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Old May 24th, 2004, 08:32 PM   #1
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Best Processor for 3D Graphics and Video Editing

Hoping some technically oriented people could shed some light on this, thanks in advance:

I am looking to do a massive system upgrade. I'm a filmmaker and 3D graphic artist, and the main software applications I use are Softimage XSI 3.01 and Avid Xpress DV to do 3D rendering and video editing from a video camera (Panasonic AG-DVX 100A), respectively. A friend is helping me build this and so far we've decided on the following specs for the new computer:

--1 GB RAM
--250 GB hard drive (more to come later, probably)
--Quadro 980 XGL video card

The budget falls between $1750-$2500 or so.

My questions are as follows:

1.) We are looking into a dual processor setup for this machine. Does anyone here have any experience with these particular pieces of software and how they perform on
--Dual Xeon setups?
--Dual Opteron setups?
--Dual P4 setups?
--Dual Athlon64 or MP setups?
Right now, I am leaning toward P4, given the priciness of the Xeons. How do the Opterons compare to the Xeons, however? Which setup do you think is the best price/performance ratio, and at what clock speed/model number?

2.) Given any of these setups, how much wattage will we need on the main power supply? I know that dual processors will have higher power intake, so I'm assuming 350W as a bare minimum?

3.) Is there anything else I'm missing? For instance, I know that some of the processors require the use of registered memory. And that some of the motherboards for the Xeon are of WTX type rather than ATX and require special cases. Are there any other "gotchas" I need to watch out for? This is the first time I'll be building a machine of this class, as opposed to an ordinary desktop PC with one processor.

Thanks for all your help and time.
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Old May 25th, 2004, 01:37 AM   #2
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There's no such thing as dual Pentiums. Xeon is the multiprocessor version of the Pentium, with some differences like 533mhz FSB instead of 800mhz FSB.
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Old May 25th, 2004, 04:56 AM   #3
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I'm wondering why you are going with a professional OpenGL
board? Are you using a specific 3D application that benefits from
it? Because from what I heard applications like LightWave etc.
runs just as fast on the normal high-end consumer boards. So
you might save some bucks there.

The second thing I'm wondering about is why you are leaning
towards a dual processor system. Why not get two systems
so you can do network rendering? I've not looked into mainboard
prices but I bet you could get two mainboards + two processors
for the same price as a dual processor system and probably have
some money to spare.

Performance from a network rendering machine is usually better
than a dual processor system in terms of rendering speed. And
you can easily add more systems once you have this setup
running. Yes you will have the overhead of extra memory, an
extra case and a small harddisk, but you can get away with
onboard video card etc. You can access everything over the
network if you get boards with builtin 100 mbit or gigibit
ethernet so you don't need a large harddisk at the other
computer. If you install Windows XP professional (which does
cost extra again indeed) you can even remotely control the PC
out of the box without needing a monitor for it.

With the new Vegas 5 NLE out that also supports network
rendering you can use the two PC render farm for both your
3D rendering needs and editing (only rendering!).

That is if your 3D application supports network rendering, ofcourse.

Personally I've heard some good things about that AMD64
processor. That might be an interesting investment for the near
future.
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Old May 25th, 2004, 06:11 AM   #4
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Thank you Glen And Rob.

Rob, I decided on the nVidia Quatro card because Softimage XSI is a high end professional 3D application that requires high end cards to work properly. There is the possibility of consumer level cards such as nVidia GeForce being "hacked" to run like a higher end card, but there are some consequences of unexpected functionality arising.

Here is a link to the certified video cards:
http://www.softimage.com/partners/xs...dows_xp.htm#v3

As for dual processor setups, I do not have enough money to buy two computers. It would be cheaper to go with a single computer and buy two processors and one mother board rather than go with two computers and buy two processors and two motherboards.

As far as all the research I have done since my first post on this board, dual processor systems have been the benchmark of all sorts of speed testing (with Divx video encoding, 3D rendering).
Here are two links:

Dual processor comparison for 3D rendering:
http://techreport.com/reviews/2004q2...0/index.x?pg=7

Dual processor comparison for Divx enconding (scroll down)
http://techreport.com/reviews/2004q2...0/index.x?pg=6

In both cases, the dual opterons led the competition. Perhaps one day if I get more money, I will invest in a rendering farm, but for now, I have to stay within the 1 PC budget. Thanks for the suggestions nonetheless. Btw, Rob, I love the LadyX series.

