School me. Single thread app, multi thread app.

Discussion in 'Mac Pro' started by MCHR, Mar 18, 2009.

  1. MCHR macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    Okay, after circling round and round and getting spotty information on the newest Mac Pros, perhaps I need a brief understanding of a single thread application and a multi thread application.

    I do understand that many software apps just haven't been developed to maximize the processing power of a multi core machine (octo), however, for my education, tell me how these applications stack up, and how more memory would potentially affect their respective performance:


    Photoshop CS3 / CS4

    Illustrator / Creative Suite

    Rhino (3D modeling)

    Alias (3D modeling, animation)

    Maya(rendering / visualization)

    After Effects


    Thanks in advance for any pointers.
  2. IainH macrumors member

    Mar 11, 2009
    Not sure about the rest, but I know Maya will eat anything you throw at it come render time - its used to being thrown onto renderfarms with hundreds of processors - that said, its heavily up to the render client aswell.
  3. AdamTro macrumors member

    Mar 3, 2009
    I know it's not on your list, but Cinema 4D will use all cores.
  4. trancepriest macrumors 6502


    Nov 9, 2007
    South Florida
    single thread (minimum memory is often good enough):
    Aperture (GPU reliant)

    multi thread... (the more cores/memory the better):
    After Effects... because of RAM based preview this app can take as much memory you throw at it.

    I have no experience with Alias & Rhino... but I would bet they are multi thread & memory hogs too.
  5. MCHR thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    Those two seem to be the wildcard in regards to these newer Mac Pros (hence my original post).

    My guess is the same, that they could be multi thread (or optimized in the near future), in addition to memory intensive. Especially if I have a few apps open during my workflow.
  6. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    1. About 15% of PS CS4 native filters and tools are multithreaded. If you use those particular tools and filters a lot then multiple cores will help a lot! If not they won't.
      Memory above 3GB can't be used by CS4 on a Mac yet. 1GB is very much slower than 3GB in CS4. Half speed or less for many things.

    2. Multiple cores won't help at all.
      Memory is beneficial for HUGE documents or many simultaneously opened docs. 3GB limit applies as it does for PS mentioned in #1

    3. Multiple cores won't help here either.
      Memory - Rhino just went 64-bit in version 5 so if you have that then more memory will be indeed useful! Many of the more popular plugins like Bongo, Flamingo, Penguin, RhinoGold, Rhino CAM, Matrix, and etc. though will still be 32bit only for some time.

    4. Alias??? Alias what? You mean Power Animator? That's now called Maya and crummy AutoDust owns it now.

    5. Multiple cores will help a lot when rendering. While modeling, animating, texturing, running sims, and setting things up multi-cores aren't much if any help. The amount MC helps depends on the number of cores. 4 cores is about 3.9x, 8 cores is about 7.8x faster. Depending on which rendering engine you use they scale differently. But all of them are above 90%. 100% would mean that you get exactly 4X from 4 cores over the speed of a single core.
      Memory - Maya has Gigapoly technology so it doesn't need a lot of memory for surfacing but if you're doing hi-res texture maps and etc. it may be needed. Certainly Maya likes 4GB or more. I would want 8 or 12 for professional use.

    6. AE likes multiple cores and speed increase will depend on the task you're preforming. 8 cores over 4 cores will be between 1.2 and 2x speed up.
      Memory depends on mission. You can edit and add efx to several streams of SD video on a 2GB machine without too much trouble. 10 or 20 streams of 1080p with efx, overlays, masks, and etc. is going to need lots of RAM. In some cases 32GB may not be enough. But by the time you get that big (high level professional) most people move away from AE and toward something like Fusion or Nuke, etc. if indeed they weren't there in the first place.

    7. Aperture is not good at multi-threading - actually it's not good in general. It's a dog of an app. :p But anyway... It can make use of multi-core and occasionally although rare, the speed-up is substantial - tho it never scales to 100%. In typical editing you will not notice any difference between 2 cores, 4 cores, and 8 cores. Here as with the others that do not multi-thread well the core CPU speed is the critical factor. Here is a typical 2 minute edit session in the newest Aperture using an 8-core 2.66 Mac Pro: [​IMG] and as you can see there are only a few seconds where all cores achieved better than 25% thus performing better than a dual core. Aperture if put to heavy use is dog slow on any machine including a 3.2GHz 8-core with maxed out RAM. Some will argue with this but it just means they aren't putting it to heavy use and are only doing light editing of the image.
      Memory - I dunno, it seems to handle the same in 4 gigs before I upgraded to 12GB as it does now with 12 gigs. I try not to use it much as you might have guessed. I like Capture One or CS4 or the both together. Primo combination! CaptureOne makes used of all of cores and rarely if ever lags like LightRoom and Aperture. There are other image editors with varied results as well.
    Most of the ones I named here that do not multi-thread well will NEVER multi-thread well under current threading technology. Some routines just can NOT multi-thread. Like sims in Maya, modeling, or spline manipulation in Illustrator. You can think about this yourself. If you're rendering an image you can split the task into image areas like 4 or 8 different images later pasted together to form the single finished render. The various segments don't need to know about the other nor interact with them. Now think about calculating Pi out to a billion places... Uh-huh.. yup, how ya gonna split that up? Well, currently the way MT works you can't. How are you going to start a concurrent thread calculating Pi from the hundred-millionth place if total calculation isn't already there yet? :D And so applications that do such kinds of things can't either. Now in the new future I don't see why a different way of using multiple cores can't be derived which can. :) Snow leopard while only a tiny baby step in that direction, is at least an official recognition that such is both currently lacking and highly desirable. Until this is resolved in micro-computer architecture like Macs, some apps will just never multi-thread well. Photoshop is one that currently isn't but can be made to MT very well. It'll take a complete redesign IMO though.

