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Thread: PC for animation student

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    Question PC for animation student

    Hi guys,

    My friend just got in touch with me to ask advice on a new PC. She has just finished her first year of uni and needs a PC for work. She asked me because she thinks I know a lot about computers (like I bet your friends/families do! ) but I'm not all familiar with what is necessary for animation. This is what she wants:

    • Desktop
    • Dual Monitors
    • Good for animation work (degree level)
    • £1000 budget
    • Preferably prebuilt


    I presume it will be needing a strong CPU and a good amount of memory, and a I guess an SSD would be a bonus. However, as I am more knowledgeable about gaming PCs, having built my own recently, I don't know what needs to happen with the GPU - does it need to be a strong gaming card, like a 670, or a compute card like a Tesla, or is it even unnecessary?

    Thanks very much, I'll appreciate any help

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    Re: PC for animation student

    I think a lot would depend on the programmes she uses.

    For example I use Adobe Premiere Pro for video editing and their other associated products and I know a few people who have used their products for animations. If so then she will probably be fine with a decent mid range Nvidia card. For GPU acceleration only some of the gaming cards are supported but you can easily amend this. I use a GTX460 which is plenty and almost any half decent card will run dual monitors.

    With animation at the level she is at I think having a quick multi threaded CPU is more important (absolutely no overclocking).

    Some others may have a better idea but I would say concentrate on her core needs 1st - the dual monitors, CPU and RAM for instance. How much of the budget will they take? You can get 2 decent 1080p screens for £200.
    As for the processor and RAM I'd wanna go for a quad core sandy bridge (i7 2700k) which should be plenty fast enough and is hyper threaded. No need to go for the latest Ivy Bridge chips - keep costs down.

    RAM - get 16Gb cos those programmes tend to use it like its going out of fashion. And its cheap atm.

    Again a lot depends on the programmes she uses but I'd say concentrate on the CPU, RAM and Monitors then buy whatever card fits best with her programmes. It may be better just to buy a cheaper card now as its an easy upgrade later.

    Oh and the SSD you mentioned - definitely get that (even at the expense of GPU - much easier to upgrade GPU later if needed).


    EDIT - on checking the Scan website it could be a struggle to get a prebuilt one with dual monitors on that budget. Unless you go for AMD but I'd try to go Intel as they usually perform better in most situations.
    Last edited by george1979; 02-07-2012 at 11:03 PM.

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    Re: PC for animation student

    What software is she using?? Is size an issue??

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    Re: PC for animation student

    Sorry for the long time to reply, she went away.

    Right, so software. She says a lot of programs by Autodesk, Adobe, and then Microsoft Office.

    Size, she says isn't important as long as it's not tiny. So I'd say like mATX?

    She's fine with me going and helping her build, so components are good

    Also a keyboard is needed. Would IPS monitors be a good choice?

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    Re: PC for animation student

    Will you be getting the parts for her,ie, using the free Scan postage and does she get cheaper Windows 7 or has access to an MSDNAA account??

    The following build uses parts from Scan.



    You will need to also get a Displayport to DVI adaptor - I think you might need an active one for around £20.

    There is scope to shop around and reduce the price of build overall,but it is what I would be aiming for IMHO.

    The Xeon E3 1230 V2 is basically a lower clocked Core i7 3770 without an IGP but is around £55.

    Some of the Xeon E3 CPUs do come with the professionally certified Intel P4000 IGP which can run multiple monitors.

    However,I would go for the AMD V4900 as it can be very useful for things like 3ds Max:

    http://jonpeddie.com/reviews/comment...ed-on-specapc-

    Here is a review of the slower V3900:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...mark,3153.html

    Depending on the intensity of the work being done,another 8GB of system RAM might be useful.

    The monitors use 6 bit matt IPS panels.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 12-07-2012 at 06:06 PM.


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    Re: PC for animation student

    Thanks. That's similar to what I was thinking, I was just clueless on the GPU - thanks.

    I can do it through my SCAN for free postage, and I think I have a spare copy of Win 7 laying around.

