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Thread: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

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    Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Last weekend I shot an event with a couple of friends, trying to process the shots and sell them before the crowds headed home. To cut a long story short, the computing power we'd put together wasn't enough. It's important that we shoot RAW for the tricky lighting and 5000 RAW files from a 5DMkII, an a900 and an a700 just clogged up the system.


    The redesigned version of our network is going to have 2 importing and processing machines, each outputting to DVD/CD burners and a printer. They'll share a gigabit NAS drive where the RAWs will be dumped after initial processing. One of these machines is going to be an 8 core macpro, so no worries about hardware there. The other machine will be my quadcore desktop. I need to give it a tweak to maximise its performance, but I don't want to spend too much :E

    At present I've got:

    Phenom X4 9950 BE with a modest overclock to 2.6Ghz
    8Gig Corsair DDR2, each stick PC2-5300
    Asus M4N78
    Win 7 64bit
    Seagate Barracuda 7200RPM OS drive
    Seagata Barracude 7200RPM Datadrive
    2speed DVD burner
    Decent PSU
    Crappy case & stock HSF which runs the core at 52º idle :E

    The main application to be used is Lightroom Beta 3 for churning through images, but consideration should also be given to burning CDs quickly and importing quickly from cameras connected via USB2 or from a cardreader.

    To tweak I was thinking of adding a new case with decent airflow + a decent HSF and going for a circa 3ghz overclock, another HDD as a scratch disk and a pair of SATA DVD burners to churn out discs of photos. That shouldn't come in much over a hundred quid...

    I like very reserved cases - no windows or LEDs please, and I like the looks of the Antec 300:

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showpr...atid=7&subcat=

    It comes with 2 120mm fans but can take a couple more to blow air over my HDDs. I have no idea about fans, but how about these 2?

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showpr...id=57&subcat=4

    HS/F is another area where I've never taken interest before - how about this one?

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showpr...57&subcat=1395

    Add a pair of DVD burners:

    http://www.overclockers.co.uk/showpr...=10&subcat=951

    And finally, a 320GB 7200RPM HDD to act as a scratch disk which I can get off a mate.

    How does that look in terms of giving the system a boost for what it's going to be used for? What kind of overclock could I hope for (I know nothing's certain!) with decent airflow and a decent HS/F? Is the RAM up to it?

    Would appreciate your thoughts on the kit that I've specified there, and as to whether I'd be better off spending rougly 130 quid on maybe just a faster CPU? My thinking is that even if this doesn't produce massive leaps forwards in performance, at least it leaves the system well poised in the future for a new CPU/RAM/mobo combination.
    Please view my website at jaggerbramley.com

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    If you want an immediate boost, I'd suggest you look at one of the new Phenom II chips. You'd still be stuck with a crappy case, but you should get much better performance without having to overclock.

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    The M4N78 PRO can accept a Phenom II X4 965 C3 125W:

    http://www.asus.com/product.aspx?P_I...Lmv&templete=2

    The X4 965 not only is clocked higher than your 9950,but is faster per mhz and has lower power consumption and temperatures too.

    However do not get the inferior 140W version!!

    Scan have the 125W version in stock:

    http://www.scan.co.uk/Products/AMD-P...he-125W-Retail

    Also Antec 300 is far cheaper at Ebuyer:

    http://www.ebuyer.com/product/143854


    Those despicable Elk,stealing the pond weed!

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Quote Originally Posted by brammers View Post
    Last weekend I shot an event with a couple of friends, trying to process the shots and sell them before the crowds headed home. To cut a long story short, the computing power we'd put together wasn't enough. It's important that we shoot RAW for the tricky lighting and 5000 RAW files from a 5DMkII, an a900 and an a700 just clogged up the system.
    Can you tell which bit of the system clogged up? If you can replicate the event while looking at the performance tab in windows task manager (or even better, the resource monitor in windows 7) then you can tell if you're CPU limited or I/O limited etc.

    Depending on the operation, it is probably CPU limited, so well addressed with the upgrade CTF suggests, but it's feasible you're hard disk limited in which case you could consider a RAID arrangement for more throughput speed, or even getting the kingston 40gb SSD and using it as a scratch drive/buffer.

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Quote Originally Posted by kalniel View Post
    Depending on the operation, it is probably CPU limited, so well addressed with the upgrade CTF suggests, but it's feasible you're hard disk limited in which case you could consider a RAID arrangement for more throughput speed, or even getting the kingston 40gb SSD and using it as a scratch drive/buffer.
    I'd look at storeage too...

    A RAID array could help in this case... but so too could some simply larger faster drives.

