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Build Advice 3D Modelling and Rendering Machine

Discussion in 'Hardware' started by Jablesdactyl, 19 Jan 2012.

  1. Jablesdactyl

    Jablesdactyl What's a Dremel?

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    Hey guys, I wonder if you can help me.

    My girlfriend is studying 3D Computer Animation at uni and now she's halfway through year 2, her work is starting to get to the stage that rendering is becoming a bit of a nightmare. Uni resources are horrible and her laptop, though pretty decent for running Maya and actually doing the work, takes forever to render. So she's decided that it's about time she got herself a dedicated machine for her work.

    I subscribe to custom PC and it's great if you're a gamer (or lately a folder) for information, but I've not seen much in this department so I'd like to ask, any suggestions to a build?

    I'll fill this out, just to keep everyone happy:


    Budget:

    Students, so as low as possible. Preferably under a grand (including a pair of monitors).

    Main uses of intended build:

    3D Modeling and Rendering

    Parts required:

    Whole system, but I'm sure we'll manage to pick a keyboard and mouse without any trouble.

    Previous build information (list details of parts):

    Nothing, starting from scratch.

    Monitor resolution:

    A pair of 22's would be ideal. She understands better, but I believe she'll need something with a really high colour fidelty.

    Storage requirements:

    Not overly important.

    Will you be overclocking: yes/no (delete as required)

    Not something I've ever done, so not confident with it. If it'd help and would be straight forward I would be happy to give it a go.

    Any motherboard requirements (no. of USB, Xfire/SLI, fan headers):

    Nothing really.

    Extra information about desired system:

    Other than the info given, I'm open to any suggestions. I'm pretty comfortable assembling it myself.

    Oh, and thanks (in advance) for all your help.
     
  2. KayinBlack

    KayinBlack Unrepentant Savage

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    A pair of 22s with high color fidelity will pretty much eat that entire budget, last I checked on them.

    I have a render setup here in progress, and this is NOT indicative of normal, but the SU/Terragen machine is a dual Xeon L5320, soon to have 16GB of FB-DIMMS, and I haven't decided on the GPU, but considering a FirePro for it. All on Win7 Pro x64. It's hooked via four gigabit crossover cables to an Arima quad socket Opteron setup with 4x8347HE quad cores, 8GB of RAM and hopefully a Tesla to assist rendering. Working on getting all of it set up and cabled currently. I grew tired of waiting overnight to see something render or having to stop using the PC to run one.

    My total expenditure? About $300 bucks, before my 16GB of memory get in, which is another 160, but I knew someone for it. Then again, I'm not a student, and this setup runs CATIA too.

    To run some of that stuff is gonna cost you, I'm just warning you. Even a no-3D workstation card is spendy, and you want a 3D workstation card for Maya and such. It'll really improve working times.

    Take a look into used s771 Xeon setups, while the memory isn't cheap I bought board and processors for close to $50 dollars. A LOT cheaper than you'll find otherwise. You can even sometimes nab six-core opterons for 50 each, making for 12 cores in a system and supporting ECC DDR2 or 3 (depending on model found) that's FAR cheaper, but the boards are more of a gamble on pricing. All this is assuming USD, of course.

    Instead of 2 22" monitors, I run 1 24" 1920x1200 and I don't feel too cramped. I'd like a second, but cannot justify the expense.

    Also, as always, YMMV. I posted my own setup, I cannot and will not suggest trying what I'm doing unless your background is in giant rackmounts (which mine is.)
     
  3. Mac_Trekkie

    Mac_Trekkie Source Engine's #1 fan!

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    I also study animation and a year ago my old MacBook Pro was starting to bog down with my rendering. I was able to use it as an incentive to build my current desktop, the first one in my sig. It renders what took my MBP 5 hours to do in about thirty minutes.

    For right now I'd recommend an MSI Z68-GD55 board, Xeon E3-1230, 16gb of RAM, and a GTX 550 Ti, for the occasional game and for displaying your viewports.

    The E3 will run happily on any desktop LGA 1155 board out there, and Z68 lets you upgrade to ivy bridge. The 1230 has Hyperthreading for about $40 less than an i7 2600. With the 1230 you have 8 threads, should last your significant other many years.

    Unfortunately this build would be about $800 or so before tax and shipping (prices USD). So for a full setup (monitor, mouse, keyboard), it's not an option for under a grand. Though it is the most efficient Price:performance ratio around for rendering. The 8 threads of the E3-1230 are more powerful than the 8 threads of a Bulldozer FX-8120 or 8150 by far, and the price:performance ratio is vastly superior to Opteron-based setups.

    Now KayinBlack does bring up an excellent point of used Xeon setups. Hell, we're selling a giant load of dual-xeon 1u rackmounts ourselves for only $200 or so each (don't buy, they're way too old for what you need, single core per CPU etc). Since you guys don't seem to have loads of experience with heavy duty hardware, I'd shy away from it.

    In my opinion, though, getting a new Z68-based setup which will let you upgrade to Ivy Bridge for future power, who knows how much more ferociously powerful those will be? I expect my current setup to last me for a long time.