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    Re: PC for animation student

    Quote Originally Posted by EvanJackPenn View Post
    Right, so software. She says a lot of programs by Autodesk, Adobe, and then Microsoft Office.
    sigh two of those are companies not products and the last is a suite of multiple software programs.
    However I'm guessing
    autodesk = 3D studio max
    Adobe = premiere pro (maybe elements)

    As to gpu, it depends, generally it's not that important, but there are certain functions, rendering systems and things that can be used that will bring most cards to their knees.
    There's also functions that'll happily chew up 4gb+ of video card ram, it's why pro card go up to 6gb
    Generally the lowend pro cards are not much use and you'll generally do better with a gaming card, not a high end gaming card but a mid to low-mid range card.
    Would IPS monitors be a good choice?
    yes, short and simple

    I'd agree with CAT on the Xenon cpu is still the big thing here, 8gb of ram should be ok, will depend on what you do, 16gb might be better.

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    Re: PC for animation student

    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    sigh two of those are companies not products and the last is a suite of multiple software programs.
    However I'm guessing
    autodesk = 3D studio max
    Adobe = premiere pro (maybe elements).
    She isn't too knowledgable That's all she knew. What "gaming" card would you suggest?

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    Re: PC for animation student

    Quote Originally Posted by EvanJackPenn View Post
    She isn't too knowledgable That's all she knew. What "gaming" card would you suggest?
    Driver optimisations are one of the reasons why the FireGL and Quadro cards are much faster than the consumer alternatives in many applications. Consumer cards tend to have worse image quality too(look at the Toms Hardware V3900 review) and drivers will be more stable too on the FireGL and Quadro cards.

    Even an HD7750 is slower than a V3900 in most cases and that is based on a newer GPU with a more compute focussed architecture. The V3900 is based on the HD6570 GDDR3 and the HD7750 is around HD6770 level performance and is around 50% to 60% faster in games AFAIK. However,this is not seen in the results.

    They also tried the exact consumer equivalent of the V3900,ie,the HD6570 and it is much slower.

    The V4900 has around a 23% increase in clockspeed and a doubling of the memory bandwidth when compared to a V3900.

    The V4800 is one of the graphics cards which are certified for AutoCAD and 3ds Max and the V4900 is meant to work fine.


    Edit!!

    This article tests viewpoint speed with the V4800 in 3ds Max 2012:

    http://www.cgchannel.com/2011/10/rev...a-vs-amd-2011/

    The V4900 is around 20% faster overall and the cheapest Nvidia card listed is over £200.

    It is worth reading this review of the V4900 in AutoCAD 2012 and the earlier 3ds Max 2011:

    http://translate.google.com/translat...s_max_2011_sp1

    It tests things like rendering.

    The higher end cards are no doubt faster,but even with a £130 graphics cards you are straining the budget. You would be looking a GTX560 1GB or a HD6870 1GB. Now through sheer grunt an HD6870 1GB might edge a V4900 for rendering speed,but for things like viewing large models,the V4900 will probably destroy it IMHO.

    You can also see this comparison in 2009 of the HD4870 1GB and the V8700 1GB:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...0,2154-10.html

    They are basically the same card but use different drivers.
    Last edited by CAT-THE-FIFTH; 12-07-2012 at 11:10 PM.


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    Re: PC for animation student

    Quote Originally Posted by CAT-THE-FIFTH View Post
    Driver optimisations are one of the reasons why the FireGL and Quadro cards are much faster than the consumer alternatives in many applications. Consumer cards tend to have worse image quality too(look at the Toms Hardware V3900 review) and drivers will be more stable too on the FireGL and Quadro cards.
    yes that's true (and also where hacked drivers come in but that's another story and one both amd and nvidia are clamping down on. )
    And it's the precision anti-aliasing where pro cards come into their own over gaming cards.

    Even an HD7750 is slower than a V3900 in most cases and that is based on a newer GPU with a more compute focussed architecture. The V3900 is based on the HD6570 GDDR3 and the HD7750 is around HD6770 level performance and is around 50% to 60% faster in games AFAIK. However,this is not seen in the results.

    They also tried the exact consumer equivalent of the V3900,ie,the HD6570 and it is much slower.
    The big problem here is that the v3900 costs £95, the other big problem is that it's still not really good enough, look at the results of those benchmarks in the toms review, apart from maya and solidworks those results are just not acceptable, remember these are the viewport frame rate, this is the working environment not the final renders.
    And I'll tell you right now that the dual xenon cpu setup they are using for the tests would massively beat those numbers using the normal software viewport engine.
    And this is the first big issue with the low end pro cards, a 6570 just for monitor output and the rest of the money put into the cpu is a better deal.

    This article tests viewpoint speed with the V4800 in 3ds Max 2012:

    http://www.cgchannel.com/2011/10/rev...a-vs-amd-2011/

    The V4900 is around 20% faster overall and the cheapest Nvidia card listed is over £200.