    1 tb drives from anyone will help a lot as I don't know how big those Seagate of yours are....

    BUT....

    output device is key, no?

    buy a couple of new DVD burners?
    http://www.scan.co.uk/Index.aspx?NT=1-0-7-489-0

    LG/Sony/Liteon... they're all pretty good. And cheap.

    Stick with SATA if you can. How many SATA ports does your mobo have? If not, themn maybe a spare USB External drive? http://www.scan.co.uk/Index.aspx?NT=1-0-7-71-0

    But (being a man of more than mere hardware suggestions) this might not be a hardware issue?

    It might be a management issue? How organised were your processes for downloading and sorting and processing your files?

    You don't need to answer that here...just ponder it.

    People and Process are all that make a business work. People... and process.
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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Thanks for those suggestions. I think I'd like to go with a combination of solutions.

    I definately need twin DVD drives - most of our sales were DVDs as opposed to prints and I was often simply waiting for DVDs to burn as people were telling me they had to leave as they had trains to catch! I've got a very basic 2x DVD ROM at the moment and a couple of SATA drives there would be a lot better. Do the Sonys look any good? Just a good brand name - if anyone else has got reccomendations in black then please let me hear them!

    I think I'll skip the extra HS/F and big overclock for the moment. Equally, I won't go for a new Phenom II - it's a lot of money to drop when, as Zak said, last time out the process was a big part of the problem. Good to know that if, after I've smoothed everything out, I'm still lacking in the CPU department there's something I can just drop in though. How would my RAM look in combination with the CPU that Cat 5th mentioned?

    HDDs - it's a fairly old Barracuda 150GB as an OS/apps drive and a 1TB as a media drive. I was intending to get a 320GB 7200RPM drive (a mate has one cheap, I think it's a Caviar - something mid-range anyway) to use a scratch drive, or maybe I'd use that one for the OS and the 150Gb as a scratch drive... Either way, would I be right to expect a performance boost here, even if I won't be using the fastest drive in the world for scratch files? Or is a scratch drive only worthwhile if it's a Raptor/SSD?

    I'm aware of the advantages of RAIDs, but I don't think I can stretch to one at the moment... My photos live on the 1TB Barracuda and there's 256GB of them atm, with 40MB being added each time I press the shutter. The cost of buying 2 more TB Barracudas and RAIDing them together is a bit much at the moment. I'm also backing them up to an E-Sata 1TB Barracuda - it works quite nicely at the moment because I can just mirror the internal drive. If I RAIDed the internal, the external could start to look insufficient, and to match the level of internal storage I'd have to have 3 of them... I think we're talking about a NAS at that point.

    Would benchmarking my HDD performance be a good step at this stage? Anything reccomended?

    Finally, I would like to go for the case because my present one really is crap - I've actually had to cut new holes in it to fit in things like changed PSU mountings. It's originally from my K6... The reviews on the Antec seem fairly positive and it seems cheap for what it is. I take it I'd snap off 2 of those grills at the top and put DVD drives in them, there's no door? (Don't want one!) Could anyone reccomend a couple of decent fans to finish off the complement? I guess I'd connect them by 4-pin pass-through molar - I've only got 3 3-pin points on the mobo, one of which is in use by the HS/F.

    I'm also concerned about my PSU - it's got a rear exhaust and a big fan that sucks in from the inside of the case (it's top mounted). If I put it in the bottom mounting Antec, do I install it upside down or does it suck from space beneath it. If it's on the bottom of the case, there's not going to be very much, and I'd be getting a lot of dust through my PSU...

    As to the process - yes, that was the first thing we talked about in the debrief and we've made some changes. However, could still do with some more computing power - even sitting down afterwards trying to get some web-galleries up I noticed the slowdown. Just working on my own 'fine-art' images is a very different situation to churning through hundreds of the damn things.

    Thanks for your help all!
    Please view my website at jaggerbramley.com

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Quick addition - didn't address kalniel's question. The major limitation seemed to be importing 8 & 16GBs of RAWs at a time. Downloading them from a CF reader/camera (the Sonys download faster from camera than from CF) and getting them inmported into LR had the CPUs at 100% constantly. RAM seemed fine and I wasn't paying any attention to HDDs. So I'd like faster downloads from cards, which isn't going to happen, and faster 'preparation' in LR3, which I believe is a CPU issue, and which I'll try to address in the shortterm with a larger overclock if I get some decent air circulation in a new case.
    Please view my website at jaggerbramley.com

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Antec 300 info only here.
    For the PSU, you just mount it upside down. My PSU does that and its all fine, it just sucks from the top.
    No door on the antec 300.
    Fans - if you don't care about noise just get anything, if you do then spend a little and get some noctuas or things of that ilk.