At this point, I am leaning towards the dual Opterons so if anyone has any insight for me, I'd love to hear. Thanks in advance.
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Old May 25th, 2004, 08:56 PM   #5
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You will need bigger than 350 watt power supply for a starters. That is pretty much standard at the moment. I am an AMD person myself because it all comes down to price. however on the high end gear intel and AMD are together in pricing. The amd 64 are a great processor and when software are programmed in 64bit then they will kick some butt but until then i really do believe that intel have the edge. The latest p4's are better than the amd 64's because of their "much" higher clock speeds. I don't know when 64bit will be programmed into programs and until then intel are ahead. good luck. Just do a search on specific processors setups and there should be plenty of reviews with benchmarks using the programs you are likely to use. I wouldnt bother with dual processor as the high end cpu's really do kick arse. Spend the extra money and double ur ram.

Justin
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Old May 25th, 2004, 09:06 PM   #6
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I don't think doubling RAM would help much, but I am not very familiar with either program. Most NLEs do not get more real-time or render faster with more RAM, although some will allow RAM previews. 1GB allows a long preview though. Some NLEs like FCP are RAM hogs so you might want to put a little more than 1GB in. A 20MB FCP project file with 20 layers of undo = 400MB.

The thing with RAM is that you slow down a lot when you don't have enough, but having an overkill of RAM does nothing.

2- Has anyone seen Avid benchmarks comparing AMD and Pentium processors?

3- If you do DVD encoding, Pentium/Xeon processors tend to be faster. It depends on the encoder though.

4- A high end video card and dual processors should just reach the limit of a 350W PSU. Unfortunately there aren't very good numbers around to help calculate PSU load.

The important thing when buying a PSU is to make sure you buy one where the wattage rating isn't fudged. Good signs of quality PSUs are:
-brand
-weight (heavier = better)
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Old May 26th, 2004, 05:47 AM   #7
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Young: SoftImage is a bit more picky indeed. I was just wondering
why you where going with that card, but it makes sense now. My
main point was to see how much you thought about this all and
get you to see different options.

From what you told I think you've clearly done your research
and know what you want to get bar the processor. I have no
real experience comparing multiple processor systems so I'll leave
that to others.

I'm relieved to see you are doing your "homework"! :)

Good luck with the decision and I hope you get a screaming
machine.

p.s. thanks for your remark! Glad you are enjoying the series!
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Old May 27th, 2004, 07:12 AM   #8
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Glenn i can tell you now that when you are working with anything 3d and rendering images then you will need a lot of ram. Young isnt' only doing video editing. I have a freind that uses autocad and he has a gig of ram and even then it is not enough for rendering and jams the system. i will let you know that the actual program he was using probably only used 100-200 mb alone so that means there is a lot left and still had troubles. with video editing, if you can do things without accessing ur hard drive then it will speed things up. If you can load the whole program into ram then there is less time wasted trying to access the harddrive. Ram bandwidth is measured in gbytes per second. hard drive is measured in MBytes per second. the fastest hard drives might run at 70 Mbytes persecond at the most and slightly faster in raid. Typical speeds for ram are anything between 2000-4000 mbytes. believe me that does make a difference. but yes it is true that there aren't any advantages in getting too much. I would say though that with 3d graphics, ram is an important thing and it would be hard to have too much. I guess all i am saying is that lower amounts of ram would be more of a bottleneck in one of these systems than a cheaper CPU would be.

Justin
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Old May 27th, 2004, 08:38 AM   #9
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Are you planning on upgrading to Avid XpressPro? If so, than the dual xeons are highly reccomended, as is more ram. 350 watts is definitely on the low side, I have a 500 watt in mine.

For system specs, why not visit www.avid.com or a "turnkey" seller like dvline.com? Look at how the turnkey people package their deals, and you will get a good idea of "base" and 'optimal" systems.

Good luck
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Old May 27th, 2004, 09:57 AM   #10
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OK, now that I've finished wiping the drool off my keyboard from reading about your rig.....

