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Workstation for 3ds max & vray rendering

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March 8, 2011 1:22:34 PM

Hello All.

I'm wondering if anyone might be able to offer advice on minimum specs for a system that will be able to render a large (let's say 2 million polygon +) scene at 800x600 resolution within 3 to 5 minutes, at 1200x900 resolution within 5 to 10 minutes, and at a very high resolution such as 3200x2400 within a few hours.

I know that a lot depends on materials and rendering configurations, but, if anyone is keen to answer my query, if you could assume settings appropriate for a "sketch" or "draft" for the 800x600 and 1200x900 resolution renderings and settings appropriate for a final presentation rendering for the 3200x2400 resolution rendering.

I’m not even sure if the above makes sense, as I currently don’t have the hardware to even begin to render that size a scene.

Any feedback or advice would be greatly appreciated...
March 8, 2011 3:23:43 PM

I'm not sure anyone can really give help for those exact times. The better approach would to fill out the form in the sticky, link in my sig, with a budget, and us giving you the best build for your budget.

The main issue is with just resolution as a criteria, it can take me anywhere from 10 minutes to 10 hrs for a 1080p render depending upon what exactly I'm rendering.
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March 8, 2011 3:28:04 PM

It'd be easier to recommend what you should be looking to buy at a particular budget. You could then take that and look at some of the benchmarks. What are you looking to spend on the machine?

I can tell you that in the desktop areana (I have no idea on the server CPU side), your best bets (in price order) to achieve it are the i7-2600K, i7-980X, and i7-990X. It's entirely possible that the X6 1090T, i5-2500K or i7-950 could achieve what you're trying to do as well, but I don't know much about exactly what kind of task you're looking to do. Here's Tom's latest 3DS Max benchmark, which I'll be using as a rough benchmark for the 1200x900 resolution. The i7-950 and i5-2500K isn't on it, but they'd both be a touch behind the i7-960, with the i5-2500K being a little faster than the 950.

For the CPUs, the i7-980X and i7-990X run around $1,000 (or higher), with LGA1366 boards costing $200 and up. The i7-950 is $280, with the same LGA1366 boards. The i5-2500K is $230, while the i7-2600K is $330. They use LGA1155 boards, which run $150 (ASRock P67 Extreme4) to $190 (Asus P8P67 Pro). The X6 1090T is $200, with AM3 boards as cheap as $75-90.

Of course, you'd want to pair those with as much RAM as you could afford. That'd be around $200 for 16 GB of DDR3 1600 CAS Latency 9 (two 2x4 GB kits for $100 apiece) if you get the X6, i5-2500K or i7-2600K. For the other i7s, it'd be 24 GB of similarly speced sticks (two 3x4 GB kits for about $165 a piece) for around $30. You'd likely also want a fairly meaty nVidia Quaddro GPU, which typically start around $200-300, and can run as high as you need them to. I'd probably say you'd want one that's closer to $1,000 than the $300, but again, I'm not that knowledgable about those models. For purposes of pricing, I'll say it's a $1,000 one.

So for the major components, you'd be looking at a range like this, which is in rough price and performance order:

X6 1090T: $1,475-1,500
i5-2500K: $1,580-1,600 i7-950: $1,810-$1,850
i7-2600K $1,710-1,750
i7-980X/i7-990X: $2,530-$2,570

You'll also need all the other components (PSU, HDD, case, optical drives), which will be around $250-300. Add $100 for Windows 7 if you need it. So all told, you could get in the door with around $1,875 (with OS). I'd really like to fit at least the i7-2600K in there, so it'd be better to look around the $2,100 mark.

It's entirely possible you could get by on less, especially in with the GPU. I'd be surprised if you got something with similar performance for cheaper on the server side, at least until you start talking about the i7-980X or i7-990X.

EDIT: For comparision purposes, the benchmark I referred to is only using 8 GB of RAM (i5-2500K, i7-2600K and X6 1090T) or 12 GB (i7-9xxs). If you throw more RAM in there, it'll speed up. In addtion, it was using the GTX 580 ($500ish), which would surely be eclipsed by a $500 workstation Quaddro card. If you need more details on what is in the machine they used to benchmark or what settings they used, it's on the third page of that article. Given what they did with a $500 GPU, you could probably knock $500 off those estimates.

EDIT #2: If that benchmark is spot on for what you're looking for, you could probably even drop down to the X4 955, possibly lower. That'd shave anouther $60+ off the budget. According to Tom's 3DS Max CPU chart, even the lowly X4 640 ($100) beats the 5 minute (300 seconds) mark.
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March 8, 2011 10:30:39 PM

@banthracis,
Thanks for the thoughts. However, I did specify a polygon count for a hypothetical scene, and, as I mentioned, for my purposes, efficacy in being able to crank out a scene with 2 million + polygons trumps budgetary concerns.

@MadAdmiral,
Huge thanks for the extensive feedback!