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Quote Originally Posted by brammers View Post
    How would my RAM look in combination with the CPU that Cat 5th mentioned?
    Fine - the AM3 processors are super flexible.

    HDDs - it's a fairly old Barracuda 150GB as an OS/apps drive and a 1TB as a media drive. I was intending to get a 320GB 7200RPM drive (a mate has one cheap, I think it's a Caviar - something mid-range anyway) to use a scratch drive, or maybe I'd use that one for the OS and the 150Gb as a scratch drive... Either way, would I be right to expect a performance boost here, even if I won't be using the fastest drive in the world for scratch files? Or is a scratch drive only worthwhile if it's a Raptor/SSD?
    Just using a scratch drive of the same speed won't give a performance boost, unless you have some kind of other operation going on at the other drives at the same time (even then the gain would be negligable as you'd still have to transfer off the scratch disk at some point). The advantage of a fast scratch disk is that you use it for all the multiple reads and saves while working on something, so it would improve the performance during photo editing. It wouldn't have to be all that large because you're storage will go elsewhere.

    Would benchmarking my HDD performance be a good step at this stage? Anything reccomended?
    If you have multiple hard drives and you want to really see the differences between them so you can plan how you're using them (can be more than you expect) then yes. I use HD tach I think.

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Just using a scratch drive of the same speed won't give a performance boost, unless you have some kind of other operation going on at the other drives at the same time (even then the gain would be negligable as you'd still have to transfer off the scratch disk at some point). The advantage of a fast scratch disk is that you use it for all the multiple reads and saves while working on something, so it would improve the performance during photo editing. It wouldn't have to be all that large because you're storage will go elsewhere.
    My plan was to go for a scratch drive of the same speed because the drives where the LR and PS cache are currently being written to are busy - the 150gb one is dealing with the OS and loading programs and the 1TB one is constantly writing RAW files from USB. Currently the LR and PS scratch files are competing with a barrage of incoming RAWs for HD time - would I really not get any improvement from having a drive dedicated to this purpose? Even if it was 1/3 slower :E

    I've just benchmarked my drives very quickly and you're right - the results were suprising! The TB barracuda hovered around 120MB/s in reads compared to the 150Gb at around 70MB/s - can't do write benchmarking unfortunately. I'll have to benchmark this 3rd drive before I buy it but would assume it to be almost as modern as the TB drive. Seeing as the budget doesn't extend to a pair of SSDs for OS/scratch at this point, I guess I'm interested in the maximum HDD performance I can afford with about the £15 outlay it'll take to get the 320GB caviar off my mate
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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Batman - many thanks for the Antec advice. I think I'll go with one - seems very cheap for what you get

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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Use HD Tachometer on your current drives, take some screen shots and we'll do the same for you

    the age of the drive doesn't make it fast or slow.

    Often the density of the platters make it fast.
    .
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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Very kind of you

    Here's the graphs from the drives:

    150GB OS drive (Barracuda 150GB 7200RPM)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/3539833...09685/sizes/l/

    1TB Internal Data Drive (Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/3539833...10845/sizes/l/

    1TB External Backup Drive (Barracuda 1TB 7200RPM via E-Sata)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/3539833...73334/sizes/l/

    and just for laughs...

    320GB External Backup of Backup Drive (Barracuda 320Gb 7200RPM by USB2)

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/3539833...7602884440987/

    From that, the data drive, which is the one with the cache files on at the moment, looks plenty fast enough, but I wonder if it would struggle with 2x 8gb imports + cache at the same time?

    The OS drive looks very old in comparison... I'd be better off with my external drive as a backup!

    The USB drive is just laughable. Reckon I'm better off popping the case open and rescuing the drive?
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    Re: Need to tweak my hardware to deal with event photography

    Can I give this one a bump? Would really like some advice on the HDD situation. I'm about to put down the money for the case (well overdue) and a couple of DVD burners. That leaves me 3 SATA sockets on my mobo.

    The 150gb Barracuda seems to be somewhat of a bottleneck at the moment. Would I be better off throwing that out and using a pair of 320GB HDDs for an OS + Apps drive in a striped RAID? Then I can have my pair of 1TB drives as data storage + data backup and if I STILL need more grunt and I'm making some money with this I can look at dropping in the Phenom II that was discussed earlier.

    The great thing about the RAIDed 320GB drives would be the cost - I've already got one and I've got an offer of another for £20. Would this give a decent boost over my current (rather slow) OS drive?

    Cheers all!

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