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Old April 14th, 2006, 06:44 PM   #1
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Building a SledgeHammer - Dual AMD Opteron Dual Core machine

I started out with computers in 1982 with a ZX-81 http://www.nvg.ntnu.no/sinclair/computers/zx81/zx81.htm and spent
far too many hours of my youth in front of it. Almost twentyfive years later I am now spending far too many hours in front of a dual-core dual Opteron machine. What has changed is that.... I'm not programming any more.I have a family and kids. And I manage a film production company. With my understanding of the ZX-81 and its microprocessor Z80 at 3.25 MHz I can not comprehend the raw processing power that is now available. Something tells me this just is not possible.
This opteron rig scores 952 PassMarks.

If anyone is interested in experiencing this kind of computing power - and maybe edit HD with it - here's some details on how we did it - with thanks and respect for members at dvinfo who are constantly sharing knowledge I use every day.

And... Sony, pls get work on that DVCPRO-HD native support for Vegas 6.0e. I know Panny invented it and
you hate it, but please please please...

1. The processors
When building a dual processor system with dual-core you need an AMD Opterons with model number starting with 2XX.
Today you have the 265, 270, 275, 280 and 285 from 1.8 to 2.6 GHz to choose from.

2. The Motherboard
You want a motherboard with the nVidia nForce Pro 2200 chipset and the 'helper' chipset 2050.
Some models are Iwill DK8ES and Tyan Thunder K8WE. We use a Supermicro server
board, the H8DCi. This chipsets will give you PCI Express slots, PCI-X, Gigabit LAN and
Serial ATA II RAID support on-board. The helper 2050 chip doubles the expansion capabilities.

3. Memory
The two processors have thier "own" memory so you want to be symmetric - add memory in increments of
2 GB - as in two, four or six 1 GB DIMM's. "DDR 400 Dual Channel Registered SDRAM" you want for this setup.
XP Pro freaks with this amount of RAM. Some post say XP can use all 4GB but displays 3GB as available.
So there seems to be no point in adding anything above 4GB ram if you're not using XP64.

4. Graphics Card
Your chipset supports PCI Express - you want a PCI Express card.
We found ourselves choosing between "gamers" graphics cards and "serious creative professionals" cards.
In the "gamers" category the ATI X1000 series and the nVidia 7800 series to be head-to-head.
In the "serious" category the ATI Fire GL and Matrox series cards. Among many others.

To me it seems the gamers cards to be of best value - even though I don't use a single polygon or pixel shader.
Our chromakeyer offloads the CPU by using functions in the graphic cards GPU - but that did not work
with our Matrox Pharelia card - only with a "gamers" category cards. So good bye Matrox.
The Radeon X1800 card we use is HD enabled with hardware H.263 decoding somewhere in there.
Havn't used it yet - but it's there. ATI calls its video related tech for AVIVO and if it's not all
marketing hype they are on to something. http://www.ati.com/technology/avivo/index.html

5. RAID
We looked at two PCI-X RAID cards for SATA II - the ARECA and 3ware. Toms Hardware have tested them
and many others and we choose the 3ware. This card has its own PowerPC RISC processor on-board. Oh-ah.
http://www.tomshardware.com/2005/10/...for_scsi_raid/

Buy as many disks as you can and configure a RAID level 5. This means you can loose one disk and still be able to
recover all your data - while maintaning sustained disk performance of three parallell HD streams of 100 MB/s each.

Setup and initialization was a breeze. ALT-3 at boot, select the disks and select raid 5 config.
Three hours later the disk array was initialized and ready.

6. almost forgot... a chassi
Recommended at least 650W power supply. If you get a SATA RAID it's nice to have the disks
accessible from the front - "hot swap drive bays". And some of the motherboards are not ATX but
"ATX extended" which means they are a little bit bigger than normal.