  7. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    The other aspect we haven't talked about yet however is multiple applications! Say you're ripping a DVD movie, encoding 100 MP3 songs, modeling in Rhino when rendering in Maya. Then multiple cores are going to be a huge help! Assuming the apps or the OS allow for such things; you can set the DVD ripper to use one core, the MP3 encoder to use one core, give Rhino one core and set Maya to render using the all the rest! Fantastic! Everything is going at acceptable speeds even though only Maya in this example is coded to make use of MT. :)
  8. Genghis Khan macrumors 65816

    Genghis Khan

    Jun 3, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    1) Photoshop - single thread (but will eat up all 3GB, more in the 64-bit windows version)
    2) Illustrator, and Creative Suite - see above

    3) Rhino - as i use Rhino (and am buying a new computer 1st April), i've put a lot of research into what it uses as far as computing goes.
    - Modelling - polylines etc and the smoothness of your experience depends on CPU speed (but only single thread). RAM will also help if your models are complex.
    - Live in window render - uses graphics card. but pretty much any graphics card on sale today is enough for this.
    - Render Plug-In - uses all of the CPU power you can throw at it (i.e. multi-threaded)

    4) Alias - see above
    5) Maya - see above
    6) After Effects - FCP is one of the best at using multiple cores, however i'm not so sure at how the rest do
    7) Aperture - I always thought it was single-threaded, but Tesselator says that it can, so I'd go with that.
  9. MCHR thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    Genghis, Tesselator:
    Those are probably the most detailed posts I've gotten thus far, so thanks for that information.

    Regarding Alias, I have been using Autostudio at work for 16 years now, and their 2009 release will be written to run natively on a Mac. This is from an Autodesk employee.

    And, as I rarely run only one app, I'm drawing the conclusion that a Mac Pro octo is where I'd find the best fit, and I'm now straddling between the 2.26 and 2.66. Of course, with a complement of RAM.

    Thanks. This decision isn't an easy one (upgrading each generation of Mac Pro), as my workflow runs from 3D modeling, importing data, to rendering, as well as sketching, photo retouching and small animations. This time around, the decision was complicated by the newer architecture and the hope that future software developments and OS will maximize that architecture.
  10. JimGoshorn macrumors 6502


    Mar 8, 2009
    One thing to add here. While Photoshop can't address more than 3gb directly, OSX does allow Photoshop to cache data in memory if you have more than 4gb RAM so if you are working on files that exceed Photoshop's memory, Photoshop goes looking in the cache that OSX has allowed it to have. Here's one article that mentions this:

    Look for the section titled "Virtual Memory Buffering Plug-Ins in Mac OS X". Photoshop CS3 required the plug-ins but CS4 doesn't.
  11. Genghis Khan macrumors 65816

    Genghis Khan

    Jun 3, 2007
    Melbourne, Australia
    @ O.p.

    Glad you've nearly made a decision.

    Just wondering what it is you do?
  12. MCHR thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    Well, in this economy, cost is certainly an issue, so that's why I'm asking wide range of questions. At nearly $5000 on the top end, this is not a purchase based on hope.

    I'm a product designer, a process similar to architecture. I work with engineers, sometimes have to open 3D criteria, build surface, export to Autostudio or Maya, present ideas to management, sketch (Painter,Photoshop), and the occasional graphics. It's a highly hybridized workflow, cut and paste, and it can be difficult to guess which machine to buy.

    I think I'm pointing to a 2.66 octo, but the cost is a bit steep. Much if the information on these new machines has been too vague for me to make a definitive choice. I have a 3.2 on hold, just in case.
  13. Tesselator macrumors 601


    Jan 9, 2008
    Mostly look at the green bars in this bar-graph:

    In all honesty I think a mac mini would do nicely for your stated purposes. It's maybe not as glamorous but I doubt you'll actually get your money's worth out of the current octad lineup.

    Now if half your days were spent rendering in Maya.... then maybe. ;)
  14. MCHR thread starter macrumors regular

    Mar 13, 2009
    Hmm. I think I'd have to respectfully disagree. Importing a 128MB engineering file (.iges or .prt) and rotating that in Alias is a match for our HP workstations at work, so I doubt a mini is going to afford me the headroom or multitasking I will probably need.

    It's not uncommon to have a file like that open, pull a screen shot, and edit in Photoshop. I'd also like to keep the dual monitors and scanner set up on the new machine.

    Without trying one, I can't say with any certianty, but I'm a little sceptical.

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