    It is worth reading this review of the V4900 in AutoCAD 2012 and the earlier 3ds Max 2011:

    http://translate.google.com/translat...s_max_2011_sp1

    It tests things like rendering.
    All of that is viewport performance tests, except for the last 3 tests in the cgc review, the iray, furryball and MachStudio Pro, all of which are gpgpu renders, and work far better on a card than a cpu.
    This is what I was talking about when I posted "but there are certain functions, rendering systems and things that can be used that will bring most cards to their knees." that scene they are using for iray is fairly simple, it's detailed high poly count, the lighting is medium (about 8-10 light sources) but it's mainly proc surfaces not textures.
    How do I know? well simply the quadro 2000 could do it, a complex iray scene can chewup two or more gb of vram, if the card doesn't have enough ram then the render just fails, flat.
    I'll not comment on FurryBall I don't know enough about it.
    MachStudio Pro is a bit special, it's DirectX based, it's not as high end as furryball or iray, it's a sort of hybrid between a ray tracer and gaming 3d engine, this gives it a lot of additional functionality esp is the areas of real time editing, it also works far better on gaming cards and the gap between a pro and gaming card drops greatly, AFAIK if you compare like for like cost cards on MachStudio Pro then the far more powerful gaming card wins.
    This is the 2nd major issue for low end pro cards, for high end gpgpu processing they don't have the power or ram and more general focused gpgpu processing, where the drivers are not so important, a similar costing gaming card simply out mussels them.

    The higher end cards are no doubt faster,but even with a £130 graphics cards you are straining the budget. You would be looking a GTX560 1GB or a HD6870 1GB. Now through sheer grunt an HD6870 1GB might edge a V4900 for rendering speed,but for things like viewing large models,the V4900 will probably destroy it IMHO.
    the v4900 also costs around £130 and that's still in the low end of the pro cards.

    You can also see this comparison in 2009 of the HD4870 1GB and the V8700 1GB:

    http://www.tomshardware.com/reviews/...0,2154-10.html

    They are basically the same card but use different drivers.
    yes and the v8700 costs around £800-900
    This is the 3rd major issue, you generally need to be spending £500+ to get real solid benefit out of a pro card, although I must say these new AMD cards are looking far better in terms of value, esp the v5900 at £350, still going to be out of budget.

    All told I'd say your build is solid, but it's probably worth dropping down to the v3900 (-£35) to keep the driver support and precision AA and up the cpu to the xeon e3 1240 (+£20) for that bit more cpu power or push the ram up to 16gb (+£40) depending on usage.

    EDIT: for the cost these new amd firepro cards do seem to be very good for the money, I'm half tempted by the v5900 now, although I don't have £350 spare

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    Re: PC for animation student

    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    yes that's true (and also where hacked drivers come in but that's another story and one both amd and nvidia are clamping down on. )
    And it's the precision anti-aliasing where pro cards come into their own over gaming cards.

    The big problem here is that the v3900 costs £95, the other big problem is that it's still not really good enough, look at the results of those benchmarks in the toms review, apart from maya and solidworks those results are just not acceptable, remember these are the viewport frame rate, this is the working environment not the final renders.
    And I'll tell you right now that the dual xenon cpu setup they are using for the tests would massively beat those numbers using the normal software viewport engine.
    And this is the first big issue with the low end pro cards, a 6570 just for monitor output and the rest of the money put into the cpu is a better deal.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    All of that is viewport performance tests, except for the last 3 tests in the cgc review, the iray, furryball and MachStudio Pro, all of which are gpgpu renders, and work far better on a card than a cpu.
    This is what I was talking about when I posted "but there are certain functions, rendering systems and things that can be used that will bring most cards to their knees." that scene they are using for iray is fairly simple, it's detailed high poly count, the lighting is medium (about 8-10 light sources) but it's mainly proc surfaces not textures.
    How do I know? well simply the quadro 2000 could do it, a complex iray scene can chewup two or more gb of vram, if the card doesn't have enough ram then the render just fails, flat.
    I'll not comment on FurryBall I don't know enough about it.
    MachStudio Pro is a bit special, it's DirectX based, it's not as high end as furryball or iray, it's a sort of hybrid between a ray tracer and gaming 3d engine, this gives it a lot of additional functionality esp is the areas of real time editing, it also works far better on gaming cards and the gap between a pro and gaming card drops greatly, AFAIK if you compare like for like cost cards on MachStudio Pro then the far more powerful gaming card wins.
    This is the 2nd major issue for low end pro cards, for high end gpgpu processing they don't have the power or ram and more general focused gpgpu processing, where the drivers are not so important, a similar costing gaming card simply out mussels them.
    I thought the rig was for things like AutoCAD and 3DS Max.

