your answers, and then be able to pull together budget considerations from there.
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 12, 2010 10:54:23 PM

Assuming you have at least $1500-2000 to throw around, you want to look at either Intel i7 (socket 1366) or AMD AM3 chips. AMD is (relatively) soon to release hex-core processors, and while they won't have hyperthreading, they are rumored to be cost-competitive with the "lower-end" quad-core i7s such as the 920/930. Hyperthreading will help with rendering, however if the Intel chips push you beyond your budget, AMD is perfectly acceptable (and generally lower-priced).

You're going to get vastly different answers about what you need based on your budget, especially for a rendering machine.

Other questions/answers:

CUDA is not really used for gaming, it's applicable in rendering.

DDR3 is not backwards-compatible, and both AM3 and socket 1366 only use DDR2. DDR2 isn't an option.

Alvin really knows what he's talking about in the graphics/rendering department (though he does tend to be a little wordy...not that it's always a bad thing). :D 
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 12, 2010 11:07:22 PM


Yes ... quite ... so ... to encapsulate my novel ...

Do ya want a pro CS4 workstation or do ya want a budget consumer edit rig that tries like hell ?

= Al =
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April 12, 2010 11:39:32 PM

Thanks coldsleep, and Alvin (I always appreciate more info, you never know if someone will kick you in the brain and let you in on something you hadn't previously thought about)

And to answer you're question Alvin, I would like more info on both, if possible! Realistically, I'll probably end up with the edit rig that tries like hell, but I would love to see what a Pro CS4 station would have! I may actually be able to justify such a rig in my budget. (or in the near future, depending on the kind of work I can land)

Also, cold sleep, or Alvin, are there other technologies I didn't mention above that an editing rig should consider? I've heard mentions of SLI, and crossfire?

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a b B Homebuilt system
April 12, 2010 11:54:51 PM

You REALLY need to help us out with a fantasy budget and at least some idea of what tools will be most used .... If you are looking for a semi-pro Adobe rig, we can prolly do that but ... many Adobe tools do not really NEED a QuadroFX workstation graphics solution ... and many DO ... It really comes down to how much stuff you need to be doing at one time and how fast you need it done.

Output renders can take weeks, depending on the complexity and bitrates ...

If you are retired, and on fixed income ... then you have lot's of time but less money ... so? Spit it out !

. . . Need some sense of complexity, demands, urgency, salary, time-lines ... SOMEthing we can grab a hold of to start narrowing the field. How much are you willing to shell out for how much output? If your user is a novice, then they may not benefit from 4 displays! ... Give us some kinda hint?

I want the best, most serious system that can run ALL CS4 tools and partner products for under $4K ! .... Like that.

= Alvin =
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 13, 2010 12:12:58 AM

SLI and CrossFire are technologies that allow 2 (or more) video cards to work cooperatively. They are nVidia's & ATI's solutions (respectively). In general, my understanding is that rendering is largely dependent on the CPU, not the graphics card, though I have also heard that with nVidia, some of that can be offloaded to the graphics card.

Most of the time, SLI/CrossFire are useful for gaming, and largely as an upgrade strategy. Get one card at system build, get a 2nd later on when the graphics start to slip. I really don't know how useful it is for rendering, but at most sane budgets, it's not going to be worthwhile for the initial build.
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 13, 2010 12:41:28 AM

I just had a GREAT IDEA ! . . .

B&H Photo (.com) has a LONG list of turnkey edit and graphics systems that are all bundled with the preferred toolsets and are configured for pro output ...

... I like to go over there and search on the sw title and then sort by price ... turnkey workstations may pop up at the top of the price range and those have listed component specs.

... You can also search on terms like "turnkey" and "edit system" and get long lists of various builds.

... For prosumer video edit, for instance, lots of systems come with one or two 9800GTs ... I can't say how a 9800GT would fare against a modern GT220 (OpenGL3.x) Or a GT250/1GB card ... head to head.

I mean ... lookie, here, ... I just entered "Adobe CS4 Turnkey" into the B&H search box ... Look at the incredible breadth of pricing!!! ... Justify your budget !! ... THEN, take your pick!

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/search?Ntt=adobe+cs4+turn...

AND, as you can see, the lowest cost turnkey (certified "useful") solution runs at about $3K ... SO ... Pick one of those turnkey configs which costs at the top of your budget range and, then, come over here and see if we can improve the quality, the modernity, and the price ... or just winnow the price down like hell.

= Alvin =


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a b B Homebuilt system
April 13, 2010 3:49:14 AM


I don't know about *YOU* ... But I just found the answer to ALL my build problems !

I looked at those B&H builds a dozen times and never noticed the "EE" in the "9800GT EE" listed components. The "EE" stands for energy efficient (30% less than std 9800GT) AND it supports OpenGL3.0 ! ... Hooray! We are saved! We can run TWO of these HDCP/CUDA/OpenGL3 cards on a 500W PSU with headroom to spare.

Newegg doesn't sell them ... so sad ...

http://www3.pny.com/9800-GT-EE-1024MB-PCIe-P2860C331.as...

= Alvin =
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a b B Homebuilt system
April 13, 2010 5:23:23 AM

Key Features


NVIDIA® Unified Architecture
Full Microsoft DirectX 10 support
NVIDIA CUDA™ technology
NVIDIA PhysX™ Ready
NVIDIA SLI® technology
NVIDIA PureVideo® HD technology
Dual-Link HDCP-Capable
OpenGL 3.0 support
PCI Express 2.0 Support
GigaThread™ Technology
NVIDIA® Lumenex™ Engine
16x Anti-aliasing Technology
128-bit floating point High Dynamic-Range (HDR) Lighting
Discrete, Programmable Video Processor
Dual-stream Hardware Acceleration
Dynamic Contrast Enhancement & Color Stretch
NVIDIA SLI® Multi-Monitor support


Minimum System Requirements

PCI Express® or PCI Express 2.0-compliant motherboard with one dual-width x16 graphics slot
A minimum 400W or greater system power supply (with a minimum 12V current rating of 26A)
Intel Pentium 4, AMD Athlon XP class processor or higher
50MB of available hard disk space
512MB system memory (2GB recommended)
Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows XP Operating System (32-bit or 64-bit)
CD-ROM/DVD-ROM drive for installation
DVI or VGA compatible monitor


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