The test set up information says Tom's uses a scene titled "space flyby", but I couldn't get any information about it, so unfortunately we have no idea how complex a scene that is.

I'm going to write them directly to see if they can provide any details...
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March 8, 2011 10:50:27 PM

The point banthracis was making is that most benchmarks out there aren't that specific. You can't really know what a build is capable of doing until you've actually put it all together and tested it, and most people don't have the parts, software or understanding to test out any suggested build, much less several of them.

You might just want to search the site for a while before emailing them about the benchmark. They might explain what they're doing in an earlier benchmark. You could also check out AnandTech.com, as they do a lot of very extensive testing as well.
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March 9, 2011 6:32:00 AM

Cool, thanks @MadAdmiral.

In case anyone else might be able to give a thought or two, I have given thought to a budget...

I’d like to keep it as close to US$4,000 as possible, but if an additional expenditure up to about US$1,000 more will bring a sizable jump in performance, I would strongly consider that.

I plan on using VRay 2.0 in 3DS Max Design.

Part of the reason why I didn't include mention of a budget at first is that I have no idea whether such a budget will be enough for a system that is capable of the hoped-for performance...
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March 9, 2011 1:36:48 PM

Even with a given poly count, for example, throw in any raytracing, reflections/refractions from stuff like glass textures, and you can easily increase render times by a ton. There are just too many factors and settings depending upon what's in the image to make a determination as to what the render time is gonna be.

That said, for $4k you can definitely make a great render rig. You can go with a i7-990x ($1000) and a quadro 4000($750). I'd throw in a nice 12gb of RAM and an SSD scratch drive and that'll put you at ~$3000.

You can consider a quadro 6000 ($4000), but I really don't think it's worth the money in terms of what you get performance wise for the cost. It's a bit different in scientific field where we'd consider it cost effective due to the tesla featureset.

ex.
HD
Spinpoint F3 1tb $65
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

PSU
Corsair AX750 $170
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

RAM
Ripjaw DDR3 1600 12gb 3x4gb $240
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

GPU
Quadro 4000 $780
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

SSD
Intel x25-M 120gb $230
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E168...

Mobo/CPU
i7-990x and asus sabertooth $1,182
http://www.newegg.com/Product/ComboDealDetails.aspx?Ite...

total $2,674

Add in an optical based on your needs, and a case you like.

You could also throw in a second quadro 4000 if you feel performance doesn't end up where you want it to be.
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March 9, 2011 2:02:20 PM

With $4,000, you could also easily do a dual six-core CPU build with a server board and RAM. Again, I'm not that knowledgable about servers, so I make no guarantees that this is all compatible. I also have no idea how it would compare to an i7-990X, but I'm 99% sure it would be a lot more powerful. It should be possible to put together something like this:

CPUs: 2x Xeon E5649 $1,580
Mobo: Supermicro MBD-X8DAH+-O $450
RAM: Mushkin Enhanced Proline 3x4 GB DDR3 1333 $250
Case: Siverstone Kublai $120. Or another extended ATX case.

I think the rest can be the same, which puts you at $3,645.

Again, I don't know that much about servers, so DO NOT take my recommendations without doing some research first. Or at least checking out the Server section of the forum. I've done my best to compare the specs/requirements for the different parts, but I'm not sure that it'll all be compatible. I know there are numberous options out there, so if it turns out this doesn't work, it would be easy to find something to does at roughly the same price.

EDIT: There's some room left in the budget, which you might have to use on a server OS. I also don't know if using server software is required when you use server hardware. That's something else you'll need to find out.
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March 9, 2011 3:58:33 PM

Well, performance wise for 3ds max and vray you actually get more performance for the money by getting workstation GPU's rather than more CPU's thanks to CUDA.

Of course at some point even an i7-990x will bottleneck with enough GPU's. No idea where that is though, but it's well above 2 quadro 4000's for sure.
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March 9, 2011 4:08:49 PM

^Fair enough. I don't really know a whole lot about that benchmark. However, if that is the case, why do they only use it when they're testing a CPU and not the GPU (from the charts section)?
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March 9, 2011 10:05:42 PM

Many thanks again to both of you!
:-)
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March 10, 2011 2:22:53 PM

MadAdmiral said:
^Fair enough. I don't really know a whole lot about that benchmark. However, if that is the case, why do they only use it when they're testing a CPU and not the GPU (from the charts section)?



Well most review sites don't actually test CUDA and stream simply because the target audience is so much smaller, and is mostly professionals rather than enthusiasts.

Tom's did some CUDA testing with CS5 a while ago, which is about as far as these sites will go.
http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/adobe-cs5-cuda-64-b...

GPGPU's are really still a niche professional product and probably not worth the time for big sites to bother with, especially since most people who buy em just buy OEM built workstations.

Heck, only reason I'm familiar with CUDA details is cause I work closely with bioinformatics people and they all love their quadro's and tesla's (they do genetics analysis, protein folding, statistical analysis etc, so they really get their money worth).
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