My two bits of input would be to get multiple, smaller hard drives rather than a single large drive.

While 3D is mostly processor/graphics board intensive, the performance bottle-neck for video will be the hard drive when you have the OS, applications, source files and destination files all on the same drive. Ideally, at least three drives:
- OS & application software
- Scratch Disk (for all the temporary files used by your applications)
- Media Disk (for your actual video media)

Also, yeah, the more memory the better with XSI. Get the 2Gigs if you can.

Have fun.
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Old May 27th, 2004, 06:35 PM   #11
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I tried seeing what hard drive speed does to Vegas and it makes no difference in renders unless they are like file copies.

A single 250GB drive is more than good enough for DV unless there are multiple programs trying to access it at once. If you keep your computer clean with the msconfig tool you can be ok (you need to know what you're doing with msconfig though).

More hard drives are more expensive, less future proof, and draw a lot more power. hard drives tend to draw around 20-25W each on system start up (and like 10-15W when running). You can see the hard drive manufacturer's documentation on this.

How much RAM do you need?
In WinXP you can check how much RAM you're using. Hit Crtl + Alt + Del and click on the performance tab. Under "Physical Memory" it says "available". That's roughly how much RAM you have left. The numbers there don't quite add up but if you have <10MB there then you definitely want to look at adding more RAM.
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Old May 30th, 2004, 09:16 AM   #12
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glen the reason why hard drive speed may not have made a difference is because ur CPU "might" not be quick enough. If ur cpu is quick enough and also the rest of your computer, it will render quicker than ur hard drive can record it. boards now have SATA which is very quick but you really need to be running hard drives in RAID to get the most out of them.

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Old May 30th, 2004, 05:32 PM   #13
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Generally speaking people's renders are bottlenecked by the CPU. If you have any long renders or are encoding MPEG2, the primary bottleneck is the CPU.

In practical real world usage, SATA and PATA are the same speed if you are comparing the same model hard drive.

There are many forms of RAID, I'll assume you are talking about RAID 0 which is most popular for video.
RAID performance depends HIGHLY on the RAID controller used and can sometimes decrease performance. If you are editing DV you do not need RAID, or benefit much from it.
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Old May 31st, 2004, 02:41 AM   #14
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Glenn i am not talking from experience here because my bottleneck is my CPU. I am saying this because of reviews on some of the newer cpus where they quoted that they needed to use two hard drives in raid 0 so that they could give accurate benchmark results when using video etc because they said that the newer cpu's are maxing out hard drives. and when you talk about SATA and IDE, the SATA drives are slightly faster. I would imagine access times are quicker.

Justin
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Old May 31st, 2004, 07:32 PM   #15
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>>I tried seeing what hard drive speed does to Vegas and it makes no difference in renders unless they are like file copies.

HD speed may be only minor difference, but contention ( multiple programs trying to access it at once) can be a bottle neck.
Remember that at most times, your operating system is going to be accessing a drive for virtual memory and your NLE will be hitting it to read source files as well as write & read temp/preview files. This is multipe processes hitting the same drive all at once if you only have one.

I'm not sure when you did your tests, but another thing to consider is that older versions of many NLE's would render through the CPU for just about everything. Programs are much smarter now, and in many cases, DV frames are simply copied rather than processed if there are no filters or overlays being applied. It's these situations where having multiple drives can make a big difference. I'm taking this from experience initially in high-end database design that, through practice, applied well in the video world too.

Since the purpose of most of these files is very clear, you don't neccessarily need to setup the drives in a RAID configuration. Placing files strategicly on seperate physical drives can make a difference.

In my own tests with an NLE that "smart renders" DV a short & simple edit that took 12 minutes to render on the same IDE drive that housed the OS and temp files was rendering in just over one minute using the same system except that the source and target media were on a Medea 2 drive array while the OS and temp files were on seperate IDE drives. These tests were done on a P4 1.6GHz w/256Meg Ram. Not a powerhouse system.

Yes... filtering and overlays will make your CPU the bottleneck, and I agree that when editing DV, you don't need multiple drives, but if you edit a LOT of DV, multiple, well managed drives can be a big help to your overall workflow.

Have fun.
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