    But the monitors would cause a major dent in the budget. I only use a single 1920x1200 24" Dell we had in the basement and a 1650x1050 21" from the same source. Works good for Lightwave since it uses two windows primarily. I'm not familiar with Maya, but if it works the same then two monitors saves you the time of Alt+tabbing. But she is far further ahead in schooling than I am, so she probably needs something with proper color fidelity. That will take a huge dent of the budget. With such a tight budget it's hard to get the full setup with reasonable power period, even if you go with a Bulldozer or Phenom II based setup. If you can stretch the budget another $500 or so then it becomes a LOT easier and would serve far further into the future.

    So there's my few cents.

    If you spend the minimum possible for outdated hardware (while server hardware does last longer than desktop stuff), it will run out of juice faster and you will have to spend your money over again to get the next generation of outdated hardware, then again and again. It's better to get current gen hardware with upgrade options then you will make one larger investment, which will last significantly longer.

    Off topic: Kayin that is one wicked awesome setup! I've always wanted to have an older many-core rackmount hanging around to use for rendering or media slinging or anything. How long does rendering take versus a desktop? I imagine with that many cores it's quite a lot faster.

    EDIT: I have a rendering system wishlist all set up on Newegg for my job, actually, if you're in the U.S. Since the rendering is the only thing done by the machine, and the actual animation is done on the laptop, the 5450 in it would be more than plenty since it doesn't need to render the viewport or anything and is just needed for putting video out.
     
  4. KayinBlack

    KayinBlack Unrepentant Savage

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    My first test cut Kerkythea MLT renders from 18 hours to 6. However, I'm probably gonna move to Thea for increased core awareness.
     
  5. Jablesdactyl

    Jablesdactyl What's a Dremel?

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    Thanks guys. Really gives me something to start on. I'm willing to up the budget for the sake of future proofing, so if we have to, I'm happy to stick another couple of hundred on that.

    And yeah, I agree the 2x 22's were a stretch, and I'm sure she'd be happy with one 24 (she's working on a single 19 just now so anything is a step up really).

    I've put together something on Scan.co.uk based on suggestions and I've got something for around £1100. Big item is a 24" Dell U2410 Ultrasharp.

    I might be able to link a picture of the list.

    I imagine I'd probably be able to get some things a little cheaper, it was just to put together a list to get a rough price.

    [​IMG]

    Ignore then 3DConnexions Controller, that's a christmas present.

    Thanks a million though guys. Still very open to more suggestions.
     
  6. Mac_Trekkie

    Mac_Trekkie Source Engine's #1 fan!

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    Gotta say that's right along the lines of what I would have put together for this sort of task. I'd suggest a smaller quieter CPU cooler as the Xeon can't overclock much due to no unlocked multiplier (hey, for $50 cheaper than an i7 2600k, who can blame it?), but I'd suggest either adding a 60/64gb SSD or getting a 7200 RPM hard drive. 5900 is just rather slow for a primary drive, though I understand that 7200's are much more expensive due to the price crash but the reduced frustration from system sluggishness will be worth it, trust me. My desktop is currently booting off the 7200 RPM Samsung Spinpoint F3 1tb and every other computer in the household is booting off of 64/60gb SSD's and the difference in boot times is phenomenal. The media center has nearly the same processor as my desktop and boots in ~20 seconds, the desktop takes about a minute.
     
  7. microsoftPerson

    microsoftPerson What's a Dremel?

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    I would also purchase a SSD as a boot drive. With 64GB you can get a good deal of your production software on there as well (this really adds to my productivity).

    I'm not really sure you need a beefy GPU for most 3D programs. I mostly run Cinema 4D though - perhaps other programs are different. You might do a little research on the programs you will be using.

    Also, assuming you're not running a dual CPU setup, I'm not sure I understand the appeal of the Xeon processor over a i5-2500K. You could get a motherboard down the road that could accommodate two of them though, I suppose. Sorry, perhaps the Xeon has benefits I do not understand - I don't normally shop for server hardware. I also don't know how the price of all the components in pounds, so I might be making mountains out of mole hills.

    Finally, you might not need to go with the full 16GB . . at least not to start. Perhaps I am alone here but I do not see my 8GB being maxed out at all while rendering and this is with the page file in Windows disabled.
     
  8. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    May I chip in?

    For your girlfriend's application, you have the following priorities:

    1) As many CPU threads as possible.
    2) A hefty amount of RAM
    3) Desktop space

    If we look at your build, I have the following comments:

    CPU: a Xeon would be nice but isn't necessary. I'm curious as to why you haven't paired it up with a Xeon certified motherboard.

    Motherboard: fine, though see 1).

    RAM: 16GB is plenty.

    GPU: I'd get a GPU with 2GB minimum - some of these programs can eat GPU RAM. It may also be worth investigating if the software can use GPU acceleration, in which case nudging up the card spec to a 560 may help.

    Monitor: I would ditch the (excellent) Dell and get two 22" 1080p monitors for the same amount of money. Having more room to work with is more important than a single high quality monitor.

    Storage: an SSD will really help for working on current projects - 64GB will suffice. Also, would it be worth buying an external 1-2TB hard drive as back up?

