need advice on a visual effects-3D workstation, please :-)

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by bluesteel, Oct 19, 2010.

  1. bluesteel macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2007
    this workstation is not my bread and butter. i have another film production related job that brings in my income. this workstation is for my own personal low budget independent production work, and for learning as much as i can in my free time. i am only looking at a mac, not a windows pc.

    as for software, i use Maya 2011, Houdini 11, Adobe After Effects, CS5, Adobe Photoshop CS5, and Final Cut Studio 2.

    my old workstation was a 2009 mac pro 8-core 2.26GHz, 16GB RAM, ATI 4870. i did not like this workstation at all, mainly due to the low core frequency and 4870 graphics card. i also hated waiting around for Maya renders, but i guess rendering will be long no matter what, depending on what your rendering of course.

    right now i'm looking at two different configurations. I will be getting an education discount on the Mac Pro through a friend. here are the two packages:

    1. Mac Pro 6-core 3.33
    ATI 5870
    27" Cinema Display

    2. Mac Pro 6-core 3.33
    ATI 5870
    27" iMac 2.93 i7 (use as monitor in "target display mode")

    as you can see, one package uses a 27" display for a monitor, and in the other i would use the 27" iMac as a display in "target display mode". so my rationale here is that i'm going to spend $1000 on a 27" cinema display anyway, why not spend 1300 more and get a 2.93 i7 quad-core with hyper-threading that i can use as render-node via mental ray satellite? but here are the million dollar questions:

    1. is it worth $1300 for this extra rendering power in the iMac 2.93 i7?

    2. will i really notice the difference in the amount of time it will take to render a basic maya scene on just the 6-core mac pro, as opposed to rendering it on the 6-core mac pro and iMac's quad-core i7 processor combined? are we talking seconds, minutes, or hours?

    3. am i just better off forgetting about the 27" iMac and going for the basic 27" cinema display? what would you do?

    4. am i missing something here? if so, please let me know.

    hey people, thanks in advance for looking at this post and taking the time to provide your feedback and opinions, if you do so that is. and sorry for any vagueness. i'm an enthusiast, not an expert :)
  2. Schismz macrumors regular

    Sep 4, 2010
    I'd get a 12-core with the 27" display and forget the iMac. Maya is one of the few programs other than compilers which actually sees all the cores and uses 'em. If one of your main uses is Maya, then even the entry-level 2.66GHz 12-core will smoke a single CPU hexacore @ 3.33GHz.

    Geekbench is a synthetic benchmark, but it's one of the few apps which will use all system resources (Maya being another real-world app which does same, well, mostly, it's not optimized as well as it might be, but it's getting there).

    Average single hex @ 3.33GHz Geekbench score: 14500 - 16000.
    Average dual hex @ 2.66GHz Geekbench score: 22000 - 23500.

    For your reading, Dual Hex 2.66GHz Mac Pro, a love story (I'm ad-libbing the subtitle but you get the idea):

    Having said that, all (most? I dunno what After Effects is doing these days) of the Adobe stuff will be the exact opposite, it fails miserably at utilizing multi-core beyond a point, and GHz rules. Apple's own Final Cut is equally lame, and won't fully utilize their own hardware until the next upgrade, which is coming Any Minute Now (or in late 2011, whichever).

    You listed Maya first though, if Maya is a primary consideration, simple answer: get the 12-core, it'll make you happy.