Odds-n'-ends..
- The slots on the motherboard belongs to different controllers. Read the motherboard manual
and see which slots belong to which controller. This will help you avoid conflicts as you plug
sound-, firewire- and RAID cars into your motherboard. Not all slots support the same bus speeds.
- Windows SP2 will kill Firewire 800. If you do not patch it it will run as Firewire 100. Not very funny.
Patch at http://support.microsoft.com/?kbid=885222

Good luck.
/magnus
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Last edited by Magnus Helander; April 15th, 2006 at 04:43 PM.
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Old April 15th, 2006, 02:11 PM   #2
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nice post magnus... i learned about computers on the z80 microprocessor.

i want one of those dual-cpu motherboards!
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Old April 15th, 2006, 04:50 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
nice post magnus... i learned about computers on the z80 microprocessor.
Thanks Dan, this machine feels a little like having a forklift in the livingroom.
(According to Artificial Intelligence theory a computer will never be able to comprehend such a statament no matter the amount of MFLOPS. That's reassuring.)

/magnus
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Old April 15th, 2006, 05:49 PM   #4
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I more or less have the system you describe from Boxx Technologies. AMD dual core dual processor, 4GB, nVidia 4500, 10K rpm disk for the OS, 250 GB for data, and 1 TB SATA RAID 0 for bandwidth. All my applications including the Adobe suite run extremely well on this system. The only glitch has been the Creative Soundblaster X-Fi Extrememusic sound card, which has compatibility problems with some cards, including my SATA RAID controller. I can only use the sound card in basic mode because using the advanced features causes excessive popping and hissing. Otherwise, everything runs flawlessly, and fast.

Have not yet selected an HD capture card.

Best,
Christopher

PS: I built my own computers back when personal computer meant you owned a soldering iron. My first was built around an 8080 with a whopping 8,000 byte memory card.
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Old April 17th, 2006, 03:00 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Glaeser
Have not yet selected an HD capture card.
Have you looked at the DeckLink HD Pro PCIe? What I don't understand is the
1080p24 and 1080p25 modes - there are no PAL variants for editing 720p at 24/25.

The only 720 modes listed are "720p30, 720p59.94, 720p60"
I must be missing something big time here....
/m
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Old April 18th, 2006, 04:56 AM   #6
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Thanks Magnus.

If anyone wants to read more about building your own, don't forget that Gary at Videoguys has been 'playing' with setups. I do remember that Gary wants to do a dual dual, but they have not gotten to it yet.

http://www.videoguys.com/DIY.html
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Old April 18th, 2006, 03:13 PM   #7
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BOXX is building me a 7400 dually dual opteron system. I don't have the time to build anymore, too many projects.
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Old April 18th, 2006, 08:52 PM   #8
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Prospec HD - Hyper Transport

It seems Intel is in a little bit of trouble over the memory architecture on their processors - AMD has the 'HyperTransport' (twice the speed of light I'm sure) and the Xeon's have to move data.... in some other way, possibly only half light speed or with a lousy electron accelerator or something...

Quote:
If you ingest in real-time from an HD-SDI source (720p or 1080i/p), a minimum configuration with AMD dual-Opteron 252's is required. The dual-Opteron architecture has extra memory bandwidth available beyond the dual Xeon architecture that our real-time algorithms exploit for RT ingest and Export to Tape. We’re working with Intel to explore ways around this, but today a dual-Xeon machine will NOT deliver RT ingest of 720p or 1080i/p material using Prospect HD.
http://cineform.com/products/ProspectHDConfig.htm
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Old April 18th, 2006, 11:46 PM   #9
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Fun "little" system

I have an analogus system that I built 4 years ago. It still functions like a champ. I put about $2000 into it at the time, and a few hundred more over the past few years in upgrades. It was a Dual AMD Athlon MP, with a paltry 512MB ram and a 40GB RAID 0 on ata133 disks.

I am constantly surprised at how well the quality hardware I selected can stand up to systems of today, especially in a dual CPU system. That system is only 3% slower than my $3000 Alienware mobile system (and the mobile is P4HT with RAID0 and 2GB of RAM).

I cannot stress enough that building a serious work machine requires serious money, but is worth every penny in continued performance years later. From the initial setup I have only changed the GPU, hard drives (to double storage), and an Audigy2 ZS.

The down side to a system like that is specialized components. Even now, the CPUs are freakishly expensive to upgrade (not being made any more so they are scarce), and the RAM is even worse (1GB of DDR266 costs 2x as much as 1GB of DDR2 533hmz for the alienware).

jason
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