    Case: save yourself some money and go for the Antec 300. Noise will not be an issue.

    Windows: get Professional otherwise you won't get all 16GB of RAM.

    PSU: you need one! A 500W decent brand one will suffice.
     
  9. Mac_Trekkie

    Mac_Trekkie Source Engine's #1 fan!

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    If you had read all the posts (specifically mine), then you would know why. The Xeon has all the features of an i7 2600 while costing $50 or so less. It only lacks integrated graphics, and has a lower clock speed, neither of which matter much.

    Maya has little support for GPU accelerated rendering, and isn't too heavy on the GPU for viewing. Even on professional level scenes, we don't have a problem with GTX 550 Ti's

    http://msdn.microsoft.com/en-us/library/windows/desktop/aa366778(v=vs.85).aspx

    Though I'm not sure if that list includes VRAM. If it does then you'll need win7pro.

    I knew I was forgetting something! Yeah any Corsair, Enermax, Silverstone, OCZ, SeaSonic, and a bunch of others.
     
  10. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    Apologies, I missed your post. I'm amazed at how affordable the Xeons are now - I would get one without a doubt, since it seems it'll work with the mobo.
    Afraid it does, and VRAM seems to get priority.
     
  11. Guest-44432

    Guest-44432 Guest

    I would ditch the 2x 22" and grab a second hand 30" monitor, as I know there are a couple that will be going for around the £400 mark, in this market place soon.

    Other than that, I agree with what Pete J is saying.:)
     
  12. Bladesingerz

    Bladesingerz Minimodder

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    Is it me or is that monitor realy expencife? I bought my Samsung SA300 (23,6 inch) for 180€/£150 ?

    I would also want to agree with Pete J, get as much ram as you can get, rendering benefits alot from ram, I once read an article that a photoshop rendering using 2gb of ram would take 2 houres and with 4gb it would only take 30min.
     
  13. microsoftPerson

    microsoftPerson What's a Dremel?

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    You get to a point where you don't need any more RAM. It's also not like you couldn't upgrade to the 16GB at a later point if you do need it.

    The Xeon processor is good for certain reasons ... but someone stated its slower clock speed is not an issue? Since that processors multiplier is not unlocked I think the speed matters quite a bit for rendering. If the Xeon comes close the 2600K (stock) and can't overclock that well, it seems the 2500K (overclocked) would be a better value/performer.
     
  14. Mac_Trekkie

    Mac_Trekkie Source Engine's #1 fan!

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    I didn't say it didn't matter, I said it didn't make much of a difference due to the way that 3D rendering works. Saying the 2500K is a better value for rendering is laughable :lol: as you'd be loosing half your threads for a higher clock speed. That's the kind of logic that brought around the Pentium 4. In modern processing clock speed isn't half as important as the number of threads you have, at least as far as actual rendering and multithreaded work. For games, yeah the 2500k might be better, but for rendering the E3 2130 will dominate the 2500k, and only come slightly behind a 2600k.


    That's because it's a proper high fidelity monitor with accurate color representation.


    Photoshop rendering is a lot different from Maya rendering. There won't be too much of a difference between 16gb and 32gb, at least until super high detailed scenes that would take a long time on ANY machine are used.
     
  15. microsoftPerson

    microsoftPerson What's a Dremel?

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    Sorry, I did forget that the Xeon / 2600K have more threads available. I'd still probably go with the 2600K in that case, even if more expensive. You will be able to push the 2600K much further than the Xeon, and like you said it's better as is.

    Everybody's needs are different depending on application though, for instance I would not buy the GTX 550 as it would not be utilized by the particular programs I use. I would use the money saved for the 2600K.
     
  16. Mac_Trekkie

    Mac_Trekkie Source Engine's #1 fan!

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    It's a matter of cost. The GTX 550 is necessary for viewing scenes of more than slight complexity. Maya definitely utilizes GPU power for displaying scenes. Otherwise I would recommend the same thing, as an overclocked 2600k will provide noticeable render improvements over an E3-1230. I'd estimate that at about 4.5GHz You'd notice a 15-20% decrease in render time. Unfortunately, you'd end up with a much hotter machine, and a much more expensive one. It'd be tough to decide between a 1230 and the ability to easily view your scenes as you work on them, or a 2600k and having to turn down details on your scenes or having it run really slowly.
     
  17. microsoftPerson

    microsoftPerson What's a Dremel?

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    So cut the RAM in half and get the card, the 2600K, and the possibility to upgrade to more RAM without throwing anything away. Renders are very CPU dependent. Do you ever have RAM problems during renders? It's just not something I experience. I'm honestly asking not trying to pick a fight - I spend a lot of time in my task manager during renders and personally see all cores maxed out but only half of my RAM being utilized at the most.
     
  18. KayinBlack

    KayinBlack Unrepentant Savage

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  19. Tangster

    Tangster Butt-kicking for goodness!

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    Most render engines love hyper threading though. I can't really think of a popular one that doesn't.
     
  20. KayinBlack

    KayinBlack Unrepentant Savage

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    I know, but not everything shares that love, which is why I mention that-check your apps when you build.
     

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