    The price on your strange Franken-mac Mac Pro/iMac combo to arrive at 10 cores (which nothing is going to see) with superglue & duct-tape is, as you stated: $6249. The price on an entry-level dual hex 12 core, 5870 + 27" ACD is: $6198
  3. bluesteel thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2007

    thanks for the info and advice. you make a very good argument for the 12-core :) yeah, the 3D animation is very important to me, something i spend a lot of time with. a 12-core has been the other system on my mind. only problem is that i really don't want the 2.66 cause of the lower core frequency in relation to single threaded tasks, and would rather go with the 2.93. but the 12-core 2.93/ATI 5870/apple care, etc, and i still have to factor in memory and a couple of hard drives. all said and done, i'm looking at $8500+ after taxes and so forth. i'm not sure i can stomach that right now. that's a lot of $$$!!!! i just can't do it. but you make a good argument, so i think i have to suck it up and consider a 12-core 2.66 :) or i just suck it up even more and get the 6-core 3.33 and 27" cinema display and realize that rendering is going to take a long time no matter what :)
  4. highdefw macrumors 6502

    Apr 19, 2009
    I too am a vfx artist working primarily with Maya, Nuke, and Final Cut. Go with the 12 core. It will be well worth the cost, even if it's a 2.66 core machine.
  5. bluesteel thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2007
    your all right, 12-core is what i need. i just ordered a 12-core 2.93/ATI 5870. holy moly, that was expensive!!! what the....!! :eek:

    thanks for the honest advice people :)
  6. imag8nineteen macrumors newbie

    Oct 23, 2010
    Why not just lean on the power of a Quadro FX 4800 card? Its ten times faster then ATI.....I'm going through the same dilemma right now. quad-core, six-core, eight-core.... 12???
    I'm thinking about just getting a new mac pro 3.2GHz 4 core machine and a Quadro FX 4800 card. I have a Boxx Technology special edition machine with 2 x 3.20GHz xeon - That machine is only 25 sec faster then my 27"inch iMac i7 -?????

    Render farm is really the answer if I need power.

    I'm using CS4, CS5, Maya 2010, Max 2010, C4D, Final Cut.... AND MODUL8!
  7. jujoje macrumors newbie

    May 17, 2009
    I guess you've already made your choice (and fine choice it was too), but I thought I'd reply as future reference for anyone who stumbles across this thread in the near future. And because random anecdotal evidence rules.

    The studio that I work at bought a bunch of 27" imacs for the office. They have been something of a disaster: the cases have deformed due to the heat generated - in one of them the cd slot no longer works since it has been deformed so much. Additionally the Ati graphics cards are underpowered for 3D work. This distortion has happened on about half the iMacs we bought and the graphics cards are constantly overheating and failing on all of them.

    In terms of graphics cards, the quadro is actually an increasingly good bet: Houdini 11 is leveraging a whole bunch of gpu processing for the new viewport display which requires a good gfx card (5870 or above) and the next version of maya will have a lot of intensive viewport shading going on with their viewport 2.0.

    tldr: Don't buy and iMac and get a decent gfx card (5870+).
  8. bluesteel thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2007
    from what i know, the Quadro FX4800 is a waste of money. its 2-3 times the cost and a fraction as powerful as the windows counterpart due to the fact that Apple has written an inferior driver for it. its capable of much, much more, but unfortunately apple never addressed its weaknesses. there are solid benchmarks online proving this. the ATI 4870 and GTX 285 were either even, or beat it in every benchmark test. i'm going to be very happy with the 5870 for now. i have read that it works just fine with Maya 2011.

    when the Quadro FX4000 Fermi comes out for Mac, hopefully before january 2011, i'm going to be interested in Quadro for mac again.
  9. bluesteel thread starter macrumors 6502

    Apr 5, 2007

    wow, thats horrible, that really, really sucks. but you know what? you technically should be able to get all your money back if you approach apple the right way. apple actually advertises the iMac i7 for 3D! if your iMacs aren't holding up, apple might very likely refund your money or allow you to exchange for mac pros. you might have to get an attorney involved, but you SHOULD be able to get your money back. this is what the iMac processor configuration page says:

    Which processor speed is right for you? The more time you spend using processor-intensive applications — such as video processing, image editing and 3D rendering — the more you’ll benefit from a higher-speed processor.

    apple does not mention what kind of 3D rendering, or how much 3D rendering, or anything like that. it just recommends the 2.93 i7 for 3D rendering.

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