    But,TBH,the OP maybe needs to clarify exactly what software is being used on the course??

    The V4900 has 23% higher clockspeeds and twice the memory bandwidth. I managed to find this:

    http://hothardware.com/Reviews/ATIs-...-Price/?page=6

    Like you said(and I also did mention it),an HD6870 1Gb will probably be faster at rendering.



    But,again being conservative and assuming the extra memory bandwidth on the V4900 makes no difference,I would suspect for the GPU rendering benchmark the V4900 will be within 10% of the HD6870 1GB. From what I gather the Large Model GPU test involves the handling of a large city scene with 32 million polygons and the V4900 is going to be over 8 times faster. The HD6870 does beat it in some other instances though.


    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    the v4900 also costs around £130 and that's still in the low end of the pro cards.
    I am quite aware of that - I did notice the other cards on the page!!
    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    yes and the v8700 costs around £800-900
    Which was not the point though - the point was that it shows how much drivers make a difference even with the same card. It was also shown in the Toms Hardware review too.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    This is the 3rd major issue, you generally need to be spending £500+ to get real solid benefit out of a pro card, although I must say these new AMD cards are looking far better in terms of value, esp the v5900 at £350, still going to be out of budget.
    Quote Originally Posted by Pob255 View Post
    All told I'd say your build is solid, but it's probably worth dropping down to the v3900 (-£35) to keep the driver support and precision AA and up the cpu to the xeon e3 1240 (+£20) for that bit more cpu power or push the ram up to 16gb (+£40) depending on usage.

    EDIT: for the cost these new amd firepro cards do seem to be very good for the money, I'm half tempted by the v5900 now, although I don't have £350 spare
    I was thinking about the RAM,the V3900 does not look to bad TBH,so perhaps extra RAM would be useful,or just saving a few quid off the rig. TBH,the E3 1240 V2 is only a 100MHZ clockspeed bump,so it is not noticeably faster.

    Perhaps,it might be worth the friend OP spending the extra £200 to £250?

    The rig has multiple monitors for instance which are useful. However,if the OP drops the SSD and the extra monitor,they can squeeze in the V5900 2GB or Quadro 2000 1GB into the build. The 2TB drive is a 7200RPM one. They could always add the SSD and a second monitor when they have more budget available.

    Might be a plan?


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    Re: PC for animation student

    Since the OP has a copy of Windows and is using their free postage,it does free up some of the budget.



    The V5900 is cheapest from Dabs:

    http://www.dabs.com/products/ati-ati...m_content=Q200

    You can also get cashback on Dabs purchases from Top CashBack and Quidco.

    Alternatively,you could look at a Quadro 2000:

    http://www.scan.co.uk/search.aspx?q=quadro+2000

    Luckily,Quadro 2000 cards can be found both new and used for around £250 and under on Ebay:

    http://www.ebay.co.uk/csc/Computer-C...lete=1&_sop=15

    There are a couple of new and used ones on Ebay ATM.


    Those despicable Elk,stealing the pond weed!

  13. #13
    Speculation Junkie
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    • EvanJackPenn's system
      • Motherboard:
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    Re: PC for animation student

    Hmm. Two monitors was a key thing she said. I don't really know how intensive the Uni work will be. That's the problem - I don't know whether a £300 GPU would be to much, or if a £150 one would be inadequate. Cutting the SSD would bring it in to budget I guess, and I don't know if she'd be able to manage two drives anyway I would have liked to include no optical drive (which is what I did on my rig) but she'd probably need it.

  14. #14
    Senior Member Pob255's Avatar
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    Re: PC for animation student

    Well with a Z77 motherboard what you could do is pick up a cheaper 60gb ssd eg http://www.scan.co.uk/products/60gb-...20500-iops-max you can then use intel Smart Response, which uses the ssd as a mirror cache of the hard drive.
    It's not as fast as just using an SSD and it has to learn your usage patterns to best figure out which data to cache.
    But it does have the advantage of being seamless, as far as the user knows they only have the single C:

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